The Senate approved broad legislation June 6 to make firing employees easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, part of an accountability effort urged by President Donald Trump following years of high-profile problems.
The bipartisan measure passed by voice vote. It comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. VA employees created secret lists to cover up delays.
The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees — from a “preponderance” to “substantial evidence,” allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House’s version — 180 days vs. 45 days — though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives also would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to be approved.
Trump praised the bill Tuesday night and urged the House to act quickly. ” Senate passed the VA Accountability Act,” he wrote on Twitter. ” The Houseshould get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”
The VA has been plagued by years of problems, and critics complain that too few employees are punished for malfeasance. The Associated Press reported last week that federal authorities were investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at VA hospitals, even after theVA announced “zero tolerance” in February. Since 2009, in only about 3 percent of the reported cases of drug loss or theft have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined.
“The overwhelming majority of the people who work at the VA are good, hard-working employees who serve our veterans well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But it has become clear under the current law the VA is often unwilling or unable to hold individuals appropriately accountable for their actions and misdeeds.”
He was a lead sponsor of the bill along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
“To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA,” Rubio said.
The Senate bill would codify into law a Trump campaign promise — a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. The legislation would give the head of the accountability office more independent authority and require regular updates to Congress. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.
In a “State of the VA” report released last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin described an employee accountability process that was “clearly broken.” He said the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees on hold, citing a required waiting period of at least a month before taking action for misconduct.
Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill’s passage as “long overdue.”
“The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better,” he said.
Despite problems at the VA, Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on a bill. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional. Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the VA firing of Phoenix VA hospital director Sharon Helman over the wait-time scandal.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade join Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron to execute a parachute jump as a part of exercise Emerald Warrior at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M.
A U.S. Air Force combat controller jumps out of an MC-130J Combat Shadow II during Emerald Warrior 2015 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) pulls alongside USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment at sea training exercise.
Air department Sailors stretch out the emergency crash barricade on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a general quarters drill.
Security Forces Squadron members of the 106th Rescue Wing conduct night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015. During this training, the airmen learned small-group tactics, how to use their night-vision gear, and trained with visible and infrared designators.
Army combat divers, assigned to The National Guard‘s 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), maneuver their Zodiac inflatable boat through the surf at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.
KIN BLUE, Okinawa, Japan – Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force scout swimmers emerge out of the ocean and run to the beach during the Japanese Observer Exchange Program.
A Marine surveys land from a UH-1Y Huey as part of a reconnaissance mission in Nepal, May 4, 2015. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific provided the UH-1Y Huey to support the Nepalese government in relief efforts.
Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division brace themselves against rotor wash from a CH-53E Super Stallion during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-15 at Del Valle Park, The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.
A beautiful start to another weekend of Service to Nation for Coast Guard crews!
The deployment is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years.
Shortly after leaving, the crew carried out their first relief effort: two baby pigeons were found on board, which had to be fed porridge through a syringe and returned to land in a helicopter, the Royal Navy said.
“While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets onboard for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so. We just didn’t think that would be quite so soon,” Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby said.
The jets will be flown by four F-35B pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.
On this mission, three British pilots — a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force, and one civilian test pilot — will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As the US’s biggest partner in the F-35 programme, we jointly own test jets which are on track to fly off the deck of our new aircraft carrier later this year.”
He said the training will “strengthen our special relationship with US forces.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the third largest aircraft carrier in the world at 280 meters long and a weight of 65,000 tonnes. In total, there will be about 1,500 people on board, the Portsmouth News reported.
It is expected to be on active duty in 2021.
Before leaving for America the carrier was in Portsmouth, running helicopter tests using Chinook Mk 5 helicopters and Merlin Mk 2s:
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Could Boeing be out of the fighter business in the near future? That question has been kicking around in recent years as air forces are looking to advanced planes like the Lockheed F-35 Lightning or for cheaper options like the Saab Gripen.
A big reason is that Boeing’s entry for a new Joint Strike Fighter, the X-32, lost that competition. A 2014 report from DefenceAviation.com noted that Boeing was producing an average of four jets a month.
The company has made some sales for versions of the F-15E Strike Eagle, but aside from Australia, there have not been many export orders for the F/A-18E/F Super Horner and EA-18G Growler (granted, the Marines could use the Super Hornet to replace aging F/A-18C/D Hornets in a more expeditious manner). The company has marketed the Super Hornet to India in the wake of the problems India has had in adapting the Tejas for carrier operations, and did a video promoting an advanced F-15C.
