Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.


The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.

Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.

But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.

There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.

But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.

The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.

Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

upload.wikimedia.org

The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”

Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.

Later suits building on Feres limited soldiers’ rights even more – barring claims by a soldier allegedly raped by her drill sergeant and by members of the military harmed by their exposure to nuclear testing and the defoliant chemical Agent Orange.

Questionable doctrine survives

All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.

This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.

The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.

The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”

In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.

Green Beret goes to Congress

Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.

After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.

But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.

So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.

A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

Cup only half-full

The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.

And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.

While Rep. Speier still thinks that military claimants “deserve their day in federal court,” this would not be the first time a legislature provided a remedy for personal injury through an administrative process outside the courts. Workers’ compensation and the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund are examples of the use of administrative processes to determine compensation for injury.

Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.

Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Pigeons are one of the most annoying and disgusting parts of living in a city these days. But did you know that those winged rats were once well-decorated war heroes?


The World Wars had dramatically increased the pace of technological advancement and gave rise to early forms quick communication, such as radio and telephone. But radio was easily intercepted and telephone wires were obvious to the enemy. Pigeons, on the other hand, had a surprising 95 percent efficiency and could carry longer-form messages than those sent by telegraph.

Communications between squads and battalions were typically delivered by a runner — a troop that moved across the battlefield carrying a message. For higher level communications, signal troops would write messages on tiny pieces of paper that would then be rolled up and attached to pigeons. Pigeons have natural magnetoreceptors and an instinct to return home, both of which they use to send a message on its way.

These birds can travel great distances in a (relatively) short amount of time. Princess the Pigeon, for example, managed a 500-mile flight during World War II when she carried vital information about the British troops fighting in Crete to RAF in Alexandria, Egypt.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages
Not all pigeons in England are terrible.
(Imperial War Museum)

Pigeons weren’t just sent as messengers. As early as World War I, innovators attached cameras to the birds who would then fly about the battlefield as the camera automatically snapped photographs.

As you’d expect, most photos came out terribly but, on occasion, you’d get a photo that would prove the idea wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages
(Imperial War Museum)

The most well-known story of the war pigeons is that of Cher Ami (which translates to “dear friend” from French). On Oct. 3, 1918, 195 American troops of the Lost Battalion were trapped behind enemy lines. Their position was surrounded on every side by German forces. To make matters worse, American artillery had started raining down on their position. Maj. Whittlesey affixed a message to Cher Ami and let her lose.

The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Cher Ami was spotted by the Germans and shot down. Despite her wounds, she managed to take flight again and complete her 25-mile journey in just 25 minutes. She did this after taking a bullet to the chest, being blinded in one eye, and nearly losing the leg to which her crucial message was attached. Thanks to Cher Ami, all 195 men survived.

She was patched up and sent back home to the U.S. by Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing himself.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.

Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.


Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.

Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages
He came in like a wrecking ball.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

People like this.

Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.

At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

“Ownership” being the operative word.

1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy

Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

These guys, remember?

2. They did not break the back of the resistance

While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.

The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.

Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.

In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.

The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.

3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people

A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.

Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.

The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”

4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force

The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.

Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.

The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.

This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In first DoD-wide audit, every military branch failed

The first-ever audit of the of the $2.7 trillion enterprise that is the Defense Department identified widespread problems in cybersecurity, but found little in the way of savings that could offset potential budget cuts in 2019, according to Pentagon and Congressional officials.

Without going into detail, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement on the report, said the audit identified “multiple material weaknesses” across the department but also provided “invaluable information that will help us target and prioritize corrective actions.”


David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit, said no glaring instances of fraud were found but the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Operations, and the Transportation Command all received failing grades.

“We didn’t pass. That’s the blunt and bottom line. We have issues and we’re going to fix them,” Norquist said.

That was to be expected in a first-time audit, Norquist told defense reporters in a Pentagon news conference shortly before the audit’s release on Nov. 15, 2018.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“If you’re not fixing it, the auditors will come back in exactly a year and find you didn’t fix it,” Norquist said before the report’s release. “And they’re going to come the next year, and the next year until you fix it, so each year I’ll be able to tell you how many findings we closed.”

