The 'Space Force' series trailer is here... and it's outta this world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

“This is a great adventure we are embarking on today,” so says the official Space Force trailer that dropped on May 5 for Netflix’s new series featuring Steve Carrell and an all-star cast. How else is everyone’s favorite sixth branch of the military, Space Force, referred to in the trailer? “It’s a complete shitshow.”


Launching May 29, the made-for-Netflix series pairs an already awesome cast with sarcasm, hilarity and the best topic ever: the Space Force.

The show centers around four star general Mark R. Naird (Carell), whose ambitions included running the Air Force, not so much the newly created Space Force. With wife (Lisa Kudrow) by his side and a star-studded comedic-gold line up (John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Jimmy O. Yang, Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, Tawny Newsome, Diana Silvers, Alex Sparrow and Don Lake to name a few), the acting promises to be as equally entertaining as the writing – as Space Force marks the first time long-time friends Carrell and creator Greg Daniels have worked together since they parted ways on, you guessed it, The Office.

In an interview with Deadline, Carrell and Daniels chatted about how the show came to be and where it’s heading.

Carell said that the show came around in a rather “atypical way.'””Netflix had this premise that they thought might make a funny show — the idea made everybody laugh in a meeting, an idea of a show about the origins of a fictitious Space Force. I heard about the idea through my agent, and Netflix pitched the show to me, and then I pitched the show to Greg, and we all had the same reaction to it. There was no show, there was no idea aside from the title. Netflix asked, ‘Do you want to do a show called Space Force?’ And I pretty much immediately said, ‘Well yeah, sure. That sounds great.’ And then I called Greg, and I said, “Hey, you want to do a show called Space Force?” And he said, “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do it.” And it was really based on nothing, except this name that made everybody laugh. So we were off and running.”
Daniels added after this call, he and Carell created the character and figured out what they wanted to say about the notion of making space more military. “We realized that the story had beautiful visuals and a mythic quality, and it echoed some of America’s best moments. It had a lot of heroism and yet it also had a strong satirical element. Suddenly everybody has realized that there are riches to be had on the moon, and we’ve got to stake our claim. It feels like there’s now a scramble to colonize space. The contrast between that and the super hopeful early days of NASA, when it was just such an achievement for all of mankind to get a person on the moon, is a good subject for satire,” said Daniels.
SPACE FORCE Official Trailer (HD) Steve Carrell

www.youtube.com

SPACE FORCE Official Trailer (HD) Steve Carrell

SPACE FORCE – 2020 – COMEDY – STEVE CARRELL Steve Carell, welcome to Space Force. From the crew that brought you The Office, Space Force is coming soon to Netflix.

We can’t wait. In fact, we’re over the moon.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Social-distancing hobbies that will help decrease your stress level

2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.

You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.


First up is yoga. 

Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.

I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high. 

He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.

You can also turn into your grandma to relax. 

Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.

There is also the option to go get some fresh air. 

Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.

Are these things too tame for you? 

Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…

So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

popular

How to bury a loved one at sea without the US Navy’s help

For many, it will come as a surprise that it’s so simple to bury a deceased loved one at sea, with little more than sail cloth and some weights. All you have to do is ensure you have all the necessary permits for transporting the human remains and a boat. 

When burying someone at sea, it’s important to note that a military burial beyond what you can provide amongst your family and friends (or chartered boat service) isn’t possible. You’ll need the Navy’s help to do that, but family won’t be allowed to be present.

Read: These are the Navy’s rules for being buried at sea

The first step is getting familiar with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, which affords a general permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “dumping of certain materials that will have a minimal adverse environmental impact and are generally disposed of in small quantities.” 

This general permit allows for the transport and burial of human remains in the ocean under specific conditions. The remains have to be dumped at least three nautical miles from shore and you can dump things that won’t decompose along with them. These are things like plastic flowers and wreaths. 

You’ll need a permit to move the body to the boat (your funeral director can help with this part) and you’ll need to prepare the body for sea by either using a non-plastic casket or some kind of natural fiber wrapping affixed to a weight for easy sinking.

burial at sea
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Bellino

If using a casket, a specific series of holes must be drilled so the box fills with water and offsets the buoyancy of the body. The casket must be wrapped with 5 steel bands or chains, four around the width of the casket and one wrapped lengthwise. Additional weight in sand or stone must be added so the entire casket weighs at least 300 pounds. 

In either case, remains must not be visible. 

The EPA also has some other, important regulations regarding civilian burials at sea. 

