Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.
“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”
The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”
The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.
In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.
The sister of the North Korean leader on Feb. 9 2018 became the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Arriving on her brother Kim Jong Un’s white private jet for a three-day visit, Kim Yo Jong and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace.
Dressed in a black coat, carrying a black shoulder bag, and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.
The North Koreans — also including Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs — then moved down a floor on an escalator to board a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.
Moon has been trying to use the games as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea after a period of diplomatic stalemate and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international standoff over its nuclear program.
The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries’ senior officials.
Skeptics say North Korea, which is unlikely to give up its nukes under any deal, is just using the Olympics to poke holes at the U.S.-led international sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.
The North Korean delegation’s arrival came a day after Kim Jong Un presided over a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by the country’s developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in three flight tests last year showed potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
South Korean media have been speculating about whether Kim will send a personal message to Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the two leaders.
Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War.
As first vice director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned her brother’s absolute trust.
Analysts say the North’s decision to send her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.
By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the games, North Korea may also be trying to craft a fresher public image and defang any U.S. effort to use the Olympics to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record.
South Korea has yet to announce a confirmed schedule for the North Korean delegates aside from their participation in the opening ceremony and the Feb. 8 luncheon with Moon.
There’s a possibility that they would attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women’s ice hockey tournament, hours after their meeting with Moon. They could also see a performance by a visiting North Korean art troupe in Seoul before heading back to Pyongyang.
The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the war-separated rivals agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.
Moon, a liberal whose presidential win in May last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, has always expressed a willingness to reach out to the North. His efforts received a boost when Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Day speech called for improved ties between the Koreas and expressed willingness to send athletes to Pyeongchang.
This led to a series of talks where the Koreas agreed to have its delegates jointly march during the opening ceremony under a blue-and-white “unification” flag and field a combined team in women’s ice hockey. A North Korean art troupe also performed in Gangneung on Feb. 8 2018 and will perform in Seoul on Feb. 11 2018 before heading back home.
Critics say that South Korea while cooperating with its rival over the Olympics allowed itself to play into the hands of the North which is apparently trying to use the games to weaken sanctions.
South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North’s request to supply fuel for the ship.
While neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under U.N. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.
The U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has proposed granting an exemption for Choe, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since last June.
One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.
Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.
A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.
These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.
The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.
A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.
The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).
Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.
The US Defense Department is reportedly analyzing whether or not it is feasible to conduct a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of US troops in Germany, according to a Washington Post report published on June 29, 2018.
President Donald Trump reportedly mulled the option after meeting with military aides in early 2017, US officials said in the report. Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of US troops stationed in the region.
Some US officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.
Around 35,000 active-duty troops were stationed in Germany in 2017. US troop levels peaked at 274,119 in 1962, 17 years after World War II.
In addition to the US presence in Germany, Trump was reportedly vexed by his belief that other NATO countries were not contributing enough to the organization. Trump has frequently vented his frustration and criticized NATO members for failing to abide by the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that members agreed to during the alliance’s inception.
European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibility of US troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Frye)
The National Security Council downplayed the significance and said it had not asked for a formal analysis on repositioning troops: “The Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments,” a statement from the NSC said, according to The Post. The statement added that the “analysis exercises” were “not out of the norm.”
“The Pentagon regularly reviews force posture and performs cost-benefit analyses,” Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to The Post. “This is nothing new. Germany is host to the largest US force presence in Europe — we remain deeply rooted in the common values and strong relationships between our countries. We remain fully committed to our NATO ally and the NATO alliance.”
But despite repeated denials of a rift between US and NATO countries, Trump has suggested withdrawing from the 29-member alliance on multiple occasions.
“My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits,” Trumps said during his 2016 presidential campaign on Twitter.
Trump has similarly suggested pulling US troops out of South Korea. Citing several people familiar with the discussions, The New York Times reported in May that he had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown.
“We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military,” Trump said in a speech March 2018. “We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea,” Trump added. “Let’s see what happens.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hurtling toward the villain nation’s massive fortified Armageddon machine the hero-pilot has one chance, and one chance only, at hitting his target. Victory will mean one man will save his people, failure could mean a war that may lead to destruction of the planet. It is all or nothing, and this audacious attack could determine mankind’s survival.
