NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal - We Are The Mighty
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NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Special Forces veterans were the most important part of ‘Triple Frontier’

If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.

While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.

Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:


NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.

(Netflix)

They taught the actors about nicknames

Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”

(Netflix)

They taught the actors how to handle weapons

Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.

They trained the actors with live ammunition

When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.

(Netflix)

They taught tactics

After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.

Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”

Triple Frontier | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

www.youtube.com

They made this movie feel realistic

Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.

If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.

Articles

From 1860-1916 the uniform regulations for the British Army required every soldier to have a mustache

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Photo: Wikipedia


Today I found out that uniform regulation in the British Army between the years 1860 and 1916 stipulated that every soldier should have a moustache.

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:

The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…

Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.

Interestingly, it is during the imperial history of Britain that this seemingly odd uniform requirement emerged.  Initially adopted at the tail end of the 1700s from the French, who also required their soldiers to have facial hair which varied depending on the type of soldier (sappers, infantry, etc.),  this follicular fashion statement was all about virility and aggression. Beard and moustache growth was rampant, especially in India where bare faces were scorned as being juvenile and un-manly, as well as in Arab countries where moustaches and beards were likewise associated with power. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the moustache though; back home British citizens were looking on it as a sign of their boys ‘going native’ and it was nearly stamped out completely.

However, in 1854, after significant campaigning, moustaches became compulsory for the troops of the East India Company’s Bombay Army.  While not in the rules for everyone else yet, they were still widely taken up across the Armed Forces and during the Crimean War there were a wide variety of permissible (and over the top) styles. By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the Army uniform.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Lt. Gen Frederick Browning sported this epic moustache in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia

In 1916, the regulation was dropped and troops were allowed to be clean-shaven again. This was largely because such a superficial requirement was getting ignored in the trenches of WWI, especially as they could sometimes get in the way of a good gas mask seal.  The order to abolish the moustache requirement was signed on October 6, 1916 by General Sir Nevil Macready, who himself hated moustaches and was glad to finally get to shave his off. While no longer in force today, there are still regulations governing moustaches and, if worn, they can grow no further than the upper lip.  It is also still extremely common for British soldiers in Afghanistan to wear beards, as facial hair is still associated with power and authority in many Islamic regions.

Bonus Moustache Facts:

  • As alluded to, during the Napoleonic era, French soldiers were required to wear facial hair of various sorts.  Sappers were required to have full beards.  Grenadiers and other elite level troops had to maintain large busy moustaches.  Infantry Chasseurs were required to wear goatees with their moustache.  This requirement has long since died out excepting the case of sappers in the Foreign Legion, who still are strongly encouraged to maintain a full, robust beard.
  • Russian non-officer soldiers were required to wear moustaches under Peter the Great’s reign.  On the flipside, while previously it was extremely common for Russian soldiers to wear beards, Peter the Great didn’t find beards so great and not only banned them from the military, but also for civilians, with the lone exception being that members of the clergy could wear them.
  •  Moustache, mustache, and mustachio are all technically correct spellings to describe hair on the upper lip.  Mustachio has relatively recently fallen out of favor for generically describing all moustaches, now more typically referring to particularly elaborate moustaches.  Moustache is the most common spelling today in the English speaking world, though North Americans usually prefer mustache.
  • The English word “moustache” comes from the French word of the same spelling, “moustache”, and popped up in English around the 16th century.  The French word in turn comes from the Italian word “mostaccio”, from the Medieval Latin “mustacium” and in turn the Medieval Greek “moustakion”.  We now finally get to the earliest known origin which was from the Hellenistic Greek “mustax”, meaning “upper lip”, which may or may not have come from the Hellenistic Greek “mullon”, meaning “lip”.  It is theorized that this in turn came from the Proto-Indo-European root “*mendh-“, meaning “to chew” (which is also where we get the word “mandible”).
  • Western Women tend to wax or shave their moustaches, those that can grow them anyways, but Mexican artist Frida Kahlo actually celebrated not only her ‘stache, but also her unibrow, including putting them in her very famous self portrait seen to your right.
  • The oldest known depiction of a man with a moustache goes all the way back to 300 BC.  The depiction was of an Ancient Iranian horseman.
  • “De befborstel” is the Dutch slang for a moustache grown for the specific purpose of stimulating a woman’s clitoris.
  • The longest moustache ever recorded was in Italy on March 4, 2010, and measured in at 14 ft. long (4.29 m).  The proud owner of that magnificent ‘stache was Indian Ram Singh Chauhan.
  • Names of the Various Styles of Moustache:
    • Hungarian: Extremely bushy, with the hairs pulled to the side and with the hairs extending past the upper lip by as much as 1.5 cm.
    • Dali: Named after artist Salvador Dali (who incidentally once published a book, with Philippe Halsman, dedicated to Dali’s moustache, titled: Dali’s Mustache), styled such that the hair past the corner of the mouth is shaved, but the non-shaved hair is allowed to grow such that it can be shaped to point upward dramatically.
    • English Moustache: Thin moustache with the hair on a line in the middle of the upper lip sideways, with the hair at the corner of the mouth slightly shaped upwards.
    • Imperial: Includes not only hair from above the upper lip, but also extends beyond into cheek hair, all of which is curled upward.
    • Fu Manchu: moustache where the ends are styled downwards, sometimes even beyond the bottom of the chin.
    • Handlebar Moustache: a somewhat bushy version of the Dali, but without the strict regulation of having the hair shaved past the side of the lips.
    • Horseshoe: Similar to the Handlebar, but with vertical extensions coming off the sides that extend downwards sharply to the jaw, looking something like an upside down horseshoe (think Hulk Hogan)
    • Chevron: thick moustache covering the whole of the upper lip (think Jeff Foxworthy)
    • Toothbrush: The moustache made popular by Charlie Chaplin, but  whose popularity hit a sharp decline thanks to one Adolph Hitler.
    • Walrus: very similar to the Hungarian, except without the strict length limit on the hair overhanging the upper lip.

