Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.

Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.


“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.

At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.

Pay off your loans faster

At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.

Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.

Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.

Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.

Continue your education

Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.

We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.

Enjoy other generous benefits

In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.

Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.

Other perks include:

  • Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
  • Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
  • A robust federal retirement package.

Work at VA

Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Saddam Hussein buried Iraq’s air force in the desert

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 looking for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, American troops found a lot of bizarre things – toilets and guns made of gold, a Koran written in blood and Saddam’s romance novel. While they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, they did manage to find some weapons. Specifically, they found aircraft buried in the sand next to a perfectly good airfield.


Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
Iraqi Freedom

One day in 2003, American forces near al-Taqqadum Air Base in Iraq began pulling scores of Mig-25 Foxbat fighters and SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers out of the sand. The aircraft were missing wings but, for the most part, remained fairly well-kept despite being in the sand for who-knows-how-long. If Saddam wasn’t giving inoperable planes a good burial, one wonders why he would intentionally put his planes in the ground.

The answer starts with the fact that the Iraqi Air Force sucked at defending Iraqi airspace.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

But they were suuuuuuper good at bolting to other countries to escape the enemy.

In the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until the late 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force could reasonably hold its own against the superior U.S.- bought aircraft flown by the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time. But Iranian fighter pilots were very, very good and Iraqi pilots usually had to flee the skies before the onslaught of Iranian F-14 Tomcats. Against other Middle Eastern powers, however, Saddam Hussein’s air power could actually make a difference in the fighting – but that’s just against Middle Eastern countries. The United States was another matter.

Iraqi pilots were ready to go defend their homeland from the U.S.-led invasion, but the Iraqi dictator would have none of it. He knew what American technology could do to his aircraft, especially now that the U.S. was flying the F-22. They would get torn to shreds. He also remembered what his pilots did in the first Gulf War when sent to defend the homeland. They flew their fighters to the relative safety of Iran rather than face annihilation, and Iran never gave them back.

Saddam wanted his air force. So he decided to keep them all safe.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(US Air Force)

At al-Taqqadum and al-Asad air bases, the dictator ordered that his most advanced fighters be stripped and buried in the sand near the airfields. In retrospect, this was probably a good decision for the aircraft. Whatever was left unburied was quickly and forcibly dismantled by the U.S. Air Force on the ground during the invasion. In trying to fight off the Coalition of the Willing, Iraq’s air forces all but disappeared.

Saddam hoped that by saving the aircraft in the sand, he could prevent their destruction and when he was ready (because he assumed he would still be in power after all was said and done), he could unbury them and use their advanced status to terrify his enemies and neighbors.

That, of course, didn’t happen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out awesome National Guard photos on its 382nd birthday

The National Guard, a unique part of the American military, traces its origins to the birth of the first organized colonial militia regiments on December 13, 1636.

The Guard, which includes some of the oldest units in the US military, is a reserve component that can be called up on a moment’s notice to respond to domestic emergencies or participate in overseas combat missions.



Happy 382nd Birthday, National Guard!

www.facebook.com

These 11 stunning photos from the past year show the Guard in action — dealing with fires, hurricanes, volcanoes, and more.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a C-130 Hercules plane modified for fire-fighting efforts, releases fire retardant over Shasta County, California, during the Carr Fire in early August 2018.

(California National Guard)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Florida National Guard photo by David Sterphone)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(North Carolina National Guard)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Florida National Guard)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Oregon Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Photo Composite by SSG Brendan Stephens, NC National Guard Public Affairs)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept. of Defense)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

11. An Idaho Army National Guard sniper, from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, practices his skills during the platoon’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center on June 8, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASCAR’s Jesse Iwuji is having the best week ever

We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.

As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.

Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.


In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.

Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:

Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations

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Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.

He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.

Then his pursuit of his dream took off.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America – Jesse Iwuji

www.youtube.com

Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.

From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.

Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.

Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.

Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army considering getting rid of boats that take troops and tanks into battle

Ground combat is the US Army’s main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.

That’s why the Army’s plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.


“The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defense, decided the Army Reserve would divest “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget.

Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, center, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 6, 2019.

(Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support Brigade)

The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure” — nearly 80% of its force.

The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.

(US Navy/Gregg Smith)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.