Boeing is not completely out of the light jet business. It has teamed up with Saab for an entry into the T-X competition that also includes the Lockheed T-50 and the T-100 from Leonardo and Raytheon. It also recently got an order for 36 F-15QAs from Qatar, according to FlightGlobal.com. Qatar also bought 36 Eurofighter Typhoons and 36 Dassault Rafales.
Boeing is also preparing for an upgrade to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet line. The Block III Super Hornet will feature conformal fuel tanks for longer range and improved avionics, including a new radar and better electronic countermeasures systems. President Trump’s budget proposals did include buying 80 more Super Hornets.
Such purchases could only be delaying the inevitable. The Navy and Air Force are reportedly planning a sixth-generation fighter in the FA-XX project, but that may still be years into the future.
Late Tuesday night, June 5th, 2018, 1st Lt. Joshua Philip Yabut was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony evasion, and a felony count of unauthorized use of a military vehicle. He stands accused of stealing an M577 armored command vehicle from Fort Pickett and driving it into downtown Richmond, Virginia before surrendering to authorities.
The alleged joyride began around 7:50pm and ended at roughly 9:40pm. While these are serious crimes that will have serious consequences, the fact that there have been no reports of damage or injury to any civilians or property makes this okay to point out that this whole ordeal is actually really funny.
(Meme via Artillery Moments)
Yabut is the company commander of Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion and has served over 11 years in the military. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the Illinois National Guard.
This gives Yabut the perfect opportunity to not only crack jokes about him putting the “LT” in “LosT” and we’re certain that his zero-f*cks-given attitude can be traced back to his E-4 days.
Then there’s the actual act itself. The reason why many people are describing what was going on as a “joy ride” is because he was live tweeting the entire time, starting off the night with a tweet that (poetically) reads, “wutang clan ain’t nothin to f*ck wit booiiiiiiii.”
The day of, he also posted, “thinking about putting my packet in tbh.” And just a day earlier, he tweeted, “all i wanna do is get an anime wife.”
Already, there are many misconceptions floating around the case. Firstly, he was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, but it hasn’t be clarified exactly what he was on. He did have an M9 pistol, but it was his personally-owned weapon and there was no ammunition. And just to clarify things for civilians, the M577 is an armored, tracked vehicle — but it isn’t a tank.
There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.
She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.
This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.
(Photo by Firas Jumaah)
It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.
The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.
He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.
She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.
Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.
They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.
A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
Mina and Jason Burbridge have been married for two years. She’s 47. He’s 48, and they’ve always maintained separate bank accounts. It gives the Boston couple some freedom to act unilaterally. As Mina says, “If he wants to buy something that’s dumb, he can do it. And so can I.”
They also set up a joint account early on in order to pay for big household expenses, although another motivation came right before their October 2015 wedding. Mina’s account was hacked into and had to be frozen for two weeks as the situation was rectified. The incident made them realize the benefit of two things: spreading their money around and having some always be mutually accessible, she says.
But the separate accounts have continued to show their worth. Mina is a psychologist and clinical trainer. Jason works from home, building a business buying and selling baseball cards. It’s all online, much of it on eBay, and having distinct accounts provides another layer of protection, as he could be doing 20 transactions a day, Jason says.
Mina and Jason’s arrangement is not as atypical as it may seem. A Bank of America study found that Millennial couples have separate bank accounts more than twice as much as Generation X and Baby Boomers. At first glance, it could be seen as affirming their independence and pushing back against the idea that marriage has changed much in their lives. But it’s more than that, says Dr. Robyn Landow, a psychologist in New York City.
(Photo by Evan Forester)
Millennials are waiting to tie the knot. A Gallup poll showed that 27 percent of Millennials are married versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Boomers at comparable ages. Couples often live together for longer and have separate accounts, and, when they do marry, they don’t change the setup. It’s part inertia, part lack of urgency, part, “If it ain’t broke,” Landow says.
Still, while said couples may not see a need, having a joint account carries symbolic and concrete weight. It’s an awareness that there’s now an “ours”, which one day might involve expenses for houses, children and extended family. There’s the above-mentioned minimizing risk and making money available for a worst case scenario. And on a more granular level, a check made out to both people – gift, joint tax return refund – is an easier deposit if both names are on the account, says Brian Haney, financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland.
