Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.
Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.
Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.
Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”
A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.
Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.
“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.
The night is dark and cold in the French countryside. The sky is moonless and your headlights are dimmed to hide you from enemy planes. You’ve never driven this route before, but the troops at the front desperately need the supplies you’re carrying, so you hurtle down the bumpy dirt road at 60 mph in your 2.5-ton truck. As the sounds of battle ahead grow louder, you realize you’re nearing your destination; and greater danger.
Overhead, the thunderous roar of airplane engines add to the cacophony of gunfire. You pray that the planes are friendly and that you won’t be strafed or bombed, and drive on into the night.
Red Ball Express trucks move through a Regulating Point (U.S. Army photo)
To streamline the flow of supplies, two one-way routes were utilized between the port at Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres, near Paris. The northern route brought supplies to the front while the southern route was used by returning trucks. These roads were closed to civilian vehicles and both the trucks and the route were marked with red balls. Outside of the designated route, the red balls also gave the trucks priority on regular roads.
An MP waves on a Red Ball Express convoy next to a sign marking the route (Photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
At the height of its operation, the Red Ball Express consisted of 5,958 vehicles carrying about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. In order to staff this massive logistical effort, soldiers were drawn from other support units and trained as long-haul drivers. For some, it was their first experience behind the wheel. A majority of these men came from the Quartermaster Corps and 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African-American.
Soldiers of the Red Ball Express make quick repairs to their deuce-and-a-half truck (U.S. Army photo)
One such driver was James Rookard who was just a teenager when he was assigned as a Red Ball Express driver. “I’ve driven when I couldn’t hardly see, just by instinct. You sort of feel the road,” Rookard recalled. “There were dead bodies and dead horses on the highways after bombs dropped. I was scared, but I did my job, hoping for the best.” In the midst of all the danger, Rookard and other drivers endured a 54-hour long round trip to the front and back with very little rest between trips.
Rookard with a display case of his medals and mementos from the war (Photo by Brian Albrecht)
To increase their efficiency, drivers often removed the governors from their carburetors which normally restricted their speed to 56 mph. Some drivers even learned to switch seats with their relief driver on the move. “When General Patton said for you to be there, you were there if you had to drive all night,” Rookard attested. The drivers of the Red Ball Express had an important job to do and they got it done.
Soldiers of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston, father of late singer/actress Whitney Houston (Photo from U.S. Army Transportation Museum)
Their exemplary performance drew the attention and respect of Allied commanders. “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Patton his supplies,” one British brigade commander wrote. Even Hollywood took notice, and in 1952, the film Red Ball Express was released. However, the film was not without controversy.
Promotional poster for the film (Universal Pictures)
During production, the Department of Defense sent a letter to director Budd Boetticher and Universal insisting that the presentation of race relations be modified and “that the positive angle be emphasized.” Boetticher was displeased with the interference.
In 1979, Boetticher explained, “The Army wouldn’t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didn’t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, they’d save Patton and his tanks.”
A soldier fills a tire with air alongside the Red Ball Express highway (Photo from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)
By November 1944, the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were open and enough French rail lines were repaired that the Red Ball Express was no longer required. After shifting 412,193 tons of supplies, the Red Ball Express was shut down on November 16, 1944.
The men of the Red Ball Express were given an enormous task. Only through their enthusiasm, determination, and many sleepless nights were they able to bring their comrades at the front what they needed to fight. The next time you watch Patton, remember the brave men who brought him the supplies to keep his tanks rolling. After all, bullets don’t fly without supply.
Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.
The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.
The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.
Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.
Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.
The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.
Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.
The incident remains under investigation, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Army and the Marine Corps have both been looking for new small arms, and while the Marines have decided to give the M27 to a wider portion of the force, the Army says it will forge ahead with the development of a totally new, next-generation rifle.
The Army ditched plans for a interim replacement for the M16/M4 platform in November, announcing that it would direct funds dedicated to that effort to the development of the Next Generation Squad Weapon, which will be the permanent replacement for the current rifle platform.
The program will now proceed in two phases, senior Army officers told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee this week. Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, said the first step will be acquiring the 7.62 mm Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle.
“That gives us the ability to penetrate the most advanced body armor in the world,” Murray told the subcommittee, responding to questions about shortcomings in the Army’s current rifles and ammunition.
“We are accelerating the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to 2018,” he said, according to Military.com. “We will start fielding that in 2018.”
Murray said distribution of the advanced 7.62 mm armor-piercing round, which the Army hoped to see this year, won’t happen until 2019. But the SDMR, he added, “will still penetrate that body armor, but you can’t get that extended range that is possible with the next-generation round.”
