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.
Six years ago, Austin, Texas, dad Eric Scott had a good job in fundraising and arts event production. He loved the work, but it was a stressful, demanding job that regularly required him to put in 15- to 18-hour days. One day, Scott came home to his then six-year-old daughter. She looked at him very matter-of-factly and said, “Some days it’s like you’re not my Daddy.”
“She didn’t mean to be cruel,” says Scott. “She was just sharing her observation, as children sometimes so brutally do.” But Scott was devastated; the next day, he started looking for a new job.
Working long, demanding hours can affect a parent’s ability to, well, parent. But getting an accurate picture of how a parent’s work life affects kids’ health might be more complex — and the effects could be physical in addition to emotional, new research suggests.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, parents in high-stress jobs in which they had “low autonomy” – meaning they didn’t have freedom to make decisions about how they do their jobs – tended to have children who felt less healthy.
(Flickr photo by mrhayata)
The researchers solicited self-reported data from Nigerian kids, mostly 13 to 15 years old, and their parents. It didn’t matter whether the parents made a lot of money or very little, the authors wrote. The strongest correlation was between parents who had demanding jobs with little freedom and kids who most identified with statements such as “My health is worse now than it was last year” and “Sometimes I feel like my health keeps me from doing something I want to do.”
It takes more resources to regulate behavior in demanding, low-autonomy jobs, says co-lead author Christiane Spitzmueller, Ph.D., professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston. If someone’s job depletes those resources, Spitzmueller says, they’re less able to engage in behavior that requires “sustained effort,” such as parenting.
“Generally, there’s a relationship where the more work stressthere is, the more likely there is to be work-family conflict, where you feel like work is negatively impacting your family,” Spitzmueller says. “Parents who feel depleted tend to want to plop on the couch after work and not do anything active or try to steward kids to engage in positive behaviors.”
Positive behaviors include cooking a meal together, going for a walk, or working on a game or puzzle, she says. Problems can arise, on the other hand, with “passive parenting”: Bringing home take-out or staring at a phone while the kid is entertained by the TV or an iPad doesn’t allow for the kind of engagement that tends to enrich kids.
Psychologists have been studying the effects of parental stress on kids’ mental health for several decades. Studies have linked fathers’ behavior with emotional problems in their children; another study published in 2007 found that marital stress affected teens’ emotional development; and a study of low-income families published the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychologyin 2008 concluded that boys with depressed mothers were more prone to antisocial behavior such as aggression.
(Flickr photo by Vincent Albanese)
But researchers are just starting to explore how parental stress might affect kids’ physical health, too. In another new study, German researchers concluded that stressed mothers were more likely to have infants that were obese. Work demands more of people than it ever did before. The majority of modern workers pull longer hours than ever before and the boundaries between the office and home become more blurry by the day, making it harder to disconnect from the demands of a job. As stress from work bleeds into home life, it’s no wonder a correlation is forming.
At this point, however, it’s probably too soon for parents to begin worrying that their stressful job might make kids sick.
“Could I imagine that, depending on how a child’s treated by a parent on a regular basis, it could have an impact on the child’s health? Sure,” says Matt Traube, MFT, a psychotherapist in San Luis Obispo, California. “But it’s a tricky thing to measure because there are so many factors mitigating how people deal with stress. At this point I would just say, ‘It’s a neat idea — how do we further study it?'”
Although there’s been a trove of published research about stress, the effects of autonomy are less understood, Traube says. “When people feel they don’t have control, that has historically been tied to dissatisfaction at work.”
Feeling as though someone doesn’t have a sense of agency at work can be draining and emotionally exhausting, he continues. “It can affect your self-esteem and start to shape how you view yourself as a parent.”
Another, perhaps simpler, way to look at it is in terms of value rather than autonomy, says Tom Kearns, LMSW, a counselor in New York City and the mental health advisor for the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Flickr photo by whereugotthat)
“If he’s in a workplace where he feels valued, that has a positive impact on his ability to connect and relate to and have patience with his child,” Kearns says. “But if he’s overlooked at meetings, or not included in a meeting or lunch with co-workers, it can make him feel not a part of something, and that can make him feel isolated.”
A father might compensate for the frustration he feels at his job ruling his kids with a heavier hand at home, putting strict and less healthy demands on them to create a sort of “value” for himself, Kearns adds. Feeling isolated also can make dads withdraw at home.
