New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success - We Are The Mighty
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New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

The last time Forrest Cornelius, 51, shopped in a base exchange was 1989 when he completed his six-year stint in the Marine Corps. He recalls saving 10 to 15 percent on department store goods and that shoppers paid no sales tax.


Last month, Cornelius began to enjoy those advantages again as one of 12,000 or so “beta test” participants for veterans’ online exchange shopping, which will be open for millions of honorably discharged veterans on Veterans Day Nov. 11.

All veterans are being encouraged to take the same first step that Cornelius did by confirming veteran eligibility status at: https://www.vetverify.org. It might be a multi-step process if the Defense Manpower Data Center lacks information to verify that a veteran served and received an honorable discharge.

But for Cornelius it went smoothly. He also got an email inviting him to be a test participant and begin to shop immediately through four exchange service portals: Army Air Force Exchange ServiceNavy ExchangesMarine Corps stores, and Coast Guard exchanges.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Shawn Monk

Cornelius said his email invitation was timely. He had lost his sunglasses and the replacement pair of Ray-Bans, priced at a local retail outlet near his Texas home, would cost $180. In using AAFES online to comparison shop, he found a special sale, $20 off any pair of sunglasses costing $100 or more.

“So I got that discount,” he said, “Plus it was 10 to 15 percent cheaper than retail, plus tax free, plus free shipping. I wound paying about $120 total, saving me quite a bit.”

His wife then used his benefit, shopping for undergarments that a major retailer had on sale but were out of stock in sizes and colors she wanted. AAFES had them, and she saved money too, he said. Soon they were buying sportswear for their son. Every item was shipped in a timely manner, he said, and arrived three days later.

“It was great. It was super easy. And the vetverify.org process took five minutes. I entered my full name, the last four of my Social (Security number) and it said ‘You’ve been verified.'”

By early July, 90,000 veterans had attempted to register to exchange shop online starting Nov. 11. Twelve percent of them got invitations to shop immediately. AAFES was monitoring shopping patterns to ensure its online portal and distribution system are ready for waves of new shoppers this fall, said Ana Middleton, president and chief merchandising officer for AAFES.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong

“My worst fear,” said Middleton, “is a tsunami on November 11th if everybody decides, ‘Hey, I’m going to check this out’ and they sign on that day” and also at the same moment.

AAFES is building website capacity to allow for 30,000 simultaneous shoppers at any given time. A lot of shoppers “would have to be signing on at that exact same millisecond to stress it out. So yes, I feel that we are sized appropriately.”

Of “beta” veterans shopping, surveys showed their top reason was the tax break. But a surprisingly close second reason, Middleton said, was an appreciation that exchanges support military quality-of-life and base support programs.

Exchange use profits to pay staff salaries, fund store operations, and ensure adequate website capacity, but even more profits are distributed to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreational activities, including child development centers, fitness centers, outdoor recreation, and overseas, on-base school lunches.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

“Everything is just turned back to our customers,” Middleton said, and “not paying anything to any shareholders,” as retail stores must.

Besides discounts and tax breaks, AAFES online promises a price match.

“If we are not the lowest price — say you found a vacuum cleaner below our price at Wal-Mart — you can challenge our price and we will match it,” she said.

Shoppers will find prices particularly attractive on certain items like premium running shoes and children’s clothing. Profit margins on electronics are narrow everywhere, so exchange prices “are close to comparable,” Middleton said.

Exchange services aren’t sure how many veterans ultimately will shop online. AAFES will be pleased if 1 to 2 million do so, Middleton said, though “we probably don’t need that many” to declare the effort a success.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera

In its business plan, as leading advocate for opening exchanges online to veterans, AAFES estimated that its annual sales would climb by $185 million to $525 million and earnings would increase by $18 million to $72 million, easing budget pressure on the Army and Air Force, which have had to divert more and more appropriated dollars to family support programs as on-base store sales have been hit by force drawdowns and store closures overseas.

Veterans with only Reserve or National Guard experience have asked if they too will be viewed as “veterans” for online shopping. That remains unclear. Last December, Congress did bestow honorary “veteran” status on Reserve and National Guard retirees who completed careers of drill time but had not completed an active-duty period under Title 10 to meet the legal definition of “veteran” and receive a DD-214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.”