The second phase will be the adoption of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon. Murray said the Army would not follow the Marine Corps’ lead with the M27.
“We’ve been pushed on the M27, which the Marine Corps has adopted. That is also a 5.56 mm, which doesn’t penetrate,” he told senators, according to Marine Corps Times. “So we’re going to go down the path of [the] Next Generation Squad Weapon.”
The first version to arrive will likely be the an automatic rifle to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, which also fires a 5.56 mm round, Murray said.
The Marines brought in the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249. The Corps has kept both weapons, equipping the automatic rifleman in each infantry fire team with an M27 — though it began looking at wider distribution of the rifle among infantrymen in 2016. An M27 variant has also been tested as the Corps’ squad-designated marksman weapon.
Murray told senators that the Army’s M249 replacement is “to be closely followed, I’m hopeful, with either a rifle or a carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56 mm.”
Murray added that the new rifle likely won’t fire 7.62 mm rounds either, but rather some caliber in between, potentially a “case-telescoping round, probably polymer cased to reduce the weight of it.”
Murray said the Army has a demonstration version of the NGSW, which was made by Textron System. But, he added, it is “too big” and “too heavy,” and the Army had opened the process to the commercial industry to offer new ideas or a prototype for the new weapon.
The new rifle might weigh more than the current rifle, but the ammunition will likely weigh less, and it would offer better penetration and greater range.
“That is what we see as a replacement for the M4 in the future,” Murray said.
Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings — who, as the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, oversees the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons — said late last year that the Army is likely to see the first NGSW by 2022, with other enhancements arriving by 2025.
The Army also began distributing its new sidearms, the M17 and M18, late last year. A Pentagon report issued in January detailed several problems that cropped up during testing in 2017, but the Army and the manufacturer downplayed the severity of those issues.
The Army has made several attempts to replace the M4 in recent years. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Army Times this week that an M4 replacement was one of the top two priorities of the service’s new Futures Command, which will bring the Army’s modernization priorities together under the umbrella of a new organization.
“We’ve started conversations with Congress,” McCarthy said of the command, which was announced in October. “If we were to move out this spring, we could even start by the end of this calendar year.”
The development process for Army equipment, including rifles, is to be streamlined under Futures Command, overseen by cross-functional teams that correspond to the service’s six modernization priorities, according to Defense News.
Sure, you may have been in the military for years and you may have worked hard for your rank. But it may surprise you to learn that you will always be outranked by at least one of these animals, who have earned military rank, medals, and awards. And these aren’t just cuddly mascots — some of them have seen combat action!
Here are the most impressive and high-ranking military animals of all time:
1. Nils Olav
Nils Olav, a penguin, is colonel-in-chief and official mascot of Norway’s Royal Guard. In 2008, he was knighted — yes, knighted — by King Harald V. The original penguin named Nils Olav first served in 1972, and was named in honor of two great Norwegians: Nils Egelien and King Olav V. This high-ranking mascot lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, in quarters befitting his rank.
2. King Neptune
King Neptune the pig was originally just Parker Neptune. He received a promotion to King (that’s a rank, right?) during World War II when he was sold to an Illinois Navy recruiter. Although the pig was originally intended to be served at dinner, the Navy instead made him a star by promoting him to King and sending him on tour to sell war bonds. He wore a crown and a blue Navy blanket, and would stand on stage as his parts were “auctioned off” to the highest bidders. Ultimately, King Neptune helped raise over million for the Navy!
When he died in 1950, he received a Navy funeral with full military honors.
3. Sergeant Major Fosco
Sergeant Major Fosco was one of the first military working dogs to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler. Military working dogs are traditionally awarded one rank higher than that of their handler, as a reminder that the handler must always treat their animal with respect. Because Sgt. Major Fosco’s handler was a 1st Sgt., this dog bears the rank of someone who has already served a full, 20-year career!
Perhaps in dog years, that’s about right.
4. Staff Sergeant Reckless
Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Marine pack horse during the Korean War. She was purchased in Korea and carried supplies and ammunition for the Marines of 5/1 Recoilless Rifle Platoon. During one battle, she made 51 solo (unguided) trips to resupply the lines and bring wounded men to safety. During her time in service, she received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. She was the first horse known to have participated in an amphibious landing. After the war, Reckless was brought back to America and promoted to staff sergeant. A metal statue in her honor was recently unveiled at Camp Pendleton.
