No one was ready for President Trump's next VA secretary - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Questions have emerged about the managerial ability of White House physician Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald’s Trump pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government’s second-largest agency.

If confirmed, Jackson would replace David Shulkin as the secretary of veterans affairs. Trump announced his decision to fire Shulkin on March 28, 2018.


Though Jackson has an impressive resume as a career naval officer who served as an emergency trauma doctor in Iraq, as well as a White House physician for the 12 years, he seems to lack any management experience.

Considering the VA has 360,000 employees and a $186 billion annual budget, that has some people worried.

“It’s great that he served in Iraq and he’s our generation. But it doesn’t appear that he’s had assignments that suggest he could take on the magnitude of this job, and this makes Jackson a ­surprising pick,” Paul Reckhorn, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Admiral Ronny L. Jackson

Shulkin had managed several hospitals before, including some that were part of the VA, and almost all of his predecessors were either high ranking managers in the private sector, or military leaders.

Senior White House officials told the Washington Post that Jackson “was taken aback by his nomination,” and was reportedly hesitant to take the position. One official described an “informal interview” process, without the traditional Cabinet-level vetting.

The White House had reportedly planned to announce that Shulkin would leave on March 28, 2018, with an interim director to run the department until a permanent head could be found. Trump apparently changed that plan when he tweeted that Jackson was his pick to lead the VA.

Virtually nothing at all is known about Jackson’s views on the issues that currently face the VA, like Trump’s views on privatization of elements of the VA.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
David Shulkin
Photo by James Lucas

“We are doing our homework on Dr. Jackson,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson, told the Washington Post.

“His name was never floated around,” Maddox said, “so we are doing our due diligence.”

It is unclear if Democrats will support Jackson’s nomination. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both of her legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down, released a statement saying that she would “carefully review” his qualifications.

“The next VA Secretary must be able to protect the department from becoming consumed by partisan politics,” Duckworth said.

“I hope Dr. Jackson is someone who is willing and able to do that by continuing the important tradition of VA Secretaries working in a bipartisan manner.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The art of the rant according to Graham Allen, host of ‘Rant Nation’

We live in a time when anyone with a smartphone can become a viral internet star. The technology is literally in the palm of your hand. Hit “record,” hit “upload,” and you’ve got a potential audience numbering in the millions.

Few people understand that power better than Graham Allen, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran who has made a name for himself with his “daily rant” videos on social media. In a little more than two years, he’s released dozens of videos, racked up over 1 billion views, and landed a show on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV.


Allen said that while ranting has brought him success, that is only one side of who he is. In addition to being “much quieter in person,” he enjoys spending time helping others in his community.

“It’s more fun to me to go feed the police departments working the night shift than it is to get a 100-million-view video,” Allen said.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Graham Allen displaying his love for America.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

Not that he took the videos all that seriously when he first started making them in 2016 while on a recruiting tour in Anderson, South Carolina. He’d gotten run off the road by an elderly person and pulled over to rant about bad drivers. He posted it, and it resonated well with a few people, so he kept at it.

“The rants kind of started off as a joke,” Allen said. The topics ranged from making fun of people at the gym to parents with bad kids to Hillary Clinton to teenagers. Then Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the national anthem, and Allen’s videos took a turn toward the political — and many would say, the divisive.

“I made a video about that because it legitimately was something that I cared about, and that’s when everything kind of changed,” Allen said. “It went from a gag into this ‘Dear America, I’ll say it for you’ kind of thing.”

That was two years ago. Now, Allen has his own show, “Rant Nation,” on BlazeTV. Although he is the host of the show, he is very clear that he’s not a news anchor, journalist, or political commentator.

“I’m just a guy who believes what I believe and thinks what I think. […] I like to look at things from my own worldview and my own value standpoint,” he said. “So, I take things that people are talking about and things that people are passionate about, and instead of just repeating it, I really try to put the moral value around it.”

