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New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, making her President Donald Trump’s first service secretary nominee to be approved by the GOP-led chamber after fits and starts for several others.


Senators voted 76-22 Monday to approve Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant. Her post-congressional work drew scrutiny for several Democrats, who had questioned an arrangement with government laboratories that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson denied any impropriety.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he voted against Wilson’s nomination because of his lingering concerns with the payments. Reed also cited as troubling a call Wilson made a decade ago while still a member of Congress to a federal prosecutor handling a politically charged corruption probe.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Secretary of the Air Force Nominee Heather Wilson testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as a part of the confirmation process March 30, 2017, in Washington, D.C. In her opening statement, Wilson said,

Trump’s attempts to fill the other two service secretary jobs have failed so far. His picks for secretaries of the Army and Navy were forced to withdraw from consideration.

Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside late last week amid growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

The Trump administration has been slow to fill many other senior civilian posts at the Pentagon, leaving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis short of the support he needs to manage the nation’s vast military enterprise. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for three important financial positions at the Defense Department: comptroller, deputy comptroller and director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

After serving five terms in Congress from New Mexico, Wilson collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from federally funded nuclear labs, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a 2013 report. Wilson failed to provide documentation for the consulting work she did to earn $20,000 a month from the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs in New Mexico from January 2009 to March 2011, the report said.

Wilson deflected questions about the payments, saying during her Senate confirmation hearing that she’d performed the work and that the inspector general had found no fault with her.

The telephone call referenced by Reed, the senator from Rhode Island, was made by Wilson in October 2006 to David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Iglesias was one of seven federal prosecutors fired a few months later by the Bush administration. At the time, Iglesias was handling a number of public corruption cases. Reed said the call raised the possibility Iglesias may have felt pressured by Congress in an ongoing investigation. Wilson said she did nothing improper.

Wilson served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the 1980s and was on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is the first graduate of the academy to hold to hold the service’s top civilian post.

Wilson said that once confirmed she would resign as president of the South Dakota School of Mines Technology. She’d also assured the Defense Department’s general counsel that she would divest of stocks she holds in companies that do work for the U.S. military, including Intel, IBM, Honeywell and Raytheon.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Wilson a “proven leader” and said she would lead the service to a stronger future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Secretary of the Navy caught carrying a weapon in a combat zone

After Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer made a special holiday appearance with troops deployed in Afghanistan, people in the military community took notice, and exception, to a picture of him with a pistol holstered on his thigh.


According to the Marine Corps, Spencer addressed a group of servicemembers at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Dec.23 with other top Marines, including Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald Green.

A photo of the gathering shows a group of servicemembers listening to Spencer, who appears to have a pistol that resembles the Beretta M9 — a standard-issue pistol used by many in the military — on a holster attached to his right thigh.

“Can someone explain why the [civilian] head of the Navy is wearing a sidearm,” CNN correspondent Barbara Starr asked on Twitter in response to the photo.

 

Spencer was reportedly offered the pistol and ammunition from Marine commanders, according to a Navy spokesman cited in a San Diego Tribune report.

“He was offered the weapon to carry while he was traveling around [Afghanistan] and he accepted that offer,” the spokesman told The Tribune. “It was not something that he specifically requested and it was offered to everybody on the travel team.”

Senior military officials and VIPs are typically accompanied by an armed military personal-security detachment (PSD) or contractors for visits to combat zones. While it would not be out of the ordinary to see a uniformed senior military official carrying a pistol in a combat zone, as a civilian, some people viewed Spencer himself carrying a weapon as an unorthodox move.

Spencer was sworn in in August to become the Navy Secretary — a president-appointed and Senate-confirmed position held by a civilian to oversee all of the Navy’s operations. As a former H-46 Sea Knight pilot in the US Marine Corps, Spencer would have most likely been familiar with a pistol; however, would most likely not have been the M9, which was fielded to the military after he completed his service.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks with Marines and Sailors assigned to Task Force Southwest at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan, Dec. 23, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

“It’s odd for a senior civilian political appointee to carry a weapon in a combat zone,” Phillip Carter, the director of the Center for a New American Security’s Military, Veterans, and Society research program, told The Tribune. “But if you’re going to carry then you should do so safely, with proper training, including both weapons [qualification] and [rules of engagement] training.”

