The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.
The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.
“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.
Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.
Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.
Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”
Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”
Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.
The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.
The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.
The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.
According to that data, these are the eight most-loved federal agencies, as ranked by Americans in 2017. We added a bonus one just for sh*ts and giggles.
8. FEMA — 55%
In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a way to help support citizens prepare for, prevent, and recover from disasters.
In 2014, FEMA was at a 47% approval rating and has since climbed the charts.
7. NASA — 56%
2017 was a good year for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as astronaut Peggy Whitson set a record for spaceflight and the Cassini spacecraft completed its groundbreaking mission to Saturn.
In 2014, NASA was at a paltry 50% approval rating. Clearly, they’re doing something right.
6. CIA — 57%
In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency sported an approval rating of 49%, but it’s a complete secret as to why they climbed higher in 2017.
5. FBI — 58%
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had a busy year investigating famous political figures and cracking down on fraud and money laundering cases.
In the eyes of the public, the Bureau had a “so-so” year, as their approval rating seems to have plateaued at 58% since 2014.
4. DHS — 59%
The Department of Homeland Security’s mission is to provide a secure environment for our nation. They dabble in various areas, including border security and cybersecurity.
It was reportedly an intense year for them in the eyes of the public, as their numbers have climbed a strong 11% since 2014.
3. Secret Service — 63%
The brave men and women who consistently stand guard protecting our president increased their approval rating by 20% since three years ago.
2. CDC — 66%
The Centers for Disease Control work with some of the most dangerous bacteria and germs on earth to provide their clients (the world) with the most efficient ways to maintain public health.
Their 16% approval increase doesn’t come as a surprise as they continue to fight against the spread of illness.
Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”
Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.
Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.
Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.
2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.
“I walked over to the NCO of my starting lane for land navigation and I asked him, ‘Hey sergeant, do you want me to line up behind you?'” said DeMarsico as he recalled the first time he participated in Expert Field Medical Badge qualification testing. “He said, ‘I need your name and roster number.’ I did not think anything of it at the time so I went out and found all four of my points. When I came back he told me I was going to be an administrative ‘no-go’ for the lane because I spoke to him.”
Recently promoted U.S. Army Spc. Thomas DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, first attempted to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted the special qualification testing in September 2019.
“I attempted to rebut the decision with the board because AR 350-10 says you cannot talk to other candidates during land nav, not the cadre,” DeMarsico said. “The board denied my rebuttal. That was it; they just dropped me. I was super crushed after that. I decided at that moment I was done with EFMB and the Army.”
Similar to the expert infantry badge, the EFMB is not an easy badge to earn. Combat medics wanting to earn the coveted badge must be physically and mentally prepared to undergo rigorous testing after being recommended by their unit commanders.
Fort Polk’s 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div medics on temporary duty in the Fort Bliss area were invited to participate in EFMB qualification testing. When DeMarsico found out he had the opportunity to attend the testing he immediately volunteered.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, poses with his new expert field medical badge in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
“I always take every opportunity that comes my way,” DeMarsico said. “I know that EFMB really sets you apart from your peers.”
EFMB candidates must successfully receive a “go” on all five sections of EFMB testing: The Army Physical Fitness Test, a written test, land navigation, combat testing lanes and a 12-mile forced march.
Candidates must receive a score of 80% or higher in each event of the APFT and be in compliance with Army height and weight standards. The only re-testable section is the written test in which candidates must successfully answer 60 out of 80 questions.
On the second day of testing soldiers must receive a “go” for both day and night land navigation. During the combat testing lanes medics must complete 43 tasks correctly: 10 tactical combat casualty care tasks, 10 evacuation tasks, 13 warrior skills tasks and five communication tasks.
After learning that his leadership tried to get him readmitted to the Fort Bliss qualification, DeMarsico realized that accepting defeat was not an option.
“I felt so much better knowing that they had my back,” Demarisco said. “They were willing to send us again so I was willing to try again.”
DeMarsico was afforded the opportunity to test again, this time at Fort Hood, Texas. DeMarsico, along with three other medics from 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg,were sent to Fort Hood to attend EFMB qualification hosted by 1st Medical Brigade. Standardization of the combat testing lanes began Sept. 23, 2019, with testing beginning Sept. 28, 2019, and ending with the forced march on Oct. 4, 2019.
One hundred and fifty-five soldiers started the event. DeMarsico was one of six medics that successfully earned the EFMB. He was the only junior enlisted to successfully complete the qualification.
DeMarsico attributed his success to lane standardization he received at Fort Bliss.
