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 CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 7th

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.

It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.

It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.


But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Not CID)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the best jungle warfare training sites in the Marines

Marines are known for their versatility in combat — we even flex that fact in our hymn, boasting that “we’ve fought in every clime and place.” One thing’s for sure, no matter where the enemy is, Marines will find a way there to punch ’em in the face — even if that place is a rainy, hot, unforgiving jungle.

But, like a professional sports team, we need a home field in which we can practice. To get our devil dogs ready to fight in the thick of the jungle, we’ve got a few sites where they can get the reps they need. These are the best of ’em:


Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

It also looks like a post-apocalyptic suburb, which is a plus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths)

Andersen South AFB — Guam

Once used by the Air Force, Andersen South is an abandoned housing base that the Marines now train in. Not only is the area filled with an extensive amount of jungle, there’re also plenty of buildings. This means you can combine jungle warfare with urban training in the same location. It’s the best place for force-on-force training, hands down.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

The jungle here isn’t that bad, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Bellows Air Force Station — Oahu, Hawai’i

Another space acquired from the Air Force, the base is mostly used for recreation. The Marines stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawai’i, however, use it as a training site for jungle patrols and land navigation.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Those in the Advanced Infantryman Course go here to enjoy the wrath of their instructors.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew Morris)

Kahuku Training Area — Oahu, Hawai’i

Kahuku Training Area features one of the best examples of jungle environments. This training area is home to a road referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” because of the rolling hills over which it spans. The jungle here is incredibly thick and it always rains. No, really. This isn’t some “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” sort of thing — it just always rains.

In addition to a lush jungle environment, Kahuku also includes some urban environments.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

This place also has some gnarly hills.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)

Camp Schwab — Okinawa, Japan

Even though it doesn’t seem very large and the Okinawan people protesting outside the front gate can make you feel a little unwelcome, Camp Schwab has some great training sites. Whether you want to sharpen your offensive tactics in the jungle or just do some good ol’ fashioned land nav, this base has plenty of space for both.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

You might even get to go and raid one of their tiny jungle villages.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. Jessica Etheridge)

Camp Gonsalves — Okinawa, Japan

Anything you can’t do at any of the other bases, you can definitely do here. This is home of the Jungle Warfare Training Center, so it’s not hard to figure out why Camp Gonsalves tops the list. Here, in addition to the jungle survival training, you can practice rappelling down a cliffside and learn what it really means to fight in a jungle.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also take part in mock raids on small, nearby villages, which is a fun, immersive experience. Also, because this place is used primarily for training purposes, it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your visit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How USNS Comfort went from a symbol of hope with the president’s blessing, to heading back from NYC having treated fewer than 180 patients

Earlier this week President Donald Trump announced he would be sending the Navy hospital ship Comfort home from New York City, cutting short a highly-touted but anticlimactic mission.

USNS Comfort arrived in New York City — the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak — on March 30 to aid the city’s hospitals by taking all of their non-coronavirus patients.


But it turned out that the city didn’t have many non-coronavirus patients to take, with only 20 patients were admitted to the 1,000-bed hospital ship in its first day. Meanwhile, New York City hospitals were still struggling to make space for a surge of patients.

The Comfort eventually reconfigured itself into a 500-bed ship to take coronavirus patients, but never came to reaching capacity — by April 21, it had treated just 179 people.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city no longer needed the ship, and the Comfort is now ready to sail home to Virginia for a new mission.

Scroll down for a timeline of the ship’s short-lived mission.

March 17: New York City was quickly becoming a hot zone in the US coronavirus outbreak. The US Navy dispatched one of its hospital ships, USNS Comfort, to aid the city’s overwhelmed medical centers.

During a March 17 press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying the Comfort to New York “before the end of this month.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the help as hospitals braced for a tidal wave of coronavirus patients.

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said the following day. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

The Comfort is a converted super tanker that the Navy uses to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Its prior postings had taken it to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and to New York City in 2001 to treat people injured in the September 11 attacks.

The ship includes 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and capacity for 1,000 beds. It is usually manned by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy medical and communications personnel.

March 29: President Trump saw off the Comfort as it left its port in Virginia to sail up to New York City. He remarked that it was a “70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York.”

Source: Military.com

March 30: The Comfort arrived in New York City the next day, a white beacon of hope for a city that had at the time seen more than 36,000 cases and 790 deaths. That number has since grown to more than 138,000 cases and 9,944 deaths.

Source: NYC Health

Throngs of New Yorkers broke stay-at-home orders to watch the massive former tanker come into port.