Contrary to a myth you may hear sometimes, there is no evidence whatsoever that Adolph Hitler decided to grow a toothbrush moustache to mimic Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin did parody Hitler in The Great Dictator and sported the now infamous moustache in that film.  The toothbrush moustache was popularized in Germany by Americans and began to become extremely popular by the end of WWI.  Hitler originally went with the previous most popular ‘stache in Germany, the Kaiser Moustache, which was turned up at the ends, often with scented oil.  He continued to wear this ‘stache at least up to and during WWI.  A soldier who served with Hitler during WWI, Alexander Moritz Frey, stated that Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache during WWI while in the trenches to facilitate wearing a gas mask; so shaved the sides off and went with the toothbrush moustache instead.

Chaplin stated that he used the toothbrush moustache as it looked funny and also allowed him to show his expressions more fully than an alternatively comical moustache that covered more of his face would have.

Articles

15 things that capture Super Bowl Sunday, Navy-style

Here are 15 things sailors know all too well about shipboard life around Super Bowl Sunday:


1. For the week or so leading up to the game you challenge your buddies to “Madden” every day after work

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
EA Sports, YouTube

2. But you can only choose two teams: the ones going to the big game

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

3. You play in your work center …

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors play video games in a supply office after flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). (U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Joni Bills)

4. … the galley …

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors compete in a video game tournament aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Torrian Neeman)

5. … and even the hangar bay

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Nimitz Sailors participate in a video game tournament during Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) events in the hangar bay of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark Sashegyi)

6. You create obnoxious over-the-top touchdown celebrations just to get under your buddy’s skin

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

7. And then you find out your duty day is on Super Bowl Sunday

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Giphy

8. So, you ask a buddy to swap your watch

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
The Interview, Columbia Pictures

9. He’s no dummy; it’s not every day you get pizza, wings, and other ship rarities

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob G. Kaucher)

10. Nothing left but to improvise, so you visit crowded work stations to catch some highlights

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in a work space aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kristopher S. Haley)

11. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the Marines

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
U.S. Navy Photo

Nope!

12. You do whatever you can to get closer to the game

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Giovanni Squadrito)

13. Super Bowl fever is in the air

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob G. Kaucher)

14. It’s around this time that it hits you that being part of the a color guard might be a good deal — after all, they get to go to the Super Bowl

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Members of the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard perform during opening ceremonies for the Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Feb. 1, 2015. Entertainer Idina Menzel sang the national anthem. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

15. As it turns out, you can get selected

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
(Jan. 20, 2013) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Michael Farmer and Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Presley Whitworth were selected to attend the Super Bowl and will depart from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the middle of the ship’s deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lex T. Wenberg)

Articles

The 25 most ruthless leaders of all time

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Attila the Hun | Wikimedia


One man’s hero is another man’s tyrant, a popular aphorism goes.

But while we can argue the validity and virtue of certain political agendas, the callous methods by which some leaders attain their goals are less up to interpretation.

After all, no matter how a historian tries to spin it, ordering a tower to be constructed out of live men stacked and cemented together with bricks and mortar is pretty brutal.

Business Insider put together a list of the most ruthless leaders of all time featuring men and women who employed merciless tactics to achieve their political and military agendas.

Note: All people on the list ruled prior to 1980, and no living figures were included. People are arranged in chronological order.

Qin Shi Huang

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Wikimedia

Reign: 247-210 B.C.

Qin, also called Qin Shihuangdi, united China in 221 B.C. and ruled as the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. He was known to order the killing of scholars whose ideas he disagreed with and the burning of “critical” books.

During his reign, he ordered the construction of a great wall (roughly speaking, the prequel to the modern Great Wall of China), and an enormous mausoleum featuring more than 6,000 life-size terra-cotta soldier figures. Large numbers of conscripts working on the wall died, and those working on the mausoleum were killed to preserve the secrecy of the tomb.

“Every time he captured people from another country, he castrated them in order to mark them and made them into slaves,” Hong Kong University’s Xun Zhou told the BBC.

Source: British Museum, Britannica, History, BBC

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (aka Caligula)

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Wikipedia

Reign: A.D. 37-41

Caligula was quite popular at first because he freed citizens who were unjustly imprisoned and got rid of a stiff sales tax. But then he became ill, and he was never quite the same again.

He eliminated political rivals (forcing their parents to watch the execution), and declared himself a living god. According to Roman historian Suetonius, Caligula had sex with his sisters and sold their services to other men, raped and killed people, and made his horse a priest.

He was eventually attacked by a group of guardsman and stabbed 30 times.

Source: Biography.com, BBC, “Atlas of History’s Greatest Heroes and Villains” by Howard Watson.

Attila the Hun

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Wikimedia

Reign: A.D. 434-453

After killing his brother, Attila became the leader of the Hunnic Empire, centered in present-day Hungary, and ended up becoming one of the most feared assailants of the Roman Empire.