5. Sergeant Chesty XIV
Sgt. Chesty XIV, named after the most highly-decorated Marine, Chesty Puller, is the current official mascot of the Marine Corps. He has his own dog-sized National Defense medal.
He also has sergeant responsibilities, like training the junior Marines in his charge. Private Chesty XV is the official Marine Corps mascot apprentice. I wonder if he causes as much trouble for his sergeant as the average private does on any given weekend?
6. Sergeant Major Jiggs
Sergeant Major Jiggs was the original Marine Corps bulldog mascot. His owner was the famous Maj. General Smedley Butler — one of the only Marines to earn two Medals of Honor. Jiggs began his career in 1922 as a private and advanced through the ranks to reach E-9. If you already have two medals of honor, you can probably give your dog any rank you want, right?
7. Lance Corporal Billy Windsor
Lance Corporal Billy Windsor the Goat is a salaried member of the British Army in the Royal Welsh Regiment. The position includes membership in the Corporal’s mess and the right to be saluted by subordinates. However, the goat was demoted to fusilier in 2006 after an unfortunate head-butting incident against a drummer in the 1st Battalion.
8. Sinbad, the Chief Dog
Sinbad, the Chief Dog, was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 11 years and saw combat during World War II. He served on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. His handler originally intended to give the dog to his girlfriend as a gift, but soon discovered she wouldn’t be able to keep him. The only way to keep him on board was to enlist him, so Sinbad’s pawprint was stamped onto his own unique set of enlistment papers, and he became an official member of the crew.
9. Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI
Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI, the Army’s official donkey mascot, retired after 20 years of service. The Army has long used the donkey as a mascot because it’s a reminder of how the beasts of burden have long moved Army supplies, such as howitzers and ammunition. The 2-2nd FA Battalion “Mule Soldiers” out of Fort Sill, OK, have had a mascot named Big Deuce since 1950. During his 20-year career, Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI received several promotions, but his handlers report that he was demoted twice and received several Article 15s for attempting to go AWOL and for assaulting a commissioned officer in his change of command.
10. Corporal Short Round V
Corporal Short Round V is the Army’s goat mascot, who accompanies their donkey mascot Big Deuce at official events. He recently retired, and was replaced by Private Short Round VI, who had her enlistment ceremony at Fort Sill in 2018.
11. Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Budge
Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Class Budge were the first trained therapy dogs to be deployed to Iraq in 2007. Budge eventually contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. A memorial service was held for him at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Boe was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.
12. Master Sergeant Maverick
Master Sergeant Maverick is a trained therapy dog who works with America’s VetDogs. Since 2009, he has been assigned to the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at Eisenhauer Army Medical Center.
13. Sergeant Stubby
Sergeant Stubby the dog was adopted by soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and smuggled to France during WWI. He was trained to raise his paw in salute, which secured his place as the regimental mascot. Stubby helped his unit in the trenches by sniffing out poison gas attacks and warning of incoming artillery. He once helped capture and imprison a German spy, for which he received a medal for heroism.
President Donald Trump has announced that the US Navy is conducting a search for the 3 missing sailors after a plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa.
Eight of the passengers have been recovered alive. The plane crashed while it was en route to the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, on Nov. 22.
The accident marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes involving the US Navy’s Pacific or 7th fleet. The other crashes have involved the guided missile destroyers the USS Fitzgerald, USS John McCain, and a non-deadly crash involving the USS Benfold.
In total, 17 have died in crashes in the US Navy’s 7th fleet ships within the last half 2017. Those deaths were ruled preventable by a Navy review.
“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff,” the Navy said in a statement.
The downed aircraft, a C-2 Greyhound logistics plane that moves people, mail, and cargo onto the aircraft carriers, suffered engine troubles, a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Sailors lower the national ensign during evening colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), March 10, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Estes)
The Greyhound has served with the navy for more than five decades. It will be phased out in favor of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys in the near future.
Eight of the passengers have been found, but no information in regard to their condition has been given, according to the Navy.
The Navy has withheld the names of those involved in the crash pending next of kin notifications.
For three weeks in May 2020, the world speculated about the fate of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader. Many believed he was dead, some say of either complications during surgery or of a heart attack.
None of the rumors were true, however, and why Kim left the public eye is still up for popular debate among North Korea watchers. What everyone in the know can agree on, is, that North Korea without a Kim at the helm would certainly stumble and fall. Here’s why:
They’ve been selling the Kim family for too long
According to North Korea’s propaganda machine, Kim Il-Sung (Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather and founder of North Korea), pretty much single-handedly fought the Japanese and repelled them from the Korean Peninsula during World War II. Then he rebuilt North Korea after the disastrous Korean War, which North Korea definitely did not start. North Koreans see Kim Il-Sung as so divine, they can’t believe he poops. Even with his embalmed body lying in state eternally in Pyongyang, they angled it so no one can see the massive goiter on his neck.