Reserve retirees 60 and older do have exchange shopping privileges. But what about Reserve and Guard veterans who didn’t retire or didn’t receive a DD-214? Here’s what AAFES could tell The Lawton Constitution:

“The litmus test for access to the veterans online shopping benefit resides with each veteran’s electronic records. All honorably discharged veterans, according to official government sources such as the Defense Manpower Data Center, are considered authorized to shop military exchanges online via the veterans online shopping benefit. Veterans can confirm their eligibility by visiting VetVerify.org.”

Veterans who do shop online, Middleton said, will find products “competitively priced. Are we across the board lower than everybody? No.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Beta shoppers so far have focused, as expected, on “male-dominated” categories such as electronics, running shoes, and sports apparel. Baby care, children’s clothing, and cosmetics, however, also are selling briskly.

“The reality is (married couples) share in the purchase-making decisions,” Middleton said. “It’s like if I had a Costco card, and my husband didn’t — would he still want to make buying decisions with me if I came home and said, ‘Hey there’s a great price on a TV?’ Probably. But this benefit is afforded to the (veteran) military member … If your spouse is using your password we have no way of knowing.”

Merchandise selection is wider online than in base stores. The only goods veterans are barred from purchasing are military uniform items.

Exchanges are delighted to be offering the new benefit, Middleton said, particularly to so many veterans who didn’t get to enjoy it more while serving.

“The sad reality is so many of these kids went to basic (training) and then to war, so their recollection of who we are is a Coke and bag of chips in a war zone. Do they have an understanding of the breadth of products we sell?”

Soon, many more of them will.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US privately warns Iran that this one thing would trigger an attack

As the US military builds up its forces in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat has been privately warning the Iranians that the death of even a single US service member at the hands of Iran or one of its proxies would trigger a military response, The Washington Post reported on June 18, 2019, citing US officials.

In May 2019, the US detected signs of possible Iranian aggression targeting US forces and interests in the Middle East. The US responded by deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command area of responsibility.

White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement on May 5, 2019, saying that the military assets deployed to the region were meant “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”


Two days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Baghdad, where he delivered the warning that one American fatality would be enough to trigger a counterattack, The Post reported. Pompeo, a former US Army officer, has been a major player, together with Bolton, in shaping the US “maximum pressure” strategy directed at Iran.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

More US military assets have since been moved into the region, and more are on the way in the wake of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers that the US blames on Iran. US military leaders revealed on June 18, 2019, that the US does not plan to carry out a unilateral military response to the tanker attacks.

Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any military action taken in response to the tanker attacks would “require an international consensus,” something the US military has been trying to secure through the release of evidence it says points to Iran’s culpability.

“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” the country’s second-highest-ranking general told reporters. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

Iran is “lashing out against the international community,” but the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them,” he added.

“What happens if Americans are killed? That changes the whole thing,” a senior Trump administration official told The Washington Post. “It changes everything.”

Pompeo, who appears to be taking the lead on the standoff with Iran amid a reshuffling of senior leadership at the Pentagon, visited US Central Command on June 18, 2019, the same day acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from the nomination for defense secretary and said he would be stepping down.

“We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

The hardest part about starting a business is finding the seed capital to get the ball rolling. Like the first step of a thousand-mile journey, it’s the hardest and most important. For many veterans, owning their own business is the way to financial freedom. There’s a reason entrepreneurs call seed capital “friends and family money.” Now veterans don’t need to go around asking loved ones for the money – one bank is willing to jump start your idea.


To find out why, just take a look a the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program. Besides the fact that PenFed serves the military-veteran community as a consumer base, it just makes sense for the PenFed Foundation to support veterans who are looking to start their own businesses. The numbers speak for themselves. While the number of vets who actually pursue entrepreneurship is relatively small compared to the number of separating military members, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interest, it might just mean there’s a lack of capital to get started.

Simply put, veterans need money and knowhow. They already have the work ethic. The numbers back that fact up too.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg will speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

Entrepreneurs who are business owners tend to out-earn entrepreneurs who are not veterans. Vets are also a much more diverse subgroup of Americans in terms of age, ethnicity, disability, and experience. There’s nothing a vet can’t do when faced with a big job full of hard work. But like many entrepreneurs, veterans or not, many lack the startup funds to get the ball rolling. That’s where the PenFed Foundation’s VEIP comes in.