This is just one example of art imitating air combat history in the new Hollywood blockbuster that hit theaters this past weekend and of nearly every previous film in the Star Wars series. Almost every intergalactic battle scene in the Star Wars films borrows heavily from actual air combat history. And if you are a fan of air combat history, some of the scenes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi may feel familiar.
Director Rian Johnson and the visual effects in The Last Jedi opened with a classic piece of air combat doctrine that has been seen many times in modern air combat. An attacking aircraft poses as performing one mission to deceive an enemy, act as a decoy and buy time before a secondary attack is launched. If this time-proven set of tactics sounds familiar, it is.
You may be recall the real-world tactics of “Wild Weasel” SAM suppression missions flown in Vietnam and Iraq. It may also bring memories of “Operation Bolo”, the audacious January 2, 1967 attack meant to destroy North Vietnam’s air force flown by USAF Colonel Robin Olds. Col. Olds’ F-4 Phantoms behaved like defenseless B-52 F-105 bombers over North Vietnam as decoys to lure enemy MiG-21s into attacking. When they did, Col. Olds’ fighters sprung their trap.
Another tactic shown in The Last Jedi was forcing an enemy, in this case the fictional First Order, to commit all of their air defense assets to an initial feint attack, thus revealing their sensors and depleting their ammunition before a larger, secondary attack is launched on the main objective. In the opening scene of The Last Jedi, one X-wing fighter distracts and delays the giant enemy First Order battle spacecraft until it can effectively fly inside and below its defenses, then opens an initial attack, suppressing defenses and paving the way for the main rebel attack force.
Visual effects throughout The Last Jedi include inspiration from real world air combat of every era and from other air combat movies. It’s widely known that Luke Skywalker’s strike mission against the Death Star in the original Star Wars, where he pilots his X-wing fighter down a narrow mechanical canyon for a precision strike on the gigantic Death Star, was inspired in part by the 1964 Walter Grauman and Cecil Ford film about WWII Royal Air Force Mosquito pilots, “633 Squadron.” The cockpit of the Millennium Falcon spacecraft was inspired to the WWII B-29 bomber.
It is also rumored that George Lucas may have had inspiration from either visiting or seeing images from low flying training areas like the Mach Loop in Wales and especially the now-famous R-2508 complex now referred to even by the military as either the “Jedi Transition” or “Star Wars canyon” in Death Valley, California just outside the Nellis Test and Training Range.
Despite Director Rian Johnson’s often accurate inspirations from air and space combat, he does take liberal license with physics and reality in the The Last Jedi. Gravity is selective in the film. Gravity bombs fall down in space where there is no gravity. Spacecrafts fly in a symmetrical up and down orientation nonexistent in space, and combatants pass from space with no atmosphere into pressurized spacecraft.
Some of the characters in The Last Jedi need a refresher from their officer training as well, as specific orders from commanders are executed selectively- and often disobeyed entirely. In the real world that offense that would lead flight officers a stint in the brig- look at how much hot water Iceman and Goose got themselves into in Top Gun just for buzzing the tower. Further departure from reality is seen with the gun-like weapons (as well as the above mentioned gravity bombs) used in place of long range stand-off weapons.
But at the risk of being that annoying guy in the theater pointing out technical inaccuracies, these are the elements of fiction that separate meaty fantasy from the admittedly more accurate, and “dryer” plot lines of, for instance, a Tom Clancy story unfolding in a more rigid version of the real world.
Rian Johnson must have watched plenty of video of F-22 Raptor and Sukhoi Su-35 displays since the opening space-combat sequence in The Last Jedi shows X-Wing combat pilot Poe Dameron execute a very Sukhoi-esque horizontal tail slide to evade a pair of attacking First Order fighters.