That hardly compares to Kim Jong-Il, whose birth on holy Mount Paektu was heralded with a double rainbow and a new star appearing in the sky.
After spending their whole lives believing the demi-god Kims come down from an Asgard-like place and protect North Korea from evil America, would anyone believe that just any ol’ bureaucrat like Choe Ryong-hae can do that? Do you even know who Choe Ryong-hae is?
It’s basically a monarchy
Kings get their power from God, who gives them a divine right to lead the country. Kims also get their power from gods, which also happen to be them. The Soviet Union, who considered its brand of communism the original communism, from which all communism should be replicated. Kim Il-Sung didn’t care for all that and decided to hand-pick his successor; his son Kim Jong-Il, creating the first communist regime that also has a ruling family.
The Kims have ruled the country for three generations, which makes their rule a dynasty. Unlike Stalin in the USSR, Kim Il-Sung extended his personality cult to his family, clearing the path for this brand of communism that seems antithetical to the idea of communism.
Let’s see Choe Ryong-hae do that.
Even when things are bad, Kim makes everything better
When Kim Jong-Il came to power in 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung, the elder Kim had been in power since 1948. Things had been pretty good for the DPRK while Kim Il-Sung was in power. Any shortcomings in the North Korean economy were filled in by subsidies from the Soviet Union. For a time, North Korea was the superior Korea.
When the USSR fell, all that fell apart with it. With Soviet aid gone, the country experienced a wide range of supply shortages, including food. A massive famine broke out and much of the population died. Still, support for the Kims never wavered. Under Kim Jong-Il, never as beloved as his father, the country secured nuclear weapons and guaranteed independence from the Yankee scum and their southern Korean puppets. To this day Kim Jong-Il is depicted in front of waves crashing on shore in North Korean art, a symbol of steadfastness in uncertain times. Choe Ryong-hae would have been useless in such a situation.
Everything the world does only backs up their claims
Imagine being told the world was full of American bad guys who want to pound North Korea again like they did in the 1950s. You remember your grandfather’s stories of the fighting. It sounds horrible. Then perhaps one summer your family gets to go visit Kaesong, near the demilitarized zone and actually tour the DMZ. You see first hand the giant American and South Korean soldiers just staring across the border, waiting for their moment.
If ever you doubt the Kims are truly divine or are the great leaders they claim to be, you simply have to go visit the International Friendship Museum to see all of the gifts the world has brought them for their patronage. There, you can also see all the historic world leaders that came to pay homage to the Kims, including other communist leaders and even American presidents!
There are always more Kims
The dynasty doesn’t stop at Kim Jong-Un. Kim Jong-Il has another son ready for the throne. Kim Jong-Un has a living brother, who has children of his own. Even one of Kim Il-Sung’s brothers is still alive, though he will soon turn 100 years old.
But no one is more visible right now than Kim Yo-Jong, the regime’s spokesperson, who both visited the South in 2018 and has met President Donald Trump. Her voice will be the loudest for the foreseeable future.
That is, unless she gets out of line. Two Kims have already met their fate for that.
The Battle of Antietam is also known as Sharpsburg. Bull Run is also called Manassas. Shiloh is also Pittsburg Landing. Some of these may be familiar to you, some of them may sound weird. But there is a reason for it, and it’s mainly because of the Soldiers who fought the War Between the States.
History class is difficult enough without having to remember two names for each event. If you grew up around Murfreesboro, chances are good that’s how you (or the older members of your family) refer to the battle. You’d cock your head in bewilderment when someone calls it, “Stone’s River.” Well sorry, Tennessean; there were two American sides to this war and your side lost.
There is a system in place for this duopoly. And it’s not like calling Janet Jackson “Miss Jackson” just because you’re nasty.
When the battles of the ‘War of Southern Independence” were fought, the troops gave them names after what stood out most. The bulk of Union troops, being city dwellers and townspeople, remarked on the natural features of a battlefield. Confederates, by and large from rural areas, remembered the manufactured, populated, or otherwise man-made features of the area. So, where Northerners saw Bull Run, a tributary to the Occoquan River, Southerners thought about the local railroad station nearby in Manassas, Virginia.
So, now the battle had two names.