Occasionally, the auditors turned up problems that turned out not to be problems, Norquist said, which is what happened when they went looking at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The Hill database listed million-worth of missile motors as broken and in need of repair. When the auditors went to look at them, the motors were found to be in working order — it was a problem in labeling, the audit report said.

One of the “material weaknesses,” as Mattis put it, was in the area of cybersecurity throughout the department, Norquist said.

“Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our businesses,” Norquist said, and it “reflects the challenges that the department faces in IT security.”

One area of concern was in security clearances for personnel and “terminating user access when they depart,” Norquist said.

The department also had to do a better job of “monitoring sensitive users, people who have special authorities, making sure there is careful monitoring to that,” Norquist said. “Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our business systems. We thought this was likely.”

Mattis has been pushing DoD managers to find efficiencies and savings on contracts and operations to fund improvements in the lethality and readiness of the force, and also to guard against potential budget cuts in the new Congress.

President Donald Trump has already warned that he could ask for five percent budget cuts in 2019 across all government departments.

In a statement on the audit, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urged against using the audit as an excuse to cut military funding.

The audit should be used to make the military “more efficient and agile,” Thornberry said, and “it should not be used as an excuse for arbitrary cuts that reverse the progress we have begun on rebuilding our strength and readiness.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who has called DoD a “.7 trillion enterprise” when all the ships, planes, tanks, missiles, salaries, and buildings are counted on top of the budget, agreed with Norquist that failures uncovered by the audit were to be expected in the first attempt.

“We never thought we were going to pass an audit, right? Everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit,” Shanahan told defense reporters on Nov. 15, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., India sign deal that will allow them to better hunt subs

The US and India have grown closer over the past decade, and they took another major step forward in September 2018 with the signing of a communications agreement that will improve their ability to coordinate military operations — like hunting down submarines.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, respectively, on Sept. 6, 2018, for the long-delayed inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

The meeting produced a raft of agreements. Perhaps the most important was the Communications, Compatibility, and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms,” according to a joint statement.


The deal — one of several foundational agreements the US and India have been discussing for nearly two decades — took years to negotiate, delayed by political factors in India and concerns about opening Indian communications to the US.

The US wants to ensure sensitive equipment isn’t leaked to other countries — like Russia, with which India has longstanding defense ties — while India wants to ensure its classified information isn’t shared without consent.

But the lack of an agreement limited what the US could share.

“The case that the US has been making to India is that some of the more advanced military platforms that we’ve been selling them, we actually have to remove the advanced communications” systems on them because they can’t be sold to countries that haven’t signed a COMCASA agreement, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow for South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, in an interview in late August 2018.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meet at Modi’s residence, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. Mattis, along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and other top U.S. officials met with Modi following the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue, where Mattis and Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts.

“So that even when we’re doing joint exercises together, we have to use older, more outdated communications channels when our two militaries are communicating with one another, and it just makes things more difficult,” Smith added.

And it wasn’t just the US. A Japanese official said in 2017 that communications between that country’s navy and the Indian navy were limited to voice transmissions, and there was no satellite link that would allow them to share monitor displays in on-board command centers.

With COMCASA in place, India can now work toward greater interoperability with the US and other partners.

“COMCASA is a legal technology enabler that will facilitate our access to advanced defense systems and enable us to optimally utilize our existing US-origin platforms like C-130J Super Hercules and P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft,” an official told The Times of India.

Importantly for India, the agreement opens access to new technology and weapons that use secure military communications — like the armed Sea Guardian drone, which India will be the first non-NATO country to get. Sea Guardians come with advanced GPS, an Identification Friend or Foe system, and a VHF radio system, which can thwart jamming or spoofing.

The deal also facilitates information sharing via secure data links and Common Tactical Picture, which would allow Indian forces to share data with the US and other friendly countries during exercises and operations.

Expanding interoperability is particularly important for India in the Indian Ocean region, where increasing Chinese naval activity— especially that of submarines — has worried New Delhi.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” a source told The Times of India.

‘The bells and whistles … didn’t necessary come with it’

Signing COMCASA has been cast as part of a broader strategic advance by India, binding it closer to the US and facilitating more exchanges with other partner forces. (Some have suggested the deal lowers the likelihood the US will sanction India for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.)