But the type of account in and of itself doesn’t predict or guarantee marital success or failure. Trust, commitment, and love are still the must-haves, says Landow, adding “The truth is if someone wants to hide or withhold money, with enough planning, they could do it.”
Whatever the system, couples first need to understand each other’s financial type. It involves figuring out whether a person believes in enjoying life as it comes, or in being a hardcore saver, always wanting something in the bank in case of emergencies, which Haney says, are not theoretical occurrences but realities. When attitudes are talked about, decisions become less arbitrary. “It makes it easier to know where you’re coming from and easier to find common ground,” he says.
(Flickr / reynermedia)
And if all that’s in place, responsible people can make individual accounts work – it just becomes a matter of assigning out the bills. But the setup loses the macro perspective of building something together. “You’re not roommates,” Haney says. In other words? Being married means sharing all parts of life – one house, one bed – and money is another component.
The joint account takes down barriers, because, especially when using a budgeting tool such as Mint, a couple can see all money coming in and going out. The information may be uncomfortable, but with everything out in the open, problems can be reconciled, plans can be tweaked, and spouses can make more informed decisions based on what they want.
“It reinforces stability in your relationship,” Haney says. “You’re a team, and when you keep things separate, it’s harder to be a team.”
That doesn’t mean individuals accounts don’t have a place, whether it’s for surprise gifts, the occasional indulgence, or something else. They just need to be another joint decision in what they’re going to look like and be used for. And to help get to the decision, Haney says to merely look at the monthly budget. The numbers will provide the answer to what’s needed for shared expenses, and then how much partners can donate to themselves. The approach is more detached, less emotional. “It takes the feelings out,” he says. The big thing is that it’s discussed and transparent to prevent suspicion, surprises and distrust.
“If you know it, you may not like it, but you can deal with it,” Haney says. “But if you don’t know, you automatically don’t like it. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.
Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest. The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet. He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.
Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman. After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.
Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery. D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war. After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action. Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done. This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.
As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish. He was Canadian. When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character. After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.” “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty. Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan. Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed. These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar. This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia. His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children. He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting. The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
Ever since the Greeks met the Persians at Thermopylae, it has been the iconic standard of a small force pinning down a much larger army for the greater good. Though the movie 300 would have us believe that the number of Greeks defending the pass was just 300, the actual number of defenders was more like 7,000.
Still, a great victory, even though the odds were slightly better. The Polish Army at the beginning of World War II in Europe had much larger odds to contend with, given their circumstances. Though it lasted little more than a month, the stories of Poland’s stalwart defenders are so numerous, despite being outnumbered, outclassed and outgunned by the German Wehrmacht and being invaded from almost all sides.
The Battle of Wizna is one of those astonishing stories.
In the first week after German forces invaded Poland, they came across a small fortified Polish position near the town of Wizna. Though reinforced, the position was manned by only 700 soldiers armed with just two 76mm anti-tank guns, 42 MGs and 2 anti-tank rifles. Coming at them was 42,200 infantry, 350 tanks and 657 artillery pieces from the German 10th Panzer Division.
Though massively outnumbered, its commander, Capt. Władysław Raginis, knew he had to delay the Germans to prevent the encirclement of Independent Operational Group Narew and allow for time to prepare for the defense of Warsaw. Raginis swore he would hold the position as long as he was still alive, a promise he kept.
The Pole occupied a series of 12 bunkers arranged along the line of Narew River. Though the position was small, it was an important hub given its position along major roads and waterways. The Germans could not go around it nor could they simply blast it to bits with artillery. When the assault began, the Germans were able to force the Poles to escape from the field trenches around the fort or retreat over a nearby bridge that was burned to keep it from the Germans.
The Germans paid a high price for that action and the Poles were now left to the series of bunkers with no relief in sight. Time and again the Germans assaulted the bunkers as engineers systematically destroyed parts of the fortifications. For three days, the Poles held on, taking a heavy toll on their attackers. Each bunker that fell to the enemy only came as a result of heavy fighting.
After three days, only two bunkers were still standing. Most of the Poles were wounded and they’d lost most of their heavy weapons keeping the Germans at bay. The Wehrmacht commander, Heinz Guderian then gave Raginis an ultimatum: either surrender the fortifications or he would start shooting Polish prisoners of war. A cease-fire came only after a German envoy approached under a flag of truce.
