The U.S. Army announced on Aug. 28, 2019, that the National Museum of the United States Army will open to the public on June 4, 2020.
The National Museum of the United States Army will be the first and only museum to tell the 244-year history of the U.S. Army in its entirety. Now under construction on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, admission to the museum will be open to the public with free admission.
The museum will tell the Army’s story through soldier stories. The narrative begins with the earliest militias and continues to present day.
“The Army has served American citizens for 244 years, protecting the freedoms that are precious to all of us. Millions of people have served in the Army, and this museum gives us the chance to tell their stories to the public, and show how they have served our nation and our people,” said acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
(US Army photo)
In addition to the historic galleries, the museum’s Army and Society Gallery will include stories of Army innovations and the symbiotic relationship between the Army, its civilian government and the people. The Experiential Learning Center will provide a unique and interactive learning space for visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on geography, science, technology, engineering, and math (G-STEM) learning and team-building activities.
(US Army photo)
“This state-of-the art museum will engage visitors in the Army’s story — highlighting how the Army was at the birth of our nation over 240 years ago, and how it continues to influence our everyday lives,” said Ms. Tammy E. Call, the museum’s director. “The National Museum of the United States Army will be stunning, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors from around the world to see it.”
(US Army photo)
The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the building through private funds. The U.S. Army is providing the infrastructure, roads, utilities, and exhibit work that transform the building into a museum.
(US Army photo)
The Army will own and operate the museum 364 days a year (closed December 25). Museum officials expect 750,000 visitors in the first year of operation. A timed-entry ticket will be required. Free timed-entry tickets will assist in managing anticipated crowds and will provide the optimum visitor experience. More information on ticketing will be available in early 2020.
Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.
Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.
For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.
Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.
Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.
By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.
Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.
On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”
There’s only one person aside from the Secret Service who brings guns to the White House every day. That would be Chef Andre Rush, who can be found in the gym when he’s not cooking up a storm for the leader of the free world. As you can imagine, his fitness routine is heavy on arm work and (of course) his diet.
Rush not only tends to his biceps with what some might consider an excessive amount of curls, he also pumps up with the 22 Pushup Challenge every weekday, his part in raising awareness of the estimated 22 military veterans who die from suicide every day. Only, Andre Rush doesn’t just do 22. He does 2,222 pushups on top of his 72-hour rotating isolation schedule. Chef Rush is himself a military veteran who served in the Army before he ended up in the White House kitchen. He has served supper to Presidents Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and now Trump – and their families, of course.
Food is still, thankfully, bipartisan.
Rush joined the Army as a cook in 1994. His military career took him through culinary training before he started serving the goods at the Pentagon, and eventually, the White House. He retired only 18 months ago. He still works as a consultant for the White House.
“The camaraderie among the chefs reminded me of hanging out with my friends back in Mississippi, and I got tired of being serious and being out in the field 24/7,” he told Men’s Health Magazine. “Plus, I just love to eat!”
A diet for this force of a man consists of 12-24 hard-boiled eggs, only two of which are whole eggs. For the rest, he eats only the whites. He also downs his own peanut butter protein shake with blended quinoa and nonfat milk. For the rest of his training meals, he eats greek yogurt, oatmeal, and lean turkey – at the gym. He snacks on the turkey in the gym. For his afternoon meals, he consumes four roasted chickens.
Four Chinese Navy ships have departed for joint drills with Russia in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the two militaries that could challenge the US armed forces’ role in the Asia-Pacific.
A destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship, and submarine rescue ship departed Sept. 13 from the port of Qingdao, home to China’s North Sea fleet, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The drills are being held in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Xinhua said.
The exercises are the second stage of an annual joint drill, the first part of which was held July 22-27 in the Baltic Sea — the first time the countries had exercised together in the northern European waterbody.
Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the US and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.
July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.
Both Russia and China say the exercises are not directed at any third parties.
The Chinese ships taking part in the exercises are among the country’s most advanced, components of a growing fleet that poses a significant challenge to the US Navy’s traditional dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has long chafed at the American presence and is a strong critic of its alliances with Japan, Australia, and other countries in the region.
China already has the world’s largest navy, with slightly over 300 vessels, compared to the US Navy’s 277 “deployable battle force ships,” according to the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The US Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts it will have 313-342 warships by 2020.
While China’s ships are technologically inferior to those of the US Navy, their sheer numbers allow China a significant presence on the open sea, institute professor Andrew S. Erickson wrote in a recent study.
The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft, is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.
According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […] The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”
The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).
The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula.
Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.
As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.
Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.
Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.
In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command Control (C2) capability.
If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.
The U.S. Marines are about to start receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing, but these exo-suits aren’t headed into combat any time soon. Instead, they’ll be supporting logistical operations like loading and unloading pallets of gear and ammunition in the field.
While that might not sound like the sort of high-speed missions you imagined for the first widely-used military robotic exoskeletons, it’s really the most logical (and feasible) use for this burgeoning technology. America’s Special Operations Command spent years working to develop the TALOS robotic exoskeleton for specialized combat applications, but found the various systems they employed were too finicky for serious combat ops. While exoskeletons can significantly augment a person’s strength, they also consume a huge amount of power, often requiring that they stay tethered to a power cable.