The agreement itself will facilitate more secure communications and data exchanges and opens a path for future improvements, but there are other issues hanging over India’s ability to work with its partners.

Among the US-made hardware India has bought in recent years are variants of the P-8 Poseidon, one of the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian Navy photo)

India purchased the aircraft through direct commercial sales rather than through foreign military sales, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in an interview at the end of August 2018.

“As a result a lot of the bells and whistles, the extra stuff that goes with a new airplane — the mission systems, like the radio systems, and the radars and the sonobuoys and all the equipment that you’d get with an airplane like that — didn’t necessary come with it, and they’re going to have to buy that separately,” Clark said.

“Signing this agreement means there’s an opportunity to share the same data-transfer protocols or to use the same communications systems,” Clark said. But both sides would need to already have the systems in question in order to take advantage of the new access.

“So the Indians would still have to buy the systems that would enable them to be interoperable,” Clark said.

Smith said a “fundamental change” in the US-India defense-sales relationship was unlikely, but having COMCASA in place would make US-made systems more attractive and allow India to purchase a broader range of gear.

“At least now India can get the full suite of whatever platforms they’re looking at,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Who will be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense?

As President-elect Biden builds his team, one key unknown appointment is causing friction: who could be President Biden’s Secretary of Defense?

Coalition leaders within the political landscape are pushing for different contenders. The Congressional Black Caucus is encouraging him to choose a Black leader while many within the progressive wing of politics are pressuring Biden to select a female leader. There has never been a female or Black Secretary of Defense, something both groups are vying to change. 

Among the speculated contenders for the position include retired four-star Army General Lloyd Austin and Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Army National Guard veteran and America’s first female double-amputee from the Iraq War. Michele Flournoy is also under consideration as is former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Although there are others being considered, these four have the most ties to the military community through service and experience. 

General Austin visits troops over the holidays. He's being considered for Secretary of Defense.

All potential candidates represent the president-elect’s commitment to building a diverse cabinet. In November of 2020, Biden announced the historic appointment of an all female-led communications team.

For Austin to be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense, he would require a congressional waiver from Congress since he only retired just four years prior from active duty service. There is widespread discontent with him as a choice due to his time working within defense contracting as well as a congressional hearing that left more questions than answers. If chosen, he would be the first Black Secretary of Defense, as would Johnson. Although Duckworth would be a history-making nominee as a female and combat-wounded veteran, CNN reported that Biden is reluctant to leave vacancies within the Senate. Flournoy is experiencing some backlash as a choice as well, due to her connection with arms sales and unanswered questions about her consulting company, WestExec Advisors, LLC.

Tammy Duckworth salutes. Duckworth is said to be on the shortlist for President-Elect Biden's Secretary of Defense.

The Secretary of Defense position has been full of tumult under President Trump, with a leadership change six times. While retired General Jim Mattis led for almost two years when Trump began his presidency, his successors didn’t last nearly as long. Patrick Shanahan held the position for six months, Mark Esper for 21 days, Richard Spencer for only eight days before Esper took over again, this time for a year and 109 days. The current Acting Secretary of Defense was only appointed in November of 2020 after Esper was fired on Twitter by President Trump. 

With the continued changing leadership at the Pentagon, it’s understandable that those voicing opinions on Biden’s pick are concerned. The administration appears to be taking pains to ensure President-Elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense is a solid and secure pick. Until then, the military community waits in the wings, breath held in anticipation of their new defense leader.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force couple fosters adorable animals in Arizona

Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.

To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.

The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.


“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”

After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.

Medical care

Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.

“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted.

Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.

Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.

“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”

Homeward bound

Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.

“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.

To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the (failed) status of the first private lunar mission

April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.


“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”

In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.

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Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.

By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).

This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.

“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.

The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.

(SpaceIL)


Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.

The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The experimental rifle that almost changed World War II

In 1928, the Army asked itself how it could make its rifles, and therefore its riflemen, more lethal in case all those building tensions in Europe and Asia eventually boiled over and triggered a new world war. After years of study and design, they came up with a rifle design that some leaders thought would be capable of tipping battles, but it never saw combat.