“We tried to train up for the Bliss EFMB but it was hard to tell exactly how the lanes would be run,” DeMarsico said. “After seeing the lanes at Bliss we knew how to study. I knew what I needed to work on. It helped me a lot.”
Although DeMarsico said he felt confident about the combat testing lanes, there was another area where he did not feel as confident. A self-proclaimed land navigation expert, DeMarsico admitted the night land navigation course was tough.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, checks to make sure his compass is calibrated prior to the start of land navigation testing for the expert field medical badge on Fort Bliss, Texas, Sep. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
The first time DeMarsico went through EFMB testing he was only able to complete day land navigation. With limited experience in navigating in the dark and a difference in terrain, DeMarsico was only able to find three out of the four points. Even though it was not a perfect score, it was enough for him to advance to the combat testing lanes. Out of the 155 that begin EFMB testing, only 19 medics passed land navigation testing.
During the final event of EFMB, nine soldiers started the forced march but only six finished within the required three hour time limit. DeMarsico came in first place. For most soldiers, coming in first during a timed 12-mile ruck march would feel like the crowning achievement. For DeMarsico, he felt frustration.
“My time was two hours and 56 seconds!” DeMarsico said. “Me and this major were in the lead the entire time, far ahead of everyone else. At the 11th mile marker point, the private giving directions told us to go down the wrong road. The major went a mile down that road with me trailing behind him. Luckily he had a GPS watch that told him he had hit 12 miles. He turned around, grabbed me and we went back to the 11-mile point. The private could not tell us the correct way to go. I walked into traffic and flagged down a car and asked him for directions to Cooper Field. The car drove slowly in front of us with the hazard lights and we followed him. Once I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end and came in first.”
Although he was unhappy with his finish time for the 12-mile ruck march, DeMarsico said he was thankful he was able to pass all five events of EFMB testing. He said becoming a part of the 3% of medics who earn the EFMB is just the beginning. He hopes to attend Airborne and Ranger schools in the near future. Ultimately he would like to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer.
“West Point is my main goal,” DeMarsico said. “I want to become an officer. I feel like if I can earn my EFMB then nothing is impossible. I devote my spare time to achieving my professional goals so I am always looking for ways to improve myself.”
Hungry for more training, DeMarsico is preparing to attend the advanced combat life saver course on Fort Bliss.
“You have to want it,” said DeMarsico when asked if he had any advice for soldiers attending future EFMB testing. “Many of the people that I saw did not have the drive that is required to pass. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. The EFMB website has so much information to help you study so you have to develop a way that will help you memorize information the easiest.”
DeMarsico encourages all soldiers to keep trying no matter how many times they have to retest.
“I was proud to represent the brigade, 10th Mountain, 2-4 Infantry and my recon platoon,” DeMarsico said. “I showed that it is not impossible for a junior enlisted to have a shot an EFMB. It does not matter who you are; you can do it. At the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you are willing to fight for it.”
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), it’s my job to help veterans understand how changes to their diets and lifestyles can change their lives. Here are the most common reactions that I see:
“I feel so much better, physically and mentally!” “I feel like a new man!”
It’s true. One of the biggest benefits to improving eating and activity patterns is an enhanced mood! Your brain is fueled by the foods you consume, and what you eat can affect how your brain functions.
But that’s not all. Keeping a healthy gut is key, too. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is mostly made in your GI tract, regulates your sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to an increased risk of low mood and depression. This complex pathway is not entirely understood, but early research from the National Institute of Health suggests achieving an optimal level of serotonin production will help keep the body in good health.
So, what can you do to keep a healthy mind and gut?
Follow Mediterranean Lifestyle guidelines to reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Water: Consume at least 64 ounces each day (for most healthy individuals; if you have Congestive Heart Failure, are on dialysis, or another medical condition, you may have different fluid needs).
Vegetables: Eat at least 3 servings each day.
Fruit: Eat at least 2 servings each day.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, albacore tuna: Eat 2 servings per week.
Limit processed foods, refined sugars and sugary beverages.
It can be overwhelming to think about changing your diet and lifestyle, but there are many resources available at your local VA. If you want to get started on a journey toward improving your mind, body and spirit, contact your PACT team or your local MOVE! Weight Management Program.