(US Navy/Gregg Smith)

Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army’s roughly 130 watercraft were halted.

Before the auction was taken down, a id=”listicle-2640238370″ million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost million to construct.

Source: The Drive

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Army mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.

Source: gCaptain

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.

Source: Military.com

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Army Reserve mariners return to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam aboard Army Logistic Support Vessel SSGT Robert T. Kuroda off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, June 6, 2015.

(Sgt. 1st Class Julio Nieves/US Army)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Army mariners embarked on a multiday transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A crew member of the US Army Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross shoots a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun during range qualifications in the Persian Arabian Gulf, March 13, 2019.

(US Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photos of snipers on high-angle shoots

Military snipers from several NATO countries recently practiced high-angle shooting in the Austrian Alps.

Snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, the United States, and other NATO countries practiced the shooting from Sept. 9-14 at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area.

“High-angle shooting is when you shoot further than 300 meters at angles greater than 15 degrees,” Lt. Alexander Rishovd, a sniper instructor assigned to the Norwegian Army Land Warfare Centre, said.

“Imagine the whole shooting process being a triangle and the sniper is on top, the line of sight to the target at the other end is greater than the distance the bullet travels in a flat line,” Rishovd said. “With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.”

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Austrian packhorses haul equipment up to a high-angle range on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Multinational snipers hike to the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

And the training taught the soldiers how to pack lightly.

“With a sniper rifle and sometimes two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, spotting scope and night optics, mountaineering gear, sleep system, and water and food, your pack easily gets over 40 kilos,” one Belgian special forces soldier said.

“It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.”

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A US Army sniper team from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment engages targets uphill of their position on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After ascending to the range, they started the high-angle shooting.

“Each degree of angle will have an associated number value called its cosine,” Rishovd said.

“For snipers shooting at high-angles they need to measure the range to the target in line of sight and multiply it by the cosine [to] get the actual range the bullet is going to fly. Then the sniper will set his bullet drop compensation from that distance.”

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Dutch sniper engages targets below in a valley on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Italian snipers from the 4th Alpini Regiment engage targets uphill of their position on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Slovakian special operations sniper engages targets uphill of his position as smoke in the foreground is used to indicate wind speed and direction on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Belgian special operations sniper takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

“The calculations are not very difficult,” one Belgian Special Forces soldier said. “The challenge is the shooting positions.”

“To aim at targets that are at odd angle requires getting into difficult and sometimes unstable and uncomfortable positions,” he continued. “It is also difficult for the spotter to get a good line of sight. The further out you shoot the more the angle and other factors effects your shot. Operationally it is one of the most commonly used skills, so it is good to refine them here.”

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper and a US Army sniper run back to their rifles during a stress shoot competition on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

They even practiced “stress shoots,” which test a soldier’s physical fitness and firearms training together to replicate a combat situation.

You can read more about stress shoots here.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper engages a target using a night vision optics while a US Army sniper from 2nd Cavalry Regiment acts as a spotter Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Snipers from different countries were paired together too.

“Each country has its own tactics, techniques and procedures,” an unnamed US Army Special Forces sniper instructor said. “When we pair snipers from different countries together, or have them compete against each other, they are able to compare and see what works best.”

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Multinational snipers begin their descent down from the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After the training sessions, the snipers hiked back down from the high-angle range.

“It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles,” US Army Staff Sgt. Ryen Funk said. “We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some people have a problem with Lincoln’s quote as the VA motto

An annual membership survey from the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) showed that less than half of surveyed members support a more gender-neutral version of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ iconic motto: “To care for him care who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

The survey of about 4,600 IAVA members showed that 46 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported changing the motto taken from Abraham Lincoln’s majestic Second Inaugural Address.


About 30 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed changing the motto, while 24 percent were neutral on the issue.

In October 2018, the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, backed by IAVA, the Service Women’s Action Network, and the NYC Veterans Alliance, petitioned the VA to change the motto.

“The current VA motto is gendered and exclusionary, relegating women veterans to the fringes of veteran communities,” the petition stated.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

“The time to act is now,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA, said in a statement when the petition was filed.

Changing the motto would make “a powerful commitment to creating a culture that acknowledges and respects the service and sacrifices of women veterans,” Rieckhoff said.

