This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.

The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.


This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

“How can we serve them best?”

For Burnett, the mission is personal

“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.

“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”

Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.

“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”

For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.

And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”

Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population

“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.

“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.

“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.

“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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


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

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

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care
North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un.
(KCNA)

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 12th

There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.

And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.

So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!


This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via ASMDSS)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Private News Network)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme by Pop Smoke)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a Cold War sex scandal toppled the British government

The model at the center of a scandal, which rocked the British political and social establishment, and ended an age of deference in British culture, has died.


Christine Keeler, a young woman catapulted into British history through a scandal involving UK Cabinet Minister John Profumo in the 1960s, was confirmed dead yesterday by her family. She was 75.

Keeler was a model and showgirl who spent time in London dance clubs, where she came into the orbit of British high society along with other young women in her position. She was 19 at the time.

Related: Corps to update social media rules in wake of scandal

Her life became the object of a Cold War political scandal when it became public knowledge that she had been sexually involved with Profumo — then Britain’s minister for war — while doing the same with a Soviet diplomat based in London.

Opposition MPs alleged that having such a close link between a senior government minister and a rival power presented a security risk, predicated on the idea that Keeler could be a conduit to leak secrets to the Russians.

Attempts by Profumo to distance himself from Keeler led to him lying to parliament, saying there was “no impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with her. When it the lie was found out, he resigned from his position.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care
John Profumo in 1960, at his desk as Secretary of State for War (Image from Wikimedia Common)

An official government report into the affair concluded that there had been “no security risk,” though Keeler herself later said that some of her activities effectively constituted spying.

The scandal was seen as a watershed moment in British public life, when a long-standing tradition of deferring instinctively to those in positions of power came to an end.

Since then, it has become a cultural norm in Great Britain for revelations about the personal lives of ministers to end careers and change the shape of the government.

Also Read: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

In a fiery exchange after his resignation, Labour leader Harold Wilson said the affair “shocked the moral conscience of the nation,” and then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, agreed.

Meanwhile, Keeler gave an interview to the tabloid press and reportedly received thousands of pounds in exchange.

photograph of her posing nude while straddling a chair, released shortly after Profumo’s resignation, became the iconic image of the scandal.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care
The iconic photo of Christine Keeler. (Image from Flickr user hydRometra)

Profumo’s resignation was a major blow to Macmillan’s government, and was one of several factors which led to his resignation later that year and a loss for the Conservative Party in 1964 to Harold Wilson.

Keeler went on as a minor celebrity in the UK, appearing in interviews and in newspapers based on the scandal, which produced books, the 1989 film “Scandal,” and the West End musical, Stephen Ward.

Some official papers relating to the case are due to remain classified until 2046, 100 years after the birth of Mandy Rice-Davies, Keeler’s roommate and the youngest figure in the scandal.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New amendments would promote Tuskegee Airman and last Doolittle Raider

House lawmakers have introduced legislative amendments to promote two military pilots who made great contributions to aerial battles during World War II.

Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, recently created an amendment to the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization legislation that would posthumously promote Richard “Dick” Cole from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Cole, who died in April 2019 at age 103, was the last surviving Doolittle Raider and flew alongside then-Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. The raid was famously named after Doolittle, who led 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members from the aircraft carrier Hornet in the western Pacific on a strike targeting factories and military installations in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942.


Cole, a lieutenant at the time, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the bombing.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced similar legislation. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine on July 10, 2019.

Separately, Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, created a measure to promote retired Air Force colonel and distinguished combat aviator Charles McGee to brigadier general. McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

“This distinguished, decades-long career in the Air Force, which saw Col. McGee become the first African-American to command a stateside Air Force wing and base, serves as an inspirational legacy to hundreds of African-American service members and aviators,” Brown told Military.com in a statement July 10, 2019. “This honorary promotion would be well-deserved recognition of a dedicated patriot.”

Both McGee and Cole spoke to Military.com in recent years about their service.

“The flight was designed to do two things: One, to let the Japanese people know that they could be struck by air. And the other thing was the morale, and we did that, so we were very proud of that,” Cole told Military.com in 2016.

