Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to drink like a nearly-immortal American warrior

The life of Ernest Hemingway is something most men only ever get to daydream about. He was an ambulance driver, wounded in action. He was a war correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II (the man landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the seventh wave), he led resistance fighters against the Nazis in Europe, and even hunted Nazi submarines in the Caribbean with his personal yacht.


Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
The machine gun in the photo above is for Nazis AND sharks

In your entire life, you’d be lucky to do one of the things Hemingway wrote about in his books. And one of the reasons his books are so good (among many) is because he wrote many of them from first-hand experience. He actually did a lot of the John-McClane, Die Hard-level stunts you can read about right now at your local library.

Think about it this way: His life was so epic that he won a Nobel Prize in Literature just for telling us the story.

Related: 10 ways Ernest Hemingway was a next-level American warrior

Two world wars, two plane crashes, and the KGB couldn’t do him in. In a strange way, it makes sense that only he could end his own incredible life. This summer (or winter. Or whatever), celebrate your own inner Hemingway by having a few of his favorite beverages while standing at a bar somewhere.

He definitely invented some of these drinks. And might have invented others. But we only know for sure that he enjoyed them all.

Remember, according to the bartender on Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, no drink should be in your hand longer than 30 minutes.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Preferably served by the Florida Bar in Havana.

(Photo by Blake Stilwell)

1. The Daiquiri

It is necessary to start with the classic, because everyone knows the writer’s love for a daiquiri – it was as legendary then as it is today. His favorite bar in Havana even named a take on the classic cocktail after Hemingway but don’t be mistaken, that’s only an homage. The way the author really drank his cocktails is very different from what you might expect.

Nearly ever enduring cocktail recipe has its own epic origin story. The daiquiri is no different. Military and veteran readers might be interested to know the most prevalent is one of an Army officer putting the ingredients over ice in the Spanish-American War. But in truth, the original daiquiri cocktail is probably hundreds of years old. British sailors had been putting lime juice in rum for hundreds of years (hence the nickname, “limeys”).

A daiquiri is just rum, sugar, and lime juice, shaken in ice and served in a chilled glass.

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 3⁄4 oz simple syrup

2. “Henmiway” Daiquiri

That’s not a typo, according to Philip Green’s “To Have and Have Another,” a masterfully-researched book about Hemingway and his favorite cocktails and the author’s drinking habits, that’s how this take on the classic daiquiri was written down by bartender and owner of Hemingway’s Floridita bar, Constantino Ribalaigua. Hemingway was such a regular at the bar by 1937 that Ribalaigua wanted to name a drink after him.

  • 2 oz white rum
  • Tsp grapefruit juice
  • Tsp maraschino liqueur
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
The version above is served up, while a tourist version, the Papa Doble, is served blended.
  • 2 1/2 oz white rum
  • Juice 1/2 grapefruit
  • 6 Tsp maraschino liqueur
  • Juice of 2 limes

But Papa Hemingway (as he was called) didn’t like sweet drinks. When he had a daiquiri at Floridita, he preferred them blended but with “double the rum and none of the sugar.” Essentially, Hemingway enjoyed four shots of rum with a splash of lime juice.

Drink one with a friend, repeat 16 times to be more like Ernest Hemingway.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Be patient.

3. Dripped Absinthe

Absinthe is a liquor distilled with the legendary wormwood, once thought to give absinthe its purported hallucinogenic effects. Who knows, it might have really had those properties, but today’s absinthe isn’t the same kind taken by writers and artists of the 19th century; the level of wormwood they could cram into a bottle was much, much higher then. What you buy today would not be the same liquor Robert Jordan claimed could “cure everything” in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Absinthe is prepared in a way only absinthe can be — with ice water slowly dripped over a sugar cube, set above an absinthe spoon and dripped into the absinthe until it’s as sweet as you like. The popularity of absinthe cocktails is still prevalent in places like New Orleans, where the bartenders keep absinthe spoons handy. No one would have the patience to wait for an Old Fashioned made this way, but for absinthe, its well worth the effort.

If you’re looking for a wormwood trip, though, you may need to distill your own.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Papa Hemingway didn’t garnish.

4. Hemingway’s Bloody Mary

There are a number of origin stories for the Bloody Mary — and one of them involves Ernest Hemingway not being allowed to drink. According to one of Hemingway’s favorite bartenders, the author’s “bloody wife” wouldn’t let him drink while he was under the care of doctors. In Colin Peter Field’s “Cocktails of the Ritz Paris,” Field says bartender Bernard “Bertin” Azimont, created a drink that didn’t look, taste, or smell like alcohol.