  • You cannot use a rocket or a balloon to transport the body. If using aircraft to dump the remains, the aircraft has to be able to land.
  • Funeral pyres or uncontrolled burning boats are not permitted by the MPRSA general permit, so viking funerals will require a special permit. 
  • The general permit applies to the ocean only. Lakes and other bodies of water are regulated by the states.

There is no form or application required for conducting your own burial at sea, but the EPA must be notified within 30 days of burial using the Burial at Sea Reporting Tool.

Articles

Watch this veteran’s reaction when he learns his Army souvenirs are worth mucho dinero

An Army soldier stationed in Germany picked up two Rolexes from the PX before rotating back to the states in early 1960. One watch was to wear himself while the other was a gift for his dad.


The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Photo: PBS Facebook video screenshot

He had never heard of Rolex before and only bought them because his sergeant told him they were the best watches ever made. Almost 60 years later, both watches are still working and the sergeant’s advice turned out to be spot on.

The veteran recently appeared on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and learned that one of the watches, which he paid a little over a month’s salary to buy in 1960, was “easily today, it’s $65,000 to 75,000 on the market.” See the full video from PBS below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Vietnamese and U.S. Navy SEALs worked together in this famous rescue

During the famous rescue of navigator “Bat 21 Bravo,” a U.S. and a Vietnamese Navy SEAL took the lead role in a dangerous operation behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, rescuing two aviators with no friendly losses despite running into enemy patrols and positions during the 11-day ordeal.


The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Numerous attempts to destroy North Vietnamese resistance from the air and rescue the downed aviators by helicopter failed, causing 14 American deaths and additional casualties before air rescue was outlawed for the men.

(U.S. Air Force)

While the rescue was widely popularized in a movie and book, both named Bat 21, the stories told were written before the events were declassified, so they were highly fictionalized to ensure that no sensitive information was inadvertently released.

But the true story is more amazing. Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was forced to eject over Vietnam on April 2, 1972, triggering a mad dash by the U.S. to recover him before he was captured. Then, multiple rescue attempts went sideways in the first week. Seven more aircraft were lost, 14 Americans were killed, two were captured, and a new aviator was missing behind enemy lines. The theater commander forbid more helicopter extractions and the SEALs were ordered up.

A U.S. Navy SEAL, Lt. j.g. Tom Norris, led the mission alongside a Vietnamese Sea Commando team with its own lieutenant team leader.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

An Air Force composite photo shows the tough terrain that the downed aviators had to cross to reach the river in hopes of rescue in April 1972.

(U.S. Air Force)

The men started by swimming their way up the river as the two targets of their rescue were directed to move to the river and start floating down. The aviators were given coded directions that combined landmarks from their home states and their hobbies. Clark was rescued on April 10, but Hambleton had trouble reaching the river.

Hambleton finally reached the river on the night of April 11, but the SEAL command post, meanwhile, had come under artillery barrage and two of the Vietnamese commandos had to be evacuated. The rest of the team was increasingly hesitant to risk their necks for American service members.

An April 11 rescue attempt with four members failed, and two of the Vietnamese commandos were obviously too frightened to continue.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Viet Cong irregulars move through a river in shallow boats like the one used by U.S. and Vietnamese commandos during the rescue of Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton in April 1972.

(U.S. Army)

So, Norris asked for volunteers to make another, even deeper penetration into NVA territory. Nguyen was the only volunteer. The two men stole a sampan from a bombed-out village, disguised themselves as fisherman, and started making their way back upriver during the night of April 13.

The two commandos nearly ran into enemy troops multiple times despite the dark, but managed to get their hands on Hambleton, weak and confused from his ordeal in the jungle. They started back towards friendly lines, but were spotted and had to fight a running gun battle down the river.

They were forced to pass NVA position after position, taking fire at each point and trying to keep their wounded, sick, and delirious package alive. Norris was forced to call in multiple airstrikes, and the Air Force dropped smoke bombs after their explosives to create a screen for the SEALs to maneuver behind.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton after his rescue.

(U.S. Air Force)

Finally, the three men made it back to friendly lines and were able to get Hambleton to medical care. For their efforts, both the Vietnamese and the U.S. SEAL would be awarded medals for valor.

Nguyen received the Navy Cross while Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor for his days of risky search and rescue.

Nguyen was ineligible for the Medal of Honor because he was not an American service member. He was admitted to U.S. SEAL schools following the ordeal, though, and graduated the underwater demolition team course and the SEAL advanced course. He later became an American citizen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These Army docs are revolutionizing pain management – especially for burns

Doctors at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston are utilizing a novel method of administering pain medication to burn patients in the burn intensive care unit in hopes to mitigate opioid addiction and other complications associated with burn care.