That year, the Air Force announced it would name its next-generation B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber the Raider after the Doolittle Raiders. Cole made the announcement for the service.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

The experience was much different for the Tuskegee Airmen: They were the first African-American pilots, navigators and support personnel to serve during World War II, often escorting and protecting bombers.

McGee said he was just doing his job.

“It came from the basis of doing something for our country — for me, doing something I liked, knowing that’s what I’d pass on to young people now,” he said during an interview in 2017.

“We accomplished something that helped lead the country,” McGee said. “We didn’t call this civil rights. It was American opportunity.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.

As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.

There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.


In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.

Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.

The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.

The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.

The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.

The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.

So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?

Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.

Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.

Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.

The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.

The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.

Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.

A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.

We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.

For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.

The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.

Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

European court rules in favor of Russian opposition leader

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and jailings, calling them “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15, 2018, delivered its ruling, rejecting an appeal filed by Russia over a previous judgment favoring Navalny.

The court upheld its previous decision that found Navalny’s seven arrests and two instances of pretrial detentions by Russian authorities between 2012-14 violated his rights, “lacked a legitimate aim,” and “had not been necessary in a democratic society.”


He immediately hailed the decision, writing on Twitter, “Won. Fully. The government is crushed…Hooray!”

He also told reporters that the ruling was an example of “genuine justice” and was “very important not just for me but for other people all over Russia who are arrested every day.”

As part of the ruling, the court ordered Russia to pay Navalny about 64,000 euros in compensation, costs, and expenses and said its decision was final and binding.

Moscow did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, attended the hearing, along with his brother Oleg, and posted a photograph of the two of them at the ECHR on Instragram.

Russia’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that officials can ignore judgments by the ECHR if they are found to contravene the Russian Constitution.

Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.

Navalny was originally prevented from boarding a flight out of Moscow on Nov. 13, 2018, to attend the hearing.

The Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP) said he was barred from leaving due to what it said was debt he owed Kirovles, a state timber company at the center of a politically charged criminal case in which he has now been convicted twice.

The FSSP later said the fine was paid and that restrictions on Navalny’s travel abroad had been lifted.

He said he would sue the FSSP over what he called “illegal activities” and demand compensation for the 29,542 rubles (6) in financial losses he said he and his lawyer sustained due to the FSSP’s decision to bar him from leaving.

The ECHR ruling was on an appeal filed by Russia over a court decision in February 2017 that ruled in favor of Navalny, but Russia filed an appeal to challenge the decision.

Navalny, 42, has organized large street protests on several occasions since 2011 and has published a series of reports alleging corruption in Putin’s circle.

He has repeatedly been jailed for periods ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, usually for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.

Navalny had spent nearly 200 days in jail since 2011, including 140 days since the start of his attempt to challenge Putin in the March 2018 presidential election, his spokeswoman has said.

Electoral authorities barred Navalny from the ballot, citing convictions in two financial-crimes cases he and his supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish him for his opposition activity and for the reports alleging corruption.

Navalny was convicted in 2013 of stealing money from Kirovles and was sentenced to five years in prison. But the sentence was later suspended, sparing him from serving time in prison.

In 2016, the ECHR ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions “indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”

The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial.

In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentence.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia appears to be lying about size of military exercises

In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”

That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.

2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.


Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.

The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.

The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.

A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.

The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.

Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.

The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.

“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.

Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)

Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America

Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.

Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.

Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.

Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.

Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.

Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.

“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”

China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.

Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.

Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.

“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.

With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?


Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.

However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.

Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.

As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.

(U.S. Army photo)

The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.

To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.

There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing

If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.

Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.


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In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.

The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.

So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…

Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.

The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.

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(Comic by AF Blues)

 

In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happeningafter all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?

This sort of irresponsible risk management solution has since become the biggest running joke in the military.

“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 steps to take if you find a boot Marine on your Army base

There you are, happily performing a police call through the training areas and thinking about how great it will be to get off at 1600 when you all are done, just like first sergeant promised. Then, you see something that dooms your whole night.

A single Marine sits in a pile of crayon wrappers and empty Rip It cans. Looks like a lack of Marine oversight just became your problem. Here’s what you do next:


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The hat will look like these ones.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez)

First, look for a Marine sergeant

Hopefully, the Devil Dog has a devil master (or whatever they call themselves) nearby who can police him up and bundle him out of there. Marine sergeants can be quickly identified by the loud string of profanities, like an Army sergeant but with a strangely rigid hat on. They will likely punctuate their profanities with, “OORAH!