Mock up of a TALOS suit. (U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office)
TALOS was ultimately canceled last year, but a number of different technologies developed for the forward-thinking system continue to live on in various weapon development programs that fall under SOCOM’s purview. Sarcos Defense’ new suit isn’t derived from the TALOS program, but offers some of the same significant advantages, including the ability to increase the strength and endurance of whoever’s strapped in. Despite the TALOS program’s progress in a number of areas, it was ultimately deemed infeasible for combat.
However, just because robotic exoskeleton technology isn’t quite advanced to the point where it can be used outside the wire quite yet, it could be an extremely useful solution to problems service members still have inside forward operating bases. Unloading literal tons of equipment, ammunition, and supplies that arrive on pallets is one such challenge.
By utilizing the Sarcos Defense Guardian XO Alpha robotic exoskeleton, a single Marine can do the offloading work that would normally require an entire dedicated fire team.
“As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements.” –Sarcos Defense
As America’s premier expeditionary force, The Marines have placed a renewed emphasis on Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations (EABO) in recent years. Put simply, EABO is all about increasing the operational capabilities of Marines working in austere environments that may not be near large military installations. The intent behind incorporating new technology like the Guardian XO Alpha is to bring big installation capabilities to forward operating areas. Whereas large military installations can utilize forklifts to rapidly load or unload supplies, smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have to rely on manpower to unload supplies when they arrive.
“Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions,” Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics’ vice president of defense solutions, explained last year.
Sarcos Guardian® XO® Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton: Alpha Unit Preview
In the short term, Marines will be assessing this new robotic exoskeleton to see just how useful it might be in a variety of operations, including some the team at Sarcos might not have thought of yet. Of course, another important part of the testing process will be figuring out what this exo-suit can’t do, and that’s where the Marines may really shine. After all, if you want to find out just how hard you can run a piece of gear before it dies, there are few organizations more qualified for such a torture test than the United States Marine Corps.
The Guardian XO robot, an exoskeleton suit to help reduce the risk of injuries by improving human strength and endurance, is on display at the 2019 Modern Day Marine Expo on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yuritzy Gomez)
“The Sarcos Defense team is very pleased that the U.S. Marine Corps will be testing use cases for our Guardian XO Alpha version this year,” said Ben Wolff, CEO, Sarcos Defense.
“Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and USSOCOM, who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology.”
Enemy combatants lurking in tunnels have attacked US troops throughout history, including during both world wars, Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Detecting these secretive tunnels has been a challenge that has been answered by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s engineers at the Geotechnical and Structural Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The lab developed the Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection system, or R2TD, several years ago, according to Lee Perren, a research geophysicist at ERDC who spoke at the Pentagon’s lab day in May.
R2TD detects the underground void created by tunnels as well as the sounds of people or objects like electrical or communications cabling inside such tunnels, he said. The system is equipped with ground penetrating radar using an electromagnetic induction system.
Additionally, a variety of sensors detect acoustic and seismic energy, he added.
The detection equipment data can then be transmitted remotely to analysts who view the data in graphical form on computer monitors.
The system can be carried by a soldier or used inside a vehicle to scan suspected tunnel areas, he said.
R2TD has been deployed overseas since 2014, he said. Feedback from combat engineers who used the system indicated they like the ease of use and data displays. It takes just a day to train an operator, Perren said.
Jen Picucci, a research mathematician at ERDC’s Structural Engineering Branch, said that technology for detecting tunnels has been available for at least a few decades.
However, the enemy has managed to continually adapt, building tunnels at greater depths and with more sophistication, she said.
In response, ERDC has been trying to stay at least a step ahead of them, continually refining the software algorithms used to reject false positives and false negatives, she said. Also, the system upgraded to a higher power cable-loop transmitter to send signals deeper into the ground.
The improvements have resulted in the ability to detect deeper tunnels as well as underground heat and infrastructure signatures, which can discriminate from the normal underground environment, she said.
Picucci said ERDC has shared its R2TD with the Department of Homeland Security as well as with the other military services and allies. For security reasons, she declined to say in which areas R2TD is being actively used.
Besides the active tunneling detection system, a passive sensing system employs a linear array of sensors just below the surface of the ground to monitor and process acoustic and seismic energy. These can monitored remotely, according to an ERDC brochure.
While current operations remain classified, ERDC field engineers have in the past traveled in to Afghanistan according to members of the team.
In 2011, for example, ERDC personnel set up tunnel detection equipment to search the underground perimeter of Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan, said Owen Metheny, a field engineer at ERDC who participated in the trip.
His colleague, Steven Sloan, a research geophysicist at ERDC in Afghanistan at the time, said the goal was to ensure safety at the camp.
“We make sure nobody is coming into the camp using underground avenues that normally wouldn’t be seen and wouldn’t be monitored,” Sloan said. “We check smaller isolated areas — usually areas of interests and perimeters.”
The researchers did a lot of traveling around Afghanistan.
“We travel to different regional commands and help out in the battle spaces of different military branches,” Sloan said. “We use geophysical techniques to look for anomalies underground. We look for things that stick out as abnormal that might indicate that there is a void or something else of interest. As we work our way through an area we look for how things change from spot to spot.”