How the author would feel about bacon-flavored vodka, strips of bacon served in the drink, or any modern variation on the bloody, (involving bacon or otherwise) is anyone’s guess.

Hemingway’s only recipe is by the pitcher, because “any other amount would be worthless.”

  • 1 pint Russian vodka
  • 1 pint tomato juice
  • Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz of lime juice
  • Celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper

Garnish it however you want.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Hemingway recovering from his wounds in a World War I hospital with a bottle of stuff that can “cure everything.” The afternoon would have to wait.

5. Death In The Afternoon

Want to drink absinthe, but don’t have the patience for the drip spoons? You aren’t alone. But you still need to figure out how to make the strong alcohol more palatable (go ahead and try to drink straight absinthe. We’ll wait.). Ready for a mixer?

Hemingway called on another one of his favorite beverages for this purpose: champagne. Hemingway loved champagne. You might love this cocktail, but you’ll want to be ready for what comes next. Champagne catches up with you. But that’s a worry for later.

After a few of these, you’ll be brave enough to do some bullfighting yourself (the subject of Hemingway’s book, “Death in the Afternoon.” But be warned, like most champagne cocktails, they go down smooth… but you might need that pitcher of Bloody Mary the next morning.

  • 1 1/2 shots of absinthe
  • 4 oz of champagne (give or take)

In a champagne glass, add enough champagne to the absinthe until it “attains the proper opalescent milkiness,” according to author Philip Greene’s book. But that “proper” was for Hemingway. You may want to adjust your blend accordingly.

6. El Definitivo

This drink is designed to knock you on your ass. Hemingway and his pal created it in Havana in 1942 to win baseball games.

No joke. During these games, essentially little league games, the kids would run the bases while the adults took turns at bat. It turns out Hemingway had a running rivalry with a few of the other parents. But he wasn’t about to get into a fistfight about it like some people might. He had a much better, more insidious plan.

In “To Have and Have Another,” author Philip Greene describes how Hemingway created “El Definitivo” to just destroy other little league parents. But he liked them, too (the drink, that is) — and was often sucked in under its spell with everyone else.

  • 1 shot of vodka
  • 1 shot of gin
  • 1 shot of tequila
  • 1 shot of rum
  • 1 shot of scotch
  • 2 1/2 oz tomato juice
  • 2 oz lime juice
Serve over ice in a tall, tall glass. Get a ride home from little league.
Articles

The US just held back $255 million in aid from this key ally

The United States is withholding a $255 million military aid payment from Pakistan until it cracks down on what President Donald Trump has called “safe havens” for anti- Afghanistan militant groups, officials said.


State Department officials said on August 31 that the funds won’t be released from an escrow account until the United States sees that Pakistan is moving against the Afghan Taliban and allied groups like the Haqqani network that U.S. intelligence agencies say have resided for years withinPakistan’s borders.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Pakistan has denied that it harbors terrorists and has said the United States is using Islamabad as a “scapegoat” for its own failure to win the 16-year war in Afghanistan.

The new U.S. stance toward Pakistan prompted a protest resolution in the Pakistani parliament this week as well as anti- U.S. protests in the streets that Pakistani police had to disperse using tear gas.

In announcing the new strategy last week, Trump said “we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting… That will have to change.”

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
120229-A-8536E-817 U.S. Army soldiers prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province on Feb. 29, 2012. The soldiers are paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson, U.S. Army. (Released)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time that the administration was considering curtailing aid, severing Pakistan’s status as a major non- NATO ally, and even hitting Islamabad for the first time with sanctions, unless it tackles anti-Afghan militant groups within its borders.

“We’re going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said.

To Pakistan’s alarm, Trump also floated the possibility of inviting India – Pakistan’s archrival – to get more involved in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is more cooperative.

The administration’s notification to Congress of an indefinite “pause” in installments on a $1.1 billion military assistance package for Pakistan represented the administration’s first step to make good on those promised measures.

The United States has sought before to use aid to Pakistan as well as U.S. weapons sales as leverage to secure Islamabad’s cooperation onAfghanistan.

Pakistan maintains that it already is doing everything it can to eliminate terrorists in the country, and has been more successful at doing so than its next-door neighbor, Afghanistan, even with the help of thousands of NATO and U.S. troops.

Moreover, Pakistan has complained that the United States does not appreciate the sacrifices Islamabad has made by joining the U.S. antiterror campaign, which Islamabad said has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers.