November 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-New York, introduced a bill that would change the motto to read: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”

Another replacement motto suggested by advocacy groups would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

A VA spokesman has repeatedly said that the petition will be reviewed, but there are no current plans to change the motto.

Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural on the steps of the Capitol on March 4, 1865, in the waning days of the Civil War and about a month before he was assassinated. John Wilkes Booth, his assassin, was in the audience.

Lincoln’s closing words were: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coffee or Die’s very unbiased 2019 holiday gift guide

We don’t mean to alarm you, but Christmas is right around the corner. We know many of you are out there defending our freedoms on the streets of U.S. cities or in foreign countries, which makes it easy to lose track of the holidays. At Coffee or Die, we understand that time is a valuable commodity, so we took the liberty of highlighting some must-have items (coffee!) from badass companies (Black Rifle Coffee Company!) that should satisfy everyone on your list (everyone!).

Save the sweat for when your New Year’s resolution kicks in — here’s our easy-to-follow holiday gift guide.


Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

BRCC Holiday Bundle

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like an image of America’s rifle decked out in twinkle lights and a hot cup of America’s coffee in a freedom-loving mug. There are other holiday coffee packages, but we can pretty much guarantee that if your loved one opens up anything besides the BRCC Holiday Bundle, they’ll be disappointed. Don’t be that guy. BRCC, or die.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Photo courtesy of Beyond Clothing Facebook page.)

Prima Loche Reversible Jacket from Beyond Clothing

For the outdoor enthusiast, staying warm in an outlayer that can withstand extreme activity is a must. Beyond Clothing has all the options for the adventure-seekers on your holiday shopping list. The Prima Loche Jacket is made of 70-denier quilted micro ripstop with durable water repellent (DWR) finish to withstand the elements. It’s also fully reversible, compressible for easy packing, and features a sweat-wicking Poloratec Alpha Insulation.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Photo courtesy of @wrm.fzt on Instagram.)

Wrm.fzy “Cowboy Advice” Tee

Our friends over at WRMFZY make some of the most unique lifestyle apparel around, with something for the whole family including kids tees and bodysuits. All of their shirts are made from 50 percent polyester, 25 percent ring-spun combed cotton, and 25 percent rayon for maximum comfort. One of our favorites is the “Cowboy Advice” Tee.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Mat Best, center, on deployment. Photo courtesy of Mat Best.)

Books by Army Rangers

Contrary to popular belief, U.S. Army Rangers are capable of stringing words together to form coherent — and even intelligible — sentences. Need proof?

This year, Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder and vice president Mat Best added “best-selling author” to his impressive resume with the release of “Thank You For My Service.” The memoir topped several best-seller lists, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal. Best’s timely memoir provides fresh insight into the minds of the men and women on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. But don’t worry, this is still Mat Best we’re talking about — you’ll also be laughing your ass off.

Luke Ryan, BRCC’s social media manager, has also authored a book — or three. The former Army Ranger currently has three books available: “The Gun and the Scythe: Poetry by an Army Ranger,” “The Eighth: A Short Story,” and “The First Marauder,” which is the first installment of a three-part series. “The First Marauder” is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. after a deadly virus wreaks havoc on the planet. The story follows Tyler Ballard, a 15-year-old boy who seeks revenge for the death of his older brother. “The Gun and the Scythe” is a poetry book written for veterans, and it explores various facets of war in a way simple narratives cannot.

Coffee or Die executive editor Marty Skovlund Jr. has also been known to put pen to paper occasionally, and his seminal work makes a worthy addition to anyone’s library. “Violence of Action” is much more than the true, first-person accounts of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Global War on Terror. Between these pages are the heartfelt, first-hand accounts from, and about, the men who lived, fought, and died for their country, their Regiment, and each other.

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(Jack Carr’s “The Terminal List” was released in 2018; “True Believer” in July 2019.)

… and a book by a Navy SEAL

Former U.S. Navy SEAL sniper and author Jack Carr has written books so badass that even Chuck Norris can’t put them down. Jack Carr uses his 20-plus years of experience operating as a Navy SEAL to write some of the most thrilling fiction books we’ve ever read. Protagonist James Reece is on a quest for vengeance after he discovers that the ambush that claimed the lives of his SEAL team and the murder of his wife and daughters was all part of a conspiracy. The first two installments, “The Terminal List” and “True Believer,” will have you on the edge of your seat. If you can’t get enough of James Reece, Carr’s third book, “Savage Son,” is coming in April 2020.

