Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.

In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.


According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.

In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.

In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.

The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.

Wilmot had been injured during a 2009 deployment to Mosul, Iraq, when the Humvee he was riding in came under small-arms fire and crashed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured portions of his back and pelvis and nearly lost his left arm. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss.

The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.

Then came the dismissal.

“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.

The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”

Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”

According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.

They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.

The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.

The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.

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

Articles

Vet congresswoman wants Air Force to put down tubas and pick up guns

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
We’re headed for the rifle range right after we finish this whacky jam session, we promise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)


Representative Martha McSally, R-Az., an Air Force veteran, launched into the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in the Capitol after they testified that manning levels were too low and budget cuts were too high. According to a story posted at Air Force Times, McSally called their logic the “newest excuse” for prematurely retiring the venerable A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, and she questioned if it wouldn’t be wiser to cut non-essential personnel like “the hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet.”

“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said during the hearing. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
Then Lt.Col. McSally about to get her BRRRRTTT! on. (USAF photo)

“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally said.

“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, CJCS, replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”

“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.

McSally knows a thing or two about the topic of military aviation. She graduated from the Air Force Academy and then spent 22 years serving as an attack pilot, including commanding an A-10 squadron. In 2001 she famously sued DoD over the policy of making female service members wear veils while stationed in Saudi Arabia. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and spent a year as a college professor in Germany before running for Congress. She lost a close race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and then won a close race two years later.

And, for the record, the Air Force says it currently has about 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers assigned to band billets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taking on veteran suicide, one pair of ‘Ranger panties’ at a time

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.

I was intrigued.


Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.

“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”

But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”

And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.

That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.

So I went for it, Silkies and everything.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.

As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”

“I found my people for the first time,” he added.

Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”

In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.

Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)

I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.

As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.

But it turned out to be everything but that.

No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.

On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.

Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”

The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.

As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!

After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.

If you want to get involved or donate to support the Irreverent Warriors mission, go to their website, www.irreverentwarriors.com.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israelis shoot down an Iranian drone to find a cheap US ripoff

Over the weekend, you may have heard about the vicious aerial battle between Israel and Syrian-Iranian forces. That battle was triggered when Israel shot down an Iranian-made UAV that had breached Israeli airspace and ended with an IDF F-16I being shot down.


Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
An Israeli F-16I Sufa. One was lost during a clash with Iranian and Syrian forces. (Israeli Defense Force photo)

According to a report from the Times of Israel, the wandering drone that started the firefight was a Saeghe. That drone is a knockoff of the RQ-170 Sentinel, a stealthy drone used by the United States. In 2011, a Sentinel was captured relatively intact by the Iranians after it went down in their territory. The RQ-170 is said to resemble a miniature B-2 Spirit.

An Israeli AH-64 Apache was credited with downing the Iranian drone. The Israeli response involved a number of fighters targeting Syrian air-defense positions and Iranian installations. The Iranians and Syrians fired over two dozen surface-to-air missiles and downed the F-16I. The plane’s crew managed to safely eject over Northern Israel, but one of the pilots was seriously injured and is now being treated in a Haifa hospital. This marks the first loss of an F-16I and Israel’s first loss of an aircraft in combat since 1982.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the F-16I is a two-seat multi-role fighter custom-designed for the needs of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is designed for long range, with a combat radius of 2,100 kilometers, has a top speed of Mach 2, and can use advanced weapons, like the Python 5 and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Israel purchased 102 of these aircraft.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
An Israeli Air Force F-16 from Ramon Air Base, Israel, moves into refueling position July 17, 2009, over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Israel also operates roughly 120 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, which serve as the backbone of the Israeli Air Force. The Israelis also operate a mix of F-15C/D/I fighters. The F-15C/D Eagles are designed for air-superiority missions, while the F-15I is a customized version of the F-15E Strike Eagle.

popular

7 epic memories you’d love to relive from your military service

Since the military is considered a way of life, young service members who left home just a few months ago will embark on a journey that will have many ups and downs.


They’ll encounter all sorts of different personalities and create epic memories along the way.

When we’re out, we tend to reminisce about the times of old, and for the most part, we’d give anything to relive those moments again.

So check out these epic memories most vets would love to go through at least one more time.

1. Graduating boot camp

After going through weeks of intense training, you get to stand proudly in front of your family and friends at graduation as you officially earn your title of sailor, airman, soldier, Coast Guardsman or Marine.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
Navy boot camp graduation. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

2. That first epic barracks party

One of the best parts about living in the barracks are the parties! For the most part, they’re a sausage fest depending on your duty station. You can learn a lot about yourself from how awesome you are to how much beer you can drink before throwing up.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
A party at the Guantanamo enlisted barracks. (Wikipedia Commons)

3. The good times on deployment

When troops deploy overseas, all they have is the men next to them for support — and an occasion mail drop. Since we’re gone for the majority of the year, we have plenty of downtime to “smoke and joke” — which usually involves making good friends and epic memories.