He expanded the Hunnic Empire to present-day Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans. He also invaded Gaul with the intention of conquering it, though he was defeated at the Battle of Catalaunian Plains.

“There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow gain,” he reportedly remarked on his reign.

Source: Britannica, Biography

Wu Zetian

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Wikimedia

Reign: A.D. 690-705

Wu went from 14-year-old junior concubine to empress of China. She ruthlessly eliminated opponents by dismissing, exiling, or executing them — even if they were her own family.

The Chinese empire greatly expanded under her rule, and though she had brutal tactics, her decisive nature and talent for government has been praised by historians. Notably, military leaders who were handpicked by Wu took control of large parts of the Korean peninsula.

Source: Britannica

Genghis Khan

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1206-1227

Khan’s father was poisoned to death when Khan was 9, and he spent time as a slave during his teenage years before he united the Mongol tribes and went on to conquer a huge chunk of Central Asia and China.

His style is characterized as brutal, and historians have pointed out that he slaughtered civilians en masse. One of the most notable examples was when he massacred the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire, decimating the ruling class, withunskilled workers taken to be used as human shields.

Source: “Genghis Khan and the Mongol War Machine” by Chris Peers, History.com

Tomas de Torquemada

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1483-1498 (as Grand Inquisitor)

Torquemada was appointed Grand Inquisitor during the Spanish Inquisition. He established tribunals in several cities, put together 28 articles to guide other inquisitors, and authorized torture to extract confessions.

He reportedly encouraged King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to give Spanish Jews the choice between exile or baptism, causing many Jews to leave the country. Historians estimate that Torquemada was responsible for about 2,000 people burning at the stake.

Interestingly, some sources say Torquemada himself came from a family of Jewish converts.

Source: Britannica, “A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews” by Avner Falk

Timur (aka Tamerlane)

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Screen grab

Reign: 1370-1405

Timur led military campaigns through a large chunk of western Asia, including modern Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, and he founded the Timurid Empire.

In present-day Afghanistan, Timur ordered the construction of a tower made out of live men, each stacked on top of another, and cemented together with bricks and mortar.

He also once ordered a massacre to punish a rebellion, and he had 70,000 heads built up into minarets.

Source: Encyclopedia

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (aka Vlad Drăculea or Vlad the Impaler)

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1448; 1456-1462; 1476

When Vlad III finally became the ruler of the principality of Wallachia, the region was in disarray because of the many feuding boyars. According to the stories, Vlad invited his rivals all to a banquet, where he stabbed and impaled them all. (Impaling was his favorite method of torture.)

Though it’s difficult to determine whether this story was embellished, it characterizes Vlad’s rule: He tried to bring stability and order to Wallachia through extremely ruthless methods.

Source: Huffington Post, LiveScience, Britannica

Czar Ivan IV (aka Ivan the Terrible)

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Wikimedia

Reign: Grand Prince of Moscow: 1533-1547; Czar of All the Russias: 1547-1584

Ivan IV began his rule by reorganizing the central government and limiting the power of the hereditary aristocrats (the princes and the boyars).

After the death of his first wife, Ivan began his “reign of terror” by eliminating top boyar families. He also beat his pregnant daughter-in-law and killed his son in a fit of rage. He earned the nickname “Ivan Grozny” (aka “Ivan the Formidable” — which has been mistranslated to “Terrible”).

Source: Biography, Britannica

Queen Mary I (aka Bloody Mary)

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Wikipedia

Reign: 1553-1558

The only child of the notorious King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary I became queen of England in 1553 and soonreinstalled Catholicism (after previous rulers championed Protestantism) as the main religion and married Philip II of Spain — a Catholic.

Over the next few years, hundreds of Protestants were burned at the stake, and for that she earned the nickname “Bloody Mary.”

Source: Biography, BBC

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (aka the Blood Countess)

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Wikipedia

Killing spree: 1590-1610

The countess lured young peasant women into her castle, promising them jobs as maids before brutally torturing them to death. According to one account, she tortured and killed as many as 600 girls, though the actual number is likely to be much lower.

Her torture methods included sticking needles under finger nails, covering girls in honey before unleashing bees on them, biting off chunks of flesh, and, most infamously, bathing in the blood of virgins to stay young and beautiful.

Source: Britannica, History

Maximilien Robespierre

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Wikimedia

Reign: c. 1789-1794

One of the many influential figures involved in the French Revolution, Robespierrebecome one of the dominant players during the “Reign of Terror,” a period of extreme violence when “enemies of the revolution” were guillotined, arguing that this terror was an “emanation of virtue.”

According to historical sources, Robespierre was soon corrupted by power and was executed by guillotine as well.

Source: Biography, BBC

King Leopold II of Belgium

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Wikipedia

Reign: 1865-1909

King Leopold II “founded” the Congo Free State as “his own” private colony, and went on to make a huge fortune from it by forcing the Congolese into slave labor for ivory and rubber.

Millions ended up suffering from starvation, the birth rate dropped as men and women were separated, and tens of thousands were shot in failed rebellions. Demographers estimate that from 1880 to 1920 the population fell by 50%.

This forced-labor system was later copied by the French, German, and Portuguese officials.

Source: Britannica

Mehmet Talat Paşa

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1913-1918

Historians believe that Talat Paşa was the leading figure in the Armenian genocide. As minister of the interior, he was reportedly responsible for the deportation and ultimately the deaths of some 600,000 Armenians.