Some saw his decision to arm himself as a form of showboating:

 

 

 

 

Also Read: Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

While others pointed to the inherent dangers of being in a combat zone:

 

 

 

Although the military is allowed to issue firearms to trained federal civilian employees, it was unclear whether Spencer received authorization from appropriate leadership or if he was certified to carry a firearm, The Tribune reported.

MIGHTY GAMING

This is what class an infantry rifleman would be in a tabletop RPG

A Marine Rifleman is a jack of all trades. While our job is to focus on closing with and destroying the enemy, it doesn’t stop us from learning the basics of other jobs. Some times, sure, it’s to fill up training time slots but, why not learn how to use machine guns or mortars? Learning a little bit of everything is exactly why the infantry rifleman would fall under the class of “fighter” when it comes to table-top RPGs.

“Fighters learn the basics of all combat styles…” Is a sentence you’ll find if you look at the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook if you look under the class of “Fighter.” The writers of the handbook may not have intended for this sentence to also describe the Marine Corps’ main attack force but, it does a nice job of summing it up. But we’re not going to stop there.

Here’s why the infantry rifleman would be a fighter:


New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Notice how one Marine has a SAW and the other has a standard M16.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian M. Henner)

Weapon versatility

Riflemen are taught to be able to use every weapon on the battlefield. This means we’re meant to be able to pick up anything and know how to use it. Similarly, a Fighter is capable of using most weapons; whatever works.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Even prepared in the case of getting grappled.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

Diverse training

Fighters can be used in a number of any kind of situations. Some can be defenders of a city or sent to combat in a distant land. Whatever the case is, a fighter is trained for it. Infantry riflemen are the same, there are very few situations that we are not trained for.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Any clime and place, right?

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

A thirst for adventure

Whether it is trekking through a jungle with thick vegetation or across knee-deep snow on a mountain, you bet an infantry rifleman will find their enemy where they live and break everything they own. There is a slight difference here since, in reality, we have rules where players of a table-top don’t necessarily have that.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Look how they’re just charging in, ready for anything.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

Fearing no enemy

Fighters are capable of facing down dragons and all sorts of beasts fearlessly, depending on how you’re playing. Dragons, in the sense of a table-top RPG, may not exist (for all we know) in our world. But that doesn’t mean an infantry rifleman couldn’t fight one if they did. Hell, there was even a recruiting ad that depicted Marines slaying a volcano monster… You know the one.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 big reasons why veterans might love the ‘Magnum P.I.’ reboot

Over the past eight years, we’ve seen two reboots of some of our favorite T.V. shows from the last century: Hawaii Five-O and MacGyver. In September of this year, we’re getting another, Magnum, P.I., and we think the veteran community is going to appreciate it, just like they did the original, which ran from 1980 to 1988.

Unfortunately, this time around, it looks like we’re going to enjoy less mustache.


For those who need a quick refresher before they jump back into the world of Thomas Magnum IV in September, the show follows a former Navy SEAL turned private investigator as he lives the good life on the island of Oahu, Hawai’i. As he solves his cases, he’s assisted by his friends Orville “Rick” Wright and Theodore “TC” Calvin, both of whom are former U.S. Marines.

The fact that all of the central characters are veterans is almost reason enough to be exciting, but after getting a sneak peek at the pilot during 2018 Comic-Con International: San Diego, we’re even more excited.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

This reboot allows people to see the true, human side of all of us.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James H. Frank)

It depicts combat veterans in a positive light

All too often, veterans are made to look like violence-hungry, damaged goods. Much like the original, the intent of the show is to depict veterans in a more human way. We’ve gotten a lot better at doing this over the years, but we’re not quite there yet. Magnum P.I. is going to give us a story that revolves around veterans. It’ll showcase the characteristics that make us veterans, without all of the unnecessary drama.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

You’ll love it, trust us.