“I really enjoy my job,” Metheny said. “I’m doing something for my country and helping keep people safe. Plus, where else could a bunch of civilians get to come to Afghanistan and look for tunnels?”
Phishing, when successful, tricks the user into unwittingly handing over their passwords to the scammer, often through professional-looking emails purporting to be from trustworthy businesses. The endgame is generally acquisition of personal information, like credit card and social security numbers.
Recently, phishing has been weaponized to varying degrees of sophistication with a key technique: impersonation.
The trick was enough to convince one employee at Gimlet Media, which runs the everything-internet podcast “Reply All,” to open an email from his “coworker.” Except the sender was not his coworker, but a hacker attempting a work-sanctioned phishing test on the company’s employees.
Familiarity fraud is an online tactic people have to be especially wary of on social media, where friends’ pictures and handles are rife for imitation. Duplicate accounts fish for personal information under the guise of intimacy.
2. The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest on the internet.
The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet.
The scam rose to prominence in the 1990s, and is referred to by the FBI as “Nigerian Letter” or “419” fraud.
The premise is simple: You get an email, and within the message, a Nigerian prince (or investor, or government official) offers you an opportunity for lucrative financial gain.
The catch? Pay a small portion of the amount up front, or hand over bank account information and other identifying information so that the transfer can be made. Of course, you lose that “seed money,” never receiving a dime in return.
“It’s malware and phishing combined with clever social engineering and account takeovers,” James Bettke, a counter threat unit researcher at the security firm Secureworks, told Wired reporter Lily Hay Newman in 2018.
“They’re not very technically sophisticated, they can’t code, they don’t do a lot of automation,” he added. “But their strengths are social engineering and creating agile scams. They spend months sifting through inboxes. They’re quiet and methodical.”
3. Ticket fraud leads to consumers buying fake sports and music tickets.
Another popular online scam is ticket fraud, in which consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets for sporting events, concerts, and other events.
Scammers usually target high-profile events that are likely to sell out so they can take advantage of increased demand. Often, the tickets they send customers have forged bar codes or are duplicate copies of legitimate tickets. Other times, consumers won’t receive any ticket at all after they pay up.
“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube that looks something like this, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” DeFranco said in a video posted to his channel.
The faux DeFranco slid into targets’ Youtube messages, promising “gifts” via the click of a hyperlink. The scammer’s real endgame: identity theft for financial gain through a classic online phishing scheme.
“We’re aware and in the process of implementing additional measures to fight impersonation,” a YouTube employee wrote in response to complaints of scam. “In the meantime, we’ve removed accounts identified as spam.”
And angry mobs incensed by the fiasco that was Fyre Festival — an event so botched it warranted not one, but two documentaries — directed much of their ire at the event’s celebrity influencers.
The defrauded cited a lack of transparency as to what the influencers were paid to hawk the festival to their millions of followers online, although not everyone agreed they deserved the blame to begin with.
6. But sometimes the influencers themselves can get scammed.
One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.
Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.
The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.
The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.
“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world,” Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.
“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec.
7. Ransomware held a whole city hostage in 2018.
Some of the most insidious online scams involve ransomware.
In a ransomware attack, hackers install malware onto a computer or system of computers that restricts a victim’s access to their files. Payment, often in the form of bitcoin, is demanded to undo it.
The hackers behind the scheme “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay,” Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said in November.
The cam-hacking claim, which is bolstered by parroting the user’s password in the email, is means for blackmail: Send us bitcoin, or we send all your contacts the footage.
The reality? Pure manipulation. The scammers don’t have dossiers of footage. They never even hacked you. How? Because the password they flaunted wasn’t hacked, but harvested, gleaned from publicly available databases of leaked passwords and emails.
So there’s no need to cover your laptop’s camera. For now.
9. GoFundMe fake-outs take advantage of people’s generosity.
Another thriving online grift is the GoFundMe sob story fake-out.
One notable example came in a feel-good story from 2017 about a couple raising 0,000 for a homeless veteran who had lent them his last . As prosecutors discovered, the trio had concocted the entire story, and not only do they face a mix of federal and state charges, but GoFundMe refunded the donations of all 14,000 contributors.
Another example of strategic storytelling in the art of crowdsourced scamming: A black college student who raised money from Republicans on GoFundMe after claiming her parents disowned her for supporting Trump.
The narrative was suspiciously convenient — because it was a hoax. Although she quickly returned the money she raised, she also exposed how easily you can take advantage of people’s generosity.
10. Pump-and-dump schemes can artificially inflate the value of a currency.
Cryptocurrency is often the form of payment in online scams, but in one scheme, the crypto itself is the fraud.
Investment schemes were always destined to flourish online. By using the web to mass target would-be investors, a schemer can commit the Securities and Exchange Commission no-no of artificially “pumping” up the value of stock to the masses in order to then “dump” the stock on a falsely inflated return.
“[The] ethos is simple: Buy low, sell high. The implication is that investors outside the pump group will see the rapidly rising price and rush to buy in, anxious not to miss the next Bitcoin-style gold rush,” Paris Martineau of The Outline wrote.