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(Photo courtesy of Evers Forgeworks.)

The Maverick EDC from Evers Forgeworks

For the true blade lover in your life, check out Evers Forgeworks. Veteran John Evers has a passion for all things with a blade, which is apparent in his work. His hand-forged blades are as functional as they are beautiful. We are particularly impressed with the Maverick EDC, which is the perfect blade to add to your battle or duty belt, and the Maverick Hunter — fast, lightweight, and ready to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.

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(Photo courtesy of Activision.)

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” Reboot

The anticipated reboot of the popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” video game was released in October and features new characters, new storylines that are eerily similar to real-world events, and new play modes. Developers Infinity Ward brought in Tier 1 operators to consult on the game, upping the realism and exciting for players. This is a no-brainer for the FPS gamer on your holiday shopping list.

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(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International Facebook page.)

A Kifaru International Woobie

The USGI poncho liner (woobie) is quite possibly the most popular piece of government-issued equipment on the planet. And it’s basically a baby blanket for some of our nation’s most hardened warriors. Kifaru International took this fan favorite and enhanced it to meet their demanding standards. With their proprietary RhinoSkin coating with DWR for water resistance, this woobie‘s durability is unmatched. Their Apex insulation is a continuous filament that requires no quilting, unlike the USGI version. This lack of quilting or stitching anywhere but the edges eliminates cold spots. We never leave home without ours.

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(Photo courtesy of Combat Flip Flops Facebook page.)

The Shemagh from Combat Flip Flops

Combat Flip Flops has a righteous reputation for their durable products and mindful philanthropy. While their signature product makes a great gift, this time of year isn’t exactly flip flop season in many parts of the country. The shemagh (square scarf), however, is a versatile item that can be used in many different environments. It’s perfect for that person on your list who is always looking for new and unique accessories — or is always cold.

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(Photo courtesy of High West Distillery Facebook page.)

A bottle of High West Whiskey

For the whiskey connoisseur, our friends at High West Distillery have something for everyone. From American Prairie Bourbon to Double Rye to Rendezvous Rye to Campfire — which is a blend of scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys — there are plenty of options, and they’re all good. You may even inspire the recipient to visit the distillery in Park City, Utah, for a tour. While they’re there, they can also stop at the saloon or the Nelson Cottage, which offers coursed dinners and whiskey pairings.

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(Courtesy of STI International’s Facebook page.)

STI Staccato C pistol

STI pistols are made in America with their own unique pistol platform called the 2011. Every STI handgun is backed by a lifetime warranty and unmatched performance. We recommend the Staccato C for the everyday carrier in your life — it contains all the speed, power, and accuracy that STI is known for in a compact, easy, and comfortable-to-carry firearm.

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(Photo courtesy of Bison Union.)

Bison Union 16-oz. Buffalo Mug

Bison Union is a veteran-owned company that started out making awesome T-shirts but have added other products to their lineup over the years — like this no-nonsense 16-ounce Buffalo Mug. Each mug is handmade in Sheridan, Wyoming, by a friend of the company, who also happens to be the mother of a U.S. Army veteran. From their website, “At Bison Union Company we firmly believe coffee is one of the best ingredients for hard work each day… so stop talking and earn your coffee!”

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(Photo courtesy of Sitka Gear.)

Kelvin Active Jacket from Sitka Gear

Sitka’s motto — “Turning Clothing into Gear” — holds true in every piece that we have worn. Sitka makes the most highly functional technical hunting clothing we have ever used. One of our favorite pieces is the Kelvin Active Jacket, which can be used as a quiet outlayer to ease the chill on mild mornings or as an insulating layer in frigid temps. It’s lightweight and easily compressible, so it won’t take up much space in your pack. If you’re shopping for an outdoorsman, you can not go wrong with anything from Sitka.

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The Mission Flannel contributes to helping our furry friends find forever homes.

(Photo courtesy of Dixxon Flannel Facebook page.)