The VEIP aims to develop and grow vet-owned startups with seed capital for all the reasons listed above but the most important reason to support these entrepreneurs is because vets become knowledge bases for other vets looking to start their own businesses. Not only that, veterans who own businesses are 30 percent more likely to hire veterans themselves.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Charlynda Scales, vet and founder of Mutt’s Sauce is speaking at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

The PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that is committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. Its mission is to provide service members, veterans, and their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to build a strong financial future.The Foundation changes lives through financial education.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine boot camp still struggling with abuse

The US Marine Corps continues to grapple with hazing at its storied recruit training center at Parris Island in South Carolina, where the service punished at least eight drill instructors and a number of officers for abusive behavior last year, the Washington Post reported May 15, 2019, citing multiple internal investigations.

The incidents uncovered by the Post involved female drill instructors in the 4th Recruit Training Battalion mistreating female recruits. Battalion drill instructors reportedly humiliated, physically assaulted, and even endangered recruits.

These incidents come despite the Corps’ best efforts to curb these unacceptable and dangerous practices.


In one situation, a drill instructor allegedly made a recruit put “feces soiled underwear” on her head.

The DI acknowledged the incident but stressed that the dirty underwear, which the recruit reportedly left under her bed, did not contain any feces. “I was speaking hypothetically and failed to handle the situation with a clear mind through frustration,” the drill instructor said, according to documents obtained by the Post. “I was not trying to embarrass the recruit and more so wanted her to understand why and how it wasn’t acceptable.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Recruits stand in formation during their initial drill evaluation Feb. 10, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

That incident, which occurred in May 2018, sparked an investigation, one that came on the heels of another investigation following reports that a drill instructor had “roughed up,” as the Post described it, several recruits, even going so far as to threaten to break one of their necks.

Another reported case involved a drill instructor forcing female recruits to repeatedly suffer the effects of CS tear gas in a chamber. While the facility is normally used to introduce recruits to the effects tear gas, recruits are typically only required to enter the chamber once.

In total, the Post discovered more than 20 incidents of hazing and abuse at Parris Island and the Marine Corps’ West Coast recruit training center in California over the past seven years.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Marine recruits get gassed inside chamber during chemical defense training on Parris Island.

(U.S. Marine Coprs photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

By the far the most serious incident involved former Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after abusing recruits at Parris Island. He was accused of physically assaulting recruits, as well as targeting Muslims like 20-year-old Pakistani-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui, who fell to his death after Felix physically struck the young man in a 2016 altercation.

And abuse goes well beyond the scope of the recently uncovered investigations. In 2012, a recruit had to get skin grafts due to chemical burns suffered after a drill instructor forced him to train in unsafe conditions. The instructor, former Sgt. Jeffrey VanDyke, was sentenced to a year in military prison in 2014 for abusive behavior, cruelty, and mistreating recruits.

The senior officer in charge of Parris Island, Brig. Gen. James Glynn, stressed to the Post, that while problems do occur, there are more than 600 Marines serving as drill instructors and 98 percent of them do their jobs without incident.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded ‘marsquake’

NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”


The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA’s InSight

www.youtube.com

“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Listen to audio of this likely marsquake at: https://youtu.be/DLBP-5KoSCc

For more information about InSight, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/insight

For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

Articles

This airman has advice for anyone working to be an Olympic lifter

For Tech. Sgt. Kate Barone, competitive weightlifting became more than just a way to break the monotony of a desk job as an Air Force information analyst. Instead, the Ohio native turned her after-work hobby into a new lifestyle that changed her life forever.


“For any type of competition – powerlifting, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding – the thing is to be focused on only that,” Barone told WATM. “If you want to do really well, it’s got to be on the same level as breathing, eating, sleeping. … That is your goal and you have to change your life around that.”

As an NCO in the Ohio Air National Guard, an Olympic lifter, and bodybuilding competitor, life in the service can be difficult for someone who’s trying to be competitive in a sport.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

“For me, sitting in front of a computer a lot, it is hard to not snack,” the 25-year-old says. “I know that as long as you are able to pack your food, bring it to work, still get to the gym, you can maintain your fitness and even compete.”

She joined the Ohio ANG at 17, right out of high school. The Cincinnati native comes from a military family — her grandfathers are Air Force and Army veterans and her uncles serve in the Army and Navy. She joined to challenge herself and get a nursing degree. She loves the Air Force lifestyle but wanted to stay around her family.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Barone worked as a full-time Air National Guardsman for two years, even deploying to Korea for the annual joint training exercises there. It was on that deployment Barone realized she had to make a change. She loved the Air Force lifestyle, but went back to Guard service.