The success of the rant videos and landing a TV show have increased the pressure for Allen, but he’s taken steps to try to keep things moving in the right direction. One of those decisions was moving back to his home state of Mississippi, to a “nowhere” small town where he can stay connected to his roots.

“This thing is really starting to go, and I just really felt that if we move to these bigger places like all these other people do, then we would lose what it is that apparently people are latching onto,” Allen said.

He acknowledges that he entered the social media personality game at the right time — people like Mat Best had already successfully paved the way, and enough others had come before Allen and failed that he could see what worked and what didn’t.

And when he does something that doesn’t work — or if he realizes he was flat-out wrong about something — he’s not afraid to correct his error.

“I think that’s something that hardly anyone does,” Allen said, “because I don’t know everything, and I feel like I’ve been very open and honest about that, that I’m not the end-all, be-all on this thing, this is just what I think and what I feel.”

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Graham Allen with his wife and daughter.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

By that same logic, he’s also never regretted any videos or opinions he’s put out — even when they’ve drawn heavy criticism.

“One thing that I’ve done that I think is very different than anybody else is I don’t respond — I don’t get into battles with people, I don’t block comments, I don’t do any of that stuff,” Allen said. “If people want to say that I’m the worst person in the history of the world, I let them do it because if I didn’t, I would be a hypocrite, right?”

In terms of whether Allen considers himself a divisive figure, he contests that division is a sign of the times.

“We live in a culture now where you’re either left or you’re right, and, unfortunately, we can’t be friends, so that means we’re enemies now,” Allen said. “I don’t believe that, but there’s a lot of people that do. And so, because I’m very conservative — I’m a Southern-born and raised, gun-loving, freedom-loving, Christian conservative, that is who I am. Oh, and I’m a white guy at the same time. So, some people view me as the absolute worst thing that this country has to offer — I don’t think there’s any way for some people to not view me as divisive.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier stayed awake for 40 years after being shot in the head

After the outbreak of World War I, young Paul Kern joined millions of Hungarian countrymen in answering the call to avenge their fallen Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. He joined the Hungarian army and, shortly after, the elite corps of shock troops that would lead the way in clearing out Russian trenches on the Eastern front. In 1915, a Russian bullet went through his head, and he closed his eyes for the last time.


Which would be par for the course for many soldiers – except Kern’s eyes opened again in a field hospital.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Many, many other Austro-Hungarian eyes did not open again.

From the moment he recovered consciousness until his death in 1955, Kern did not sleep a wink. Though sleep is considered by everyone else to be a necessary part of human life. There are many physical reasons for this – sleep causes proteins in the brain to be released, it cuts off synapses that are unnecessary, and restores cognitive function. People who go without sleep have hallucinations and personality changes. Sleeplessness has even killed laboratory rats.

But for 40 years, Paul Kern experienced none of these symptoms. His biggest issue with being awake for 24 hours a day was the costs associated with being awake and functional for that extra eight hours.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

The face you make when you haven’t slept since 1915 and have time to do literally everything.

Doctors encountering Kern’s condition for the first time were always reportedly skeptical, but Kern traveled far and wide, allowing anyone who wanted to examine him to do so. The man was X-rayed in hospitals from Austria to Australia but not for reasons surrounding the bullet – the one that went through his right temple and out again – was ever found.

One doctor theorized that Kern would probably fall asleep for seconds at a time throughout the day, not realizing he had ever been asleep, but no one had ever noticed Kern falling asleep in such a way. Other doctors believed the bullet tore away all the physical area of the brain that needed to be replenished by sleep. They believed he would find only an early death because of it.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Don’t let Adderall-starved college students find out about Russian bullets.

Kern did die at what would today be considered a relatively young age. His wakefulness caused headaches only when he didn’t rest his eyes for at least an hour a day in order to give his optic nerve a much-needed break. But since Paul Kern had an extra third of his days given back to him, he spent the time wisely, reading and spending time with his closest friends. It seems he made the most of the years that should have been lost to the Russian bullet in the first place.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of March 31

It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.