Many battles are well-known by just one name, however. And for the ones that do have two names, one is typically more known than the other. The reason for that is simple, too: history is written by the victors, and the War of the Rebellion is no different. With a few notable exceptions, the battles were named by the victor.
Some kids dress up as cute animals for Halloween, some dress up as pretty princesses… and some dress up as Ellen Ripley from the 1986 thriller Aliens. To pay homage to James Cameron’s sci-fi series — and perhaps to pass some movie wisdom onto the next generation — one dad created a costume to beat all costumes for him and his daughter.
It’s a real-life replica of the power loader that Ellen wears in the movie to destroy the Queen. And this dad definitely took the “real-life” thing to a new level when he built the highlight of the whole get-up: the fully-functioning forklift feature for his daughter to sit in, complete with retractable supports.
Unsurprisingly, Reddit, along with everyone else on the internet, is going crazy over it. And we have so many questions. What is it made of? How on earth did he manage to build this monstrosity? And isn’t it heavy?!
But how this dad created the realistic robot costume might not be all that different from how the original one came into existence. In 2016, 30 years after Aliens was made, director James Cameron revealed the process of building the power loader.
“We were literally down on the floor, cutting out big pieces of foam core,” he explained, “We hung it on a pipe frame and we had a guy stand there and put his hands down into the elbows of the arms and lift them.”
While the details of this dad’s robot suit are unclear, one thing is for sure: Any parent who not only builds a costume this cool but also carries it (and his daughter) around all night trick-or-treating deserves more than one award. And a couple pieces of her Halloween candy, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.
The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.
The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.
Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.
Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.
“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “
Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.
If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.
Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.
The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.
A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.
For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.
To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.
For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.
The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.
As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.
Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.
Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.
After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.
The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.
About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.
PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.
At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”
If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Whether you’ve served or not, you know the difficulty of leaving a job and moving away. For all you civilians out there, take the struggles and anxieties that come with moving away from a place, a people, and a function you know and amplify them ten-fold. In the military, you spend all day, every day getting to know your coworkers and becoming a family. When you finally leave that family and return to civilian life, it sucks — all of your best friends are now thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the age of the internet and social media, that gap is easily closed — but one thing us veterans (especially us grunts) miss the most is playing soldier with our brothers and sisters. Strangely enough, we’ve found that there is a way to reconnect with our veteran friends in the way we prefer, which is getting into gunfights.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve been looking to reconnect with your buddies, here’s why you should do it over a few rounds of a battle royale game:
Just like the old days, eh?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
Teamwork is essential
By playing with your friends, you’ll have a distinct advantage in a battle royale game. You already know how to work together and function in combat scenarios and that chemistry takes you far. You also know how to communicate with each other because you speak the same military language.
If you’re like us, this is the part you miss the most.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado)
You spend time with your veteran friends
While it may not be an in-person visit, you still get to hang out with your friends. In a way, the settings are surprisingly similar — you never really know what lies ahead.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Carpenter)
Your knowledge can help you dominate
In games like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, employment of real-world tactics is crucial. You didn’t know it at the time, but all that time you spent in training wasn’t just preparing you for real war — it was preparing you to dominate the digital domain, too.
The fact that you and your buddies have training and experience with each other gives you a distinct advantage — and we all love winning, so why not use everything you know? You’ve already done the hard part — once you get the controls down, it’s smooth sailing.
You’ll enjoy it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)
It’s just plain fun
Hanging out with your buddies and sh*t talking each other is the world’s greatest pastime. Even if you’re not dominating other teams, you’re still having fun reminiscing and joking with each other. So, why not take a crack at it?
The State Department says a US government employee working in China suffered “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that later led to a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” — resulting in a warning to all US citizens in the country.
The strange incident recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where US officials reported symptoms consistent with a “sonic attack,” or exposure to harmful frequencies.
“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the State Department warned in a health alert. “We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms, and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.”
The State Department went on to advise: “While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”
Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the US worker’s ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something US officials in Cuba also experienced.
The Post reports that Chinese and US officials are looking into the matter. Americans working in Cuba suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches, loss of balance, brain swelling, and disruption to cognitive functions.
The US originally called the Cuba incidents “sonic attacks” but later backed off that phrasing as medical experts examined the patients and found their symptoms and conditions to be of mysterious origins.
Medical testing revealed the embassy workers in Cuba developed changes to the white-matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, officials told the Associated Press.
But a purposeful attack hasn’t been ruled out as the source of the brain injuries now linked to two countries.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” a study about the victims in Cuba concluded.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.