When she returned to Ohio, she finished nursing school and got into CrossFit. While Barone recalls CrossFit was rough at first, she eventually began competing in the sport, which led her to Olympic weightlifting competition, and later, bodybuilding.

In her first Olympic competition, the Strongest Unicorn, she competed in the 64-kilogram weight class against the likes of Holly Mangold of the U.S. Olympic Lifting Team. The next year, she dropped her weight class and finished second.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

“When you sign up for an Olympic lifting competition, you are supposed to put in your estimated total that you will lift,” Barone says. “You look at that and wonder how you are going to do against other people.”

“It’s not just the Olympic movements,” she adds. “You’ve got to do front squats all the time, back squats, jerks — a lot of that just to build up your muscle strength so you can lift a lot of weight.”

Bodybuilding is an entirely different kind of lifestyle change.

“You have to be in the right state of mind to do the bodybuilding part,” she says. “There are so many aspects. Unlike CrossFit or Olympic lifting, I can eat what I want, as long as I make my weight class the day of.”

But that doesn’t mean she can just go out and scarf down an entire pizza with the crew.

“It literally took up my life,” Barone recalls. “I can’t have drinks with friends because alcohol is cut out. I can’t go out to eat with my friends because I will be eating raw vegetables, egg whites, tilapia … it’s really hard to have that mindset and be focused on something without people supporting you.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

A lot of her support comes from the people in her squadron. Even so, it’s tough to eat fish and veggies while the rest of the unit is downing food from the local barbecue joint.

“They call me Bro-rone because I like to lift with them and I’m like a gym bro,” she says. “But then they bring that [food] in and I’m like oh my god I love barbecue, why are you all doing this to me?”

Barone says her sister proved pivotal to her success.

“She helped me pick out my suit, I wanted to know which one is going to look the best on me,” Barone says. “She picked the skimpiest red one with all the bling on it. You have to be prepared to show your ass in competitive bodybuilding.”

Barone says the trick is to make your training preparation a habit. Once you achieve that, missing a day at the gym becomes abnormal.

“Anyone can do it, as long as you are able to get to the gym at least once a day,” says Kate Barone.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

In Barone’s part-time civilian life, she’s a nurse at a local hospital and is excited to be taking a new position helping veterans at the local VA hospital. But fitness remains her biggest escape.

“When I’m sad, I’m depressed, I just don’t feel like things are right, I go to the gym,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a shitty day or something is going on in my life. … If I go to the gym, I lift some weight with my music blaring in my ears …  it’s therapy to me, it feels so good.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un may be on the way to New York City next

White House officials are reportedly looking to schedule a second meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in New York City in September 2018, in an attempt to progress from the two leaders’ first summit in Singapore.

The meeting would take place during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), an annual gathering for world leaders in New York’s Midtown East, Axios reported on July 2, 2018. This year’s UNGA will take place from September 18 to September 30 2018.


Trump and Kim pledged after their June 12, 2018 summit to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, but experts have criticized its vagueness and absence of language committing North Korea to the US’s goal of “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” — which Pyongyang has routinely refused to carry out.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, said on July 1, 2018, that the US plans for North Korea to dismantle its chemical, biological, nuclear, and ballistic missile programs in a year’s time.

Trump could dangle a second meeting in New York as an incentive for North Korea to follow that timeline, officials told Axios.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
A June 21, 2018 satellite image of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor suggests that the country is still improving its nuclear facilities.
(Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North)

Some North Korea experts, however, have questioned Pyongyang’s willingness to make good on Trump’s nuclear goals.

Satellite images taken nine days after the Singapore summit showed North Korea continuing to build on the infrastructure at a key nuclear reactor.

A senior US intelligence official also said that Pyongyang was continuing to “deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles.”

Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also told Axios that the Trump administration “needs to get a commitment to a full declaration” and have international experts in North Korea “sealing stuff and installing cameras” to ensure North Korea sticks to its promises.

If Kim does visit New York in September 2018, it will be the longest journey he has ever taken as North Korean leader.

Kim has sent his officials to UNGA in the past, but never been himself. At the gathering in 2017, the country’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, called Trump “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who made a North Korean nuclear attack on the US “inevitable all the more.”

