A Russian fighter came within 20 feet of a United States Navy maritime patrol aircraft over the Black Sea. However, unlike past encounters, this close approach doesn’t have the Navy angry.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Russian plane was armed with six air-to-air missiles.
Despite that, the plane’s crew described the encounter as “safe and professional,” a marked contrast to incidents such as the buzzing of USS Porter in the Black Sea earlier this year.
Last year, another P-8 had a Russian plane come within ten feet of it.
The incident comes about a month before planned Black Sea exercises that the United States will be involved in. Russia has expressed concern over the deployment of American ships to the Black Sea in the past, claiming they are a threat to Russia.
“After approaching a plane at a safe distance the Russian pilot visually identified the flying object as a U.S. surveillance plane P-8A Poseidon,” the Russian military claimed in a statement.
American military officials noted that the Russian plane approached the P-8 “slowly” during the hour-long encounter.
“While this one was considered by the flight crew to be safe and professional, this sort of close encounter certainly has the possibility to become dangerous in a hurry,” an anonymous American defense official said.
Yesterday saw a Russian Su-24 Fencer come within 70 miles of the Carl Vinson carrier strike group, prompting the South Koreans to scramble two F-16 Fighting Falcons to intercept the plane.
The Fencer has been used in many of the buzzing incidents the Navy has claimed were “unsafe and unprofessional” in recent months.
Russian aircraft have also approached Alaska a number of times in recent weeks, prompting the United States to scramble F-22 Raptor air dominance fighters on at least one occasion.
For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.
However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.
The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.
“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”
“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.
“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”
As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.
Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”
Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:
The Trump administration is considering housing up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases in coming months, according to lawmakers and a Defense Department memo obtained by The Washington Post.
In a notification to lawmakers, the Pentagon said that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services asked whether beds could be provided for children at military installations “for occupancy as early as July through Dec. 31, 2018.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) addressed the issue on the Senate floor on June 21, 2018.
“The Department of Defense has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year,” he said. “How will that work? Is it even feasible?”
The plan would seemingly have similarities to 2014, when the Obama administration housed about 7,000 unaccompanied children on three military bases. The Pentagon, in its congressional notification to lawmakers, said it must determine if it “possesses these capabilities.” As required under the Economy Act, the memo said, the Defense Department would be reimbursed for all costs incurred.
The sites would be run by HHS employees or contractors working with them, the memo said. They would provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be at each location.
The memo was sent to lawmakers on June 20, 2018, after President Trump reversed his administration’s unpopular policy to separate children from their parents as the migrants arrived at the southern U.S. border.
The president’s executive order directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “take all legally available measures” to provide Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families,” and the construction of new facilities “if necessary and consistent with law.”
When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.
I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.
She had always been a fan of World War II nose art (on the nose of the plane), so decided to use this creative passion of hers to create calendars that could be donated to veterans and raise money for VA hospitals. Now it is a reality, and Gina not only produces the calendars, but brings a group together and goes to donate the calendars at VA hospitals, dressed as the pinups. The organization has donated over $50,000 worth of rehab equipment for VA hospitals nationwide, and has visited over 7,000 ill and injured veterans.
As you would imagine with a group that visits VA hospitals, the stories Gina had to share were touching. She mentioned a man who was in the hospital for a traumatic injury, and how they were talking with him and he responded. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that afterward they were told that this man had not spoken in over a month.
Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a return volunteer for these groups that go to VA hospitals, and shared with me the story of an elderly Navy veteran who cried because she was so happy to have this visit. The video of this touching moment is below:
Jennifer had the following to say about her volunteer experience with Pinups for Vets:
Volunteering with Pin-Ups for Vets means so much to me. On every visit, we see veterans that have not had visitors in days, weeks, or even months. Reconnecting with my brothers and sisters, regardless of era served or branch, is a unique and often beautiful experience. No veteran should ever feel lonely or go without visitors while hospitalized. I do it because not only do I value our veterans, but it makes me feel good as well. I love connecting with other vets and I think volunteer work is essential for anyone who would like to make the world a little brighter.
She also had the following experience to share, which reminds us of the need of young veterans as well:
A visit that sticks out in my mind was when we walked into a room and there were two very young veterans in their late 20s to early 30s. At the hospital, they were surrounded by elderly vets and did not really have anyone to talk to. We spent a lot of time in that room just talking and reminiscing about the service. They were so happy to have company that was around their same age, and it was a really great bonding experience. We signed their calendars and took photos to remember the day by. I still think about that visit often.
Jennifer told me she feels that, through such visits, along with the organizations active social media presence, “people are able to see that there are still veterans who not only appreciate but need the companionship.”
The website for the organization includes thank you letters from the hospitals these volunteers have been able to visit, and reading these was an inspiration in itself. One line from these letters that helped me understand the importance of the visits said their visits make “every day Veterans Day” for their residents.
We don’t want anyone to end up alone in a hospital, especially anyone who dedicated themselves to serving our country. We are fortunate that Pinups for Vets is making an effort, and can see this first hand in the commitment these men and women make to showing these veterans that they care. An example below shows Gina dancing with a veteran, a touching moment that may not change the world, but certainly shows that veteran and the others who see this that people appreciate our service and are making an effort to ensure we are not alone.