Dixxon Flannel’s Mission K-9 Charity Flannel

Check out the BRCC office on any given day of the week and there’s a good chance you’ll catch someone in Dixxon Flannel. Their flannels feature their signature D-TECH material, which makes them breathable yet durable and minimizes wrinkling. Dixxon Flannel offers apparel for men, women, and children — flannel for the whole family! Plus the Mission K-9 Charity Flannel supports an incredibly worthy cause.

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(Photo courtesy of Traeger.)

Traeger Signature BBQ Sauce

Specialty food items are a great go-to gift during the holidays. Need to fill a stocking? Need a host gift? Need to get something small for that ” or less” office gift exchange? There are plenty of options, but we like the idea of gifting something that requires a little more thought than a bottle of wine or meat-and-cheese box. In addition to their cooking implements, Traeger has a whole line of delicious sauces. We like to start with the Signature BBQ Sauce since it has the most broad appeal. If the recipient is a backyard pitmaster you know and love, there are also sweet and spicy options, depending on their taste … or you could just, you know, pony up the money to buy them a badass grill.

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

BRCC Coffee Club subscription

The gift that keeps on giving, BRCC’s Coffee Club delivers high-quality coffee delivered to your door each month at a discounted rate and with free shipping. The Club keeps it simple — just choose whether you’re purchasing for home or office, pick a texture (ground, whole bean, or rounds), select your blend (or let us choose it for you!), the number of bags, and the frequency of delivery. Done! Coffee equals love, so if you really love someone, you should make sure they never run out of America’s Coffee again.

Nonprofit gifting

Want to buy awesome gifts for a loved one but also support a great cause? Check out these BRCC-favorite nonprofit store items:

Or maybe you just want to make a donation in someone’s name because they already have way more than they need and, let’s be honest, it’s just easier that way? We’re here for that, too.

Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany might be considering a nuclear bomb

President Donald Trump’s relationship with Europe has been characterized by him attacking NATO for what he perceives as failures to meet the defense-spending goals alliance members have agreed to work toward.

A consequence of this newly contentious relationship is more interest in Europe in domestic defense capacity. In Germany, that interest is going nuclear.


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(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

At the end of July, prominent German political scientist Christian Hacke wrote an essay in Welt am Sonntag, one of the country’s largest Sunday newspapers, arguing Germany needed to respond to uncertainty about US commitment to defending European allies by developing its own nuclear capability.

“For the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is no longer under the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella,” Hacke argued, according to Politico Europe.

“National defense on the basis of a nuclear deterrent must be given priority in light of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations,” Hacke said. Divergent interests among Germany’s neighbors made the prospect of a joint European response “illusory,” he added.

Hacke is not the first in Germany to suggest longstanding ties with the US have fundamentally changed.

In June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Europeans “need a balanced partnership with the US … where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.” Maas compared Trump’s “America First” policies to the policies of Russia and China.

While concern about Trump is very real, Germany is treaty-bound not to develop nuclear weapons, and discussions of doing so are seen as little more than talk.

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

(Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Germany developing nuclear military capability, a nuclear weapon, a nuclear deterrent, will never be in the cards ever,” said Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“Things nuclear are always hot in Germany,” said Townsend, who spent eight years as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy. “This is not something that’s going to change and all of a sudden the Germans are going to think seriously about developing a nuclear capability. That’s just not going to happen.”

Others in Germany were also dismissive.

Journalist and defense expert Christian Thiels described the discussion as “a totally phony debate” and referred to Hacke’s argument as a “very individual opinion.” The same question was discussed “by very few think-tankers media people one year ago,” he added, “to zero effect.”

Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German ambassador to the US, argued that Germany’s pursuit of nuclear weapons would set an undesirable precedent.

“If Germany was to relinquish its status as a non-nuclear power, what would prevent Turkey or Poland, for example, from following suit?” he wrote in a response to Hacke. “Germany as the gravedigger of the international non-proliferation regime? Who can want that?”

German plans to phase out nuclear energy likely preclude the development of nuclear weapons, Townsend said, and, as noted by Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in Germany, politicians who can’t convince Germans to support spending 2% of GDP on defense are unlikely to win backing for nuclear weapons.

This is not the first round of this debate.

Not long after Trump’s election, European officials — including a German lawmaker who was foreign-policy spokesman for the governing party — suggested French and British nuclear arsenals could be repurposed to defend the rest of the continent under a joint command with common funding or defense doctrine.