2017’s UNGA was also where Trump publicly referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” for the first time, which resulted in Kim’s calling the US president a “mentally deranged US dotard” in response.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious drug kingpin of Mexico, has finally arrived in Florence, Colorado. It’s here, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary where he will spend his life sentence (+30 years, according to a judge).

El Chapo escaped Mexican prisons twice, in 2001 and 2014. However, his stay this time around seems to be much more permanent— this supermax prison is nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” and has never had a prisoner escape since its founding in 1994.


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The layout of a traditional supermax cell.

El Chapo, 62, arrived at the facility on July 19, two days after his life sentence. He joined other high profile offenders like the “Unabomber,” an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber.

All 400 inmates at the ADX spend 23 hours a day in a soundproofed cell, and then have one heavily supervised hour of “rec” time. Their supervised hour of rec time is observed while both handcuffed and shackled. Phones are banned, and there is an extremely “limited” version of television available (meaning: black and white recreational, religious, and educational programming).

Everything in the cell is made of stone, and is structurally attached to the wall or floor. The bed is made of concrete with a small pad as a mattress, a small concrete stool is molded to the ground, and a couple of small shelves jut out from the wall near their in-cell sink.

The design of every cell is centered around eliminating threats. Some cells have a shower, to further limit contact with guards, but they have a timer to eliminate the threat of flooding. The toilet shuts off if blocked. The sink has no tap.

Inside the Supermax Prison Where El Chapo Will Be Housed

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Inmates can earn more daily rec time after a year, depending on their behavior. They don’t remain there forever, the long-term “goal” is a three-year stay, and then a transfer to a less restrictive prison.

However, there is considerable controversy surrounding the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health. In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the prison, citing alleged chronic abuse and a failure to diagnose mental health properly.

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The maximum security doors where inmates are confined 23 hours a day.

I spoke with an unnamed corrections officer— to have her speak on the would-be escape attempt that she thwarted in her prison. Her prison is a level 4 (out of 5) and is home to violent prisoners, but none as high profile or as repeatedly violent as the offenders at ADX supermax. This helps give a sense at the futility of an escape plan in a prison that isn’t even as comprehensive as the ADX supermax.

“While walking up to post with no radio, I [saw] an inmate standing in the doorway.” she said, “I observed what appeared to be a water bottle hanging from the roof and when he noticed the look on my face, he took off quickly. I rounded the side of the house (a common term for each individual living complex in a prison) to get a better look, I realized it was a huge braided rope made of sheets, with a weighted water bottle anchored to the end of it. But, it had been caught on razor wire and was dangling.”

“It turned out to be an attempted escape that had gone wrong.” She continued, “There were bags of food and black clothes on top of the house, and a huge foot-long metal rod sharpened to a point hidden underneath the rope.” And that was a level 4.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Vietnam veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux, Lakota Warrior

Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.

As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.

In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.


However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.

Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).

Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.

Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.

Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.

Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:

  1. Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
  2. Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
  3. Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
  4. Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”

From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

Articles

This horse racing track used to be a WWII Japanese Internment Camp

Arcadia, California’s beautiful Santa Anita Racetrack had a different name in 1942: The Santa Anita Assembly Center.  It was the largest assembly point for Japanese-Americans on the U.S. West coast as they were forced into internment camps. 19,000 people passed through here on their way to the camps.


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Track Today (Photo: Rennett Stowe, Wikimedia Commons)

In February 1942,then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering Japanese Americans to be interned in camps along the west coast. While these camps were being built, those who would be interned were housed at assembly centers like Santa Anita, living in converted horse stalls and other hastily built structures. Santa Anita was guarded, surrounded with barbed wire and filled with searchlights to light the dark nights. In all 110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned on short-notice, closing farms and businesses and abandoning their homes. Eventually, some even enlisted in the Army.

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Living quarters were made out of abandoned horse stalls (LA Public Library Photo)

Internees at Santa Anita were told to bring blankets and linens, toiletries, clothing, dishes and cookware, and anything else they could carry. They were forbidden from having anything written in Japanese. The people of Santa Anita developed a large internal economy, complete with jobs, businesses, and a local newspaper. They developed a unique culture of music, arts, and softball teams.

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The $2 betting window becomes the circulation desk for the camp library (LA Public Library)

In September 1942, those in Santa Anita were moved to other camps. By November 1942, Santa Anita was completely emptied of internees and then became an Army training camp.