(CBS Television)

There’s plenty of action

Based on the pilot alone, we can be certain thatthe stories will featureaction throughout. Get ready for a show that deliverstons of high-octane excitementwithout too much overt cheesiness.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Just like the original — minus the sweet ‘stache.

(CBS Television)

The main characters are veterans

As mentioned above, the Thomas Magnum and his friends are all veterans — and they show it. More than just simply talking about their service, the characters act and carry themselves in a way that genuinely feels like they are who they claim to be. The Marines have attitudes that are very reflective of real Marines.

Chances are, if you’re not already a fan of the original, you didn’t know it featured so many veterans. That’s because the show isn’t trying to use it as a selling point, but rather as a real, authentic-feeling character trait.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

The dogs are actually a really funny piece of the show.

(CBS Television)

It’s going to be hilarious

With so many veteran characters, you can expect a hefty dose of witty banter. There’re plenty of light moments that provide an opportunity to laugh, whether it’s the veterans talking trash or Magnum getting chased by Doberman Pinschers.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Don’t worry, there’re plenty more where that one came from.

(CBS Television)

The Ferraris

Although modern, the reboot intends to keep with the original feel from the 1980s series. As such, they’re keeping the Ferraris.

But if you’re a car enthusiast with a particular fondness for Ferrarris, be prepared to watch a few get destroyed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy updates its CBD product regulations

CBD is everywhere. From Target to grocery stores, it’s having a moment that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean the military is following this latest wellness trend. In fact, the Navy recently made it super clear that no one affiliated with the branch is allowed to use CBD products.

CBD was declared safe back in 2018 by the World Health Organization, but that hasn’t softened the Navy’s stance on the product. An updated Navy release bans lotion, shampoos, lip balms, and other topical products that contain CBD. This comes after the initial ban of CBD products in 2019 that didn’t explicitly apply to topical lotions and balms.


The Navy claims that sailor exposure to CBD products might negatively impact mission readiness and disqualify a sailor from service. Officials cited the potential for CBD mislabeling and the lack of regulation as reasons for the updated ban.

The FDA has no regulation guidelines created regarding CBD, and since it’s an unregulated market, there’s really no telling what a person is buying when they purchase a lotion or a salve. In order to be legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has to have less than 0. 3 percent THC. Hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC is currently legal in fifty states. But that doesn’t mean that what a person buys actually contains only the legal amount of CBD. There are no checks or safeguards in place, putting service members at risk.

Research is ongoing to explore whether or not the benefits can be scientifically proven or if they’re largely anecdotal. Amid the veteran population, the use of CBD is definitely growing. But since most CBD products are sold in the form of teas, oils, and salves, there’s no federal jurisdiction about the purity of the product. That means that an unsuspecting sailor might purchase a CBD product for its purported benefits and end up failing a drug test because the product contained more than the legal amount of THC.

THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that makes it a psychoactive substance. Advocates for CBD claim that because there’s little to no THC, it has no psychoactive effects on the brain. But the Navy isn’t so sure.

The recent policy update includes language relating to sailors who currently hold a valid prescription for FDA-approved CBD products. These are still permissible, as are clothing products made from hemp. But sailors who test positive for THC or other banned substances for which they have no valid prescription will be administratively separated and face an “Other than Honorable” discharge.

The latest Navy update follows the House of Representatives’ approval on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow service members to use legalized CBD products. The amendment passed by a vote 336-71. It stipulates that the SecDef can’t prohibit based on a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from help, the possession, use, and consumption of the product by a member of the military. That’s as long as the product meets the federal definition of hemp. It’s a step in the right direction for CBD advocates, but there’s still a long way to go.

Advocates for CBD are pushing for its inclusion in the military, and there’s no stronger voice than from the veteran community. Veteran owned CBD companies are cropping up all over the country, in part because of its lucrative business model and in part because CBD really does seem to be working. Specifically, for veterans who are suffering from combat stress, PTSD, or MST related mental health issues, CBD advocates think that it offers a non-pharmaceutical approach to treatment and wellness.