The cockpits in the X-Wing fighters are a mix of new technology including advanced weapons sights and side stick controls and old tech like toggle switches that somehow seem more visually dramatic to flip than using a touchscreen like the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Speaking of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its advanced onboard situational awareness and networking system, the BB-8 droid that accompanies X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron on his missions is really a mix of the F-35s advanced avionics including the Multifunction Advanced Datalink (MADL), the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and the Distributed Aperture System (DAS). These systems run aircraft diagnostics, keep the pilot informed about the aircraft health and tactical environment and help facilitate communications and systems operation through several command systems, in the case of the BB-8 droid on the X-Wing fighter, mostly using voice actuation.
Finally, if the large rebel bomber formation in the stunning opening battle scene in The Last Jedi feels visually familiar then you may liken it to footage and tales from the mass WWII bomber attacks over Germany and Japan by the allies, especially B-17 and B-24 strikes over Germany. The lumbering, mostly defenseless bomber stream attacks in tight formation under cover from X-Wing fighter escort, and suffers heavy losses. The bombers even feature a ball gun turret at the bottom of the spacecraft exactly like the one under a B-17 Flying Fortress.
Ball turret gunner Paige Tico becomes one of the first sacrificial heroes of The Last Jedi when she risks her life to release a huge stick of bombs in the last-ditch bomb run by the only surviving bomber in the opening attack on the First Order spacecraft. Paige Tico’s sister, Rose Tico, goes on to become a predominant hero of the film after she loses her sister in the heroic opening bombing raid.
You may also sense that the giant First Order Dreadnought Mandator-IV-class warship in “The Last Jedi” felt familiar. Design supervisor for The Last Jedi, Kevin Jenkins, revealed that inspiration for the Dreadnought warship came from several sources that included the WWII Japanese battleship Yamato. The Dreadnought was armed with two enormous orbital autocannons for large-scale bombardments and 24 point-defense remotely aimed anti-aircraft cannons on its dorsal surface. Dreadnought is also an enormous space gunnery platform at 7,669 meters long, that is more than 25,162.8 feet in length. Imagine a strategic attack space aircraft five miles long.
All great fiction, including science fiction, is rooted in inspiration from the factual world, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi borrows significantly from the real world of air combat technology, tactics and history to weave a thrilling and visually sensational experience. In this way this film, and in fact, the entire Star Wars franchise, lives as a fitting and inspiring ode to air combat past, present and future and serves to inspire tomorrow’s real-world Jedi warriors.
Maybe you’re already collectively rolling your eyes at the idea of Valentine’s Day, but you shouldn’t! With the pandemic taking all the “normal” away, we should just let the world decorate itself in hearts and all things pink. We could all use some love around here.
That being said, there are still ways you can make your Valentine’s Day meaningful. Rather than heading to the drugstore the day before (I am not judging you, but don’t pretend this doesn’t happen) I’ve created a gift-guide for the big day that’s filled with meaningful items produced by veteran and military spouse owned businesses. You’ll be winning points with your significant other and making the difference in the lives of those in our military community. Double win!
Here are our top 10 businesses for you to patronize this Valentine’s Day and the gifts we think would be extra special for your sweetheart.
This Valentine’s Day, Doc Spartan has gone all out. The Heartbreaker Valentine’s Day Set is a limited-edition item that comes with a brand new grapefruit scent! Then we have the Sex Panther Set which is also fun and the scent is a favorite. The website jokingly claims it has bits of panther embedded and also comes with a disclaimer: Warning – not responsible for increased sexual activity while using or wearing this product. Use with caution. Ha!
Doc Spartan is always on my top-10 list because of how they do business. Not only are all of the products made right here in the USA with all natural ingredients but the business thrives on compassionate commerce. They employ individuals and veterans in recovery from substance abuse to assemble and prepare all of the products. This gives those seeking to rebuild their lives meaningful employment and above all: hope.
2. CharlieMadison Originals
The jewelry offered by this military spouse owned business is one of a kind. Everything you choose has meaning and there are endless opportunities to find that perfect gift. Not only is each piece of her beautiful jewelry lovingly crafted by hand, 5% of every single purchase goes back to a military charity. You can start your shopping by clicking here.