Considering his situation, Raginis – Poland’s King Leonidas – decided that his wounded and tired men should surrender to the Germans rather than be killed to a man, or risk losing the Polish POWs. Being nearly completely out of ammo, they surrendered – all except Raginis.
True to his promise of holding the bunker as long as he was alive, Capt. Raginis placed a grenade under his chin and pulled the pin.
No one really knows what happened to the Poles taken prisoner by Guderian that day. Only 70 defenders of Wizna survived. Guderian wrote in his diary that 900 Germans died at Wizna, along with 10 tanks and even one aircraft being destroyed.
Today, just one of the ruined bunkers still remains on the site and the heroic stand of the Polish at Wizna is well-known in Poland. For his part, Capt. Władysław Raginis is still a national hero in Poland.
Military working dogs are some of America’s hardest working service members. They find IEDs, drugs, victims of natural disasters, and dozens of other things. They also serve beside special operators and engage enemies with their human counterparts.
Unfortunately, they also live shorter lives than their humans.
That means that nearly every human handler will one day have to say goodbye to their friend and partner. The military allows handlers to go through a process that ensures the humans get one last day of bonding with their animals and the dogs receive a dignified sendoff.
First, a decision is made about who will handle the canine during their final day. This is often the current handler assigned to the dog or the person who adopted them upon their retirement, but it could also be someone who spent a long time with the animal or who bonded most strongly with them.
This handler and other service members who love the dog will spend time playing together one last time.
Then, the canine is taken for a “Final Patrol” or, sometimes, a “Final Walk.” Depending on the installation and the dog, this can be anything from a low-key walk around some of the greener parts of the base to a full-fledged parade down the base’s main drag.
Sometimes, the dogs may be too sick or old to conduct the final patrol on their own. In those circumstances, the units will arrange an escort with handlers and other people who loved and respected them.
At the end of the final patrol, a human with close ties to the dog will walk them past a final salute.
Service members line the walk to render honors to the animals who have served faithfully. This will be the last chance for many of the humans to express their gratitude.
Inside the clinic, veterinarians will begin the euthanization process while handlers comfort the dogs.
The handlers stay with the dogs until the end.
Once it is done, the dog is draped with the flag and prepared for their final rest. Usually, the dogs are cremated.
Handlers and other members of the unit will then hold a memorial ceremony with a display of a kennel, a tipped dish, a collar and leash, and sometimes the dog’s ashes.
Pvt. Kaitlin Haines, a handler with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment and a native of Sacramento, Calif., salutes during a Feb. 9, 2015, memorial service at Miesau Chapel for Cak, a local military working dog who was put to rest in December. (Photo and cutline: Elisabeth Paqué)
The handlers then have to overcome their grief and find a new partner to work with.
As the U.S. Navy crews of two riverine command boats were being held on Iran’s Farsi island by members of the Revolutionary Guard, their captors began to interrogate the group, demanding to know where the Navy “mothership” was.
The ten crew members insisted on the truth — that there was no mothership, and the 50-foot boats were making a transit of 250 nautical miles from Kuwait to Bahrain on their own.
Reportedly, the captors were incredulous, telling the group they didn’t believe the boats could make the distance on their own.
“Yeah,” at least one of the Navy crew members reportedly laughed. “I wish you could tell my people that, because we told them these boats can’t do that.”
This exchange, revealed for the first time in a Navy command investigation made public Thursday, highlights many of the key findings regarding the circumstances that led to the 15-hour detention of the ten sailors Jan. 12.
The 170-page probe found shoddy training, poor preparation, communication gaps and leadership failures all were to blame for the international incident, which was manipulated into a propaganda victory by the Iranians.
Among other discoveries, the investigation found that members of the riverine boat crews had been up all night before the planned transit attempting to repair the poorly maintained boats, a violation of policies requiring ample rest before journeys of that length.
They determined that the sailors had unknowingly passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before accidentally entering Iranian territorial waters. And they found the sailors had committed multiple code-of-conduct violations while detained, demonstrating a lack of understanding of policy and insufficient training.
In all, the investigation recommends that eight Navy officers and petty officers be held accountable for leadership and conduct failings in the incident.