In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:

1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
That’s where they keep both alcohol and titillation.

2. Believe it or not, the DD-214 won’t solve all your problems (via Shit my LPO says).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
It only solves your worst ones.

ALSO READ: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

3. Sounds like the E-4 Mafia is going to let you have a little taste of what they took (via Military World).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

4. Airmen getting after it (via Military Memes).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Carrying over seven pounds of pillows and firing a .5mm laser. Air Power!

5. When the commander suddenly remembers that he doesn’t want you promoted:

(via Marine Corps Memes)

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

6. “Alright new officers and privates, here are your compasses and maps …”

(via Lost in the Sauce)

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

7. Anyone that doe-eyed is unlikely to want to hear your war stories (via Pop smoke).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

8. Some things can’t be treated with ibuprofen (via Decelerate Your Life).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Bet the corpsman give each other real medicine.

9. The true secret to the military:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
E-4 is E-4 is E-4.

10. Knees in the breeze, Donald (via Do You Even Jump?).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Not sure how you lower your combat load when it’s rigged that way, though. Maybe have a jumpmaster check that out.

11. This is Sgt. Rex, and you will stand at parade rest for him (via Air Force Nation).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
The man behind the flag is Carl. Feel free to kick him.

12. Today is a special day for the Corps. Give them some Crayolas or something (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
No one has earned their crayons like the United States Marines have.

13. How new NCOs feel about everyone in their squad (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
No one is standing at parade rest for the guy they were partying with the night before the promotion ceremony.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy making a show of force near Russia’s ‘doorstep’

The US Navy deployed two carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean Sea to send an unmistakable message to Russia.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis and their escort ships began dual carrier operations in the region April 23, 2019, the US Navy said in a statement. The combined force includes more than 130 aircraft, 10 ships and 9,000 sailors and Marines, a force that no other power has the ability to bring together.


No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

USS John C. Stennis.

(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

In addition to the carrier, a strike group typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two to three guided-missile destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship.

The last time two carriers operated in the region simultaneously was in 2016, when the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman carrier strike groups were deployed to the Mediterranean.

Current operations are being conducted alongside allies and partners in the region.

“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Adm. James Foggo III, the head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said.

“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nation’s shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”

Standing on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he stressed that “we are not going to be deterred by any potential adversary and we are going to support our interests as Americans and also those of our allies as we steam throughout the world,” CNN reported.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

USS Abraham Lincoln.

(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean since 2015, when the Russian military joined forces with Damascus in Syria.

Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, said that the carriers, each of which represents “100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” are intended to send a message. “Diplomatic communication and dialogue coupled with the strong defense these ships provide demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”

“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said,” Huntsman added, according to CNN.

“You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”

Russian media accused the US military and the ambassador of unnecessary “saber-rattling” near Russia’s “doorstep.”

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

Articles

How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Two Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters headlined China’s Airshow China in Zhuhai on Tuesday, flying for just a few minutes, Reuters reports.


But Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, said the display left many questions unanswered.

Also read: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

On paper, the J-20 represents a “big leap forward in terms of the capabilities of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have on scene,” Bronk said.

Compared with the US’s fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35, the J-20 has “longer range, more internal fuel capacity, and larger internal weapons capability,” Bronk said.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

This combination of factors presents a real risk to US forces in the Pacific. Long-range, capable strike fighters like the J-20 put the US AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, as well as “refueling tankers, and forward bases at risk much more than current types if flying in relatively large numbers” should any kind of kinetic conflict flare up in the Pacific, Bronk said.

David Goldfein, the chief of staff for the US Air Force, told Breaking Defense he was not overly troubled by the new Chinese jet.

“When I hear about F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein said in August.