3. Bottle Breacher
Eli is a former Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur and Jen has had a passion for business for as long as she can remember. Bottle Breacher got its start in Eli’s garage while he was active duty. A year and a half later, they were on Shark Tank pitching their idea. There are so many unique gift options and your purchase comes with purpose, too. You are investing in a veteran-owned business that also hires veterans and military spouses to do the work. Everything is made right here in the USA. The husband and wife duo also gives a portion of their profits right back into the military communities by supporting charities that take care of our heroes and their families. Click here to check out Bottle Breacher and all they have to offer.
4. Seaport Sweethearts Designs
This Navy-spouse owned business is always at the top of my list for gifts. Each piece she’s designed is dripping in beauty and is all handcrafted by her. There are endless opportunities to select something that’s both deeply meaningful but also gorgeous. Many of the creations can be worn every day and there are some to-die-for pieces that are for those special occasions, like Valentine’s Day. BIG HINT HERE. To check out Seaport Sweetheart Designs (the name is literally made for a V-Day gift, isn’t it?) click here.
5. Hope Design Ltd.
This is one military-spouse-owned business that you won’t want to miss. Each piece honors America’s heroes and their families. Army wife Lauren Hope features a wide array of beautiful jewelry to choose from but also something unique: custom pieces. You can take the time to create a one-of-a-kind piece for your sweetheart, making this Valentine’s Day extra special! Click here to start shopping today!
6. Triple Nikel
I love this apparel company for so many reasons! Founded by some pretty epic soldiers, it’s not your average veteran-owned business. Their focus on equality and designs that can be worn by everyone makes my social worker heart want to explode, in a good way of course. This shop features some really wonderful designs that can fit anyone. Start shopping today, click here.
7. Naturally London
This woman, veteran-owned business hits all the right notes for amazing Valentine’s Day gift ideas! When this Air Force veteran was pregnant, she was suffering from swelling and joint paint. Nothing on the market was working, other than soaking her feet in all natural oils and salts. The idea was born! “I wanted to create a beneficial foot care regimen that was easy-to-use, multi-purpose, didn’t make me smell like a medicine cabinet and most importantly ignite joy.”–Chrissy Cabrera
This military-spouse-owned shop is making handcrafted amazingness! Two military spouses created this business as a way to sustain employment as they continued to move while their husband’s served the country. They grew and scaled with their own money before landing on Shark Tank in 2016. That appearance changed everything! They don’t just make handbags for military spouses, they hire military spouses to make handbags. The ripple affect of their idea, grit and determination has impacted so many. Check out their incredible collection of bags, candles and more by clicking here.
9. Teak and Twine
This female veteran-owned business is the perfect shop to find a one of a kind Valentine’s Day gift! The whole premise is making custom and special gift boxes, filled with quality items that bring joy. They work directly with artisans and small businesses to create unique gifts for everyone. Click here to check at their shop.
10. Recon: Active Rings
This veteran-owned business makes safe rings for America’s troops and first responders to wear. The story goes that the founder saw a fellow soldier lose his finger in part because of wearing a traditional wedding band while in combat. This sparked the idea for the business. This shop offers not just amazing bands to be worn anytime but things like soaps, shirts and hats. There are so many ways to pick a great Valentine’s Day gift, just click here to start shopping!
Over the past four months, a small team of air advisors, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve to Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, combined its efforts to enhance and improve the US Air Force’s compound, changing the working conditions for the airmen assigned there.
When the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group replaced the 123rd Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield in early March 2017, they inherited bare bone facilities. The prior contingency response groups had built the US Air Force’s part of Qayyarah West up from scratch to start operations, but their mission was not long term.
There was a small, open tent used for a passenger terminal that exposed waiting service members to the heat, a canopy spread across two conex boxes used as a vehicle maintenance area, which provided limited protection from the sun, and some of the enclosed tents had mold and rotting wood floors.
The air advisors immediately identified that the air terminal operations center tent had a mold issue that needed to be addressed, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tenebruso, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1 expeditionary maintenance flight chief.
After Qayyarah West Airfield, commonly referred to as “Q-West,” was recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in October 2016, the US Air Force promptly established a presence, repaired the destroyed airfield, and made it ready to be used as a strategic launching pad for the offensive in Mosul.