You’ll never make better friends than the ones you make in combat.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
HM3 (FMF) Kirkpatrick and SSgt. Chanthavong from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, hang out before heading out.

4. Your first firefight

Nothing compares to the adrenaline rush of putting rounds down range at the bad guys. After the chaos ends, you typically critique the sh*t out of yourself and wish you handled things differently.

military service
Marines taking contact from the enemy. They’ll get them soon enough.

5. Getting that much-deserved promotion

Getting promoted in front of your fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms for a job well done is an epic feeling. Hopefully, it’ won’t be your only time.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
A military promotion. (Source: Army.mil)

6. That moment you returned home from deployment

After being gone for the better part of the year, returning home to a positive atmosphere is the best. After this, it’s unlikely you’ll get that sort of patriotic greeting again — unless you re-deploy.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released

Also Read: 6 military cadences you will never forget

7. Walking out of the personnel office with your DD-214

If military service wasn’t for you, getting that “honorable” discharge is like being reborn. Since nobody remembers being born the first time — this moment is super special.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA
This is very close what it feels like, including the outfit.

What were your favorite memories? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 people general officers should have in their entourage

All senior officers, but especially generals and admirals, have entourages that exist solely to ensure that the general is as effective and safe as possible. They do everything from managing the general’s calendar to grabbing his dry cleaning. But in addition to their stated duties, the entourage can grease the wheels of command.

Here are 6 people generals should always have in their entourage, whether they want them or not:


Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

“A colonel lifting iron” is the closest thing I could find to an iron colonel, so here you go.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Warren)

Iron colonel is a key component of any entourage

An “iron colonel” is a colonel with little hope or ambition to advance to a general officer. They’re key to military innovation and all general officers should be connected at the hip to one.

There are two major things you’ll need the iron colonel to do: First, they’re there to intercept all sorts of traffic that’s addressed to the general but not really worth their time. More importantly, they’re needed to shoot down all sorts of “good ideas” originating from the general and the staff that would hamper brigade commanders and below.

See, iron colonels are no slouches. They may not be destined to wear stars, but they’ve nearly always commanded brigades in the past and they did well. They have decades of military experience, but they don’t have much reason to fear pissing people off. So, if the general proposes something insane, like pushing machine guns to all the squads — even the human admin office, it’s this colonel who calls the general on his crap. The perfect entourage addition.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

An Army specialist who is definitely practicing land nav and not just waiting for the photographer to leave so he can trade points data with his buddy.

(U.S. Army)

E-4 Mafia/Lance Corporal Underground liaison

Officers don’t love the junior-enlisted networks for obvious reasons. They’re often known for helping members dodge work and dodge official punishment.

But they can also be super useful additions to the entourage, for the general or admiral who inspires the junior service members. A member of the underground can explain any weirdness from headquarters directly to the other junior guys in billeting. They can also create shortcuts through the bureaucracy and, best of all, do drug deals on behalf of the staff.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

An Army specialist reaches for a training grenade in a competition. These aren’t nearly as valuable as a rare ink cartridge.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alan Royalty)

Drug dealers as part of the entourage? 

Not literal drug dealers, of course. The personnel who conduct off-the-books exchanges in order to get needed resources while giving up the unit’s surplus are known as “drug dealers.” This can be the exchange of anything from ink cartridges to range time to borrowing another units’ NCOs.

These types of troops can be amazingly useful for a headquarters. Rare resources, like the ink or replacement parts for plotters (the massive printers that produce maps), are hard to come by and harder to stockpile. So, if you suddenly need resources like that, you need a drug deal — and that means a drug dealer.

(Note: The Navy sometimes call this “comshaw.” Same thing, older term.)

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Filling out forms accurately and honestly is important, but sometimes you have to help someone out with a little Skillcraft assist.

(U.S. Navy)

Gun decker

“Gun decking” is a Navy term for filling out forms with made-up information, usually to fulfill a mandatory but arbitrary requirement. This is similar to the Army saying that someone “Skillcrafted” the test — that they used a standard-issue pen to make it look like something was done.