Indeed, nothing indicates that the Chinese have built in the type of hyper connectivity and sensor fusions that make the US’s fifth-generation fighters so groundbreaking. Of the F-35 in particular, Bronk said: “Pilots are not spending a huge amount of time managing inputs — the machine does it for him. It produces one unified picture, which he can then interrogate as required.”

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
F-35 pilots have unprecedented 360-degree visibility, can even see through the airframe with cameras, and can fire missiles at targets they aren’t even facing. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

This gives F-35 pilots a situational awareness the Chinese most likely leverage in combat.

But what exactly goes on under the hood of the J-20 remains a mystery. What is known is that the Chinese have managed to steal a considerable amount of info from US defense aviation projects.

“We don’t know how much F-35 technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk said, adding that while it was “impossible to say for sure” what the J-20 is capable of, common sense dictates that the “the sensor fusion and network integration is significantly behind what the US has managed with the F-35 and F-22.

“This is purely based on the fact that sensor fusion has taken the most effort, time, and money,” he continued.

But one-on-one combat scenarios or feature-for-feature comparisons don’t capture the real threat of the J-20.

Long-range stealth fighters, if fielded in large numbers along with older Chinese aircraft, surface-to-air missile batteries, radar outposts, missiles, and electronic-warfare units, present another wrinkle in an already complicated and fraught operating envelope for US and allied forces in the Pacific.

But is it real?

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Not really a J-20, but a rendering of it. | Alexandr Chechin photo via Wiki Commons

Whether the Chinese will actually be able to field this plane by 2018, as Beijing has projected, remains the real question.

Bronk pointed out that it took a decade between US developers building a flying model of the F-22 and getting real, capable F-22s in the air. Even if the Chinese have accelerated the process through espionage, Bronk says, “We know how much money and time it takes to make a lethal and effective fighter like the F-22,” and it’s “very unlikely that China is that far along.”

Additionally, the J-20s in Zhuhai flew for only about one minute. They didn’t do low passes. They didn’t open up the weapons bay. They didn’t do much except fly around a single time.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We learned very little,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of FlightGlobal, told Reuters. “We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility.”

Bronk speculates that the models on display at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Bronk points out that the aircraft most likely flew with underpowered engines and not the engines that would fly on the final version. “Engine performance is a key function of any aircraft,” he said, adding, “China and Russia continue to lag behind because of the really top-end manufacturing processes you need” to create and tune high-quality aircraft engines.

So while China’s new “impressive low-observable heavy strike” fighters could change the balance of power in the Pacific, whether they can field the planes in significantly large numbers at any time in the near future remains an open question.

Watch footage of the J-20’s flight below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

President George H.W. Bush’s service dog ‘enlists’ at Walter Reed

Sully, the celebrated yellow Labrador retriever that was the service dog of former President George H.W. Bush, has joined the ranks of working dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Inducted by way of a paw shake and through an oath of office given Feb. 27, 2019, by Walter Reed’s director, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, Sully enlisted in the medical center’s facility dogs program, in which he will work with disabled inpatients and outpatients.


During his enlistment ceremony at the center’s USO building, Sully was cited as “a true patriot” and was enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman, 2nd class.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Sully, President George H.W. Bush’s service dog.

Pinning on Sully’s devices were Evan Sisley, personal aide and senior medic to President Bush and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Murdock, the leading petty officer for Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

Tremendous impact

The 2-year-old Labrador was by Bush’s side for six months, and it was the Bush family’s wish that after the former president’s death, Sully would join the service-dog program at Walter Reed. He joins a unit of six other dogs in Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

“We appreciate the time he had with the president. Sully made a tremendous impact — not only for the president — but his caregivers and the entire [Bush] family,” said John Miller, president and chief executive officer for America’s VetDogs, where Sully was trained to be a service dog.

George H.W. Bush’s Service Dog Sully Gets A New Job Helping Veterans | NBC Nightly News

www.youtube.com

“Sully’s going to do a great job here at Walter Reed. He’s going to see a patient on average every hour,” leaving patients in more cheerful moods, he said.