Many VA facilities also offer Healthy Teaching Kitchen classes where you can learn to prepare healthy foods with delicious flavors. If you’re interested in these great opportunities or other nutrition-related topics, contact your local VA to speak with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Be sure to contact your PACT team or Mental Health team if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or changes in mood.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
It was the Air Force’s birthday this week — and it seems like, in terms of gifts, they got a lot: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Keith Wright spoke about “hybrid airmen,” which would make airmen more badass and less likely to be mocked by the other branches, the “Up or Out” rule is being evaluated because it was stupid to begin with, and the Captain Marvel trailer, featuring a superhero who was a USAF pilot, dropped the morning of its birthday.
Happy birthday, ya high-flyin’ bastards. Make another trip to the chocolate fondue fountain — you guys earned it.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
It’s been years and I still can’t figure out whether you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome.”
I usually just respond with, “thank you for your support” and awkwardly give them the finger guns.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Sarcastic Memes Ruining Crewman’s Dreams)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Shammers United)
(Meme via Disabled Marine Corps Minds)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
No lie. You can hate it all you want, but you’ll eventually say “screw it” and try it.
Then you learn it’s for a single steak and you’ll nope the f*ck out of there and take your happy ass to the greasiest, most disgusting KFC known to man — which happens to be right next door.
The Smithsonian Institution is one place you’d think relics from America’s founding were safe. The security there must be pretty good, right? Well, tell that to a pair of George Washington’s dentures.
According to a 1982 New York Times article, the false teeth were discovered missing on June 19, 1981, by a curator who had gone to the basement of the American Museum of Natural History. The lower portion of the dentures turned up in a secure area of the Smithsonian in May, 1982. They were made of gold, lead, elephant ivory, and possibly human teeth — not wood, as many people believe.
“We never made any effort to have the value of the gold appraised,” Lawrence E. Taylor, a spokesman for the Smithsonian said. “It would be minuscule compared to the historic value of the teeth.”
According to Smithsonian magazine, Washington needed dentures because he’d lost most of his teeth from a combination of bad genes and worse dentistry practices at the time. This lead Washington to take measures to correct the tooth loss, including purchasing teeth from African-Americans, according to the official web site of Mount Vernon.
That site also notes that Washington was sensitive about the state of his teeth and tried to keep his dental condition a secret. Documents show he was particularly embarrassed to find out that the British had intercepted a letter in which he asked for a set of tooth scrapers to be sent to him in New York. That said, the intercepted letter helped mislead the British as to his intentions, ensuring the success of the Yorktown campaign.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If the 13 years of running Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has taken an emotional and physical toll on founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, he doesn’t show it. Watching him in action at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia is a study in determination and attention to detail. No bypassing staffer is too junior to be engaged, and no veterans issue is too trivial to be addressed.
“If you had asked me 13 years ago that if this far in the future it would still be this hard, I would have said you were full of it,” Rieckhoff says. “Everything is still too hard, from getting candidates to say the right thing to reforming the VA.”
He’s also concerned that philanthropic organizations haven’t responded to a national health problem that he compares to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
“This is like going to the convention in 1982 and people are kind of peripherally talking about AIDS when their friends are dying,” he says. “So if we accept that 20 vets are dying a day as a base point, we’re going to walk out of these conventions and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and these other billionaire philanthropic leaders are not going to be focused on veterans issues.”
Rieckhoff spreads the blame for the lack of progress on veterans’ issues — heath care and beyond — across several camps, starting with the commander-in-chief.
“President Obama has failed to provide the country a national strategy, and as a response, you’ve gotten fragmentation,” he says. And, by his reckoning, that fragmentation has taken myriad forms, including divisions among the veteran community itself.
“Too often VSO are having tribal fights when we really should recognize that we’re all really in deep shit because our demographics are our destiny and our demographics are bad,” Rieckhoff warns.
He goes on to explain that the veteran community is about to experience a “tectonic shift” numbers-wise because the World War II generation is all but gone and the Vietnam War generation is dying fast.
“We’re going to go from 12 percent in the population to, at some point, under five percent,” he explains.
In the face of this reality, Rieckhoff says that veteran service organizations and, more broadly, veterans themselves need to unify.
“My big takeaway in the wake of these two conventions is we have to find ways to be united and focused and we have to find ways to multiply our impact,” he says. “If veterans alone are carrying water for veterans’ issues we will lose. We’re just too small. There aren’t enough of us.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t think veterans have individual impact potential; in fact, Rieckhoff is quick to point out that vets are in a unique position nationwide right now.
“If you’re a veteran and you walk into a Starbucks or a classroom and announce your status you’re going to get 2 minutes of ‘rock star’ respect where people will listen to you for a little while before they jump into their corners for Bernie or Trump or whoever,” he says. “But you have that opening that opportunity to try and be a leader and bring people together. That’s what veterans need to be doing right now. We can bring the temperature down. We can do it through credibility and patriotism and through our example.”