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Pedersen rifle patent

It started in 1928 when the Army created a “Caliber Board” to determine what the most lethal size would be for a rifle round. Their eventual conclusion would be familiar to anyone who carried an M16 or M4. While .30-caliber and larger rounds were great for hunting animals, they passed too quickly and easily through humans. The board decided that a smaller round, preferably .276 inches or smaller, would be best.

This decision was no surprise to John Douglas Pedersen, a well-known weapon designer with an experimental rifle chambered for .276-caliber that featured a delayed-blowback mechanism and a 10-round clip.

This allowed the weapon to fire reliably, and it allowed infantrymen and cavalrymen to maintain a high rate of fire. A demonstration of the weapon pleased senior Army leaders, and they asked when they could take prototypes to the field for testing.

But the Pedersen did have some drawbacks. The weapon was very precisely machined, and even small errors could throw off its operation. Also, its rounds had to receive a thin coating of wax to guarantee that they’d properly feed through the weapon. Finally, its clips could only be fed in one direction into the rifle, meaning riflemen reloading under fire would have to be careful to get it right.

So, other weapon designers thought they had a chance to win the Army’s business. Other .276-caliber designs entered competition, including the Garand.

The Garand could take a beating, was easier to manufacture, and didn’t need lubricated rounds. The Pedersen was still the frontrunner in many eyes, but the Garand posed a real threat to it.

Shooting a .276 Pedersen PB Rifle

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Shooting a .276 Pedersen PB Rifle

An even greater blow to the Pedersen was coming. As the move to a .276-caliber continued, the Army Ordnance Department was putting up fierce resistance. The department didn’t want to have to set up the whole new supply chain, get the new tools, or prepare the new stockpiles of ammunition required to support the switch.

The Ordnance Department argued, successfully, to Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur that the change would be expensive and present logistics challenges. MacArthur ordered that any new rifle had to use the .30-caliber ammunition already in use by the Army.

Most of the competitors, including Pedersen, didn’t think they could re-configure their weapons quickly to accept the larger ammunition, but the Garand team could. They quickly swapped in new parts, and entered a .30-caliber Garand and it won the competition, going on to become the M1 Garand of World War II legend.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

A U.S. Marine with his trusty M1 Garand in World War II.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

But it’s easy to imagine an alternate history where the Pedersen or the .276-Garand went into production instead. The .30-caliber ammunition and older weapons would’ve still seen action, sent forward with Free French, British, and Russian forces under the Cash-and-Carry system and then Lend-Lease.

Meanwhile, American troops would’ve carried a slightly lighter rifle and much lighter rounds, giving them the ability to more quickly draw their weapons and the ability to sustain a higher rate of fire with the same strain on individual soldiers and the logistics chain.

And, best of all, more lethality per hit. The .30-caliber rounds, the same size as 7.62mm, are more likely to pass through a target at the ranges in which most battles are fought. But .276-caliber rounds are more likely to tumble a time or two after hitting a target, dispersing their energy in the target’s flesh and causing massive internal bleeding.

So, if the 1928 Ordnance Board and the modern minds behind 5.56mm and the potential 6.8mm weapons were right, each successful rifle hit by American soldiers was more likely to cause death or extreme wounding.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Air Force veteran’s honest reaction to ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer

The first official Captain Marvel trailer finally dropped, teasing one of Marvel’s most anticipated new films — and its new hero, whom the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, has touted as Marvel’s most powerful yet. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for nerds.

Warning: Potential Captain Marvel and Avengers 3 and 4 spoilers ahead.


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She walks away from this, btw.

The opening sequence drops Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers out of the sky and onto a Blockbuster video store, reminding the audience that this film takes place in the 90s — which is also why we’re going to be seeing some classic Air Force fighters instead of newer (sexier?) stealth jets, like the F-22 or F-35.

Related: Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Don’t call it a Fighting Falcon. NO ONE CALLS IT A FIGHTING FALCON.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

U.S. Air Force Captain Carol Danvers flew the F-16 Viper before becoming a part-Kree, part-human intergalactic superhero…

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“You see, an explosion spliced my DNA with a Kree alien named Mar-Vell so now I call myself Captain Marvel and I can fly and shoot energy bursts out of my hands and stuff.”