“He’ll do a lot of things here, but mostly bring smiles to faces,” as a dog with the right demeanor, Miller added.

Patient visits

Sully and the other service dogs at Walter Reed typically visit patients on wards and in behavioral health, the brain fitness clinic, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.

The facility dogs at Walter Reed average 2,500 contacts with people and more than 200 working hours per month collectively, according to a Walter Reed press release. Many of the dog handlers are active-duty service members who are trained in a 6-week program. The dogs live with a custodian of the program.

Sully, like his six battle buddies, is trained in situational awareness, sitting politely for petting, accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, how to react to distractions, entering elevators, how to react to another dog, and various commands.

Articles

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.


Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Veteran military journalist Paul Watts Jr. mentors a student editor, an active duty combat photojournalist.

They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.

One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.

When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.

Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.

When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Andrew Breese, award-winning producer from Airman mentors a team on site for the Shoot Off competition portion.

It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.

“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”

One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.

Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Military cameramen train incognito on The Mall in Washington, DC.

“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.

The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.

Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Producers from the Washington Post and NFL Films were among previous judges.

Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.

The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.

The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force killed a combat demo for light attack aircraft

The OA-X program will not be seeing how its top contenders fare in combat. That is the decision the Air Force made as two of the planes failed to make the cut for the next round of evaluations.


According to a report from CombatAircraft.net, the Textron Scorpion and the AT-802U Longsword were given the chop by the Air Force. The AT-802 is a modified cropduster that’s been equipped with two .50-caliber Gatling guns. The Scorpion is a twin-engine jet that’s capable of carrying up to 9,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Air Force has been running the OA-X program to find a new close air support aircraft. Previously, the Air Force had planned to take designs that made the cut, the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, and put on a real-world combat demonstration. This demonstration has been canceled. Instead, the U.S. Air Force plans to “work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking, and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft,” according to the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
An Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nardisoero)

Even though the Scorpion is officially out of contention, Textron is not entirely out of the running, as it also produces the AT-6 — a version of the T-6 Texan II. The T-6, though, was recently reported to be causing in pilots what the Air Force describes as “unexpected physiological events,” a term that’s been recently used to describe incidents where aircrew experience symptoms of hypoxia. The 19th Air Force has ordered an “operational pause” for the Texan II while the issues are addressed.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the aging T-37 fleet throughout Air Education and Training Command. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Richards)

If this same problem plagues the AT-6, we’re likely to see the A-29 Super Tucano win the OA-X competition. The A-29 has already proved itself in action with the Afghan Air Force and has also been sold to Nigeria and the Philippines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the sad legacy of land mines continues to haunt the Balkans

It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.


Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.

“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.

The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.

The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.

“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.

BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.

The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.

In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.

Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.

Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.

“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.

The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.

This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.

One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.

In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.

Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.

According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.

“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.

Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”

Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.

Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary
Members of the Kosovo Police Bomb Squad prepare their ordnance for a demolition range in Orahovac, Kosovo, April 4. The demolition was part of the International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day, this day represented the start of the humanitarian demining Season in Kosovo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.

Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.

Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.

Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.

The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.

“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”

Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.

Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.

“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marine vet in Russia seeks bail on espionage charges

A lawyer acting for a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia on espionage charges has filed an appeal with a Moscow court seeking to have his client released on bail, Russian news agencies report.

Paul Whelan, who also holds British, Irish, and Canadian citizenship, was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on Dec. 28, 2018.


The court has received the appeal, but has not yet set a date for a hearing, agencies reported.

Whelan’s family says he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

On Jan. 9, 2019, the Kremlin denied Western allegations that it was using Whelan as a pawn in a political game.

“Russia never uses people as pawns in some diplomatic game,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Russia “carries out counterintelligence activities against those who are suspected of espionage,” Peskov said. “This is done regularly.”