“Even if he’s present, he might not engage with the child if he’s not feeling valued himself,” Kearns says. “The child picks up on this, and it has the effect of the kid longing for something that’s not there. Or the kid might think he or she is to blame for the father not being more attentive.”
So, it might sound, at this point, like an impossibility to hold down a challenging, stimulating job without screwing up your child for life. It’s not. It does, however, require that people take stock of how their career might be affecting their kids and that they make sure to take care of themselves, too.
“Knowing when to focus on your job or your family, and how to deal with the rejected party gracefully, may be the essence of being a working parent,” says Scott, who still works in the nonprofit sector but now as a marketing director with less intense hours. “And it’s easy to place the blame for this on your job or your employer, but I think parents have to take ownership of our part in this.”
Scott points out that sometimes it’s just easier to deal with work than to deal with your kids, although parents might tell themselves that they “have to” answer that email, for example, or put in another hour of work after dinner.
“Your work is straightforward: You have defined responsibilities and expectations, and, usually, you can evaluate your success easily,” says Scott. “You have a level of control that you simply do not have with parenting. Parenting can be a total mind scramble, where success can look like failure and vice-versa, and I think some people retreat into their work as an escape.”
If a parent’s job is unfulfilling for whatever reason, they might want to move on like Scott did. But if they’re stuck for the moment and feeling undervalued at their job, they do have to check that before they walk through the door to make sure that when they’re home, they’re in a good space for their child, Kearns says.
(Flickr photo by J E Theriot)
Self-awareness, per Kearns, is key. “Also ask yourself, How does this connect historically into my family? and Am I doing the kinds of things I saw my father do when he came home from work?” he suggests. Without some reflection and awareness, people tend to repeat negative patterns of behavior even when they don’t want to.
Of course, most parents want to be engaged as much as they’re able. But it’s impossible to be the perfect “on” parent all the time.
Although he overhauled his career to make sure he was more present for his daughter, Scott says he still carves out some me-time. “I cut myself some slack. I’d rather my kids have a father who is overall happy than one who is terrified to let them watch TV for an hour while daddy drinks a beer on the porch to decompress.”
Traube, who is a father of one with another on the way, agrees that creating a support system and figuring out what a parents can do to take care of themselves — whether it’s calling a friend and talking during their commute, meditating, negotiating an earlier work start time so they can leave earlier or letting their family know that taking a breather to walk the dog is the first thing they do when they get home — is essential for parents.
“It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first on an airplane before putting one on your child,” Traube says. “You do need to do self-care to be a good parent.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.
Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.
“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”
Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.
Maintaining the pace
Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.
“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.
His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.
On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.
“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”
Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.
“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”
Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.
“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”
Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.
Never giving up
“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’
“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.
“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”
And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.
It is also possible that the emerging arsenal plane could be a modified C-130 or combined version of a B-52 and C-130 drawing from elements of each, Pentagon officials said.
Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.
“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.
Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.
An “Arsenal Plane” networked to F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters would enable the fighter aircraft to maintain their stealth properties while still having substantial offensive bombing capability. If stealth fighters attach weapons to their external pylons, they change their radar signature and therefore become more vulnerable to enemy air defenses. If networked to a large “flying bomb truck,” they could use stealth capability to defeat enemy air defenses and still have an ability to drop large amounts of bombs on targets.
Such a scenario could also likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”
Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a US force, underscoring the current US strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller. An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for US fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.
“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.
An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.
“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.
Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.
“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.
Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.
While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”
“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.
The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the US military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies.
Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Everyone joins the military for different reasons. Some to pursue a better life for themselves and their families — as others just want to blow sh*t up. That said, serving can take a toll, on not only the body but the mind.
The life you thought you wanted when you signed your DD-214 isn’t what you want anymore, and now you’re ready to make a change.
So here’s how the majority of veterans change within five years of leaving the military.
Many of us dream of hitting our EAOS (Expiration of Active Obligated Service) after seeing all the bullsh*t we faced on the day-to-day — sometimes even marking down the calendar. After a while, you begin to admit to yourself how much you miss it. It’s common.
Hopefully, when you salute — you render a proper one.
2. The Billy Madison effect (non-stop school)
Many of us joined the military after high school to avoid college because we didn’t know what career to take.
Then after a detailed meeting with the school’s guidance counselor, it appears that the path to your bachelor’s degree is going to take a while, and you’re probably going to be the oldest guy or gal in class.