Of course, as with all things, the military is going to take its time in making a final decision about the legality of CBD products. But with backing from big-name veteran organizations like the IAVA, maybe there’s a chance that CBD will be coming to a commissary near you.

Articles

Everything ISIS has lost at Mosul . . . so far

The battle for Mosul kicked off Oct. 17, and ISIS is falling back faster than anticipated. Iraqi, Kurdish, and various small militias have moved a force of over 100,000 soldiers against the estimated 1,000 to 6,000 ISIS fighters in the “crown jewel” of the terror group’s territory.


The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Iraqi forces launch rocket attacks against ISIS positions near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: YouTube/FRANCE 24 English)

Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.

Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.

The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.

The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.

The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.

On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.

All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for all military spouse job paths

If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?

But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.

The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.

Here are some of their best tips.


New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

(Photo by Christin Hume)

1. Show up.

Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.

But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.

“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

(Photo by Domenico Loia)

2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.

Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

(Photo by Patrick Perkins)

3. Use all the tools you can.

Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

(Photo by Harry Brewer)

4. Do things that make you happy.

Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.

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

Articles

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.


The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.

The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.

The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.

Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.

Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.

Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Photo by Michael Vadon

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.

His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

Articles

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Beijing issued a scathing rebuke on July 3 of a US warship’s patrol a day earlier near a contested island occupied by Chinese troops in the South China Sea — the latest irritant in the two powers’ increasingly fraught relationship.


The patrol, the second known “freedom of navigation” operation under the administration of US President Donald Trump, came as the White House appeared to grow ever more frustrated with China over its moves in the waterway and lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sunday’s operation, which involved the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Stethem guided-missile destroyer, was conducted within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago, a US defense official confirmed to The Japan Times.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
USS Stethem. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian A. Stone

China’s Defense Ministry lambasted the move in a statement, issuing what appeared to one of the strongest condemnations yet of the US operation which Washington says is aimed at affirming its right to passage.

The US “actions seriously damaged the strategic mutual trust between the two sides” and undermined the “political atmosphere” surrounding the development of Sino-US military ties, the statement said. The Chinese military, it added, would take bolstered measures in the waters, including “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols.”

The tiny islet is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and is not one of the seven fortified man-made islands located in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain, which is further south.

Late July 2, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched military ships and fighter jets in response to warn off the Stethem, which it said had “trespassed” in “the country’s territorial waters.”

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement using the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.

The US, he said, “has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands.”

Lu said the US “deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea” and “is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation, and development,” adding that the patrol “constitutes a serious political and military provocation.

FONOPs represent “a challenge to excessive maritime claims,” according to the US Defense Department. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of land within their territory.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The patrol was believed to be the second near Triton Island, after a similar FONOP under the administration of President Barack Obama in January 2016. The July 2 operation was first reported by Fox News.

Ahead of the patrol, there has been growing speculation that the White House is frustrated not only with Beijing’s moves in the strategic waterway, but also its failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month, when he wrote: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi  China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

And on June 30, in a step that the White House said was not aimed at Beijing, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The sanctions came just a day after the US announced a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Earlier last week, the US State Department also listed China among the worst human-trafficking offenders in an annual report.

According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia expert at the Center for a New American Security think-tank in Washington, the July 2 FONOP was “not particularly provocative,” and was “basically a repeat of an earlier one.

“But given that the administration also announced North Korean sanctions and a Taiwan arms package, it’s hard to see the timing as pure coincidence,” Rapp-Hooper said. “This may not be an effort to pressure China to specific ends, rather a ‘snap back’ in Trump administration foreign policy, which was solicitous of Beijing for several months as it sought help on North Korea.”

“The White House now understands that Beijing will not solve this problem for it,” she added.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Photo from The Moscow Kremlin

Zack Cooper, an Asia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted the timing between previous FONOPs and the rapid-clip announcements of recent US actions against China.