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Lily Okuru, an internee, poses with the Seabiscuit statue at Santa Anita Recetrack in 1942 (US government photo)

In 1944, the Supreme Court struck down the government’s ability to hold Americans indefinitely and the internees were released. The last of all the camps closed in 1946 and the U.S. government has since paid $1.6 billion in reparations. Now, a simple plaque near the track’s entrance is the only reminder of its place in the history of WWII.

In the video below, James Tsutsui of Laguna Woods, California discusses his experiences at Santa Anita Racetrack during World War II.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=257v=RjVcZLNiCKU

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., India sign deal that will allow them to better hunt subs

The US and India have grown closer over the past decade, and they took another major step forward in September 2018 with the signing of a communications agreement that will improve their ability to coordinate military operations — like hunting down submarines.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, respectively, on Sept. 6, 2018, for the long-delayed inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

The meeting produced a raft of agreements. Perhaps the most important was the Communications, Compatibility, and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms,” according to a joint statement.


The deal — one of several foundational agreements the US and India have been discussing for nearly two decades — took years to negotiate, delayed by political factors in India and concerns about opening Indian communications to the US.

The US wants to ensure sensitive equipment isn’t leaked to other countries — like Russia, with which India has longstanding defense ties — while India wants to ensure its classified information isn’t shared without consent.

But the lack of an agreement limited what the US could share.

“The case that the US has been making to India is that some of the more advanced military platforms that we’ve been selling them, we actually have to remove the advanced communications” systems on them because they can’t be sold to countries that haven’t signed a COMCASA agreement, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow for South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, in an interview in late August 2018.

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meet at Modi’s residence, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. Mattis, along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and other top U.S. officials met with Modi following the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue, where Mattis and Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts.

“So that even when we’re doing joint exercises together, we have to use older, more outdated communications channels when our two militaries are communicating with one another, and it just makes things more difficult,” Smith added.

And it wasn’t just the US. A Japanese official said in 2017 that communications between that country’s navy and the Indian navy were limited to voice transmissions, and there was no satellite link that would allow them to share monitor displays in on-board command centers.

With COMCASA in place, India can now work toward greater interoperability with the US and other partners.

“COMCASA is a legal technology enabler that will facilitate our access to advanced defense systems and enable us to optimally utilize our existing US-origin platforms like C-130J Super Hercules and P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft,” an official told The Times of India.

Importantly for India, the agreement opens access to new technology and weapons that use secure military communications — like the armed Sea Guardian drone, which India will be the first non-NATO country to get. Sea Guardians come with advanced GPS, an Identification Friend or Foe system, and a VHF radio system, which can thwart jamming or spoofing.

The deal also facilitates information sharing via secure data links and Common Tactical Picture, which would allow Indian forces to share data with the US and other friendly countries during exercises and operations.

Expanding interoperability is particularly important for India in the Indian Ocean region, where increasing Chinese naval activity— especially that of submarines — has worried New Delhi.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” a source told The Times of India.

‘The bells and whistles … didn’t necessary come with it’

Signing COMCASA has been cast as part of a broader strategic advance by India, binding it closer to the US and facilitating more exchanges with other partner forces. (Some have suggested the deal lowers the likelihood the US will sanction India for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.)

The agreement itself will facilitate more secure communications and data exchanges and opens a path for future improvements, but there are other issues hanging over India’s ability to work with its partners.

Among the US-made hardware India has bought in recent years are variants of the P-8 Poseidon, one of the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft.

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One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian Navy photo)

India purchased the aircraft through direct commercial sales rather than through foreign military sales, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in an interview at the end of August 2018.

“As a result a lot of the bells and whistles, the extra stuff that goes with a new airplane — the mission systems, like the radio systems, and the radars and the sonobuoys and all the equipment that you’d get with an airplane like that — didn’t necessary come with it, and they’re going to have to buy that separately,” Clark said.

“Signing this agreement means there’s an opportunity to share the same data-transfer protocols or to use the same communications systems,” Clark said. But both sides would need to already have the systems in question in order to take advantage of the new access.

“So the Indians would still have to buy the systems that would enable them to be interoperable,” Clark said.

Smith said a “fundamental change” in the US-India defense-sales relationship was unlikely, but having COMCASA in place would make US-made systems more attractive and allow India to purchase a broader range of gear.

“At least now India can get the full suite of whatever platforms they’re looking at,” he said.

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

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