At the same time, Rieckhoff warns vets against being used as props.
“As a community, we have to be really wary about being used. If they want to throw you up on stage with someone, make sure that you’re getting out of it what you need because they’re going to get what they need,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you join the military, right? Uncle Sam’s going to get what he needs out of you. Make sure you get what you need out of Uncle Sam.”
The discussion pivots to the political sphere, and Rieckhoff is at once unflinching and bipartisan in his take on what’s in play for the military community.
“The conventions have been fascinating to watch,” he says. “I think what’s happened in the last four years is both parties realize that veterans make good populism. Last week you had Joni Ernst and a wall of veterans, this week you’ll have Seth Moulton and a wall of veterans. They know – Trump especially – that there is a huge populist undertone to everything veterans.”
But Rieckhoff fears the community may be squandering its time in the spotlight.
“We have lacked a real sharp edge of activism,” he says. “If this was 1968, vet protestors would be in the convention.”
He introduces a broader theme, saying, “It’s a very complicated psycho-social situation we’re in where our community has been asked to sacrifice over and over again, but the public has reasoned that those in the military are self-selected as people who are willing to sacrifice over and over again. You can send us on 12 tours and we’re not going to make that much of a stink.
“The bigger issue is the lack of precedent for the lack of involvement in our country in a time of war. There’s no precedent in American history for this much war with this small group of people for this long.”
That societal reality has yielded some things of concern, not the least of which, according to Rieckhoff, is the fact that there are very few veterans in positions of real power.
“None of the candidates in either party is a veteran,” he points out. “Neither chairman of the VA on either the House or Senate side was a veteran. Jeff Miller and Bernie Sanders can’t run around talking about how wonderful they were when they presided over the largest VA scandal in American history.
“Bernie Sanders used the scandal to pass the omnibus and Jeff Miller is running around with Trump, using his time on HVAC for that. That’s politics, I get that. But At the end of the day veterans are still screwed.”
Rieckhoff likens the situation to “asking a plumber to fix your television.”
He uses what’s going on at the VA as an example, saying, “Bob McDonald is an army of one right now. He’s getting his legs cut out from under him by the Republican congress and Democratic leadership won’t touch him, so he’s almost out of time. He’s a good man who’s tried, but likely he’ll be out. The probability is we’ll get a new VA secretary who’ll get nominated in February or March, confirmed in March or April, and maybe he gets to work in June. So, six months into 2017, we’ll have the vision of a new VA secretary.”
Rieckhoff wants veteran leaders “who are still on the sidelines” to engage.
“There should be a coordinated and independent effort to recognize that these are trying times politically and we need to have a new call for these folks to serve,” he says. “You had the ‘Fighting Dems” in ’06 and I told Rahm Emanuel that ‘you have a political jump ball here,’ and he didn’t see it.
“The Fighting Dems wasn’t started by the party; it was started by that crew – Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth and Joe Sestak. That was the first iteration. Four years later the Republicans had their own round, but there was never really a coordinated campaign by either party to recruit veterans. There was a coordinated campaign to push out veterans and to celebrate veterans, but there’s not actually a farm team.”
Rieckhoff goes further, actually recommending a ticket that a large percentage of veterans would support right out of the gate.
“If [former NYC mayor] Mike Bloomberg and [retired Admiral and former CJCS] Mike Mullen started their own party tomorrow, a third of our membership would go with them . . . probably a third of the country would go with them,” he opines.
Rieckhoff sums the landscape up as “crazier,” and, again, he believes that presents a unique opportunity for the military/veteran community.
“We’re some of the only people who can go to both conventions and understand both sides,” he says. “That’s the powerful position for us whether it’s gun control, immigration, Islamophobia, gay rights, marijuana, or whatever. We can be a unique bridge builder between both sides. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements are great examples. The veterans community is on both sides of those.”
For all of the impact potential veterans might have, Rieckhoff is also mindful of negative stereotypes that exist among the civilian populations, something he blames in large part to “media laziness.”
“The only description the media had of the Dallas shooter was that he was African-American, and he was a veteran,” he points out. “Why? Because they have to file a story quickly and those were the only two things they could verify. That accelerated media cycle perpetuates lazy reporting. And when you have a vet who fits the stereotype they run with it.”
Rieckhoff exhales and contemplates the requirement to constantly attend to the pubic’s perception of vets, and that reminds him of the accomplishments of the community and, specifically, the legacy of IAVA.