“It’s something different,” said Dr. Clayne Benson, assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center, collocated with the USAISR Burn Center. “But the promise and benefits are huge.”

The pain medication is managed with the placement of an intrathecal catheter and infusion of preservative-free morphine. The concept is similar to epidural anesthesia used during labor for pain relief, except the catheter resides in the intrathecal space where the cerebrospinal fluid resides instead of the epidural space.

The catheter used is exactly like an epidural catheter used for laboring women.

“It’s an FDA-cleared device for a procedure that a lot of anesthesiologists have done for other reasons,” Benson said. “It had never been done on burn patients and we presented the idea of the study to the burn center leadership [Drs. Booker King, Lee Cancio, Jennifer Gurney, Kevin Chung and Craig Ainsworth] and they agreed to try this initiative.”

Read Now: 8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

Benson, an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel, got the idea of using this technique in the intensive care unit while taking care of polytrauma soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from 2009-2012. Benson said he is excited about the potential of this new pain management for burn patients.

“The results are amazing,” he said. “The best thing about it is that it only uses one-one hundredth of the amount of pain medication used with the traditional [intravenous] method.”

Intrathecal medication is delivered straight to where it is effective, the spinal cord, thereby minimizing systemic complications of IV medications.

Intravenous medication disperses pain medication throughout the entire body and only a tiny percentage of it gets to where it is needed.  This is especially beneficial for burn patients who require numerous painful operations and traditionally require being placed on a ventilator, with one of the reasons being pain control.

Longer ventilator times lead to complications like deconditioning, delirium, and pneumonia, which all impact quality of life and time in the Burn Intensive Care Unit.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Dr. Richard Erff, chief of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Pain Clinic, administers cervical epidural steroid injections to a Soldier who suffers from chronic neck and back injuries stemming from his deployment to Iraq. (Army Photo by Patricia Deal)

“Also, the majority of patients who are mechanically ventilated are diagnosed with delirium and are likely to have increased length of hospitalization, increased ventilator days, and higher rates of long-term cognitive dysfunction,” Benson said.

Delirium is another complication burn patients experience with exposure to sedatives and pain medications.

“Delirium is when a patient’s awareness changes and they become confused, agitated, or they completely shut down,” said Sarah Shingleton, chief wound care nurse and clinical nurse specialist at the USAISR Burn Center Intensive Care Unit. “It can come and go, and is caused by a number of things to include different pain medications, pain, infections, a disturbed sleep cycle, or an unfamiliar environment.”

Members of the USAISR Burn Center Intensive Care Unit will present the data of the initiative at the 2018 American Burn Association meeting in April 2018. The presentation will describe a patient who sustained 45 percent burns to her body and had her pain and sedation managed with the placement of the intrathecal catheter.

The abstract prepared for the ABA meeting states, “During intrathecal administration of morphine, IV infusions of ketamine, propofol, and dexmedetomidine were discontinued. The patient was awake and responsive, reporting adequate pain control without systemic opioid administration. Following removal of the intrathecal morphine infusion, the patient’s opioid requirement remained lower than prior to catheter placement despite repeated surgical interventions.”

Also Read: This is why wounded troops don’t spend entire wars in field hospitals anymore

“This novel way of achieving pain control helped us get our patients off mechanical ventilation faster and shorten the time they needed to be in the [intensive care unit],” said Maj. (Dr.) Craig Ainsworth, Burn Intensive Care Unit medical director. “We are excited to share this treatment option with other members of the burn care community so that we can better care for our patients.”

Benson’s goal is to someday apply this type of pain management to patients with polytrauma to reduce pain and the amount of pain medication which could potentially lessen addictions to pain medication.

“It’s a new approach and I hope that eventually it becomes the main mode of pain control for burn and polytrauma patients,” Benson said. “It has been a good team effort with the burn staff and their ‘can do’ attitude. I’m looking forward to where this leads. I believe it will change pain management as well as help to prevent opioid addiction in patients who have suffered from polytrauma and burns.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private Care Program allegedly enriched companies and hurt vets

For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.


Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.

The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.

“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”

The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.

Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.

“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”

Trump’s promises to veterans were a central message of his campaign. But his plans to shift their health care to the private sector put him on a collision course with veterans groups, whose members generally support the VA’s medical system and don’t want to see it privatized. The controversy around privatization, and the outsize influence of three Trump associates at Mar-a-Lago, has sown turmoil at the VA, endangering critical services from paying student stipends to preventing suicidesand upgrading electronic medical records.

A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.

One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.

TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”

Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.

Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.

In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.

Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.

Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.

In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.

One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.

In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.

But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.

The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Senator John McCain.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.

The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.

The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.

Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.

Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.

Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.

Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.

John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.

“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.

Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)

After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.

Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.

The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.

The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.

The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.

TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.

The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.

“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”

The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.

“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”

Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.

“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”

The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

David Shulkin.

But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.

TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.

In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”

Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”

McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”

But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.

McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”

McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.

“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”

The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.

The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.

That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.

“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”

Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.

This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How to make the most of your trip to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

After years of waiting, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally opening, offering fans the chance to leave our world behind and head to a galaxy far, far away. But while you are undoubtedly stoked to visit Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland (opening May 31, 2019) or Disney World (opening August 29, 2019), you are probably also a little anxious about making the most of your trip. Fortunately, Carlye Wisel visited the 14-acre expansion at Disneyland and she shared her experience with Polygon, giving insight into the best way to spend your time and money at the park. Here is what she shared.


There are two main areas in Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire Outpost and The Resistance Forest. And according to Wisel, you are best of avoiding the latter for the time being, as it is mostly home to “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which won’t open until later this year.” But there’s more than enough to do at Black Spire Outpost, which features “Toydarian Toymaker, The Jewels of Bith, Creature Stall, and Black Spire Outfitters, as well as Kat Saka’s Kettle, offering colorful, spicy-sweet popcorn.”

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

(Disney Parks)

If you are someone who is primarily looking for an awesome souvenir, Wisel recommends Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, which is “packed with all the high-end, super-insidery merch that fans are bound to freak out about, sold under the gaze of its mysterious Audio-Animatronic proprietor.” As for more casual shopping, First Order Cargo features a litany of cool pins, while Black Spire Outfitters will get you looking like a real-life Jedi.

Of course, the main attraction are the personalized lightsabers and droids, which can be found at Droid Depot and Savi’s Workshop, respectively. However, it’s worth noting that for the lightsabers, there are limited spots.

“The merchandise experience, which lets guests hand-select their own kyber crystals and build a heavy-duty personalized lightsaber, has approximately three build show experiences per hour, and each turn is limited to 28 people — 14 builders with a single allotted guest,” Wisel writes.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Open May 31 at Disneyland Resort, Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

www.youtube.com

Perhaps the biggest tip of all doesn’t involve what you should do at Galaxy’s Edge but rather, what you should not do. According to Len Testa, co-author of The Unofficial Guide and founder of Touring Plans, you might be better off not heading straight to Smugglers Run, as it is almost guaranteed to be overrun with visitors during the first few hours but may become less crowded by lunchtime.

Whatever you want to do, Wisel suggests that the best thing to do before you visit is to come up with a gameplan to ensure you don’t waste your time there.

“Whatever you do, download the Play Disney Parks app before you enter,” Wisel writes. “It’s being used to facilitate and enhance the Galaxy’s Edge experience — and you’ll be way too busy sucking down cantina drinks and taking in the otherworldly delights of Batuu to do it once there.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLdEGdyuIo

www.youtube.com

Articles

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.


China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.

The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.

China has landed airliners on those islands – and if you can land airliners, you can land other sorts of heavy aircraft, like tankers, airborne radars, and H-6 Badger bombers like the one used to assert China’s “nine-dash line.”

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.

When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).

That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.

The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.

“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.

The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.

The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The untold story of the Navy SEAL and canine hero who caught Bin Laden

In 2008, Navy SEAL Will Chesney was introduced to the SEAL canine program, a team of four-footed recruits tasked with saving soldiers’ lives. What Chesney did not realize at that moment was that his canine partner, Cairo, would become instrumental in saving his life both on and off the battlefield.

Through the course of the next couple years, Chesney and Cairo forged an impenetrable bond.


“A military working dog must be a fighter first and foremost,” Chesney told We Are The Mighty. “We have a saying, ‘Dogs have a switch on or off mode,’ [so when you] put their vest on, they know they’re working, turn it off, they’re playful. You could turn it off, [and] Cairo was a family dog. He got attacked by my girlfriend’s mom’s bulldog and got his arm sliced up. And he didn’t do anything, [but] as soon as you put on his vest, he knew it was time to go to work and was always happy to go to work.”

During a mission in 2009 that involved heavy firefight with insurgents, Cairo was shot.

“I remember seeing him drop and I thought he was dead,” Chesney said. “I was devastated, but we had to continue the mission. I got to him, I was able to go and check on him fairly quickly. A lot of dogs don’t make it when they get shot, unfortunately. I got to him and carried him, as I was getting Cairo’s medical kit out, a medic came over. We got to him immediately considering the circumstances and a teammate saved his life.”