“These four actions have come in just five days,” he said, adding that the last FONOP was just under 40 days ago, while the one before that took place more than 215 days earlier.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in a statement that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

“US forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis,” Knight said. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
Photo from US Navy

“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” he added.

China has continued to militarize its outposts there — despite a pledge to the contrary — as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Now, with fewer constraints on a tougher approach to China across the board, experts say Trump could butt heads with Beijing over a number of issues.

“What we know for sure is that the Trump administration is now more comfortable with higher levels of friction with China than in previous months,” said Ely Ratner, a former deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Articles

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

Underneath layers of holiday ads and last-minute shopping, family remains the steadily beating heart of the holidays. This year, the pandemic has given families around the globe a taste of what military families have gone through for years; separation. For civilians, this may be the first year spent apart from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and good friends. For military spouses, the pandemic means something more. 

If your loved one is deployed, this is likely the first time you have to deal with a holiday deployment in isolation. While being kept apart from loved ones is never easy, you’re not alone- even if it feels that way. Drawn from the experiences of fellow military families, these tips can help restore your holiday cheer this winter. 

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad
  1. Embrace the tissue box
    Grab the tissues or a roll of tp from the economy pack you bought back in March. Go on, we’ll wait. Feeling emotional when you’re separated from your favorite person in the world over the holidays is normal. Don’t bottle it up! If you’re feeling sad, express those feelings. Call a friend who has been there. Talking it out won’t erase the sadness, but a good friend can help shoulder some of the weight. You don’t have to carry difficult feelings alone!

    If you have children, you don’t have to put on a happy face. By being open about your own feelings, you’re letting your kids know that it’s healthy to share their own. Bring out the tissue box and talk. Even if you don’t feel like it, trust us. It helps.
  2. Stay connected however you can
    Let’s face it; the irritating Mariah Carey song is true. All your partner wants for Christmas is you. While care packages are always welcome, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are personal and thoughtful. Get the kids together to write love notes, record a song or video, or design a picture book. Fill the pages with drawings, hand prints, happy memories, and anything else that will remind your deployed partner how much they are loved.

    Video chat whenever you can, too. Try to include your partner on special days by sharing a meal together or letting them watch while they kids open their gifts. That way, they’re still a part of the experience even if they’re miles away.
  3. Practice mindfulness
    As much as you miss your partner, there is a day in front of you waiting to be lived. Whether it’s the day you want or not, it’s the one you have. Instead of pining after the people you miss, cherish the time you have with the people you’re actually with. Focus on bringing joy to those around you, and look for the happiness in the simple things. Siblings taking a break from fighting to read a book together. A call to a relative you haven’t had time to catch up with in years. A hot cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar. Ordinary moments are often the ones that stand out in memory, so don’t miss the ones happening right under your nose.
  4. Look to the future
    Living in the moment doesn’t mean you have to leave your partner out of the celebration. Turn your wishes into memories. With the whole family, write down what you can’t wait to do with your loved one when they return home. You can put your wishes in a jar or on a garland, or write them on ornaments to hang on the tree. Next year, you can read those wishes together and make them come true.
  5. Give
    If the season feeling a little cold and dark this year, giving to others is one of the easiest ways to make your heart feel a little warmer. While extra precautions should be taken with any in-person visits, simple, safe gestures can make brighten someone’s day- and your own! 


Bake cookies or make care packages with your kids to deliver to elderly neighbors. Surprise them with a hot meal, shovel their driveway, or offer to run errands for them. Put together boxes for your closest friends and relatives filled with small gifts and photos. Donate to military families in need, or volunteer virtually. 

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Whether you’re cheering up a friend or helping a complete stranger, giving to others is one of the most heartwarming gifts you can give yourself. 

If you need extra support this year, the military community is ready to help. For a list of resources to help you along your journey as a military fam, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army and Navy deploy to support Tyndall rebuild

While Hurricane Michael created catastrophic devastation to most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the relief efforts were a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between military branches.