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Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort in New York City on April 20, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 2: The ship is up and running. The New York Times reported that it had accepted just 20 patients on its first day and that it wasn’t taking any coronavirus patients.

Michael Dowling, the head of New York’s largest hospital system, called the Comfort a “joke.” He told The Times: “It’s pretty ridiculous. If you’re not going to help us with the people we need help with, what’s the purpose?”

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Cmdr. Lori Cici, left, and Lt. Akneca Bumfield stand by for an inbound ambulance carrying a patient arriving for medical care aboard aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort on April 9.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider

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The crew of the comfort practice how to bring patients on board the ship after docking in New York City on March 31, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 6: Following the outrage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Trump for permission to let the ship take coronavirus patients.

Source: New York Post

Trump agreed and the Navy reconfigured the ship into a 500-bed hospital to space out patients and lower the risk of spreading the highly-infectious virus.

Source: CBS News

That same day, before the ship started taking coronavirus patients, a crew member tested positive for the disease. This is despite the fact that the crew was ordered to quarantine for two weeks before their departure.

That number grew to four in the following weeks. All of the sick crew members have since recovered and are back to work, a Navy spokesman later told The Virginian-Pilot.

Source: Business Insider

April 21: Even after moving to take coronavirus patients, the Comfort didn’t come close to reaching capacity — even as the city’s hospitals remained overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, the ship had treated a total of 179 patients.

During a meeting with the president, Cuomo said that New York no longer needed the Comfort and said it could be sent to a more hard-hit area.

Trump said he had taken Cuomo up on his offer and would recall the Comfort to its home port in Virginia, where it will prepare for its next posting. The new mission remains unclear.

Trump admitted during a White House briefing that part of the reason the ship was never put to much use in New York City was because its arrival coincided with the opening of a temporary hospital in the Javits convention center.

Source: Business Insider

April 24: The Comfort is still in port in New York City, even though Trump said it will be leaving as soon as possible.

Source: Business Insider, Maritime Traffic

Meanwhile, the situation in New York appears to be improving. Last Saturday Cuomo said New York may be “past the plateau” with hospitalizations on the decline. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’s seeing “real progress.”

Source: New York Times, New York Daily News

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Amazon CEO: ‘This is a great country and it does need to be defended’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s work with the American military, saying “this is a great country and it does need to be defended” — an implicit rebuke of Google over its decision to ditch US military contracts.

Speaking at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco, California on Oct. 15, 2018, the online retail giant’s chief exec strongly spoke out in support of the technology industry’s work for the American military even as some companies reconsider their stance on the practice.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.


The technology industry has been wrestling with its conscience in recent months as workers become increasingly politically active. Google employees revolted over a contract it held to analyze aerial drone imagery (Project Maven), leading the company to decide not to renew it. And a recent Medium post, purportedly by anonymous Microsoft employees, opposes the company’s bid for a billion Pentagon “JEDI” cloud computing contract, which Google has already opted not to bid for.

Amazon is also bidding for the JEDI contract — and unlike some of the other tech giants, it has no intention of backing out. When asked about the actions taken by Google and others, Bezos did not mention the rival company by name — but his remarks can be seen as a criticism of the company.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defense]. And I think we should,” Bezos said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me… One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision even when it’s unpopular. If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”

He added: “I like this country … know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics in this country and so on — this country is a gem. And it’s amazing. It’s the best place in the world. It’s the place where people want to come. There aren’t other countries where everyone is trying to get in. I’d let them in if it were up to me. I like them. I want all of them in.

“This is a great country and it does need to be defended. “

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

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


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

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

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

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

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

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

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

(U.S. Army)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

A team of six Air Force men and women bested the Army and Navy to capture the first-ever Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Final Battle held at Retama Park on the outskirts of San Antonio Nov. 17, 2018.

Capt. Mark Bishop of Air Mobility Command, Capt. Noah Palicia of Pacific Air Forces, Capt. Jennifer Wendland of Air Force Global Strike Command, 1st Lt. Stephanie Frye of PACAF, 1st Lt. John Novotny of AMC, and Senior Airman Stephanie Williams of U.S. Air Forces in Europe completed the course in 2:17:33 to win the championship, a 110-lb trophy and armed forces bragging rights for the next year.

Fashioned after the popular American Ninja Warrior TV competitions, Alpha Warrior tested the competitors’ strength, coordination and endurance through more than 20 obstacles.


The two-day event featured Air Force finals on Nov. 16, 2018, and the inter-service finals the next day. Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and the Air Force Services Activity hosted the event.

In kicking off the finals Nov. 17, 2018, Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander, talked about how teammates would pull each other through.