He was assassinated in Berlin in 1921 by an Armenian. As an unusual bit of history, Adolf Hitler sent his body back to Istanbul in 1943, hoping to persuade Turkey to join the Axis powers in World War II.

Source: Britannica, The Independent

Vladimir Lenin

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1917-1924

In 1917, Lenin led the October Revolution to overturn the provisional government that had overthrown the czar. About three years of civil war followed, after which the Bolsheviks came out on top and took over the country.

“During this period of revolution, war and famine, Lenin demonstrated a chilling disregard for the sufferings of his fellow countrymen and mercilessly crushed any opposition,” the BBC reported.

Source: BBC, Biography

Benito Mussolini

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YouTube

Reign: 1922-1943

After escaping military service, Mussolini founded Italy’s Fascist Party, which was supported among disillusioned war veterans, and organized them into violent units called Blackshirts. He began to disintegrate democratic government institutions, and by 1925 he became “Il Duce,” or “the leader” of Italy.

Surviving multiple assassination attempts, Mussolini once said: “If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me.”

In 1936, Mussolini formed an alliance with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in which he introduced anti-Semitic policies in Italy. In April 1945, already removed from power, Mussolini tried to flee as Allied forces closed in on him, but he was shot and killed by anti-Fascists and hung upside down in a Milanese square.

Source: Atlas of History’s Greatest Heroes and Villains” by Howard Watson.

Joseph Stalin

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Wikimedia

Reign: 1922-1953

Stalin forced quick industrialization and collectivization in the 1930s that coincided with mass starvation (including the Holodomor in Ukraine), the imprisonment of millions of people in the Gulag labor camps, and the “Great Purge” of the intelligentsia, the government, and the armed forces.

During World War II, Stalin’s son Yakov was captured by or surrendered to the German army. The Germans proposed trading Yakov for Field Marshal Paulus, who was captured after the Battle of Stalingrad, but Stalin refused, saying he would never trade a field marshal for a regular soldier.

Source: RT, History, “Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion” by Helen Rappaport

Adolf Hitler

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YouTube

Reign: 1933-1945

By the end of 1941, Hitler’s German Third Reich empire (and Axis) included almost every country in Europe plus a large part of North Africa.

He also devised a plan to create his ideal “master race” by eliminating Jews, Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, and political opponents by forcefully sending them to concentration camps, where they were tortured and worked to death.

According to some reports, the Nazis deliberately killed about 11 million people under Hitler’s regime. After learning that Soviet forces were closing in on Berlin, Hitler and his wife killed themselves in his Führerbunker.

Source: Atlas of History’s Greatest Heroes and Villains” by Howard Watson, New York Review of Books by Timothy Snyder

Khorloogiin Choibalsan

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Wikipedia

Reign: 1939-1952

After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia. He created a dictatorial system and suppressed the opposition, and tens of thousands of people were killed.

Later in the 1930s, he “began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organizations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,” according to an report published in 1968.

Source: “Historical Dictionary of Mongolia” by Alan J.K. Sanders

Francisco Franco

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Wikipedia

Reign: 1938-1975

With the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, Gen. Franco overthrew Spain’s democratically elected Second Republic during the 1930s.

Under his regime, many Republican figures fled the country, and those who stayed were tried by military tribunals. Catholicism was the official (read: only tolerated) religion, Catalan and Basque languages were prohibited outside the home, and the regime had a vast secret police network.

As Franco got older, however, police controls and censorship began to relax, free-market reforms were introduced, and Morocco gained independence.

Source: Britannica, History.com

Mao Zedong

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Wikipedia

Reign: 1949-1976

A communist leader, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Under his leadership, industry was put under state control, and farmers were organized into collectives. Any opposition was swiftly suppressed.

Mao’s supporters point out that he modernized and united China, and turned it into a world superpower. However, others point out that his policies led to the deaths of as many as 40 million people through starvation, forced labor, and executions.

Interestingly, he is sometimes compared to Qin Shi Huang (the first man on this list).

Source: “Atlas of History’s Greatest Heroes and Villains” by Howard Watson, Britannica,Biography, BBC, Encyclopedia

Pol Pot

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YouTube

Reign: 1975-1979

Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge movement in Cambodia orchestrated a brutal social engineering that aimed to create an agrarian utopia by relocating people into the countryside. Others were put in “special centers” where they were tortured and killed.

Doctors, teachers, and other professionals were forced to work in the fields to “reeducate” themselves. “Anyone thought to be an intellectual of any sort was killed,” the BBC reports. “Often people were condemned for wearing glasses or knowing a foreign language.”

Up to 2 million Cambodians were executed or overworked or starved to death in just four years.

Source: History, BBC

Idi Amin

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Wikipedia

Reign: 1971-1979

Gen. Amin overthrew an elected government in Uganda via a military coup and declared himself president. He then ruthlessly ruled for eight years, during which an estimated 300,000 civilians were massacred.

He also kicked out Uganda’s Asian population (mostly Indian and Pakistani citizens), and spent large amounts on the military, both of which led to the country’s economic decline.

Source: History

Augusto Pinochet

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WIkipedia

Reign: 1973-1990

Pinochet overthrew Chile’s Allende government in 1973 with the help of a US-backed coup. Reports say numerous people “disappeared” under the regime and as many as 35,000 were tortured. Pinochet died before he could stand trial on accusations of human-rights abuses.

He brought back free-market economic policies, which led to lower inflation and even an economic boom in the late ’70s. Notably, Chile was one of the best-performing economies in Latin America from the mid-’80s to the late ’90s.