With reporting by AP and New York Times

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

Articles

This hero horse of the Marine Corps just got her own statue

Staff Sgt. Reckless, a Marine Corps horse who resupplied her fellow troops during some of the hottest fighting in the Korean War, was just honored with a monument in Camp Pendleton, California.


Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Camp Pendleton hosts a ceremony in honor of Staff Sgt. Reckless at the Pacific Views Event Center here, Oct. 26. Staff Sgt. Reckless was a Korean War era pack horse known for her heroics in the war that saved many Marines’ lives. (Photo and cutline: Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Overbay)

Reckless retired at Camp Pendleton and was buried at the Stepp Stables there after her death.

During the five-day Battle for Outpost Vegas in 1953, then-Pvt. Reckless spent three days transporting recoilless rifle rounds to embattled Marines under heavy fire. On the worst day of the battle, she ferried 386 rounds that weighed 24 pounds each and traveled a total of 35 miles while suffering two wounds from shrapnel. One of the cuts was a bad wound just above her eye.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Then Pvt. Reckless operating under fire in Korea. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

 

After her heroics on the front lines of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Randolph Pate promoted Reckless to sergeant. Reckless was transported to the U.S. where she became a Marine Corps celebrity, gave birth to four children, and was promoted to staff sergeant before retiring to Camp Pendleton.

Over the course of her career, Reckless received two Purple Hearts, a Good Conduct Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.

Since her death, Reckless has been honored with a memorial at the Camp Pendleton stables, a Dickin Medal for animal bravery, and now a statue at Camp Pendleton.

Articles

This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.


The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.

On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Photo courtesy of VA.

“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”

Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.

Related: Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.

The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”

The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.

Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.

The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.

Also read: New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.

“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”

More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.

Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.

“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.

Articles

22 mind-blowing confessions from around the military

Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.


A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. For better or for worse, we compiled some of the more colorful Whispers.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
She’s on to us.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
He’ll probably show up in his blues and full size National Defense Medal.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
You’re in luck, buddy.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
You’re a future sailor for Captain Morgan, sh*tbag.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
He just hopes you’re not pregnant.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Kentucky National Guard?

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
We have enough women like you to deal with as it is.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
There’s always the Army.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
A reminder for Marines at Lejeune to always look their finest at the Exchange.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
This guy has all 100 problems.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
It’s too late for you already.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
#Goals

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
We roll our eyes at typos.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Rip-Its and Beef Jerky are part of this balanced breakfast.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Today might be the day you get out.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
#MOTO

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
If that’s all you can think, we can’t wait for you to get out either.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Weed is that good, apparently.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
The Army only clothes us and feeds us, but I hate it.

 

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Everyone who enlists knows exactly what it will be like for six years. Sack up, military men!

NOW: The 13 funniest memes of the week

OR: The US military took these incredible photos this week

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy sailors step up to help deliver meals to senior citizens

Two sailors partnered with Meals On Wheels (MOW) Mesa County to deliver meals to local clients in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area during Western Slope Navy Week, July 23, 2019.

The mission of MOW is to promote the independence, health, and well being of the elderly through quality nutritional services. This is the first time Navy Outreach has partnered with the organization during a Navy Week.

“We were really glad to have the sailors here to help us, and a lot of the clients were looking forward to the interactions,” said Amanda Debock, program manager. “We gave them a route that had a large amount of veterans and they were especially excited to have their meals delivered by active duty sailors.”


MOW Mesa County provides affordable lunchtime meals to seniors age 60 and older in Mesa County. Today, the program prepares and serves more than 120,000 meals annually and 500 or more per day.

Lt. Jacob Cook and Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Giovanni Dagostino, both assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, rode along with volunteer Steve Kendrick to deliver lunch to 19 clients.

“I have never volunteered with Meals on Wheels myself,” said Cook. “This experience has been really great just to go out and see what they do as an organization and to meet the people in this community that they serve and take care of.”

Seven clients included in the route were Navy, Army or Air Force Veterans that served during Word War II, the war in Vietnam and throughout various other periods.

“I was surprised how excited some of the veterans were when we showed up at the door,” said Kendrick. “We had one vet that was almost in tears when he saw the sailors come to the door in uniform. A lot of them just acted like [the sailors] were just part of their family. It seemed like it was a very special event for everyone.”

Started in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens, Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been serving nutritious meals to seniors for 49 years.

The Navy Week program brings sailors, equipment, and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand the Navy the nation needs.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

Articles

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Amidst the ongoing debate about whether female troops should be allowed to serve in combat positions, these women proved that girls have guts.


1. Amelia Earhart

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Photo of Amelia Earhart in flight cap and goggles as she awaits word as to whether she would be among those who were flying across the Atlantic in 1928.