Peskov spoke after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned last week that Whelan should not be used as a pawn in “diplomatic chess games.”

Media reports have speculated that Whelan was detained to facilitate a possible spy swap with a Russian agent arrested abroad, possibly Marina Butina, a gun-rights campaigner who has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hadn’t been formally charged.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lack of cyber talent remains a national security threat

The massive shortage of cyber professionals is a national security threat, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Cyber personnel from the private and public sectors are America’s frontline of defense because critical infrastructure sectors, including water, healthcare, and elections, rely on a resilient cyber infrastructure, explained Rob Karas, associate director for Cyber Defense Education and Training from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.


“America’s cybersecurity workforce is a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” he said.

However, there is not enough talent in the field, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“Estimates place the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at approximately three million people worldwide, with roughly 500,000 job openings in the United States,” Karas said. “This global shortage means American organizations, whether in the private sector or in the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments, compete with employers all over the world as well as with each other to find cybersecurity talent. … CISA sees the cybersecurity workforce shortage as a national security issue.”

Army Lt. Col. Julianna M. Rodriguez is a cyber warfare officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She is the offensive cyberspace operations division chief in the Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Section.

Though she did not take a direct path to her current position, her preparation and adaptability enabled her to take advantage of opportunities for the evolving cyber field.

In high school, Rodriguez took advanced classes, focusing on math and science up to AP Calculus BC and AP Physics. After graduating, she attended the United States Military Academy, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Systems Architecture.

In addition to earning a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through Columbia Engineering, she earned two technical certifications: Mirantis OpenStack Certification Professional Level and SaltStack Certified Engineer, and is preparing for the Army Cyber Developer Exam.

For Rodriguez, changing career fields was a process of discovering where she could best serve.

“I started in Air Defense Artillery because [in 2003] it was one of the few combat arms branches in which women officers could lead,” she said.

Rodriguez served in ADA units as a battalion intelligence officer and headquarters battery commander, eventually attending the MI Officer Advanced Course. She also deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan and taught at the USMA before transferring into the cyber branch.

When advising others interested in cyber, Rodriguez gives feedback based on her experience.

“Our citizens can best serve when they use their innate skills and interests for our national good [and] improve daily in learning and practicing related skills. For those who have an interest in computing, information technology, and network communications, committing to engage that interest in service to our nation can meaningfully impact our nation’s security,” she said.

However, she cautioned how the field is not a good fit for those who like routine and clearly defined work. She also described the Army’s cyber branch as highly competitive, so if an individual wants to join, she recommends:

  • Learn programming languages C, Python, R, or JavaScript (Not markup languages like HTML)
  • Obtain technical certifications like OSCP, OSCE, CISA, and CCNP
  • Do networking or security projects
  • Stay current on technology advances and policy impacts

Rodriguez adds specific backgrounds make a good fit for the field, including those with strong computer and IT skills.

“Soldiers from a variety of other branches and MOSes, including signal, aviation, and field artillery,” she said.

Because of the critical need for cyber talent, the Army created the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program. It is actively recruiting “software engineers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, hardware and radio frequency engineers, vulnerability researchers, and other computer-based professionals,” Rodriguez said. “I encourage anyone who has a deep interest in technology, a penchant for learning and change, and a commitment to our nation’s security to pursue a career in cyber with our military.”

For those interested in CISA cybersecurity education programs, check out:

FedVTE (Federal Virtual Training Environment): Free online cybersecurity training

CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service: DHS/CISA scholarship for bachelors, masters, and graduate cybersecurity degree programs in return for service in federal, state, local or tribal governments upon graduation

President’s Cup Cyber Competition: Competition for federal and Department of Defense cyber workforce to promote and recognize top cyber talent in government service

National Centers of Academic Excellence: 190+ academic institutions that DHS/CISA and the National Security Agency have designated for cybersecurity-related degrees

Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program: Cybersecurity curricula and education tools for K-12 teachers

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information