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Capt. Mark Bishop nears the end of the bridge obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

“These young soldiers, sailors, and airmen are going to push through this course and they’re going to get to a point somewhere where they think they can’t make it, and they’re going to get through it and their teammates are going to get them through it. In the end, someone will be the winner, but they’re all going to win together,” he said.

It wasn’t too surprising the previous day’s Air Force Final Battle first place male and female athletes, Palicia from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Williams from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, came out on top again in the individual category. Palicia finished with the overall fastest time at 16:57.9. Williams finished at 24:03.2.

“The competition was really tough but I’m really pumped that the Air Force is able to do this,” Palicia said. “It feels incredible to be part of the first inter-service battle.”

He said the team walkthroughs and understanding proper technique really helped them complete the obstacles.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bareng, who is no stranger to fitness programs, said the atmosphere motivated him.

“I wasn’t only getting motivated by my teammates but actually had Air Force and Army guys rooting me on,” he said. “It’s been one team-one fight mentality this whole time and it’s been inspiring to be alongside our sister services.”

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Senior Airman Stephanie Williams, women’s category winner, tackles the rings obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

The finals provided an opportunity for friendly competition while building camaraderie and esprit de corps among the competitors, said Army Sgt. Cameron Edwards.

“The event was challenging,” Edwards said. “It was the first event that I’ve been around Navy and Air Force together. It was a very unique time together. We competed not only against — but with — each other through the end.”

The program expanded from an Air Force-only event in 2017 to include Army and Navy competitors in its second season.

“This event has been a year in the making,” said Col. Donna Turner, AFSVA commander. “Airmen had to compete at the installation-level and regionals where the top two male and females were selected to compete in the Air Force Final Battle. The top six male and females moved on to our first inter-service battle.

“We have a phenomenal partnership with Alpha Warrior, to be able to bring this type of training and tactical fitness to our armed forces,” she said.

“This is the new way to train. This is functional fitness put into a complex environment where airmen have to think, as well as be fit and strong. We call it the revolution in fitness and this is the way of the future,” Spacy said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines tackle, subdue threatening passenger on long-haul flight

Three Marines who sprang into action to restrain a hostile and disruptive fellow passenger are now being recognized by their unit commanding officer for their bravery and quick thinking.

The incident happened Monday on a flight from Tokyo to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. The three North Carolina-based Marines, all assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, were Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt. They had been traveling back to the U.S. for various reasons, about halfway through a six-month Unit Deployment Program pump in Okinawa.


During the flight, according to a Marine Corps news release, a passenger barricaded himself inside one of the plane’s bathrooms and loudly began to make what officials described as threatening comments.

“While watching a movie during my flight from Japan to Texas, I started to hear screaming coming from the restroom on board,” Dietrick, an infantry assault section leader from Mechanicsville, Virginia, said in a statement. “When I took off my headphones, I heard a man sounding very distraught and screaming from the bathroom.”

The Marines then moved quickly, according to the release. While a flight attendant got the door unlocked, the three men grabbed the passenger and used flex ties to bind him. They took him back to a seat and stayed with him to make sure he remained restrained for the rest of the flight.

“I knew I had to step in when he became a danger to others and himself,” said Meinhardt, a mortarman from Sparta, Wisconsin. “I didn’t think twice about helping restrain him through the rest of the flight.”

Kult, an infantry officer from Coons Rapids, Iowa, credited the Marines’ quick, decisive actions to their training.

“We just assessed the situation and acted,” he said. “Working with the flight crew, we got the door open and from there worked together to subdue him. We didn’t take time to talk it over. We just got ready and did what we needed to help.”

In light of the episode, the plane was rerouted to the Los Angeles International Airport. The problem passenger was disembarked and sent to a mental health facility for evaluation, according to the release. The incident will be investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, officials said.

Of the bravery of the three Marines, their battalion commanding officer simply said he was not surprised.

“I happen to know all three of them, two of them well, and they are all what I would call ‘men of action,'” Lt. Col. Chris Niedziocha, commander of 1/6, said in a statement. “I’m continually amazed by and grateful for the people we have in this battalion.”

It’s not the first time U.S. service members in transit have jumped into action to prevent a disaster. Perhaps most famously, a soldier and an airman traveling on a train in France in 2015 helped to avert a terror attack — and were eventually awarded honorary French citizenship in thanks for their efforts.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines may get new tropical uniform in time for summer heat

The Marine Corps is preparing to select a maker for the service’s new tropical uniform for hot and humid climates.

The Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform is a rapid-dry, breathable uniform to be worn for prolonged periods in wet, jungle environments as an alternative to the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and the Marine Corps Combat Boot. This month, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), published a request for proposals to industry to manufacture the uniforms, with plans to get them into troops’ hands by the final quarter of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.