From mid-October until early March, the 821st and 123rd CRGs deployed personnel to quickly open the airfield and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations in the austere environment.
The current team from the 370th AEAG was the first air expeditionary force rotation or permanent party to call Q-West home outside of the short-term deployed CRG units assigned to rapidly establish operations.
“Everyone wanted to make this place better than what we came into,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Johnson, the NCO in charge of vehicle maintenance assigned to the 370th AEAG, Det. 1. “We identified the needs to better the compound trying to make things more efficient and safer. Everything we’ve done has a purpose and we worked together as a team to make the improvements happen.”
The small team of air advisors worked together to procure and establish tents to be used as a new passenger terminal, morale facility, vehicle maintenance tent and tactical operations center. With the assistance of their joint-service partners, the tents were placed on flooring designed to reduce future mold issues.
The new passenger terminal helped improve the 370th AEAG’s daily facilitation of large passenger movements for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support of CJTF-OIR.
The new vehicle maintenance facility improved efficiency for the maintainers as they can now not only get out of the sun to work on their vehicles, but also complete tasks during all hours of the day.
In order for the compound’s expansion to take place, the power grid needed to be upgraded.
“Staff Sgt. Benton took the lead on expanding the power grid,” said Tenebruso. “He is an AGE guy used to working on flightline equipment, but here he is working on power production and distribution. Thanks to his capabilities we are now almost as close to uninterrupted power as possible, which make our operations much more sustainable.”
Staff Sgt. Shawn Benton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman, as well as the other maintenance personnel, often work outside of their scope to assist with facility upgrades and sustainment at Q-West.
“We want to make this the best place that we can for future rotations,” said Tenebruso. “Everyone here is under the mentality that we leave this place better than we found it and make it so the next rotation does not have the issues we did. Things are very different than when we first got here.”
Initially, there was not a cargo grid yard for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron’s aerial port function, but the aerial porters worked with the Army to procure Hesco barriers and enclose a 32,000 square-foot grid yard to secure its assets.
With limited resources, the aerial porters scrounged up supplies from around the base to create a gate for the cargo yard and a flag pole out of reconstituted metal. The flag pole, which the whole aerial port team helped place in the ground, is the tallest flag pole on the base, Master Sgt. Cliff Robertson, the 442nd AES’s aerial port superintendent, proudly stated.
Another proud achievement of the Q-West Airmen is their “Iron Paradise” makeshift gym. According to Tenebruso, prior to their arrival there was just a wooden bench and a bar with chains duct taped to it that weighed in at a standard 135 pounds. The air advisors have since built a makeshift squat rack and preacher curl bench and acquired more weights, creating an area often filled with Air Force and Army personnel trying to maintain physical fitness in their austere location.
“I am amazed at how well this team has come together to improve the FOB’s conditions since they got here,” said Maj. Dave Friedel, the 370th AEAG, Det. 1 commander. “They made the camp much more livable while still performing their primary advise and assist mission. It’s all about teamwork here and there are a lot of people working well outside their expertise level to make things happen.”
Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.
Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.
The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.
Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.
“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.
In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.
Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.
“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”
Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”
“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.
In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.
Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.
AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.
At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.
The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.
The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.
Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.
“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.
Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.
“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”
The 100th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft metals technology technicians aim to achieve the highest levels of precision when grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts for Team Mildenhall aircraft.
For the airmen of the aircraft metals technology section, it’s their job to ensure that Team Mildenhall has the tools and parts needed to accomplish the mission.
“Metals technology repairs, modifies and manufactures aircraft and ground equipment parts or anything needed to accomplish the mission,” said Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician journeyman.
“We also fabricate tools for other shops; there are parts on our aircraft that they no longer make tools for, so we make the new part and the tool to remove the old one.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, uses a tungsten inert gas welder on a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it’s well deserved.
“Every day we are dealing with tight tolerances, or how much we can be over or under on the dimensions of a part,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician craftsman. “Usually, we are dealing with tolerances the size of a strand of hair: I enjoy the challenge, it forces you to pay close attention to your work.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, welds a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
In a profession with such exacting standards, it’s important to continue to learn and improve.