Everyone knows the Air Force has some cushy accommodations and, as a result, they often get flack from the other branches. It’s pretty obvious that most of these jokes stem from pure envy. Let’s face it, the Air Force is the youngest of all the branches and they get the best that Mom and Dad have to offer, even on deployments.
That’s what we call an Air Force MRE.
(Photo by Master Sergeant Christian Amezcua)
Surf and turf Fridays
In 2018, every Friday at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, the dining facility served surf and turf. It might not be the best quality steak or lobster, but who else gets steak and lobster on deployments!? Between steak and lobster dinners, the daily dishes are pretty up to par, taste-wise. There’s definitely no carrot pound cake or chili mac being served in this chow hall. Okay, I lied — there is chili mac, but it doesn’t resemble that sh*t found in MREs.
Everyone knows WiFi is essential to an Airman’s way of life.
Photo by Chad Garland of Stars and Stripes)
Free WiFi in work areas
You heard that right: free WiFi in the work areas is the norm for Airmen in Afghanistan. There’s WiFi provided by certain companies in sleeping quarters, but personnel pay upwards of .00 per month for access. To save some of that deployment bankroll, many Airmen spend a portion of their days off in or near their workplace to mooch off that sacred WiFi signal.
Is this why they call it the Chair Force?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joe Yanik)
It’s okay, laugh it up — but I bet forward operating bases’ don’t provide a makeshift movie theater with recliners where you can watch newly released films every Saturday and Sunday night. An Airman can watch a new movie that’s currently out in theaters every single weekend of their deployment if they choose to do so. Services also provides free, all-you-can-eat popcorn!
Running can be fun, right?
(U.S. Air Force)
5K fun runs
There are 5K fun runs almost every month, held on the main boulevard at Bagram Air Base. You can choose to run in formation, run in your flack vest and helmet, or even walk! It’s all about getting that exercise in and making the days a little less monotonous. All that Netflix binging on work WiFi can get tiresome. Woe is us.
Above, Kandahar Air Base Afghanistan where you can find a T.G.I. Fridays and KFC.
A taste of home
Tired of dining-facility surf and turf and instant coffee? Go to the on-base Green Beans Coffee, get a Chai Latte, and, while you’re at it, stop by Pizza Hut next door and order a pepperoni pie. Sure, the pepperoni doesn’t taste like pepperoni and kind of smells like fish, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? If you want to pick up some new headphones or something to read while you sip on that Chai, the Bagram BX is stocked with all the amenities you’d find at home.
This post originally published on WATM in 2018. But we still feel the same way about the cushiness of Air Force Deployments.
The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.
Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.
Here comes the boom.
Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.
If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.
Here’s what really happened.
The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.
It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.
In other words, the tobacco industry takes advantage of young troops’ willingness to serve their country, targets them when they’re most vulnerable, and then locks them in to a destructive addiction that not only threatens their mission, but their lives.
No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.
That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.
“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.
The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”
While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?
Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.
The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.
This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).
And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.
According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.
Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.
Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”
While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.
The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has said in her first interview with Western media that her infamous son was “brainwashed” into a life of extremism.
Alia Ghanem said in the interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Aug 3 that “the people at university changed him. He became a different man,” referring to the time when bin Laden was in his early 20s and an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
She appeared to blame Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member who became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser at the university.
Ghanem, speaking from the family home in Jeddah, said prior to that time, the future terror leader had been a shy and academically capable student.
“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” Ghanem said.
“You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause,” she said. “I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”
The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the Taliban-led government had protected Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The Taliban was driven from power, and bin Laden, hiding in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was killed in a U.S. raid in 2011.
Suspected Taliban insurgents attacked a US-operated base in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost April 24, officials said, but gave few immediate details of an assault that coincided with a visit to Kabul by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The attackers had detonated a car bomb at an entrance to Camp Chapman, a secretive facility manned by US forces and private military contractors, said Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
But he had little immediate information on any damage or casualties.
“I am aware of a car bomb attack at one of the gates in the US base, but we are not allowed there to get more details,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, Capt. William Salvin, confirmed the car bomb attack. He said there appeared to be a number of Afghan casualties but none among US or coalition personnel at the base.
The attack came just three days after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their base by Taliban fighters disguised in military uniforms.
For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.
Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”
Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.
It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.
Wait times are down, study shows
This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.
Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.
The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.
“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.
Choose VA to prioritize patient care
Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.
Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.
It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.
Choose VA today
Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.
A Marine veteran crawled across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, after his legs gave out late in the race.
Micah Herndon, of Tallmadge, Ohio, persisted because he was running in honor of three friends who died in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through,” Herndon told CBS Boston.
On Jan. 9, 2010, Herndon was riding in a vehicle with fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer when they struck a 400-pound IED, Herndon told the Washington Post.
Marine Veteran Crawls Across Boston Marathon Finish Line
Herndon had hoped to finish the race in under three hours, in order to qualify for the New York City Marathon in November. He was on pace to make that goal for most of the race, but his legs started to give out when he hit Heartbreak Hill, an incline near the 20-mile marker, according to The Post.
He started feeling discomfort in his Achilles’ tendon that eventually caused his legs to give out entirely, leading him to finish the race on hands and knees.
Video shows volunteers clearing space for Herndon to he could crawl across the finish line. He was then put in a wheelchair and taken to get medical attention.
While he is still recovering from the race in Boston, he told The Post that he plans to get back to running as soon as possible, calling it his “therapy.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.