Source: Britannica, GuardianIMF

Articles

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

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U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

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U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

Articles

This is the helicopter that will replace Marine One

The VH-3 Sea King has faithfully served Marine Helicopter Squadron One since 1962, operating as the official rotary transport for every president for over 55 years. But even though the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings through for many pieces of military hardware, these aging Sea Kings, known as “Marine One” whenever a president is aboard, need to be replaced.


A lack of parts, considerable flight hours, and performance inefficiency (by today’s standards) make a worthy case for why the Sea King needs to be supplanted by something newer, faster and more capable. Just last week, Sikorsky’s answer to HMX-1’s request for a new helicopter took to the skies above Owego, New York, for the first time.

Known as the VH-92A, Sikorsky and its parent corporation, Lockheed Martin, hopes that this helicopter will be what finally sends the Sea King to a museum in the coming years.

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A depiction of the VXX proposal – a modified S-92 (Photo Lockheed Martin)

The VH-92 is based upon Sikorsky’s S-92, a proven multipurpose utility helicopter that has been functioning in the civilian world as medium-lift platform since 2004. When it enters service with HMX-1, the VH-92 will have been refitted with a new interior and a slew of other features needed for presidential transport.

It has taken years for a suitable replacement for the VH-3 to materialize as part of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX). The program was initialized in 2003, though it suffered a setback in 2009 when Lockheed Martin’s proposal – the VH-71 Kestrel – was nixed even though the Department of the Navy had already spent billions of dollars building 9 Kestrals for HMX-1.

The following year, VXX was restarted, and a joint Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky team offered a revamped S-92, replete with a comfortable and plush interior worthy of the president and other VIPs who would be using the aircraft from time to time. In 2014, the S-92 proposal was selected and the VH-92 began taking shape.

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These new presidential transports will only bear an external resemblance to their civilian counterparts. Their insides will be completely redone as per the requirements of HMX-1 and the Secret Service.

This includes defensive systems that afford each VH-92 a degree of protection against threats on the ground, from shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, to heavy-caliber machine gun rounds.

In addition to armoring the VH-92, all fleet helicopters will receive advanced communications systems, allowing the president to interact with members of the government and military while flying. Redundancy and safety systems round off the rest of the tricked-out VH-92’s modifications list.

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A VH-3D Sea King operating as Marine One (Photo US Air Force)

HMX-1 also operates the VH-60N White Hawk, essentially UH-60 Black Hawks reconfigured for VIP transport. These aircraft have been serving in the presidential fleet since the late 1980s, and will also be replaced in part, or as a whole, by the new VH-92s.

The VH-92, like its soon-to-be predecessor, won’t just operate in North America… it will also serve as the president’s short-range transport overseas on official visits. Like the VH-60N, it will be able to be folded up and stowed inside US Air Force strategic airlifters like the C-5M Super Galaxy for foreign travel.

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A VH-60N White Hawk parked while a VC-25 takes off in the background (Photo US Air Force)

Replacing the Sea King isn’t the only big move HMX-1 has made in an effort to modernize its fleet. The squadron’s complement of CH-53 Sea Stallions were recently replaced with newer, more versatile MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors, which can function like both a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft. Older CH-46 Sea Knights, formerly used as support aircraft, are also on their way out.

HMX-1 is expected to begin taking delivery of its new VH-92As in 2020, phasing out the VH-3D and VH-60N soon afterward.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico just took down one of its most wanted cartel leaders

Mexican marines captured a top leader in the Gulf cartel in northeast Mexico on Feb. 19, 2018, just a few weeks after a high-level member of the rival Zetas cartel was captured in Mexico City.


Jose Alfredo Cardenas, nicknamed “The Nephew” and “The Accountant,” was arrested in Matamoros early on Feb. 19, 2018. Officials said no shots were fired in the raid, which also seized two military-grade weapons, ammunition, and some cocaine and marijuana. A group of armed men reportedly fled the scene.

Mexican authorities tracked down Cardenas using wire intercepts, Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider. Cardenas was captured along with two other men while entering a house, said Vigil, who said additional weapons and documents were seized.

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

Cardenas, 37, is the nephew of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the Gulf cartel boss who was arrested in 2003, extradited to the US in 2007, and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2010. The younger Cardenas became a cartel leader after Guillen’s capture, and according to the DEA’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, he is one of two main leaders in a cartel that has seen “rapid turnover in leadership.”

Mexican federal officials said that Cardenas — one of the country’s most wanted criminals— moved among Matamoros, Mexico; the nearby city of Brownsville, Texas; and Mexico state in central Mexico.

The Gulf cartel has fragmented, with several factions now vying for influence in Tamaulipas, its traditional stronghold. The state is an important smuggling route for narcotics, migrants, and other illicit goods, and criminal groups there have expanded into kidnapping, extortion, resource theft, and other activities. Homicides in the state have risen each of the past three years, hitting 1,053 in 2017.

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

“What has happened in Tamaulipas is we have had two big groups of organized crime that have fragmented, and now we have more than 20,” Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University who wrote the book “Los Zetas Inc.,” told Business Insider late January 2018.

“It’s difficult to identify the number of cells that survive right now in the state and are still occupying or controlling different criminal activities,” Correa-Cabrera said, adding that there are “different factions of the Gulf cartel and some factions of the Zetas” in other cities around the state.

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Cardenas is said to have taken control of a Gulf cartel faction in the area after the April 2017 killing of Juan Manuel Loisa Salinas, known as “Comandante Toro,” in Reynosa, a border city west of Matamoros. Mexican government sources also identified him as the Gulf cartel boss in Matamoros.