“There are frankly a lot of groups that have now centered around misinformation,” Laz Alberto, a cryptocurrency investor and editor of the newsletter Blockchain Report, told BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Jane Lytvynenko in 2018. “It’s obviously illegal, but there’s no regulation and they’ve gotten away with it.”
A cryptocurrency founder was even himself the target of a fake news hoax in 2017, when news spread that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, had died in a car crash.
The fake reports of Buterin’s death caused Ethereum’s valuation to plummet in the market — and later rebound — when the very-much-alive Buterin debunked the rumor himself.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Many Hollywood war movies focus on the action-packed set pieces that go into the film’s trailer, leaving out a lot of room for the character elements that elevate good stories.
When David Ayer’s “Fury” debuted in theaters, the film’s realistic and diverse characters like Gordo, Bible, and the seasoned Don “War Daddy” Collier made audiences feel the dangers of being a tanker in WWII.
Brad Pitt plays the German speaking tank commander War Daddy must to deploy his leadership skills to manage the different personalities that make up his crew.
No one said you can’t have feelings while you’re deployed in a combat zone, but leaders have to control their emotions to help maintain order. That’s exactly what War Daddy did after losing a crew member as he walked off for a moment of self-reflection.
War Daddy reminds us every great warrior needs a moment. (Images via Giphy)
2. Make your expectations clear
The Army quickly replaces the fallen crew member with an untrained boy named, Norman.
War Daddy gives the newly assigned tanker some sage advice for the hell he’s about to witness.
It sounds cold-hearted, but it’s realistic advice. (Images via Giphy)
3. Rank doesn’t always have its privileges
It not uncommon that war films feature both the war-hardened and the inexperienced “shot caller” tropes. But having a high-rank insignia on your collar or sleeve is only as good as the man wearing the shirt. Write that down.
True leaders get true reactions from their comrades. (Images via Giphy)
4. Live in the moment
Having fought the Germans for a good amount of time and seeing plenty of death, War Daddy knows the importance of embracing a special moment.
To feel alive in a time of death is priceless. (Images via Giphy)
5. Take care of each other
Even though their world is currently under a pile of sh*t, they still have their brotherhood and it’s stronger than ever.
Words only veterans can relate too. (Images via Giphy)
In this latest episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of former servicemembers about how they react when strangers approach them and say: “Thank you for your service.” Our panel also talks about how they’d prefer civilians approach veterans about their time serving.
And be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.
Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.
If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.
Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.
Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”
The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.
Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”
Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.
Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”
Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.
Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”
The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.
“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
David Shulkin, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed up to what he thought would be a routine Senate oversight hearing in January 2018, only to discover it was an ambush.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was the sole holdout among members of the veterans affairs committee on a bill that would shape the future of the agency. The bipartisan bill had the support of 26 service groups representing millions of veterans. But Moran was pushing a rival piece of legislation, and it had the support of a White House aide who wields significant clout on veterans policy. Neither proposal could advance as long as there was any doubt about which President Donald Trump wanted to sign.
Moran blamed Shulkin for the impasse. “In every instance, you led me to believe that you and I were on the same page,” Moran said at the hearing. “Our inability to reach an agreement is in significant part related to your ability to speak out of both sides of your mouth: double talk.”
There were gasps in the hearing room. It was an astounding rebuke for a Trump appointee to receive from a Republican senator, especially for Shulkin, who was confirmed by the Senate unanimously.
Clearly ruffled, Shulkin hesitated before answering. “I think it is grossly unfair to make the characterizations you have made of me, and I’m disappointed that you would do that,” he said. “What I am trying to do is give you my best advice about how this works.”
Moran dug in. “I chose my words intentionally,” he said. “I think you tell me one thing and you tell others something else. And that’s incompatible with our ability to reach an agreement and to work together.” Moran then left the hearing for another appointment.
The exchange exposed tensions that had been brewing for months behind closed doors. A battle for the future of the VA has been raging between the White House and veterans groups, with Shulkin caught in the middle. The conflict erupted into national headlines as a result of a seemingly unrelated development: the release of a lacerating report on Shulkin that found “serious derelictions” in a taxpayer-funded European business trip in which he and his wife enjoyed free tickets to Wimbledon and more.
The underlying disagreement at the VA has a different flavor than the overhauls at a number of federal agencies. Unlike some Trump appointees, who took the reins of agencies with track records of opposing the very mission of the organization, Shulkin is a technocratic Obama holdover. He not only participated in the past administration, but defends the VA’s much-maligned health care system. He seeks to keep the organization at the center of veterans’ health care. (An adviser to Shulkin said the White House isn’t permitting him to do interviews.)
But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House, and the VA itself, they have battled Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.
Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.
The blistering report may yet cost Shulkin his job. But the attention on his travel-related misbehavior is distracting from a much more significant issue: The administration’s infighting is imperiling a major legislative deal that could shape the future of the VA.
Taking better care of veterans was a constant refrain at Trump’s presidential campaign rallies. In the speech announcing his candidacy, he said, “We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military, can take care of our vets. Our vets have been abandoned.” Ex-military people overwhelmingly supported him on Election Day and in office.
Trump’s original policy proposals on veterans health, unveiled in October 2015, largely consisted of tweaks to the current system. They called for increasing funding for mental health and helping vets find jobs; providing more women’s health services; modernizing infrastructure and setting up satellite clinics in rural areas.