“When IAVA started in 2004 the veterans landscape was a desert,” he remembers. “Now it’s a metropolis. We are very proud of the fact that a lot of people who come through the IAVA team have gone on to do really cool stuff.”
A quick review of the current roles of IAVA alums bears this out. Vet leaders like Abdul Henderson (now on the Congressional Black Caucus), Bill Rausch (now at Got Your 6), Tom Taratino (Twitter), Matt Miller (Trump campaign), and Todd Bowers (Uber) all spent time on the IAVA staff.
“We built IAVA to be a launching pad,” Rieckhoff says. “I’d rather have Tom Taratino at Twitter changing the culture than have him at the House VA Committee talking to a bunch of other veterans for the ninetieth time.”
But in spite of the challenges, Rieckhoff is bullish on the future of the veteran community.
“In 10 years, disproportionally CEOs are going to be veterans, candidates are going to be veterans, entrepreneurs are going to be veterans,” he says. “And that’s going to be exciting to watch.”
The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.
The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.
Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.
A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.
And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.
Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.
As a young boy, Henry Reeve served in the Union Army as a drummer during the American Civil War. By the time of his death in 1876, he was 26 years old and fought in more than 400 battles over seven years – against the Spanish.
In 1868, Cuban landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes led an uprising against Spanish rule over Cuba. From his estate on the Eastern part of the island, Céspedes freed his slaves and raised an army. He led a resistance against the Spanish Empire that would last ten years and cost Céspedes his life. But the uprising attracted its fair share of foreign volunteers, one of those was a New Yorker named Henry Reeve.
Reeve’s Civil War service left him a virulent abolitionist and the Spanish in Cuba were the most determined abusers of slaves left in the Western Hemisphere. When he heard about the anti-slavery, anti-Spanish uprising, he immediately left for Cuba. He arrived in 1869 but was quickly captured by the Spanish Army, who tried to execute Reeve and his group of volunteers. Reeve escaped and went on to be an integral part of an otherwise-failed uprising that came to be known as Cuba’s First War of Independence.
His units routinely outmatched the Spanish, often overcoming superior Spanish numbers with the boldness and dedication that an American combat veteran brings to any fight. By the time he jumped over an enemy artillery battery to end a battle, he earned a promotion to Brigadier General and was wounded more than 10 times. Reeve soon became known as “Enrique El Americano” and “El Inglesito” — the Little Englishman — and was placed among legendary Cuban freedom fighters Máximo Gómez and Ignacio Agramonte.
Reeve also participated in daring raids, most famously to rescue Cuban freedom fighter and Major General Julio Sanguilly from the Spanish. That battle pitted 36 Cuban riders against more than 120 Spanish troops. Reeve also led exploration columns into the jungle wilderness of Cuba and led vanguards of the rebel army’s 2nd division.
Like Cuba’s version of Baron Wilhelm Von Steuben, Reeve wore his U.S. Army uniform the entire time.
In 1876, Reeve and his staff were ambushed by the Spanish during their fateful invasion of the Western half of the island. He was unable to escape and, rather than being captured and tortured, he took his own life. It would take more than 20 years before Cuba saw independence from Spain, and even then, it required the help of the United States to unhook Spain from its cash cow.
Unit mottos are usually written in Latin and framed by the core values of the group.
The motto is like a mission statement and a battle cry in one. It also serves to boost morale and in some cases, to initiate fear in the enemy. To some, like Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, a motto is more than just a catchy phrase, it represents a unit’s work. In short, these are the words a unit lives by.
Here’s our list of the seven coolest unit mottos in the Air Force:
Motto: Kiai O Ka Lewa (Hawaiian for “Guardians of the Upper Realm”)
5th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, it’s one of the only two B-52H Stratofortress wings in the Air Force.
Motto: Mors Ab Alto (Latin for “Death from Above”)
7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.
Motto: Aut Vincere Aut Mors (Latin for “Conquer or Die”)
1st Fighter Wing: Stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, it’s the first operational wing flying the F-22A Raptor.
Motto: Attaquez et Conquerez (Latin for “Attack and Conquer”)
8th Fighter Wing: Stationed at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, the wing flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Motto: Tutor et Ultor (Latin for “Protector and Defender”)
49th Fighter Wing: Stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the wing flies the F-22 Raptor.
Motto: “Seek, Attack, Destroy”
52nd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, the unit is flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Motto: “Fire From The Clouds”
33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.
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.
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
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.
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.