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Too much running around in the woods, too much beer, not enough showering.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Antonio Rubio)

Don’t touch it

If you can’t find a Marine sergeant, then, for the love of god, don’t touch the boot. It’s not that the sergeants won’t accept it after it gets some Army on it, it’s that you don’t want to get any Marine on you. Sure, Marines are famous for some of their grooming standards, like haircuts, but there are only so many pull-ups you can do with beer sweating out of your pores before becoming a walking Petri dish.

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You can let it pick its own, but remind it that Army MREs have no crayons whatsoever.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Scott L. Eberle)

Feed it (MREs, not DFAC)

The easiest thing to do with a lost Marine is get it some food while you’re waiting for some embarrassed platoon leader to show up. Don’t give it DFAC food or it’ll spend all day complaining about how bad the food is in their chow halls and kennels. Give it MREs — the older the better. If you have ones with Charms, give them those, but expect them to throw the Charms away and then tell you how cursed they are.

No, it doesn’t matter that the boot is too young to have possibly been deployed, let alone deployed with Charms. They have all seen Generation Kill, just like all soldiers have seen Black Hawk Down and all sailors have seen Down Periscope.

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Don’t worry. They won’t drown. They’re super good with water.

(U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Scott Thompson)

Throw it into a pool or small lake — NOT AN OCEAN!

If the Marine has been with you for more than an hour or two, then it probably needs a swim or its pelt will dry out. The trick here is to find a small body of water, nothing larger than a large lake.

If you throw it into an ocean or sea, it will likely try to swim out and find the “fleet.” No one is entirely sure, but the fleet is likely the original Marine spawning grounds. More research is required. But Marines who attempt to swim to the fleet will nearly always drown.

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Yeah, these’ll make some booms. The machine gun .50-cals are good as well.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew McNeil)

Give it something loud to play with

You can ask the Marine what type it is; artillery, infantry, water purification specialist, etc. Regardless of their answer, know that all Marines like loud noises. If there are any rifle, machine gun, or howitzer ranges going on, that’s ideal. Just dig the Marine a small hole just behind the firing line and let it lounge there. Hearing protection is recommended but not required.

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They like being in the cages. It reminds them of home.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Santamaria)

If it has to stay overnight, build a turducken of cages

If night’s about to fall and there’s still no one there to claim the Marine, you’re gonna have to house it overnight. If your base has a veterinarian unit or working dog kennels, that’s fine. If not, you might have to house it in the barracks. If you do so, you need to have two locks between the Marine and any alcohol. Get a supply cage or dog kennel (large) if need be.

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The other Devil Dogs will be happy to see it.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jessica Quezada)

If all else fails, ship it back to the nearest Marine base

It’ll probably whine about whether or not it’s a Hollywood Marine or whatever, but address it to whicever Marine installation is closest. Just pack it up with some dip and cigarettes and its mouth will be too busy to complain for a few hours. Don’t worry, you can’t put too much in there. Their tolerance is too high for a lethal dose.

And they’ll be happier back on the Marine farms. They like to be with their own kind.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President has reportedly selected the next UN ambassador

U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as the country’s next ambassador to the United Nations in a round of senior staff changes halfway through his four-year mandate.

Trump made the announcement of Nauert’s appointment to reporters as he departed the White House on Dec. 7, 2018, for a trip to Kansas City.

He also said he had picked former Attorney General William Barr to fill the top job at the U.S. Justice Department again, and that he would make another personnel announcement with regard to the joint chiefs of staff on Dec. 8, 2018.


“She’s very talented, very smart, very quick and I think she is going to be respected by all,” Trump said of the 48-year-old Nauert.

If her nomination is approved by the Senate, Nauert, a former ABC and Fox News anchor and correspondent, will succeed Nikki Haley, who announced in October 2018 that she would leave the UN post at the end of the year.

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Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Nauert, who joined the State Department as spokeswoman in April 2017, was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in 2018. She is an unusual choice for the UN diplomatic post as she has no prior political or policy-making experience.