“This new tropical uniform allows Marines to be more comfortable and less fatigued while focusing on the mission at hand,” Lou Curcio, MCSC’s tropical uniform project officer, said in the release.

The tropical uniform effort is a result of the U.S. military’s increased emphasis on the Pacific region in an effort to prepare for a potential war with China. The Army finalized the design for its Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform last year.

The trousers and blouse of the new uniform will be made of the same 50/50 cotton-nylon blend as the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and features the same camouflage pattern, the release states. The fabric will also be treated with permethrin to provide protection from insects.

The difference is in the weave and weight, resulting in a lighter material that dries more quickly, according to the release.

Hundreds of Marines participated in various user evaluations from June to September 2017 to assess the fit and durability of a prototype tropical uniform that’s designed to dry faster and keep Marines cooler in warm climates, the release adds.

“Many Marines said the [uniform] feels like pajamas, appreciating how lightweight it is,” Curcio in the release. “They also noted how quickly the uniform dries upon getting wet.”

The boots, awarded on a separate contract, are also lightweight, with self-cleaning soles to improve mobility in a tropical environment, the release states. They are more than a pound lighter than the current Marine Corps boot.

Marine Corps Systems Command awarded two contracts in August for up to 140,000 total pairs of tropical boots, according to Monique Randolph, spokeswoman for MCSC.

One contract worth up to .1 million went to Atlantic Diving Supply Inc., for up to 70,000 pairs of Rocky brand tropical boots, and a contract worth up to .7 million went to Provengo LLC for up to 70,000 pairs of Danner brand tropical boots, Randolph said.

The Corps plans to purchase 70,000 sets of the new tropical uniforms to support the fleet training or operating in tropical climates, the release states, adding that the MCSC procured more than 10,000 sets of blouses and trousers under a manufacturing and development effort.

Based on January 2020 market research and responses to a November 2019 request for information, the Marine Corps estimates it should see a potential cost reduction of up to 60% per uniform, the release adds.

“[The tropical uniform] will bring many advantages during training and combat in tropical environments,” Curcio said in the release. “For all the sacrifices and challenges they endure, Marines deserve a uniform like this one.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Amazon is tackling the veteran unemployment problem

By 2021, Amazon has pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. military veterans across all of its operations. More than that, they are also dedicated to hiring veterans reservists, spouses, and family members – regardless of rank or military specialty. These “Amazon Warriors” as the company calls them, come to Amazon through a number of programs, each focused on a different aspect of veterans’ lives. This includes wounded warriors, active and transitioning veterans, student vets, and more.


You can catch Amazon and its employees active in all area of veteran culture, from the Old Glory Relay to RED Fridays and even doing 22 pushups every day. Amazon even partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs to create certification programs for vets with no costs.

One of Amazon’s best programs is an employment plan for wounded vets designed to fill skill gaps due to service-related wounds, injuries, and illnesses. Through education, advocacy, and training for wounded warriors, this one-of-a-kind program seeks America’s wounded vets to show the world the possibilities and potential these prior-service workers still have.

Amazon also launched the Amazon Military Leaders Program in an effort to find innovative, experienced talent to transition from military service and into the senior leadership at Amazon. It just makes sense – in order to fill the most necessary roles at the top of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies, Amazon wants to look for those people who volunteered for some of the most dangerous and critical jobs out there.

This company also goes above and beyond for National Guardsmen and Reservists who are activated or called away to training. Not only does the company ensure the member has job when they come back, as required by law, Amazon seeks to place the employee in a role they would have worked if they had never left their Amazon job at all. What’s more, if the pay the military member receives from serving is significantly less than their Amazon pay, Amazon will make up the difference.

“There are veterans and active duty service members from the Guard and Reserve at every level of the company,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon Web Services’ Vice-President of Talent Acquisition, who also happens to be a former Army officer. “That population, that community, makes it really easy for us to not only do the right thing but also do what we say we will do.”

When Amazon isn’t hiring veterans and preparing service members for their post-military careers, they are supporting other organizations with the same intent, mission, and drive. Amazon is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day business development and networking event that brings together non-profit startup accelerators geared toward vet-owned businesses, successful veteran entrepreneurs, and like-minded veterans who are looking to change their lives by starting their own enterprises.

To learn more about what Amazon is doing for veterans in terms of training and employment, check out Amazon’s military page. To learn more about the Military Influencer Conference, check out the speakers list, or find a Military Influencer Conference close to you, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com and take a look around. It could be the first step to an entrepreneurial career.

Articles

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

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Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

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Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

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Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

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Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

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Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

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