Amelia Earhart was an early pioneer for women in aviation. She became famous for her numerous achievements in flight, and, unfortunately, for her mysterious disappearance in 1937 while attempting a circumnavigation of the earth.

In 1932, she gained notoriety when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This flight also garnered her a Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress — the first for a women and the first for a civilian.

2. 1st Lt. Aleda Lutz

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Picture of Aleda E. Lutz, courtesy of her family.

Aleda Lutz served as a flight nurse aboard C-47 Medevac aircraft during WWII. In 196 missions, Lutz evacuated and treated some 3,500 casualties and was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters for her service.

On Nov. 1, 1944, Lutz flew on her last mission, evacuating wounded soldiers from the fighting in France, when her plane crashed in a storm. Lutz was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “outstanding proficiency and selfless devotion to duty.”

She is also believed to have been the first woman killed in action in WWII.

3. 1st Lt. Roberta S. Ross

Roberta Ross also served as a flight nurse in World War II. Her service took her to Asia where she flew “the hump”, completing over 100 missions. For her efforts, she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

4. Col. Jacqueline Cochran

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Jackie Cochran standing on the wing of her F-86 whilst talking to Chuck Yeager and Canadair’s chief test pilot Bill Longhurst. (Photo courtesy Air Force Flight Test Center History Office)

Jacqueline Cochran was a pioneer for women’s military aviation. Cochran had numerous accomplishments and firsts throughout her illustrious career.

During WWII, she flew aircraft between America and Europe and later directed all Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs).

She was the first woman to break the speed of sound, the first woman to take off and land from an aircraft carrier, and the first woman to exceed Mach 2.

For her exceptional skills and record-breaking flying Cochran was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses during her career.

5. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Vice President Richard Cheney presents the Distinguished Flying Cross to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill in a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. on Oct. 16, 2006. (Photo via U.S. Army)

In March 2006, Lori Hill was flying Kiowa helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. She would be the first woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor when she provided close air support to American troops engaged with the enemy.

Despite heavy fire, Hill made multiple gun runs against insurgents. On her final pass her helicopter received a hit from an RPG which damaged her instruments.

As she banked away, machine gun fire riddled the bottom of her aircraft and struck her in the foot. She managed to limp the damaged aircraft back to a nearby FOB, saving her aircraft and crew.

6. Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Mary Hegar, sitting in the cockpit like the bad ass she is. (Photo courtesy of MJHegard.com)

Mary Jennings Hegar would become only the second woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

While flying a medevac mission, Hegar’s Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by insurgents and she was wounded in a well-executed trap. According to an interview with NPR, she climbed on the skids of a Kiowa helicopter that landed to extract her and, despite her wounds, provided cover fire with her M4 while the aircraft flew off.

For her efforts, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor and the Purple Heart.

7. Sgt. Julia Bringloe

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage
Flight Medic Julia Bringloe. (Photo via U.S. Army)

Julia Bringloe was serving as a flight medic on a medevac crew when American and Afghan forces launched Operation Hammer Down in the Pech River Valley. Almost immediately, the units involved started taking casualties, and Bringloe and the rest of her dustoff crew were flying into fierce enemy fire.

While extracting one soldier of many she would rescue over the course of three days, Bringloe’s leg was broken. While ascending a 150-foot lift on a cable with her patient, she had swung into a tree. She refused to quit, however, and over the next 60 hours rescued fourteen soldiers from the battlefield.

Bringloe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, as were both pilots of her helicopter. The crew chief received an Air Medal with Valor and their efforts were named the Air/Sea Rescue of the Year by the Army Aviation Association of America.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Macedonia poised to join NATO if it changes its name

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance is “ready to welcome” Macedonia as its 30th member once Skopje finalizes an agreement with Athens to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name.

Stoltenberg was speaking on a Sept. 6, 2018, during a visit to Macedonia aimed at expressing support for the “yes” campaign in a national referendum set for Sept. 30, 2018.

“NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So, your future is in your hands. We wait for you in NATO,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.


The Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed a deal on June 17, 2018, to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia — North Macedonia for short — and resolve a 27-year dispute between Skopje and Athens.

Macedonian lawmakers later voted in favor of the bill to ratify the agreement, which paves the way for talks on Macedonian membership in both NATO and the European Union.

But hurdles remain for the deal to come into effect, including the support of Macedonian voters in the upcoming referendum.

‘Taking this country forward’

Western leaders have also backed Zaev’s “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, in which Macedonians will be asked, “Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to visit Skopje on Sept. 7, 2018, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following day.