In mid-2017, a review commissioned by Germany’s parliament found Berlin could legally finance another European country’s nuclear weapons in return for protection.

There have been suggestions that “what Europe should do is depend on the French, the French nuclear capability, and the Germans pay into that and thereby kind of fall under the French nuclear umbrella,” Townsend said.

“Well, that’s not going to happen either,” he added. “As cool as it sounds for a think-tank discussion, in reality the French would never do that.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has advocated closer defense cooperation between France and Germany, but Paris has in the past expressed reservations about ceding control of its nuclear weapons. (The UK’s plans to exit the EU complicate its role in any such plan.)

Townsend said the debate was unnecessary, given that its premise — the loss of US nuclear deterrence — was unfounded.

“Trump notwithstanding, the US nuclear guarantee is not going anywhere,” he said. “No matter where we might be domestically as we talk about Europe or as we talk about NATO, we’re not going. Our nuclear guarantee is going to be there.”

But Trump has changed the way Europe thinks about its defense. Some welcome discussion of Germany acquiring nuclear capability, even if they don’t support it.

Ulrich Speck, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said on Twitter that while he didn’t favor “Germany becoming a nuclear state,” he did believe “there is a debate looming with the many question marks over the US with Trump, and that it’s better to have the debate. Germany needs to think through nuclear deterrence.”

“It’s crucial for Germany and Europe that we have a strategic debate,” Ulrike Franke, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico Europe. “What Germany is slowly realizing is that the general structure of the European security system is not prepared for the future.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

In service of humanity: Pet Appreciation Week

These special dogs that serve on the front lines in warfare, search for drugs, explosives, and capture dangerous individuals are primarily Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Czech Shepherds, and Dutch Shepherds. These breeds are chosen for their speed, strength, and ability to perform incredible nose work for search.

They work for our Military, Private Contractors, Law Enforcement, TSA, Border Patrol, Prisons and other entities, yet wherever they work, the scope of what they do is the same and they give tirelessly of themselves.


Their service can span up to 12 years and some working dogs can have as many as four handlers in their career. When they retire, it’s a given that they are wanted by those they worked beside for so long.

When these dogs retire it can be hard for the handlers to afford the cost of transportation home for their best friend and partners. Flights from places like Afghanistan can exceed $3000 and once home there is no “retirement” fund for veterinary care. It’s all on the handler to provide.

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That’s where Mission K9 Rescue comes in. Since 2013 the Houston based organization has rescued almost 1000 working dogs, reunited over 600 with former handlers, and paid out over id=”listicle-2646195386″,000,000 in veterinary care!

You can feel the joy in their work and especially in the recent reunion in San Antonio, Tx of MWD Iskra and her handler, Jake. For those that wonder, “Iskra” is the Russian word for “Spark”.

Jake met Iskra in February 2016. He said it took them a few weeks to bond, but when they did they were inseparable! They were certified in three months and then went to Explosive Detection School as a team. After training the pair traveled and worked in New York, Jerusalem, and Sicily. Soon after, the pair was deployed to Iraq where they spent the balance of their time together in Baghdad. Jake said that Iskra worked tirelessly and gave him all the love in the world.

After coming home, Jake was reassigned and had to say goodbye to his best friend. He hoped one day to be able to adopt Iskra when she retired, to continue the bond they shared. His joy was made complete when he learned that she was ready to retire and that Mission K9 Rescue would be making the reunion possible.

The reunion photos are all you need to see the love and bond that these two partners share. We owe a debt of appreciation and gratitude to working dogs and the humans they serve.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a WW2 peace treaty

When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.

He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.


A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”

But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.

‘Inherent part of Japan’

For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.

Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

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Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”

“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”

For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.

Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.

When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.

What comes first?

After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.

Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.

“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.

“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”

Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”

Generosity not popular

At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.

An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.

Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan

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Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.

“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”

In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”

Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.

“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”

In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”

In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.

“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”

The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.

“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”

Also read: Yes, Japan and Russia are technically still at war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The possible connection between defense cuts and deadly accidents

A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.

The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.


The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.

Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.

Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”

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A crashed CH-53 on the island of Okinawa, Japan.
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)

Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.

In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.

For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.

The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”

President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.

“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.

“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.