Barr, who held the same position in the administration of the late President George H.W. Bush, will succeed Jeff Sessions, who Trump forced to resign in November 2018 amid rising pressure on the White House from the Russia-collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Lawyer Matthew Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general after Sessions stepped down.

“As the former AG for George H.W. Bush and one of the most highly respected lawyers and legal minds in the Country, he will be a great addition to our team. I look forward to having him join our very successful Administration!” Trump tweeted after making the announcement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why ‘Best Soldier’ competitions actually matter for junior enlisted

Within the United States Army, each unit will routinely hold competitions to determine which soldier is the best at their given role. There’s a competition for best warrior, best Ranger, best medic, best cook, soldier of the month, NCO of the quarter — you name it. The list goes on to include nearly every MOS, ranked each month, quarter, and year.

But when it comes time for the first sergeant to get the names of those who will nobly represent the company, you’ll hear nothing but crickets from the joes that are busy waiting until close-of-business formation. It’s like pulling teeth each and every time. In fact, you’d hear less groaning and complaining if you voluntold them to go fill sandbags with spoons.

Yes, you’ll have to put in some effort, but even if you rank somewhere around 10th place, getting in on these competitions is a more rewarding experience than nearly anything else you’d otherwise be doing. Here’s why:


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I mean, giving any kind of blood, sweat, and tears in the name of the unit will keep them happy.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mason Cutrer)

One of the most important steps in getting promoted is getting your name out there in a positive light. That doesn’t mean you need to be Captain America, but any (positive) means of getting your chain of command to know your name, face, and think higher of you than the dirtbags in formation is a good thing.

Your squad leader should obviously know who you are and everything about you — they write your monthly counseling statements after all. Your platoon sergeant should know a bit about you, your first sergeant should probably know whether you’re a dirtbag or not, and your battalion sergeant major probably only knows that you exist.

Go any higher than that, and they’ve got way too many troops to keep track of.

Best Soldier competitions give you that “in” without resorting to underhanded brown-nosing.

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Just try to make them proud. They’re using you to insult their fellow NCOs’ ability to lead and train soldiers.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)

When you arrive at a Best Soldier competition, you’re always escorted by your immediate chain of command. If you happen to be the only joe brave enough to try, that means you’ll be walking in with just your squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant — all ready to cheer you on.

Here’s a fact for you: Once you’ve reached a certain rank on the enlisted side, you’ll have to stomach the fact that your personal glory days are behind you. Your entire career, from that point forward, depends on your men and how well you lead them. When you’re out there at a Best Soldier competition, the NCOs aren’t just cheering you on — they’re out there collecting bragging rights. “See that dude? That’s my guy!”

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Oh? You thought those questions you’ve been studying for months actually mattered? Well… That’s a discussion best saved for another time…
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona, 2ID/RUCD Public Affairs)

For obvious reasons, if you come out of that challenge with a shiny gold medal or trophy, you’re going to become the giant middle finger your NCOs will raise at their peers. Their pride in you will open whatever doors you wanted opened in your career. You want to go to airborne school? Win Soldier of the Year and your first sergeant will fight for you when that slot comes down from battalion. Want to get promoted? Your first sergeant probably won’t even ask you any questions at the board. They’ll nod to their fellow first sergeants and sergeant major and say, “that soldier’s good. That’s my guy.”

A glowing recommendation like that could mean no other questions will be asked and you get your (P) status with a snap of the fingers.

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But, you know, there’s far more praise if you bring that award home for your platoon sergeant’s desk.
(National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

It is a competition though, and it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll win — or even medal. While your platoon sergeant may knifehand your ass and threaten you with a 24-mile ruck march for getting “the first place loser” (better known as “second place”), that’s just incentive to push you. Try your hardest and you’ll be okay.

I really don’t want to sound like a corny, motivational 80s sports flick, but it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters that you gave it your all. Your chain of command will respect you far more for coming in a hard-fought second place than if you shriveled out of the competition to begin with. Hell, come in last place — as long as they know you honestly give it everything you had, everything will be fine in the end.

Your chain of command now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will push yourself to the limit when needed — and that’s truly the greatest thing a leader could ask of their troops.

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