This is obviously dishonest — and, on some occasions, it’s technically a crime — but it’s sometimes essential in the bureaucracy. Need to get a soldier to school before deployment, but they haven’t been able to get to the range in the last few weeks? Well, someone has to gun deck or Skillcraft the paperwork (assuming that you’re sure they could actually succeed at the range given a chance; don’t use this to get bad troops into good schools). We could use a few gun deckers in civilian life, too.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Soldiers share a meal and, likely, gossip. Having a couple of lower enlisted people advocating for you in the rumor mills can be essential.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

PNN Reporter/Scuttlebutt master

One of the best soldiers a general officer can have working on their behalf is a credible Private News Network reporter. This reporter can be anybody known around the rumor mill for having accurate info, and any general NEEDs one of these in their entourage. Like the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground rep, this troop can relay what is happening in the headquarters accurately to people who usually only get the information a few degrees removed.

But, more importantly, they can intercept and counter incorrect rumors flowing through the scuttlebutt or PNN. Generals often have to deal with rumors about their decision making flying around their unit. Having someone in their entourage who rubs shoulders with the rest of the junior enlisted and accurately relays what’s going on can keep everyone marching on the same foot.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

(Editor’s note: There’s no evidence that this guy is a FNG. It’s just an illustrative photo. But he was the FNG at one point, so screw ‘im)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

FNG

Finally, every general officer should include a f*cking new guy somewhere in their entourage and check in with them from time to time. Obviously, this guy will typically be somewhere on the periphery instead of in a key position — maybe a comms guy who helps with the radio or a security guy.

But having someone who hasn’t yet consumed too much of the unit’s Kool-Aid allows the general or, more likely, the iron colonel to get an idea of how the headquarter’s decision making seems to an outsider — a needed perspective in a headquarters that might otherwise trip into a cult of personality around a charismatic or talented general.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Petition demands military funeral for JROTC hero killed in shooting

The Parkland community is petitioning the government to provide a military funeral with full honors to a slain 15-year-old cadet student, who helped students flee danger during the Florida school shooting Feb.14, 2018.


Peter Wang died in his junior ROTC uniform helping students, teachers, and staff escape from the shooting rampage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen students and teachers died.

Lin Chen, Wang’s cousin, told The Sun-Sentinel that she was not surprised to learn of his actions.

“He is so brave. He is the person who is genuinely kind to everyone,” she told the publication. “He doesn’t care about popularity. He always liked to cheer people up. He is like the big brother everyone wished they had.”

Jesse Pan, a neighbor, told the paper that Wang was “very polite, smart” and had hoped one day to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to be of “service to our country.”

Also read: US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

An online petition started on Feb. 16, 2018, urges Congress to honor Wang with a burial fit for a military hero.

“Peter Wang, 15, was one of the students killed in Florida this past week,” the petition states. “He was a JROTC Cadet who was last seen, in uniform, holding doors open and thus allowing other students, teachers, and staff to flee to safety. Wang was killed in the process. His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area. Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

JROTC does not provide basic training so it does not count as “being in the military.” Wang’s funeral would require intervention from the government.

By the following morning, nearly 20,000 people had already signed the petition. It needs to gather 100,000 signatures by March 18, 2018 to get a response from the White House.

MIGHTY MOVIES

3 pieces of military tech from ‘The Mandalorian’ that we’re already working on

It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about “The Mandalorian,” but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.

What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for a space western (I am, after all, a card carrying Browncoat), but it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Mandalorian” is choke full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century, but is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.

While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s fair warning: spoilers ahead.


What sort of tech is that? Well there’s…

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

(Disney)

Weapons that can see through walls

In episode 3 of “The Mandalorian,” Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, but is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.

Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.

Lumineye Through Wall Sensing Demo

www.youtube.com

This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR based rather than using radar technology. As FLIR themselves point out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow the detection of heat signatures, putting Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction… unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

(Disney)

Jet Packs that actually work

Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of “The Mandalorian” (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack, which made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. By the end of episode 3, we do get to see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence, proving that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.

While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created “The Mandalorian”). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth

www.youtube.com

Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back like you see in “The Mandalorian,” so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… but dual wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

(Disney)

A grappling cable that works

Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys, and while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s, but are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago, but I didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

(Alex Hollings)

A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory, and the exact system I used has since been contracted to the Chinese government for their special operators.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes joint terminal attack controllers so deadly

Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.

Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:


Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)

JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.

They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.

(Operation Resolute Support)

With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.

But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”

But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)

So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.

But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.

All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.

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A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)

But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.

For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.

And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.

Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.

As a matter of fact, the Air Force’s JTACs have been so successful that the Marine Corps has actually adopted the term for referring to some of their forward air controllers, and has launched new efforts to recruit the best Marines into the job.