Captain Marvel is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film to star a female superhero, but it won’t be an origin story. When this film begins, Carol already has her powers and works with Starforce, described in Entertainment Weekly as the “SEAL Team Six of space.”

Once on earth, she finds herself with questions about her past.

“I keep having these memories. I see flashes. I think I had a life here but I can’t tell if it’s real.”

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

That’s kind of how my active-duty memories look — except with a lot more paperwork and despair.

The trailer shows what appear to be Carol’s memories, including her military training and time on active duty. Here, we get a peek at Maria “Photon” Rambeau, Carol’s closest friend and, we’re guessing, wingman.

Maria also has a daughter named Monica — whom comic book fans will know as an iteration of Captain Marvel, among others. By the time the events in Avengers 4 come around, Monica will be an adult. We know that Nick Fury’s last act before Thanos dusted him was to page Captain Marvel (yes — with a pager… because of the 90s? I don’t know how that inter-dimensional/time-traveling/vintage technology works yet).

So far, fans have only been able to speculate where Carol has been since the 90s, but a favorite theory includes Ant-Man (who was also absent during the fight against Thanos) and a time vortex.

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Keep the wings level and true, ladies.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

Both Larson and Lynch spent time with Air Force pilots, flying in F-16s, learning how to carry their helmets, and how to properly wear the flight suit (except I know — I know — those actors had tailored flight suits and it’s not fair and I’m bitter because my flight suit looked like they threw a pillow case over a guitar and called it a uniform).

We definitely see some of Cadet Danvers’ determination (and disregard of safety protocols). I remember climbing ropes, but, like, not 20-foot ropes?

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Let’s hope that last bit was about healing TBIs, am I right?

As superhero films get bigger and better, expanding the mythology from the hero who saves the city to the hero who saves the universe with unparalleled powers and abilities, it’s a point of pride to see a hero begin exactly the way they do here at home: with a calling to serve.

Back in the 90s, Carol Danvers was just a kid who graduated high school and decided to attend the United States Air Force Academy. She decided to serve her country. She worked her ass off and became a pilot — a fighter pilot, no less. It’s the most competitive career choice in the United States Air Force.

All of that happened before her she gained her superpowers.

Captain Marvel is going to be about Marvel’s most powerful superhero yet, but at its heart, the film is about a girl who felt the call to serve — it’s going to be exciting to watch her do just that.

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Articles

Watch the Air Force test fire one of its nuclear doomsday weapons

The US Air Force test launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on the California coast early August 2, which follows a similar missile test by North Korea.


Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.

“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”

The Air Force released a video of the test launch.

The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.

Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.

“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous mobster’s son was a West Point grad

Meyer Lansky was the mind behind the mob. Active in the criminal underworld since the days before Prohibition, Lansky – the “Mob’s Accountant” – was able to figure out how to make mafia earnings and turn them into legitimate businesses. It was because of his acumen that the mob was able to form a kind of national crime syndicate with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. He would become the highest-ranking non-Italian in the Mafia.

His kids were going to do something very different.


To the Sicilians, being in the mafia was an honorable occupation. According to the onetime head of the Bonnano crime family, Joe Bonnano, one of the terms that designated a mafioso was loosely translated as “Man of Honor.” For Jewish men like Meyer Lanksy, however, it wasn’t so honorable. In fact, Lanksy found the business shameful, despite spending his life building it. Still, he wanted a different life for his children.

One of his children, Paul, would actually attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – on his own merit.

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Meyer Lansky with his family: Sons (from left) Paul and Buddy, who had cerebral palsy, daughter Sandra, and first wife Ana.

“The Lansky boy has justified the confidence which was placed in him,” wrote Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver upon appointing Paul Lanksy to West Point. It was a far cry from the life his father lived, having created Las Vegas with his friends, other legendary members of America’s most notorious organized crime families. The younger Lansky would graduate from the Academy in 1954 and join the Air Force.

Lansky was in the Air Force until 1963, ultimately resigning his commission while at the rank of Captain so he could take a civilian engineering job in Tacoma, Wash. He stayed far from his famous father’s profession, going so far as to pretend that he and the elder Lansky had some sort of falling out and didn’t speak.

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