“We are constantly learning, and we start by studying the basic concepts in training, and when we arrive at our shop, we begin to master our craft,” Telles explained. “We have 16-year veterans who still learn something new every day.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Austin Good, 100th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems journeyman, weighs a carbon dioxide bottle for aircraft life support systems at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 20, 2019.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Luke Milano)
In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.
“Today we worked on a part which could be outsourced to the civilian sector for ,000,” Telles said. “We’ve already completed eight of those parts and we will complete two more; it adds up to a considerable sum.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pencil grinder on a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.
“We speak with engineers and gather information from blue prints to get exact dimensions and determine what a part needs to be made of,” Telles said. “Occasionally, the blueprints don’t match the aircraft perfectly and we have to go out to the aircraft and measure; it’s a lot of precision work.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pneumatic grinder to modify a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.
“In a way we are the last line of defense. When a crew chief finds something that needs to be fixed it comes to us,” Telles said. “At that point, we have to fix it, weld it or replace it and if we don’t get it done the plane doesn’t fly.”
This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.
As Captain America and Iron Man prepare for their civil war, they probably don’t realize they have competition coming from the U.S. military. The Department of Defense wants troops with super strength, telepathy, and immunity from pain. Here are 8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to create super soldiers:
1. Bulletproof clothes made of carbon chainmail
Researchers tested the potential ballistic protection of graphene by firing tiny bullets of gold at it. They found that the material was stronger, more flexible, and lighter than both the ballistic plates and the kevlar vests troops wear. And, a million layers of the stuff would be only 1 millimeter thick.
MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working on an effective manufacturing method for graphene-based chainmail, potentially giving troops better protection from a T-shirt than they currently get from bulky vests.
2. Synthetic blood
Synthetic blood would be much more efficient than natural cells. The most promising technology being investigated is a respirocyte, a theoretical red blood cell made from diamonds that could contain gasses at pressures of nearly 15,000 psi and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen the same way real blood cells do.
Super soldiers with respirocytes mixed with their natural blood would essentially have trillions of miniature air tanks inside their body, meaning they would never run out of breath and could spend hours underwater without other equipment.
DARPA’s Persistence in Combat initiative aims to help soldiers bounce back almost immediately from wounds. Pain immunizations would work for 30 days and eliminate the inflammation that causes lasting agony after an injury. So, soldiers could feel the initial burst of anguish from a bullet strike, but the pain would fade in seconds. The soldiers could treat themselves and keep fighting until medically evacuated.
Part of DARPA’s “Brain Machine Interface” project is the development of better computer chips that can directly connect to a human brain via implants. In addition to allowing soldiers to control robotics with thought alone, this would allow squads to communicate via telepathy.
While the Harvard researchers working on it prefer the term “soft exoskeleton,” the DARPA-funded robotic suit is essentially a series of fabric muscles worn under the clothes that assist the wearer in each step or movement. This reduces fatigue and increases strength without requiring the huge amounts of power that bulkier, rigid exoskeletons need.
8. Gecko-like climbing gloves and shoes
Geckos use tiny hairs on their feet to grab onto surfaces on the molecular level. While the “Z-Man” project wouldn’t necessarily give humans the ability to crawl along a ceiling like a gecko, special climbing gloves and shoes would allow soldiers to easily climb sheer rock faces or up skyscrapers without any other equipment, drastically easing an assault on the high ground and effectively turning them into super soldiers.
Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.
You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.
According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.
Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.
Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.
According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.
“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.
Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.
Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.
Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.
The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.
Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.
The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.
Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.
The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.
Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.
“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”
While some children grow up with aspirations to become scientists, professional athletes, or actors, Mohammad Nadir’s goal was to become a United States Marine, stemming from an early childhood amid a strong military presence.
As the sixth of ten siblings, Nadir grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he constantly lived among uniformed personnel.
“My mom would tell me stories about the military when I was younger, my father was a cop with the Afghan police . . . and many people welcomed the Americans, even during times of strife,” Nadir explained.