You probably aren’t the smartest, but you can buy beer.
3. Career change (at least once)
Maturity plays the biggest role in personal change. The fact is, you don’t know yourself as well as you thought you did. After a few semesters of school, your mental fatigue of tests and quizzes are piling up. The realization sets in that maybe studying to be a mechanic or nurse just isn’t right for you anymore.
Typically, everyone in the military deploys at one time or another. Some experience more tragic events than others, and they may start to see life in different ways. In the end, do whatever makes you the happiest.
Can you name other ways you and your buddies changed? Comment below.
Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.
The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.
This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.
Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.
The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)
“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.
Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.
The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:
They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.
There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.
It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.
The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.
Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.
Despite US efforts to convince other countries not to make deals with Russian defense firms, India’s defense minister told US lawmakers in July 2018 that New Delhi will go ahead with its purchase of the Russian-made S-400, one of the most advanced air-defense systems on the market.
“With Russia, we have had a continuous relationship of defence procurement of seven decades. We told the US Congress delegation, which met me in Delhi, that this it is US legislation and not a UN law,” Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the press on July 13, 2018, referring to the US’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which seeks to prevent foreign deals with Russian defense or intelligence firms.
“We have had this relationship, an enduring relationship with the Russians, and are going ahead with buying the S-400,” Sitharaman said, adding that the US secretaries of defense and state “have taken a position understanding of India’s position.”
Sitharaman said the S-400 deal was at an “almost conclusive stage,” and the system is expected to arrive within two and a half to four years of signing. Officials are expected to announce the deal in October 2018, before an annual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
India currently fields a host of Russian-made weapons systems, including the S-300 air-defense system, an overhauled Kiev-class carrier-cruiser, and squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.
India’s defense ties with Russia are longstanding, but the US has sought to expand its relations with the South Asian country for years. Since 2008, Washington has sold Delhi billion worth of arms, and the Pentagon recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command to reflect India’s growing role in the region.
For India, the decision to buy the S-400 system was likely made out of practical concerns rather than for geopolitical motives, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow focused on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
“Simply put, the S-400 is considered a more affordable, albeit highly capable, missile-defense system when compared to competing US systems,” Smith said in an email, noting that the S-400 had attracted interest from other US partners, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. (Turkey’s S-400 purchase has caused tension with NATO.)
“Additionally, the Indian military has great familiarity with their Russian counterparts,” Smith added. “The majority of India’s legacy platforms are Soviet origin, and Russia continues to be India’s top supplier of defense equipment, although by a shrinking margin.”
The deal has nevertheless run afoul of US attempts to isolate Russian companies with the CAATSA, which Congress passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.
US officials have cautioned India about making deals with Russian firms. Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, said in early 2018 that the US was disappointed with Delhi’s purchases of Russian-made weapons.
The S-400 deal in particular “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future,” Thornberry said at the end of May 2018, around the same time India and Russia concluded negotiations over the sale.
The CAATSA would force President Donald Trump to put sanctions on actors that make a “significant transaction” with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, which the legislation does not define, Smith said.
But it would likely cover India’s S-400 contract — thought to be worth .5 billion for five S-400 regiments, totaling as many as 240 of the system’s four-tube launchers, plus fire-control radars and command systems.
“For reasons beyond my comprehension Congress did not envision this would become a point of contention with Delhi, or foresee that it would be impractical to demand India immediately halt all defense trade with its top defense supplier for the past half-century,” Smith said.
Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have asked Congress to make exceptions for US partners using Russian-made weapons.
Mattis told lawmakers in Apri 2018 that there are countries “who are trying to turn away from formerly Russian-sourced weapons and systems” but need to keep supply lines open to maintain those weapons.
“We only need to look at India, Vietnam, and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” with strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis said at the time.
Congress has denied a Pentagon request for an expansive waiver for CAATSA-related sanctions, Smith said, but others on Capitol Hill are looking for ways to insulate Delhi and others who may get caught up.
“Among other things, the House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act included an amendment that would expand the president’s authority to delay or terminate CAATSA sanctions,” he said. The versions of the NDAA passed by the Senate and House of Representatives are now being reconciled.
“India watchers are eager to see whether the provision survives the conference committee,” Smith added. “If it doesn’t, I expect the Hill to contemplate additional legislative remedies in the months ahead.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.
Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.
Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.
Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.
“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”
Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.
“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.
The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.
“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”
An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.
What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.
Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.
“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”
The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.