A statement issued by Mexico’s navy after Cardenas’ arrested said that “presumably he was the leader of a criminal organization in the region.”

He was reportedly competing for control of the cartel with a rival group in the nearby Mexican city of Rio Bravo.

By the morning of Feb. 20, 2018 — less than 24 hours after Cardenas’ capture — Matamoros residents were using social media to report gun battles in several areas of the city. “Matamoros under shootouts” and “precaution” were messages circulating with video recordings of the gunfire that appeared on social media.

Some said cars were left stranded after spikes on the roads punctured their tires.

Correa-Cabrera said that while it was too early to say definitively what provoked the clashes, they appeared related to Cardenas’ arrest.

After the mayorship was transferred from the conservative National Action Party to the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party in late 2016, the situation in Matamoros appeared more coherent, and the Gulf cartel leader’s capture may have disrupted some kind of agreed-upon pact, Correa-Cabrera told Business Insider.

More: This is what a Mexican cartel has done to up its drone game

“I am not sure why they arrested Cardenas,” she added. “It is interesting. We need to wait and see.”

Violence also broke out in Reynosa in the hours after the killing of Salinas. Gunmen shut down parts of the city with road blockades, and the federal attorney general’s office there came under fire several times. The months afterward also saw sustained, elevated violence.

However, Correa-Cabrera stressed that the criminal dynamics in Reynosa and Tamaulipas were distinct, making it hard to predict the fallout.

“We are not dealing here with a pure ‘kingpin strategy effect,’ understood in the most traditional sense” as a fight between malefactors for control of the territory, Correa-Cabrera told Business Insider.

Rather, a variety of actors with overlapping and sometimes shared interests are in Reynosa, she said, including federal forces, state authorities, and factions of different criminal groups. Paramilitary groups, made up of criminal and government forces acting in concert, may also be present. (There are at least 18 regional cartel leaders operating in northeast Mexico, according to El Universal.)

Criminal elements and members of the local, municipal, and state governments in Tamaulipas have often developed symbiotic relationships. Changes in political power and shifts in cartel leadership have in some instances disrupted those ties, leading to more violence.

“The situation in Reynosa is much more complex,” Correa-Cabrera said. “The whole state is very complex.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA may now approve civilian urgent care facilities for veterans

Got a sore throat or a sprained ankle and don’t want to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital? Got sick at 8:00 on a Friday night and don’t want to wait until Monday to see a VA doctor? A new VA program may be for you.

As of June 6, 2019, the VA offers medical care to eligible veterans at selected civilian urgent care facilities nationwide.


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Dr. Jake Williams, Veterans Affairs dentist, poses for a photo January 9, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

This is an expansion of the VA’s Mission Act, which itself was an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act. The Choice Act was passed in 2014 as the result of highly publicized problems with veterans not being able to get appointments at VA hospitals in a timely manner.

Under this new expanded program, veterans are eligible to get limited urgent care from civilian doctors regardless of how close they are to a VA facility.

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The Wichita Veterans Administration Hospital, also called the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, located at 5500 East Kellogg Avenue in Wichita, Kansas.

Eligibility

If you are enrolled in the VA health care system and have received VA medical care within the last 24 months, you should be eligible for this program. However, you should contact your local VA medical facility before visiting a civilian urgent care provider. Only certain services and providers are covered under this new benefit. If you visit a provider that isn’t part of the program, or you get medical treatment that isn’t covered under this program, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.

You don’t have to go to a civilian doctor if you don’t want to. The VA says that most of its locations, including hospitals and community-based outpatient clinics, offer same-day services for most situations.

You should contact your local medical office to check your eligibility. Or you can call (866) 606-8198. You can also find civilian community-care locations near you at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.

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Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX

Payments

One way this program differs from regular VA medical care is that you may have to make a co-payment to see the civilian doctor. The amount depends on your VA Priority Group and how many times you visit civilian doctors each year. Typically, you get three free visits each year.

Co-Payments for Office Visits

  • Priority Groups 1-5. There is no co-payment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is .
  • Priority Group 6. If the visit is for medical treatment related to combat and chemical exposures such as Agent Orange; contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC; Gulf War Syndrome, etc., as well as some mental illnesses, there is no co-pay for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is . If the visit is not related to these conditions, the co-payment is per visit, for all visits.
  • Priority Groups 7-8. The co-payment is per visit.

There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.

Co-Payments for Prescriptions

If you get a prescription from an urgent care center, you should fill it at a VA network pharmacy. If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you will have to pay the full price at the drug store and then file a claim with the VA to get your money back.

If you are given a prescription for what the VA considers routine or maintenance drugs (such as blood pressure or cholesterol drugs), you will have to get those filled by the VA.

Some veterans may be required to make a co-payment for medication. Prices are based on your Priority Group, as well as the type of drugs prescribed. For details, see https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/copays.asp.

When the benefit starts, you will be able to contact the VA Health Resource Center for questions related to urgent care co-payments at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Stay on Top of Your Military Benefits

Not sure what your veteran health care benefits are? Keep up with all the changes and details. Sign up for a free Military.com membership and get all the latest updates straight to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis are about the change the game in the Middle East

In the first week of February 2018, insiders in the Israeli aviation industry told Haaretz that Saudi Arabia reportedly granted approval to Air India to fly direct from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace.