The ideas drew derisive responses from the Koch brothers-backed group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). Pete Hegseth, its then-CEO, called the proposal “painfully thin” and “unserious.”
Trump then took a sharp turn toward CVA’s positions after clinching the Republican nomination. In a July 2016 speech in Virginia Beach, he embraced a very different vision for the VA, emphasizing private-sector alternatives. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics,” Trump said, “whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center.”
Trump’s new 10-point plan for veterans policy resembled the CVA’s priorities. In fact, six of the proposals drew directly on CVA ideas. Three of them aimed to make it easier to fire employees; a fourth advocated the creation of a reform commission; and two involved privatizing VA medical care.
Trump’s new direction, according to a campaign aide, was influenced by Jeff Miller, then the chairman of the House veterans committee. Miller, who retired from Congress in January 2017, was a close ally of CVA and a scathing critic of Obama’s VA.
Miller became one of the first congressmen to endorse Trump, in April 2016. He did so a few weeks after attending a meeting of the campaign’s national security advisers. (That meeting, and the photo Trump tweeted of it, would become famous because of the presence of George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with investigators after pleading guilty to lying about Russian contacts. Miller is wearing the light gray jacket in the front right. Now a lobbyist with the law firm McDermott Will Emery, he didn’t reply to requests for comment.) Miller became Trump’s point man on veterans policy, the campaign aide said.
Miller and CVA portrayed the VA as the embodiment of “bureaucratic ineptitude and appalling dysfunction.” They were able to cite an ample supply of embarrassing scandals.
The scandals may come as less of a surprise than the fact that the VA actually enjoys widespread support among veterans. Most who use its health care report a positive experience. For example, 92 percent of veterans in a poll conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars reported that they would rather improve the VA system than dismantle it. Independent assessments have found that VA health care outperforms comparable private facilities. “The politicization of health care in the VA is frankly really unfair,” said Nancy Schlichting, the retired CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, who chaired an independent commission to study the VA under the Obama administration. “Noise gets out there based on very specific instances, but this is a very large system. If any health system in this country had the scrutiny the VA has, they’d have stories too.”
One piece of extreme noise was a scandal in 2014, which strengthened Miller and CVA’s hand and created crucial momentum toward privatization. In an April 2014 hearing, Miller revealed that officials at the VA hospital in Phoenix were effectively fudging records to cover up long delays in providing medical care to patients. He alleged that 40 veterans died while waiting to be seen. A week later, CVA organized a protest in Phoenix of 150 veterans demanding answers.
Miller’s dramatic claims did not hold up. A comprehensive IG investigation would eventually find 28 delays that were clinically significant; and though six of those patients died, the IG did not conclude that the delays caused those deaths. Later still, an independent assessment found that long waits were not widespread: More than 90 percent of existing patients got appointments within two weeks of their initial request.
But such statistics were lost in the furor. “Nobody stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, time out, are we destroying this national resource because a small group of people made a mistake?'” a former senior congressional staffer said. “Even those who considered themselves to be friends of the VA were silent. It was a surreal period. The way it grew tentacles has had consequences nobody would have predicted.”
In the heat of the scandal, Miller and CVA pushed for a new program called Choice. It would allow veterans who have to wait more than 30 days for a doctor’s appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to get private-sector care. The VA has bought some private medical care for decades, but Choice represented a significant expansion, and Democrats were wary that it would open the door to privatizing VA health care on a much broader scale.
Still, the Phoenix scandal had made it hard for the Democrats to resist. The Choice bill passed with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law in August 2014.
By 2016, then-candidate Trump was demanding further changes. “The VA scandals that have occurred on this administration’s watch are widespread and inexcusable,” he said in the Virginia Beach speech. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics, whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center. We must extend this right to all veterans.”
Trump’s contacts with CVA and its allies deepened during the transition. He met Hegseth, who left CVA to become a Fox News commentator, in Trump Tower. Trump picked Darin Selnick for the “landing team” that would supervise the transition at the VA. Selnick had directed CVA’s policy task force, which in 2015 recommended splitting the VA’s payer and provider functions and spinning off the latter into a government nonprofit corporation. Such an operation, organized along the lines of Amtrak, would be able to receive federal funding but also raise other revenue.
Trump’s consideration of Hegseth and Miller to lead the VA ran into fierce resistance from veterans groups, powerful institutions whose clout is boosted by the emotional power that comes with members’ having risked their lives for their country. At a meeting with the Trump transition in December 2016, officials from the major veterans groups held a firm line against privatizing the VA and any secretary intent on it.
Trump finally settled on Shulkin, 58, who ran the VA health system under Obama. Shulkin is a former chief of private hospital systems and a doctor — an internist, he still occasionally treats patients at the VA — who comes across more as a medical geek than the chief of a massive organization.
Trump heaps praise on Shulkin in public appearances and meets with him regularly in private. He was one of the first cabinet secretaries Trump consulted about the impact of the government shutdown on Jan. 21, 2018. They met at Camp David in December 2017 and lunched at the White House on Feb. 8, 2018. “You’re doing a great job,” Trump told Shulkin at a Jan. 9 signing ceremony for an executive order on veterans mental health services, handing Shulkin the executive pen. “We appreciate you.”