Once A Marine Always A Marine
Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.
His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
As the successor to the Soviet Army, the Russian Ground Forces inherited vast stocks of small arms to arm and equip a much smaller ground force. Stored in arsenals across eleven time zones were large numbers of sidearms for officers, vehicle crews, and political commissars alike. These pistols, as well as new designs, arm today’s Russian army, providing both a weapon for self-defense and a badge of authority for those wielding them.
One of the earliest Soviet Army issue handguns was the Tokarev or “TT” automatic pistol. (Note that in this context the term “automatic” refers to the loading process, not the firing process. Users of so-called “automatic” pistols must still pull the trigger for every shot fired.) Outwardly the Tokarev was utilitarian and unattractive—in other words, fitting very much into the Soviet military aesthetic. Like most Soviet weapons it was dead simple to use and reliable, though its lack of a safety required vigilance against an accidental discharge.
The Tokarev weighed 1.86 pounds loaded and took a magazine of eight M30 7.62mm pistol cartridges. Internally it borrowed elements from John Moses Browning’s pistol designs, including the 1911, using a swinging link to unlock the barrel from the slide on recoil. Most Tokarevs can even fire 7.63mm Mauser used by submachine guns and the famous “broomhandle” Mauser pistol—after all Soviet engineers had designed M30 based on the Mauser cartridge.
The Tokarev was produced by the Tul’skiy Oruzheynyi Zavod, Tula factory, which is where the “TT” nickname came from. Production in the Soviet Union ceased in 1952, but not before an estimated 1.7 million Tokarevs were manufactured. Variants were made, licensed or not, in Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, China and North Korea.
The next Soviet handgun also took inspiration from abroad. The Pistolet Makarova (PM) was a Soviet copy of the German Walther PP (Polizeipistole, or Police Pistol), one of many handguns issued by the German army in World War II. The Makarov, as it was informally known, was a copy of the PP/K series using fewer parts to simplify the manufacturing process. The result is a pistol that resembles a less attractive version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK. The Makarov was adopted in December 1951, just as Tokarev was winding down.
The Makarov was both more compact and lighter than the Tokarev, with a shorter barrel. The pistol was chambered for the Soviet 9mm pistol round, a local design whose chief advantage seemed to be to prevent the Makarov from using foreign ammunition. The Soviet round is believed to have been developed from a German round, the 9mm Ultra, and is power-wise is fairly anemic by service pistol standards, somewhere between the 9mm Parabellum and the .380 ACP. Like its predecessor the Makarov carried eight rounds in the magazine.
Like all Soviet small arms, the Makarov was distributed far and wide beyond the Soviet Union, to client states and revolutionaries worldwide. Armies from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe used and still use the Makarov, and American troops have encountered the pistol in Afghanistan, Grenada, Laos, Iraq, North Vietnam and Syria. The Makarov also armed Soviet vehicle crews stationed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and would have rolled west with the Soviet Army and the Warsaw Pact if the war had ever turned “hot.” In 1990 the PMM, a newer version that featured a 33 percent larger magazine was introduced.
In the 1990s, Russian weapons designer Vladimir Yarygin introduced his Pistolet Yarygina or “PYa” pistol. Known as the MP-443 Grach, or “Rook” in Russian army service, PYa is a mixture of old and new designs. Like the TT, the new handgun is all steel and uses an internal mechanism reliant derived from John Browning’s Browning Hi-Power pistol. The pistol uses a modern “double action” design, which means that a single, long trigger pull will both cock the hammer and fire a round. It can also function as a single action pistol, with both hammer cocking and trigger pulling separate actions. Unlike the TT, the pistol accepts 9mm Parabellum cartridges, the standard 9mm cartridge in use worldwide.
Unlike the safety-less TT, the PYa both an external safety that locks the slide—another John Browning innovation—and a second, internal safety that prevents the firing pin from falling forward without the trigger being pulled. Like most modern “double stack” pistols, the PYa’s magazine holds eighteen rounds, more than twice as many rounds as its predecessors.
Although the PYa is more modern than previous Soviet/Russian designs, the current configuration lacks more recent features in Western pistols, including an under barrel rail for attaching lasers and flashlights, a loaded chamber indicator, and a decocker that uncocks the firing pin. First introduced into Russian Armed Forces use 2003, introduction of the PYa has been slow due to the large number of PM/PMM pistols already in use.