So yeah, don’t mess with the JTACs. Or do. We’re not your parents, and we’re not here to tell you how to lose your life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 40-ton armored vehicle drives over Chinese troops in this intense video of a really unusual trust exercise

Chinese media recently released a video of a really intense military training exercise in which a 40-ton armored vehicle drives over troops laying on the ground, with the vehicle tracks passing dangerously close to the heads of the Chinese soldiers.

The Chinese-language Global Times posted the video last week, noting that the source was Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The video has since made the rounds on social media.https://www.youtube.com/embed/IkU-FZ2eLJ4

An unspecified People’s Liberation Army (PLA) brigade in the Southern Theater Command conducted a trust exercise in which the troops demonstrated the faith in their armored vehicle drivers by literally putting their lives on the line.

At the start of the video, an officer asks the soldiers: “Do you have confidence in the soldier beside you?” After shouting back “yes,” one soldier departs to climb aboard the armored vehicle as the others drop to the ground, awaiting their fellow soldier to run over them.

The tracked armored vehicle in the video looks like the HQ-17 surface-to-air missile transporter erector launcher. The HQ-17, which was publicly revealed in 2015, is a reverse-engineered Chinese variant of the Russian Tor-M1 system.

In two other related videos, soldiers involved in the demonstration talk about their experience. One soldier on the ground says he was “really nervous.”

Another Chinese soldier described the training exercise as a test of the armored vehicle driver’s skills and character, as well as an opportunity to boost trust and confidence between soldiers.

The exercise is unusual in that it has troops lying sideways, putting them at greater risk, but it is certainly not the first time China has had armored vehicles drive over troops in training.

series of photos from last September posted on the official website of the Chinese military shows tanks and other vehicles running over troops in Xinjiang as part of a psychological training exercise intended to strengthen their resolve.

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A soldier assigned to an army division under the PLA Xinjiang Military Command lies on the ground as a tank drives over him. 

Similar exercises have also been conducted in other countries.

In October, as The Drive reported at the time, Finland’s Jaeger Brigade, known as the Jääkäriprikaati, released videos of a German-made Leopard 2A4 tank driving over troops in the snow.

The aim of the exercise was to help troops combat “tank terror,” which is the fear of encountering an armored vehicle on the battlefield.

Articles

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

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US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

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USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

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Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force is fixing up a base that could keep an eye on Russia

US airmen ventured north to the island of Jan Mayen in the Norwegian Sea in November to survey the isolated island’s airfield.

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron “assessed runway surfaces, glideslope obstructions and firing capes,” the Air Force said in a release.

Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.


It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.

The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”

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The runway on Jan Mayen Island around 1968.

(US Navy)

The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.

The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.

“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.

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Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.

(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)

The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.

Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.

“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.

“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.

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Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The European Arctic has become an area of increasing focus of the Navy and the Air Force.

The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.

The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.

In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.

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A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland.

(US Navy/Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)

US Air Force B-2 stealth bombers also recently made their first visit to Iceland, landing at Keflavik in late August to exercise it “as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said at the time.

That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.

While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.

But it’s always better to have more places to land.

“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.

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US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.

During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.

Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.

“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy bets big on drones to counter lethal anti-carrier missiles

The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service’s top officer called a “historic” step toward making the fleet’s carriers more effective and more deadly.

The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.


It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the 5.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get million of the total award to start.

The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about billion, James Geurts, the service’s assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.

Geurts also called the MQ-25A “a hallmark acquisition program.”

“This is an historic day,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.

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Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, January 29, 2018.

(US Navy / Boeing)

The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.

According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing’s performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.

Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.

“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said in the release. “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”

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An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

Boeing has a long history of involvement in naval aviation, including manufacture of the Hornet and Super Hornet carrier aircraft, and in tanker operations.

This award is seen as a much-needed victory, however, as the company has been on the outside looking in for major aviation programs in recent years, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Boeing was involved in the UCLASS program, and the design it offered for the refueling drone was influenced by that previous project. The company has already built a prototype of the MQ-25A and has said a first flight may take place not long after the contract was awarded.

“The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world,” Leanne Caret, head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said in a company release.

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An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan R. McDonald)

Boeing said the Navy believes the MQ-25A will extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, both of which are Boeing aircraft, as well as the F-35C, which is the Navy’s variant of the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter.

The crews of the Navy’s Super Hornets are currently tasked with both refueling and fighter operations, rising concerns about wear and tear and stoking interest in unmanned replacements.

The Super Hornets and the F-35Cs that make up carrier air wings also have shorter ranges than the aircraft they replaced — a particular hindrance in light of the “carrier-killer” missiles that both Russia and China have developed.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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

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