Transit gone wrong
According to the investigation, the transit of the two riverine boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 began in the afternoon Jan. 12. The boats were ordered to transit from Kuwait to Bahrain to support an upcoming military exercise, a longer distance than the crews, or anyone from the squadron, had ever covered before in the vessels.
The boats planned to meet up with the Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy before sunset to refuel, and altered their course as soon as they got underway to reach the cutter faster, but without notifying anyone of their plans, according to the investigation.
From the outset, communications were a problem. The second riverine boat, 805, eventually established satellite communication with officials from the parent unit, Task Force 56.7, in Bahrain. The lead boat, 802, never established satellite communication.
Shortly into the journey, just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the boats unknowingly entered and passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters. Just after 3:45 p.m., they entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Monomoy, monitoring the journey, notified task force officials that the boats appeared to be in Iranian territorial seas.
Fewer than 30 minutes after the boats entered the region, boat 802 discovered a loss of lube oil pressure. The two boats decided to go “dead in the water” to investigate the engine issue, just 1.5 nautical miles south of Farsi island.
Minutes later, two small Iranian boats approached, crew-mounted weapons pointed at the riverine boats. Some of the riverine crew members went to man their own crew-mounted weapons, but the captain of the lead boat, a Navy lieutenant and the only officer in the group, waved them off in an attempt to de-escalate.
As Iranian troops racked their weapons and pointed AK-47s and .50-caliber guns at the sailors, the officer made another attempt to extricate the boats from the worsening situation, ordering the lead boat’s coxswain to accelerate through the Iranian boats in a getaway attempt. But the coxswain disregarded the order, telling investigators later that he thought members of the crew would be killed if he followed it.
Two additional Iranian boats arrived, and members of the guard boarded the riverine boats, tearing down the American flags they were flying and hoisting Revolutionary Guard flags in their place. They blindfolded the sailors, taking their personal belongings and tying their hands together with pieces of Iranian flag, according to the report.
Then the guided the two riverine boats to Farsi island, where the sailors would spend their brief period as detainees.
The ten sailors were kept together in a room, where they were first interrogated together, then one-by-one, in sessions ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. Iranian captors would bring in food and attempt to film the sailors with a video camera as they ate. The lead boat captain resisted these efforts to film the crews, but ultimately told the sailors they should eat because it wasn’t clear when their next meal was coming.
In perhaps the most significant misstep during this period of detention, the lead boat commander agreed to read scripted remarks on camera in front of an Iranian “news crew” in which he apologized for the mistake of ending up in Iranian water and said the incident was “our fault.” He did this in exchange for the promise of release, the investigation found, against military code of conduct rules for such situations. Unbeknownst to him, the release of all the sailors had already been secured by the U.S. government and their departure from Farsi island was imminent.
Because of unit upheaval and reorganization in previous years, Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and its parent unit, Coastal Riverine Group 1, found themselves undermanned and overtasked. The crews of the two command boats had missed key skills training periods due to operational commitments, the investigating officer found, and were lacking navigation training as well as training needed to prepare them to operate in the Middle East during their deployment.
Poor communication meant that the then-commander of Task Force 56, Capt. Kyle Moses, didn’t realize the units were inadequately prepared for deployment, the investigator found. On top of that, the investigation determined, the task force fostered a “can’t say no” command climate, meaning that lower-ranking troops fell in line rather than raising important concerns.
Neither Moses, nor the commander of Task Force 56.7 in Bahrain, nor the Kuwait detachment officer-in-charge, understood the poor condition of the riverine command boats, neither of which was fully operational, the investigation found. Neither task force had a sense of ownership of the boats, officials said.
This lack of leadership and training was considered by investigator to be an extenuating factor in the conduct of the riverine boat crews, which made a series of bad choices starting with “blindly” deviating from course at the outset.
The two boat captains did not understand proper procedure for addressing an engine failure underway. They failed to keep their weapons manned while dead in the water to guard against a surprise attack. Both captains failed to exercise self-defense when the Iranians demonstrated hostile intent, the investigation found, due to a lack of understanding of how to do so. The lead boat captain surrendered both boats to the Iranian authorities, the probe found. While the military code of conduct acknowledges that troops may be captured, it forbids surrender if they have the means to resist.
And while detained, the crews showed some confusion about what they were permitted to say. The investigator found some volunteered pieces of information apart from name, rank and serial number, including the top speed of the riverine boats and the fact that the parent command owned a third boat. The sailors’ comment about telling their command the boats couldn’t make the journey demonstrated lack of trust in their chain of command to the detaining forces, the investigator said, and could have been used for propaganda purposes.