Trump may like Shulkin, but that didn’t stop his administration from appointing officials who opposed his philosophy. One of them, Jake Leinenkugel, a Marine Corps veteran and retired Wisconsin brewery owner, became the White House’s eyes and ears inside the agency. He works in an office next to Shulkin’s, but his title is senior White House adviser. Leinenkugel, 65, said he came out of retirement to take the position because he was “excited about taking POTUS’s agenda and advancing it.” As he put it, “I’m here to help veterans.”
He and Shulkin got along fine for a few months. But then, in May 2017, the two men clashed, as Shulkin accused Leinenkugel of undermining him. Shulkin wanted to nominate the VA’s acting under secretary for health, Poonam Alaigh, to take the position permanently, according to two people familiar with his thinking. But, the VA secretary charged, Leinenkugel told the White House to drop Alaigh. Shulkin confronted Leinenkugel, who denied any sabotage, according to an email Leinenkugel subsequently wrote. Alaigh stepped down in October and the position remains unfilled.
Shulkin has even been at odds with his own press secretary, Curt Cashour, who came from Miller’s House committee staff. January 2018, Shulkin assigned an official to send a letter to a veterans group that said the agency would update its motto, to be inclusive of servicewomen. (Adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, the original reads, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The new version would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”)
Cashour told The Washington Post the motto wouldn’t change. A few days later, the secretary’s strategic plan went out using the updated, gender-neutral motto. Cashour then denied the change a second time, telling the Post that was “not VA’s position.” A new document with the Lincoln quote restored subsequently appeared on the VA’s website. Shulkin was stunned at being disobeyed by his own spokesman, two people briefed on the incident said. (Cashour denied defying the VA secretary. “The premise of your inquiry is false,” he told ProPublica. Cashour said Shulkin never approved the letter regarding the updated motto and authorized the restoration of the original one.)
Then there was Selnick, who became the administration’s most effective proponent for privatization. He joined the VA as a “senior advisor to the secretary.” Though he reported to Shulkin, he quickly began developing his own policy proposals and conducted his own dealings with lawmakers, according to people with knowledge of the situation. In mid-2017 Shulkin pushed him out — sort of.
Selnick left the VA offices and took up roost in the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. There he started hosting VA-related policy meetings without informing Shulkin, according to people briefed on the meetings. At one such meeting of the “Veterans Policy Coordinating Committee,” Selnick floated merging the Choice program with military’s Tricare insurance plan, according to documents from the meeting obtained by ProPublica.
Veterans groups were furious. At a Nov. 17, 2017 meeting, Selnick boasted that Trump wouldn’t sign anything without Selnick’s endorsement, according to a person present. Shulkin would later tell a confidant that moving Selnick out of the VA was his “biggest mistake” because he did even more damage from the White House. (Selnick did not reply to a request for comment. A White House spokesman said some VA officials were aware of the policy meetings that Selnick hosted. The spokesman said Selnick does not brief the president or the chief of staff.)
Selnick, 57, is a retired Air Force captain from California who worked in the VA under the George W. Bush administration. At CVA, he not only ran the policy task force, he testified before Congress and appeared on TV. In 2015, House Speaker John Boehner appointed Selnick to the Commission on Care, an independent body created by a Congressional act to study the VA and make recommendations.
Selnick impressed his fellow commissioners with his preparation but sometimes irked them with what they viewed as his assumption that he was in charge, people who worked with him on the commission said. Selnick often brought up his experience at the VA. But some commissioners scoffed behind his back because his position, in charge of faith-based initiatives, had little relevance to health care. Whatever his credentials, Selnick had audacious ambitions: He wanted to reconceive the VA’s fundamental approach to medical care.
Selnick wanted to open up the VA so any veteran could see any doctor, an approach that would transform its role into something resembling an insurance company, albeit one with no restrictions on providers. Other commissioners worried that would cost the government more, impose fees and deductibles on veterans and serve them worse. “He was probably the most vocal of all of the members,” said David Gorman, the retired executive director of Disabled American Veterans who also served on the commission, “in a good and a bad way.”
The bad part, in the view of Nancy Schlichting, the chairwoman, emerged when Selnick tried to “hijack” the commission. Selnick and a minority of commissioners secretly drafted their own proposal, which went further than CVA’s. (The group included executives of large health systems that stood to gain more patients.) They wrote that the “the current VA health care system is seriously broken” with “no efficient path to repair it.” They proposed closing facilities, letting all veterans choose private care, and transitioning the rest to private care over two decades.
The draft was written in a way that seemed to speak for the commission as a whole, with phrases like “the Commission recommends.” The commission staff suggested labeling it a “straw man report,” implying it was meant to provoke discussion. Still, veterans organizations were angry, and Schlichting had to publicly disavow the draft. “Darin Selnick has never run a health system in his life and doesn’t understand the complexity of it,” Schlichting told ProPublica.
For his part, Shulkin publicly staked out his vision in a March 17, 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In it, he defended the VA’s quality of care and proposed reimagining the VA as an integrated system composed of its own core facilities, a network of vetted private-sector providers, and a third layer of private care for veterans in remote places. Shulkin also edited a book published last year trumpeting the VA’s successes, called “Best Care Everywhere.”