Reuters confirmed that Air India said it is planning direct flights to Israel, and sought permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory, which would significantly reduce flight times by more than two hours.

Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority denied reports that it already granted Air India’s request.

However, there was no indication that it would not consider the request in the future.

If the air route is confirmed, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia would allow commercial flights to fly to Israel using its airspace and would mark a significant shift in strategic policy that has shaped the region for decades.

Also read: The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has instated a ban on flights traveling to Israel from using its airspace for more than 70 years.

But news of Saudi Arabia potentially easing its airspace regulations may add concrete evidence to reports of the country’s warming ties to Israel.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared goals

Several reports have surfaced showing covert cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who currently maintain no diplomatic ties.

One key issue the two have reportedly bonded over is curbing common-enemy Iran’s continued expansion in the Middle East.

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President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Iran has openly threatened to annihilate Israel many times over the serious decades-long conflict between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conflict dates back to a centuries-old divide between Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority in the Saudi Kingdom, and Shiites who govern Iran. The two officially severed ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy compound in Tehran.

While the two countries have been coy about reports of exchanging intelligence, Israel has been upfront about its “covert” contacts with Saudi officials amid common concerns over Iran.

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

Representatives from the two countries shared the stage at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015 and discussed their common interest in opposing Iran. Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that they’ve been quietly conducting diplomacy on Iranian issues since 2014.

In 2017, a leaked diplomatic cable confirmed longtime rumors of Israel and Saudi cooperation. In the cable, Israel instructed its overseas embassies to encourage support for Saudi Arabia in its battle against Iranian-proxy Hezbollah.

Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera that Iran remains a major threat to many countries across the Middle East.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally. Therefore the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel,” he said in the interview.

The Crown Prince is ushering in a new era

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President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Saudi’s young Crown Prince is also seen as a key piece to understanding the timing of Israel and Saudi Arabia renewed relations.

The ambitious Mohammed Bin Salman has been spearheading a reform of Saudi’s domestic and foreign policy, which includes reevaluating its regional alliances, and aggressively opposing Iranian influence, according to Al-Arabiya.

The Crown Prince is also shaping Saudi’s cultural ethos. In November 2017, Salman made waves by purging anti-American and anti-Jewish clerics, making a strong indication that Saudi Arabia is seeking rapprochement with its Jewish neighbor and U.S.-ally Israel.

More: This is where Saudi princes do prison time

And by December 2017, Israel invited the Crown Prince to visit the country to discuss regional peace, and described the nation as the “leader of the Arab world.”

Experts say the Salman’s rise to power and widespread calls for reforms have allowed for a modern partnership with Israel to grow.

Associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri told Al Jazeera: “The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened.”

Articles

20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

WATM recently posted an article (inspired by 13 Hours: The Secret Heroes of Benghazi) about transitioning out of the military into a career in private security contracting.  That feature generated a great deal of interest and discussion. Based on that, we did some intel and came up with this list of 20 private security firms for those interested in taking the next step:


1. GRS

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Image: YouTube

GRS is the private security contractor that employed the surviving operators who’s personal accounts are featured in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. GRS is designed to stay in the shadow, work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

2. ACADEMI

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ACADEMI operators training. (Image: ACADEMI)

ACADEMI, formerly known as “Blackwater,” was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997. Prince is famous for explaining his firm’s purpose by stating: “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”.

3. SOC

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Image: SOC

SOC is ranked as one of the global Defense News Top 100 List of defense companies and has provided security services for over a century. It provides security, facility management and operation, engineering, explosive ordnance storage and disposal, international logistics and life support services. Customers include the U.S. Department of State, Energy, Defense and Fortune 500 companies.

4. Triple Canopy

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Image: Triple Canopy

Triple Canopy was founded by former U.S. Army Special Forces operators and today, more than 80 percent of its employees have served in the U.S. military. Most of its security specialist positions require experience in military operations, military police, security police, emergency medicine and more.

5. Aegis

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Image: Aegis

Aegis security and risk management company serves over 60 countries around the world with clients including governments, international agencies and corporations. Aegis runs a global network of offices, contracts, and associates and provide security from corporate operations to counter-terrorism.

6. Blue Hackle

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Image: Blue Hackle

Blue Hackle is a security contractor to multiple sectors including oil and gas, mining, construction, and governments. They provide stability to commercial enterprises, as well as developing governments, according to its website.

7. GardaWorld Government Services

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Image: Garda World

GWGS specializes in protecting U.S. government personnel and interests wherever they’re needed. They train in security, crisis response, risk management and close protection.

8. ICTS International N.V.

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ICTS International N.V. was founded in 1982 by security experts, former military commanding officers and veterans of government intelligence and security agencies. They set the standard for the aviation security industry.

9. AKE Group

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Image: AKE Group

AKE Group provides security and consultant services ranging from emergency evacuation and crisis response to kidnap avoidance. They provide close protection to war reporters, executives and VIPs.

10. G4S

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G4S was founded in 1901 in Denmark and today has operations around the world in over 100 countries with more than 611,000 employees. G4S goes where governments can’t—or won’t— maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in the U.S., G4S fills the void. It is the world’s third largest private-sector a employer and commands a force three times the size of the British Military, according to Vanity Fair.

11. Armed Maritime

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Image: armed maritime security

Armed Maritime Security offers services to commercial and private vessels operating off the east and west coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Its board of directors consist of former diplomats, Army and Naval Officers from Britain, Finland and Sweden. Its security teams are drafted from current, serving members and former members of the Swedish, British, Finnish Elite units.