Intrigued by the lifestyle, Nadir’s curiosity for the military grew after he graduated high school and discovered several private companies hiring Afghan locals.
“They were hiring Afghan locals to work as interpreters for the International Security Assistance Force,” said Nadir. “This was my chance to be around the military.”
Under the impression Nadir would be safe, his family wished him well as he left to the Sangin District of Helmand province, Afghanistan, in October 2011, where he spent the next three years working with multiple operational units and serving as a key influencer to the community.
“I told my family it was a nice job and would be safe, but they didn’t know it was nothing like that. . . It was the worst place,” said Nadir.
Although translators play a crucial role for the U.S. military, many Afghan-born employees are branded a traitor by the Taliban and other groups for working with the U.S.
“We were the ears and eyes of ISAF,” Nadir recalls. “I was serving my country and also the United States. I felt great. But you could see the distance between the locals and the U.S. personnel.”
Nadir recalls the apprehensive nature of locals whenever Americans traveled to a new area in their country.
“They’d initially be scared and then realize we were here for good reasons. We would explain everything in their language and made them understand,” said Nadir. “We brought them closer together.”
Nadir’s responsibilities lied heavily with bridging the language and cultural gaps between locals and U.S. service members who needed the community to understand their presence.
Educating the Afghan police about improvised explosive devices and operational safety were other key tasks Nadir appreciated doing to heighten overall protection of Americans and Afghans in the area.
“It was something I really liked doing and I felt good when I got a chance to work with the Afghan police,” Nadir commented.
As an interpreter, Nadir also had the opportunity to apply for a Special Immigrant Visa, which helps provide protection for translators and their families to migrate to the U.S. after their service.
Through this program, Nadir took his first steps on American soil on Nov 10, 2014, the Marine Corps’ much-celebrated birthday, and set forth on his journey to become a United States Marine.
“I told my family I was going to come to America and become a Marine, so I did,” said Nadir.
Nadir traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he stayed with Marine Corps Maj. Mark Nicholson, a former administration adviser for the Afghan National Police Advisory Team with Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan.
“We met him at the airport and brought him to our home,” said Nicholson. “Nadir helped us out when we needed him. He had been in some pretty dangerous situations, but was as good as they got. Interpreters put themselves in a lot of danger, more than we do.”
Nicholson built a strong bond with Nadir and other interpreters as he supervised a majority of the administrative tasks handled for these employees. The type of relationship between the interpreters and U.S. service members require a lot of trust and reliability.
“Nadir is a really smart guy,” said Nicholson. “We relied on interpreters for our safety and knowledge of the culture. I trusted him with my life.”
Nadir found work soon thereafter to help support his family back home. He also took lessons to help improve his English fluency and prepare for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
“My English was terrible, so I had to study,” Nadir joked. “I moved to Anaheim, Calif., with a friend and that’s when I met a Marine recruiter, Sgt. William Soukthavong.”
Nadir enlisted in February 2017 and recently graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on May 26, 2017.
“I watched the movie Full Metal Jacket, but when I arrived it was totally different,” said Nadir. “Receiving company was so easy, then we met our actual drill instructors and they ‘destroyed our house.’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, I wasn’t expecting that!’ It was very different and I believe mentally it was easier for me since I’ve been in stressful situations. I tried my best and worked as hard as I could.”
He added that living in the rugged environment of Afghanistan with the mountainsides helped him physically as well, a “I was good at the hikes,” said Nadir, a quality truly needed for the demanding terrain recruits endure at boot camp.
Looking back at the 13 weeks spent at recruit training, Nadir says it was tough but his memories of Marines in his home of Afghanistan are the inspiration for him moving forward for training as an infantryman.
“When I saw the Marines fighting I knew I wanted to do that,” said Nadir. “They are the brute force for a military and I respect them a lot for what I saw those Marines do in Afghanistan.”
Nadir has lived a life of service and becoming a Marine has given him another opportunity to serve, one which he has undoubtedly earned.
“I love Nadir like a brother,” said Nicholson. “I’m very excited that he is now a U.S. Marine.”