Almost four years after the Phoenix scandal, the emergency measure letting some veterans get care outside the VA is still limping along with temporary extensions, not to mention payment glitches and confusion about its rules. Key legislators grew tired of renewing emergency funding and wanted to find a long-term solution. In the House, negotiations broke down after Democrats boycotted a listening session featuring CVA. So fall 2017, focus turned to the Senate.
The crux of the debate was the extent to which the VA should rely on private care. The chairman and ranking member on the Senate veterans committee, respectively, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jon Tester of Montana, drafted a bill to consolidate all of the VA’s programs that pay for private care and let doctors and patients decide where veterans would get care. The VA would buy private care when that makes the most sense but would still coordinate all veterans care in an integrated, comprehensive way. The bill garnered the support of 26 veterans organizations and every committee member except Moran.
Moran represents the Koch brothers’ home state; employees of Koch Industries are the second-largest source of campaign contributions in his career, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. With the support of CVA, Moran wanted to establish clear criteria making veterans eligible for private-sector care, like the 30 days/40 miles standard in the Choice program. It might sound like a subtle distinction, but it means the difference between keeping all veterans within the VA system versus ceding the direction of patient care to the private sector. When the committee rejected his amendment, Moran proposed his own bill and signed up Sen. John McCain as a co-sponsor.
Moran’s bill initially called for all veterans to be able to choose private care. When a McCain aide shared it with a lobbyist for the American Legion, the lobbyist was so enraged by what he viewed as a bid to undermine the VA that he torched a copy of the bill and sent the McCain aide a photo of the charred draft. (An American Legion spokesman declined to comment.) With the American Legion’s input, McCain’s and Moran’s staffs toned down the bill to the point that they got letters of support from the group, along with Amvets and CVA. But American Legion and Amvets were still working to get consensus on the Isakson-Tester bill.
Still, the Moran-McCain bill had a few key allies: Selnick and Leinenkugel. They had gained sway in part because of a White House vacuum. The president himself has been largely absent on veterans policy and there’s no senior point person. The portfolio has at times belonged to Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Omarosa Manigault, according to veterans groups and congressional officials. (A White House spokesman said those officials played a role in “veterans issues,” but not “veterans policy.” The latter, the spokesman said, is overseen by Selnick on the Domestic Policy Council.)
That has given Selnick and Leinenkugel wide latitude to shape White House positions on issues that don’t rise to Trump’s level. “Darin [Selnick] is pretty much in the ascendancy,” said Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based charity serving veterans.
As long as Moran had a competing claim to the Trump administration’s support, the Isakson-Tester bill was stuck. Republicans wouldn’t risk a floor vote on a bill the president might not sign. Shulkin supported the Isakson-Tester bill but he knew his rivals inside the White House were pushing for Moran’s proposal. So Shulkin hedged, awkwardly praising both bills. “We still don’t know which bill he wants,” Joe Chenelly, executive director of Amvets, said. “If the White House wants something different, then we need to know how to reconcile that.”
Amid the impasse, the Choice program was out of money again and needed an extension as part of the end-of-year spending deal. Tester vowed to make it the last one he’d agree to. He called on Shulkin to break the stalemate by publicly endorsing his and Isakson’s bill. “I would love to have the VA come out forcefully for this bill,” he said on the Senate floor in late December. “I think it would help get it passed.”
In a private meeting, Isakson and Tester chided Shulkin for withholding support for their bill, according to three people briefed on the meeting. Shulkin told them he was doing the best he could, but he had to fend off a competing agenda from the White House.
Unbeknown to Shulkin, there was already talk in the White House of easing him out. On Dec. 4, 2017, Leinenkugel wrote a memo, which ProPublica obtained, summarizing his disillusionment with Shulkin as well as with Shulkin’s deputy, Thomas Bowman, and chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson. (“I was asked to tell the truth and I gave it,” said Leinenkugel of his memo; he declined to say who requested it.)
Leinenkugel accused Bowman of disloyalty and opposing the “dynamic new Choice options requested by POTUS agenda.” The memo recommended that Bowman be fired — and replaced by Leinenkugel himself. It also asserted that Wright Simpson “was proud to tell me she is a Democrat who completely trusts the secretary and it’s her job to protect him.” Leinenkugel accused her of delaying the placement of Trump’s political appointees. Leinenkugel recommended replacing her, too.
As for Shulkin, Leinenkugel’s memo advocated he be “put on notice to leave after major legislation and key POTUS VA initiatives [are] in place.”
After the clash between Moran and Shulkin at the January hearing, Isakson said the White House would provide feedback on his bill to help the committee chart a way forward. “The president basically is pushing to get a unanimous vote out of committee,” said Rick Weidman, the top lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “The only reason why we didn’t get it before was there is one mid-level guy on the Domestic Policy Council who threw a monkey wrench into it by confusing people about what the administration’s position is.” That person, Weidman said, is Selnick.
The White House’s feedback on the Isakson-Tester bill, a copy of which was obtained by ProPublica, was the closest the administration has come to a unified position on veterans health care. It incorporated input from the VA and the Office of Management and Budget. Selnick told veterans groups he wrote the memo, leaving some miffed that Selnick seemingly had the final word instead of Shulkin. (A White House spokesman said Selnick was not the only author.)