Discipline and recommendations
Despite the missteps of the captain of the lead boat, the investigating officer accounted for his junior rank and lack of fleet experience and oversight, recommending only that a copy of the investigation be forwarded to his commander for appropriate oversight.
“He was placed in a difficult position, albeit one in which his own actions placed him and nine other sailors in danger,” the investigating officer wrote. “His deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of operations lacked any form of oversight and he lacked basic mentorship and development from his entire chain of command. Left to his own devices, he emulated the poor leadership traits he witnessed firsthand within his own chain of command.”
The report also recommends discipline for the commander of the second boat and the coxswain who disobeyed the order to accelerate away, asking that the investigation be forwarded to their chain of command for action.
Discipline is also recommended for Task Force 56 Commander Moses, the Task Force 56 chief staff officer, the commanding officer and executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and the Kuwait officer-in-charge at the time of the transit.
The Navy announced that CRS-3 executive officer Cmdr. Eric Rasch had been relieved from his post in May. Moses was relieved earlier this month. Actions regarding the other officers have not been made public to date.
The investigating officer also recommended an immediate operational training and readiness stand-down for Task Force 56 to ensure adequate training and readiness, as well as the implementation of monthly live-fire training and a review of policies and procedures for maritime operational centers.
In view of the confusion surrounding who was in charge and the chain of command once the riverine boats got underway and the lack of familiarity with the boats’ capabilities, the investigator recommended developing a career track “specifically for the competitive selection and detailing of post-department head surface warfare officers to officer-in-charge billets at the coastal riverine squadrons.”
The report casts a strongly unfavorable light on the actions of the Iranian guards, who the investigating officer found accosted and detained U.S. sailors in an innocent passage through territorial waters, against international norms. The riverine boats were inappropriately searched and communications wires cut, the probe found. And many of the sailors who were interrogated had their personal space invaded during periods of questioning as Iranian interrogators sought to intimidate them into giving up information.
These findings appear to run somewhat counter to remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the sailors’ release and thanked Iranian authorities for their quick response.
“All indications suggest that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet,” Kerry said Jan. 13.
In a largely damning report, there are a few commendations. The investigating officer recommended that the No. 2 gunner aboard the second riverine boat — the only female sailor among the ten detained — be recognized for her quick thinking in activating an emergency beacon while “kneeling, bound and blindfolded” at Iranian gunpoint, in a brave but ultimately thwarted attempt to call for help.
The commanders and crews of the cutter Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, which coordinated to track the captured sailors and provided assistance on their return, were also recommended for special recommendation.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was expected to discuss the findings of the investigation on Thursday.
On Oct. 22, 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, in partnership with the Missing in American Project (MIAP), provided a memorial service with full military funeral honors for three veterans who donated their bodies for medical education and research.
“Every veteran with honorable service has earned the right to be interred in a national cemetery and has paid the price by their service to this great nation. There is no cost to the family for this service; it simply is the right thing to do,” said Douglas Maddox, Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery assistant director. “I want to point out that these veterans continued to serve their country and their community even after their death.”
The veterans interred were:
Paul Alexander Rogers, Navy veteran (Seaman), who served from July 1951 to March 1953 (Korean War);
Cameron Wayne Scott, Air Force veteran (Sgt.), who served from November 1977 to December 1983;
Lawrence Dale Stout, Army veteran (Spc.3), who served from November 1954 to November 1956 (Korean War).
The service included a rifle salute by the Dallas-Fort Worth Honor Guard, a live bugler and flag presentation. The North Texas Patriot Guard Riders escorted the urns to the committal shelter, with carrying by cadets from the Oak Cliff High School JROTC.
Entrance gate at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
Honor and respect
In conformation with Texas state law, all bodies are cremated upon completion of studies.
“Our mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans. We strive to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes,” said Tyler Carver, from MIAP who organized the service along with Joyce Earnest, the Texas Coordinator for the MIAP.
The 638-acre Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery opened in May 2000. Since that time, the cemetery has conducted more than 59,000 interments of veterans and eligible dependents. The cemetery scheduled a Veterans Day ceremony honoring military veterans for November 11 at the cemetery.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. For details, visit www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/eligible.asp.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.