12. Control Risks

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Image: Control Risk

With operation in over 150 countries around the world, Control Risks provides security services to governments, fortune 500 companies and private citizens. It specializes in cyber, operational, maritime and travel security in hostile areas and actively hires people with experience in military, law enforcement, business consultancy, security services and intelligence.

13. Beni Tal – International Security (BTS)

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Image: BTS Security

BTS serves military and government organizations with its own private military. It has expertise in guerrilla warfare and non-conventional terrorism and provides solutions for land, air, naval and intelligence forces.

14. Blue Mountain

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Image: Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain is a UK based private security contractor that specializes in private, government and commercial protection. Its close protection operators are designed to blend seamlessly into family and professional life for true incognito security.

15. Chilport (UK) Limited

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Image: Chilport

16. Chilport specializes in Canine security and training. It supplies dogs for search and rescue (SAR), drug sniffing, bomb detection and more.

16. GK Sierra

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Image: Wikimedia

Based in Washington DC and Portland, GK Sierra gathers intelligence for the CIA. It has operators around the world specializing in corporate investigation, intelligence, digital forensics and encryption.

17. Prosegur

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Image: Prosegu

Prosegur is one of Spain’s leading security contractors with over 158,000 employees around the world. Its clients consist of entities in non-English speaking countries in Asia, Europe, Oceania and Latin America. It specializes in manned guarding, cash in transit and alarms.

18. Andrews International

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Image: Andrews International

Andrews International is a Los Angeles, CA based company with services around the world. It provides armed and unarmed security to government services and the department of defense.

19. Erinys

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Image: Erinys

Erinys provides security services to gas, oil, shipping and mining companies in Africa and the Middle East. They provide regional and country expertise by hiring and training locals.

20. International Intelligence Limited

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Image: International Intelligence Limited

International Intelligence employs former law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel to operate in hostile environments. It offers private investigation, intelligence, surveillance and forensic services to corporations, government agencies, embassies and police forces.

The real vets turned private security operators from the 13 Hours film explain their experience during the attack on Benghazi. The part about being a private security operator starts at 01:15.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump pardoned a sailor who took illegal photos of a submarine

President Donald Trump has pardoned a Navy sailor who took photographs of the classified areas of a military submarine.


Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking the photos inside the USS Alexandria in 2009. He served a 12-month prison sentence for the crime.

Trump referenced Saucier’s case often on the campaign trail as he criticized his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Also read: This is President Trump’s military wishlist for 2019

Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.

The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.

The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.

In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.

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USS Alexandria. (Photo by US Navy)

Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”

Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

More: 8 US Navy sailors who received the Medal of Honor

The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”

Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”

On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”

“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

A weapons load team from the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepares to load a weapons system while being inspected by a standardization load crew from the 35th Maintenance Group during a quarterly weapons loading competition at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Dec. 30, 2015. The objective of the weapons load crew competition was to gauge how quickly and efficiently teams of Airmen are able to arm an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Peters, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads ammunition into an HH-60G Pave Hawk, Jan. 7, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Pave Hawk helicopter features two crew-served .50 caliber machineguns, one located on each side. Peters was loading the weapons as part of a training mission.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Johnson

ARMY:

An army jumpmaster, assigned to Special Operations Command South, issues commands during an airborne operation over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 12, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite

Soldiers assigned to 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prepare to hook a tracked amphibious vehicle to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, during sling load training at Fort Wainwright Alaska, Jan. 12, 2016.

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U.S. Army Alaska photo by 1st Lt. James Gallagher

A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, guides a Stryker armored vehicle during railhead operations at Konotop, Poland, Jan. 11, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paige Behringer

Soldiers assigned to the New York Army National Guard, conduct tactical training at a NYPD training facility and range at Rodmans Neck in the Bronx, N.Y., Jan. 9, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Capt. Mark Getman, The National Guard

UH-60 crew chief, assigned to the Colorado National Guard, conducts preflight checks on a MEDEVAC helicopter in preparation for a blizzard response exercise at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colo., Jan. 9, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashley Low, The National Guard

NAVY:

OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 12, 2016) Ensign Frank S. Sysko assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 holds his breath while he exits a mud-filled trench during a jungle warfare training evolution hosted by Marines with the Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC). The JWTC endurance course tests the Seabees will, stamina and the ability to work together as a team. NMCB 3 is deployed to several countries in the Pacific area of Operations conducting construction operations and humanitarian assistance projects.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Gomez

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 13, 2016) A diver assigned to Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center Norfolk, performs repairs on USS Carney (DDG 64) Jan. 13, 2016. Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 10, 2016) Aviation ordnancemen inspect ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin R. Pacheco

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 9, 2016) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) prepare to shift colors during sea and anchor detail before pulling into Souda Bay, Greece Jan. 9, 2016. Ross is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg

MARINE CORPS:

Marines’ tents stand below Mt. Fuji during Exercise Fuji Samurai Jan. 7 aboard Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Gotemba, Japan. Exercise Fuji Samurai is held at CATC Fuji during the month of January and includes countless fire and maneuver drills and other combat-based training evolutions that take place over a period of approximately two weeks.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Jan. 13, 2016.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team members patrolled the waters of the Potomac River in support of last night’s State of the Union address.

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USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

The first group of women enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard began their 10-weeks of basic training at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May on January 15, 1974. Thirty-two women were in the initial group and formed Recruit Company Sierra- 89.

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Photo: USCG