In the days following the storm, the Air Force came in droves to provide support, with the Navy and Army not far behind. Engineers from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, Fort Polk, Louisiana, hit the ground running.


They traveled in convoys bringing with them construction vehicles and equipment. Unable to bring everything they would need, they also arranged to have contracted vehicles meet them at Tyndall AFB.

In teams, totaling more than 130 personnel, they worked to clear trees and debris.

“We are going full force getting trees removed, so we can help people access their buildings,” said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Zachary Bunter, MNCB 133. “Our main focus is 30 feet around buildings and roads.”

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Navy Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Vance Winecke, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., cuts branches off of trees as they are cleared away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

His team was successful in clearing the area around the base clinic.

“We are hoping to clear up enough that when the permanent party are returning it may be less of a shock,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Klein, 46th Engineer Battalion commander. “We want to restore hope that the base is going to come alive again.”

The Army has also taken on clearing out Fam Camp, which will be used as a staging area for rebuild efforts.

“We are all here to take care of each other,” said Klein. “We take care of our brothers and sisters on our right and left and that is what this mission is. I told (the Soldiers) to remember that they are helping their own and that is what is most important.”

For many, it is also about putting their training to work.

“For some of them, this is their first time seeing a disaster like this and doing first response,” said Bunter. “These type of missions, humanitarian and disaster recovery, are what we really shine at – being able to go out and help people whether it is here in the U.S. or overseas.”

New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

Sailors from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., work clearing trees away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

Klein echoes his sentiment.

“We have stood up to do hurricane response three times in the past two years and this is the first time we have actually been called out to help,” he said. “The soldiers are getting to experience what the Army does, what the military does and what the Department of Defense does.”

At the end of the day, the Army and Navy have the same end goal – to return normalcy to the base and surrounding community.

“Contractors have thanked us for helping because the base is a huge source of revenue for the local community,” said Bunter. “Hopefully this base recovers and hopefully what we do is a big help to everything.”

Getting the mission up and running is also a priority.

“We have to get it right so they are able to go out continue what their mission is,” said Klein. “They run a very important mission out of this base, so it is important for the nation and DoD to get it up and running as quick as possible.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

5 things every boot should know before dating a local

All motivated newbie boots — fresh out of months of rigorous training — have one agenda: excel at work, drink some beer, and find a local.


Since most lower enlisted troops lack transportation, straying too far away from base isn’t ideal — taxis and Ubers can get expensive.

So showing up at the closest watering hole from your barracks room is probably going to be your best bet.

Related: 7 tips for getting away with fraternization

Once you step off base and meet that potentially special someone, here’s a few pointers before you go full steam ahead:

1. Wrap it up

You may have built up pounds and pounds of muscle these last few months in training, but it only takes a microscopic bacterium to bring all that strength crashing down.

Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool. (Image via Giphy)If you do hook up with someone soon after meeting them, don’t expect to be their first (even if that’s what they told you).

2. Cultural

As a newbie, you might get stationed overseas in a foreign country where the lifestyles and customs can be very different. Make sure you do a little reconnaissance on the do’s and don’t’s or you might send the wrong message at the dinner table.

We told you so. (Images via Giphy)

3. Background check

We’re not suggesting you conduct a full scale credit and background check on your date, but it couldn’t hurt.

We’re saying to casually ask what mommy and daddy do for a living because many young guys and gals who you’ll meet near the base have parents who served.

You don’t want to hit on someone and find out later you broke the heart of the general’s son or daughter.

Congrats, you’re going to be an E-3 for the rest of your career. (Images via Giphy)

4. Putting ring on it

No offense to all the average looking service members out there, but if you are stationed in a foreign country and you hook up with a “10,” they might be trying to find a way to the states and gain citizenship.

Let’s face it, life would be pretty sweet…until she swears in then takes off. (Images via Giphy)

5. Financial security

Dating and then marrying a service member has some pretty good financial benefits; be careful of who you let into that world.

It happens more than you think. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 5 things you should know before diving into a ‘contract marriage’

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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