In Skopje, Stoltenberg also congratulated Zaev on Macedonia’s reforms.

“I congratulate you on the progress you made, taking this country forward,” the NATO chief said. “The economy is peaking up and the reforms are being implemented, including on the rule of law, security and intelligence, and the defense sector.”

He also called on the Macedonian prime minister to continue with reforms, saying, “This will make you safer, stronger, and even better able to work side by side with NATO allies.”

The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Neighboring Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Featured image: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in october 2017, at a UN meeting about sustainable development.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army-funded research nabs Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics

Professor Frances Arnold won a 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research initially funded by the U.S. Army in new enzyme production that led to the commercial, cost-effective synthesis of biofuels tested on the U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters in 2013, and are now approved by the aviation standards body for use in commercial aviation.

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history.

Gérard Mourou, a French scientist and pioneer in the field of electrical engineering and lasers, won a 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for Army-funded research in fundamental physics that led to new developments high-intensity, ultrashort laser pulses which led to a number of commercial advancements from masonry, i.e., drilling tiny holes, to medicine’s Lasik eye surgery.


With a modest single investigator grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Army Research Office in the 1990s, Arnold demonstrated the ability to modify an enzyme that provided robust native activity but at higher temperatures. Through a process of protein sequence alteration and selection, directed evolution stretches the boundaries of enzyme activity and function beyond what nature provides.

During this grant period, Arnold also developed a computational algorithm called SCHEMA which provides a means of improving molecular evolution searches toward targeted protein sequence alterations. Through SCHEMA, she demonstrated that this algorithm can be used to design variations of a model protein that confers functional diversity (e.g. enhanced activity, enhanced thermal stability, altered substrate specificity).

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Dr. Frances Arnold, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.

(California Institute of Technology photo)

In 2003, the Army began funding Arnold through the Army’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (AICB) in Santa Barbara. There, Arnold has utilized SCHEMA to design novel activities for a broad host of enzymes including activity and stability improvements in enzymes capable of degrading cellulosic biomass toward renewable fuel synthesis and developed new machine learning tools to enhance the selection of novel engineered enzymes.

Most notably, as a transition of Army basic research funding, Arnold co-founded a start-up company (Gevo) in 2005 that received its initial funding through the AICB applied research program. Gevo’s business goal was to scale-up processing systems that utilize SCHEMA-designed enzymes incorporated into microorganisms for the cost-effective synthesis of biofuels. From these beginnings, Gevo developed into a business that is the world’s only commercial producer of renewable isobutanol and in 2013, the US Army successfully flew the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter on a 50/50 blend of Gevo’s ATJ-8 (Alcohol-to-Jet).

“This recognition validates the way ARO pursues basic research,” said ARL’s Dr. Robert J. Kokoska, program manager in microbiology.

“Twenty years ago, an ARO program manager recognized a potentially unique and exciting approach that could change the way biology can be used to expand the possibilities and range of biochemical synthesis. As Prof. Arnold successfully pursued her vision in large part through this modest initial investment and then through the AICB, the Army can take great pride in knowing that it helped nurture this ground-breaking research which has provided valuable tools for enhancing the creativity of biologists and engineers within the Army research enterprise and the research community at-large. The exciting Army-impactful industrial biofuel transition further validates ARO’s basic research investments,” Kokoska said.

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

Dr. Gerard Mourou, Nobel Laureate in Physics.

(University of Michigan photo)

Arnold is the Linus Pauling professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology.

The Nobel Prize in Physics winner, Mourou, was initially funded while he was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There, he created ultrashort, high-intensity laser pulses, called chirped pulse amplification, that were used to develop a positron source for positron spectroscopy. According ARO program manager Dr. Richard Hammond, this research will lead to new kinds of directed energy sources for the Army. Mourou continues his research at the Ecole Polytechnique, public institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau, a suburb southwest of Paris.

“It is good the world recognizes the value of the research funded by ARO,” Hammond said.

“This research opened the door to an entirely new kind of physics, both in spectroscopy to and high intensity physics interaction leading to directed energy include X-rays, neutron beams and beta rays. This work could lead to developments in new detection mechanisms of future failure of rotors in helicopters, finding voids in materials for electronic and photonic devises, and in radiation therapy,” Hammond explained.

Arnold shares the prize in chemistry with George Smith, who developed a method known as phage display, where a bacteriophage — a virus that infects bacteria — can be used to evolve new proteins.

Mourou shares the prize in physics with Dr. Donna Strickland, of Canada, who is only the third woman to win the prize in physics.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.