Selnick requested changes that might look like minor tweaks but would have dramatic policy consequences. “It’s these very small differences in details that the public would never notice that change the character of the thing entirely,” said Phillip Longman, whose 2007 book, “Best Care Anywhere,” argued that the VA works better than private health care. (The title of the book Shulkin edited, “Best Care Everywhere,” was a nod at Longman’s book.)
Most important, the White House wanted clear criteria that make veterans eligible for private care. That was the main feature of Moran’s bill and the sticking point in the negotiations. The administration also asked to preserve a piece of the Choice program by grandfathering in veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. CVA praised the White House for nudging the bill in Moran’s direction. “We applaud President Trump for taking a firm stand in favor of more health care choice for veterans at the VA,” the group’s director, Daniel Caldwell, said in a statement dated Jan. 24, 2018.
The White House feedback also called for removing provisions that would regulate providers, such as requiring them to meet quality standards and limiting opioid prescriptions. And the administration objected to provisions in the bill that would require it to fill critical vacancies at the VA and report back to Congress.
Selnick got what he asked for, but it still might not be enough. Isakson and Tester agreed to most of the changes. But in a White House meeting with veterans groups on Feb. 5, 2018, Selnick continued to insist on open choice, suggesting that’s what Trump wants. Selnick visited Moran’s staff, a person with knowledge of the meeting said, and Moran indicated he wouldn’t support the modified version of the Isakson-Tester bill. (A White House spokesman said Isakson and Tester did not accept all the changes and negotiations continue. He denied that Selnick pushed for open choice.) Moran’s spokesman didn’t answer emailed questions by press time.)
The tensions spilled out publicly again on Feb. 8, 2018, when the Washington Post reported that the White House wanted to oust Bowman, Shulkin’s deputy. The article said the purpose was to chastise Shulkin for “freewheeling” — working with senators who don’t share the administration’s position. Isakson’s spokeswoman called it a “shameful attempt” to derail the negotiations. Isakson resolved to move ahead without Moran, the spokeswoman said, but it’s not clear when the bill will get time on the Senate floor (the Senate focused on immigration this week and then will take a recess). Moran could still place a “hold” on the bill or round up other senators to oppose it.
Shulkin determined that Selnick and Leinenkugel had to go, according to four people familiar with the secretary’s thinking. But Shulkin doesn’t appear to have the authority to fire them since they work for the White House. Plus, the attacks from the right were already taking a toll on Shulkin’s standing. “If leaders at Trump’s VA don’t support REAL CHOICE — why won’t they resign?” former CVA chief Hegseth tweeted on Feb. 13, 2018 tagging Shulkin in the post.
Veterans advocates responded by defending Shulkin against attacks they viewed as originating with Selnick and Leinenkugel. “They thought they could coopt David,” said Weidman, the lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “When he couldn’t be coopted, they decided to go after his character.”
The biggest blow came on Feb. 14, 2018 when the VA’s Inspector General released its report on Shulkin’s trip to Europe in April 2017. It concluded that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, misused a subordinate as a “personal travel concierge,” lied to reporters, and that his chief of staff doctored an email in such a way that would justify paying travel expenses for Shulkin’s wife.
Shulkin disputed the IG’s findings, but he again ran into trouble getting his message out from his own press office. A statement insisting he had “done nothing wrong” disappeared from the VA’s website, and Cashour replaced it with one saying “we look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in more detail before determining an appropriate response.” Cashour said the White House directed him to take down Shulkin’s statement and approved the new one.
Shulkin told Politico the IG report was spurred by internal opponents. “They are really killing me,” he said. By Feb. 16, 2018, his chief of staff had told colleagues Friday she would retire, USA Today reported.
The condemnation after the IG report was swift and widespread. House veterans committee member Mike Coffman, R-Colo., called on Shulkin to resign. Democrats, though generally sympathetic to Shulkin, couldn’t resist lumping the imbroglio in with other travel-expense tempests across Trump’s cabinet (involving Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, and Steven Mnuchin). The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate veterans committees said they were “disappointed” and want Shulkin to address the allegations, but acknowledged the politics at work and the stakes in a joint statement: “We need to continue progress we have made and not allow distractions to get in the way.”
The next day, Shulkin appeared before another routine oversight hearing, in this instance on the House side. He told the representatives he would reimburse the government for his wife’s travel and accept the IG’s recommendations. Shulkin thanked the chairman and ranking member for urging their colleagues not to let the scandal commandeer the hearing. “I do regret the decisions that have been made that have taken the focus off that important work,” he said.
Turning to the VA’s budget, Shulkin resumed his tightrope walk. He praised the VA’s services while acknowledging the need for some veterans to be treated outside the government’s system. By the time he left the hearing, two hours later, the Trump administration’s position on veterans health privatization remained a mystery.
On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.
Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.
When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.
Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.
He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.
As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.
A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.
As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.
He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.
As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.
As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”
Robert Smalls was a slave.
His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!
The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.
As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.
They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.
When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.
You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.
Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.
Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.
Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.
In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).
In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.
After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.
And he did.
He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.
Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”
Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.
In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).
After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.
On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.
“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”