Russia’s service handguns are simple, rugged and reliable, made to be built—and used—in wartime. While they may lack the amenities found in many modern American pistols, such as the U.S. Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System, an emphasis on functionality means they will get the job done under extreme conditions.
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
After sixteen years spent deployed to Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Army Reserve First Sgt. Seth Kastle retired and returned home to Wakeeney, Kansas. And while he was happy to be back with his wife Julia and daughters Raegan and Kennedy, Kastle struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“When I returned home and began the reintegration process, it was difficult, but I didn’t understand why,” Kastle told Babble. To deal with his feelings and hopefully help his kids understand his PTSD, Kastle sat down at the kitchen table and started writing a story he’d been mulling over for a long time. Half an hour later, the first draft of Why Is Dad So Mad? was complete.
Kastle’s effort is a children’s book is about a family of lions, modeled after Kastle’s own, in which the father is struggling with PTSD. The disorder is represented in the book’s illustrations by a fire raging inside his chest.
Kastle hopes that his book, which met its initial Kickstarter goal in a matter of hours, helps other veterans and their families, not just his own.
Reservists called up for active duty will soon qualify for increased Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits if they meet certain requirements.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” was passed by Congress and signed into law in August 2017. The Forever GI Bill expands education benefits for some members of the Reserve effective Aug. 1, 2018.
VA may now consider more reservist service as qualifying time towards eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including:
Major disasters or emergencies, as authorized under section 12304a of title 10, U.S. Code
Pre-planned missions of up to 365 days in support of combatant commands, as authorized under section 12304b of title 10, U.S. Code
The service must occur on or after June 30, 2008. The benefits are payable for a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018.
It’s important to note that serving time under title 10, U.S.C. 12304a or 12304b doesn’t automatically qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has a minimum service requirement of at least 90 days, although periods of service for separate missions can be combined to meet the 90-day threshold.
Here are some examples to help you understand this provision of the Forever GI Bill:
A reservist was called up to active duty and served in Afghanistan for one year in 2002. Then he or she was called up for three months in 2004, two months in 2005, and three months in 2010 under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a.
Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act allows more Reserve service to qualify for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Prior to Aug. 1, 2018, those three months under 12304a were not creditable active duty service, so the person was eligible for the 60 percent tier with 17 months of creditable service. Now, thanks to this new provision of the Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act, the three months of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a can be added. The reservist now has 20 months of qualifying service and would be eligible for the 70 percent tier.
Or, let’s say a reservist had only 90 days of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a. He or she wouldn’t have qualified at all. With this law change, the reservist now has qualifying active duty and would be eligible for the 40 percent tier.
If you haven’t explored your options to use your education benefits, you can start by visiting the GI Bill Comparison tool. You can see how to maximize your education value and look up the college, training school, or even apprenticeship program you’re interested in attending. You can also see how much your GI Bill benefits will cover and if you’d have any out of pocket expenses.
If you have any questions, please call 1–888-GI-BILL-1 (1–888–442–4551). If you use the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), the Federal number is 711. You can also visit the Forever GI Bill page.
Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service delivers GI Bill® education benefits to Veterans, service members, and their families. Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped millions of Veterans pay for college, graduate school, and training programs.
Featured image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders, and Democratic Members of the House join representatives from Veterans’ Service Organizations at an enrollment ceremony for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act.
It’s not the Razzle Dazzle from Stripes, but it might as well be. Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro thinks his country is staring down the barrel of an upcoming U.S.-led invasion. The only problem is that no one in the American government really seems to care about Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. He’s just a trash version of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez – who wasn’t that great of a dictator anyway.
Still, the military members still loyal to Maduro somehow believe him when he says they can defeat the United States. And apparently, the first step is (attempted) intimidation of the United States Marine Corps. IT did not have the effect Maduro hoped.
To answer the questions on everyone’s mind, it’s not a joke, and the video was really intended to frighten U.S. Marines who might be going into Venezuela, according to the Facebook page on which the video was released. They call parts of the video “intense training activities.” The activities include running, running in place, screaming, and the world’s worst obstacle course.
Of course, even the casual viewer is going to find this hilarious, knowing it wouldn’t even intimidate the Air Force, let alone the Marine Corps. When the shooting started, there didn’t seem to be magazines in their weapons.
What the training didn’t include was how to run from an A-10, how to survive a JDAM, and what to do when a K-Bar is stuck in your neck.
Don’t worry, Venezuela, we will bring the answer to those questions for you.