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Cairo was not expected to redeploy, but on May 2, 2011, Chesney and Cairo were part of the team of two dozen Navy SEALs who touched down in Pakistan and descended upon Osama bin Laden’s compound in what would come to be known as Operation Neptune Spear.

“For us, it was business as usual,” Chesney explained. “We conducted a little more training than normal, we’re always conducting training, being prepared for anything. We knew that the stakes were higher and there was definitely a lot more energy, because of who we were going after. A lot of good people put in a lot of hard work, they were pretty confident. Cairo always fed off everybody’s energy. Your emotions run up and down the leash. If you’re mad, the energy is going to run down that leash. For Cairo, it was just another day at work.”

After the successful mission in eliminating bin Laden, only one hero’s name was released — Cairo, Belgian Malinois. Upon the team’s arrival home, President Obama awarded each team member, except Cairo, a silver star. In the wake of the Al Baghdadi raid, it’s something the president has brought up. Currently service dogs are not entitled to military awards, and that is why Cairo never received the Silver Star. It’s also why Cairo doesn’t have a trident pin like his two legged teammates.

Post-mission, life went on for Chesney and he deployed again, but this time without Cairo. A grenade blast in 2013 left him with a brain injury, PTSD and the inability to participate in missions.

Suffering from crippling migraines, chronic pain, and depression, Chesney pursued modern medicines to ease the pain, but only found moderate relief.

“I was in a very bad place,” Chesney admitted. “A lot of guys try a lot of modalities and they get tired of reaching out and go into a very bad place. One of my best friends ended up dragging me to a brain health clinic. It took him reaching out to me.”

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

While medicine eased the pain, the one place Chesney found true comfort was alongside Cairo, who he visited as often as possible. When Cairo was officially retired, Chesney was there, ready to sign the adoption paperwork to make it official.

“I never thought I would write a book, but there were some articles I had seen that weren’t factual,” Chesney shared. “[Operation Neptune Spear] was the biggest mission in history and Cairo was a really good dog. I thought, ‘Why not write a book about my dog?’ I wanted to get the true story of Cairo out there.”

Chesney penned No Ordinary Dog, the factual story and timeline of Cairo and his work, their relationship, and Chesney’s own personal struggles with mental health.

“If you step back and think about it, the night Cairo got shot, he saved guys’ lives,” said Chesney. “And then I got out and he saved my life. And now I’m using his stories to save more lives. If Cairo can help someone in some way, that could be great and by using the platform to talk about some of the issues I went through, [I’m] hopeful it would inspire others to reach out.”

In his book, Chesney writes,

“I share this story not because I seek the spotlight — indeed, I have always withdrawn from its glare — but to honor my fellow soldiers, including a multipurpose canine military dog named Cairo, who was in many ways just as human as the rest of us. We fought together, lived together, bled together. Cairo was right by my side when we flew through Pakistani airspace that night in 2011. He was an integral part of the most famous mission in SEAL history. After nearly a decade of pursuit, he helped us get the ultimate bad guy, and he was no more or less vital than anyone else on the mission.

But the story doesn’t end there, and it doesn’t end on a high note. It never does with dogs, right? Someone once said that buying a dog is like buying a small tragedy. You know on the very first day how it all will turn out. But that’s not the point, is it? It’s the journey that counts, what you give the dog and what you get in return; Cairo gave me more than I ever imagined, probably more than I deserved.”
The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Adds Chesney, “There is something uniquely American about a man and his dog. This is not a SEAL book, and it’s not a dog book. It’s a story about friendship.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s an after-action report on Russia’s massive European wargame

Russia finally concluded its quadrennial Zapad-2017 military exercises last week.


The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.

The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.

In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.

Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.

Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.

Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.

These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”

The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.

Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.

Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many other analysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.

While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.

The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.

The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.

Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Green Berets are using flamethrowers to help with NFL team building this season

“Peak performance” is a term thrown around every locker room in the NFL, but achieving true excellence in any sport is a process based on a variety of factors — both physical and mental. As a result, players and coaches often debate whether an extra workout or strict adherence to a specific diet is the most important variable in achieving results on the field.

In short, achieving peak performance among a team of athletes is incredibly challenging. This year, some NFL teams are giving consideration to a new variable: trust, and they’ve turned to an unlikely ally for help — the Green Berets.
The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Captain Jason Van Camp (left) as a Green Beret in Iraq

U.S. Army Green Berets are some of the military’s most elite soldiers and their mission is almost always impossible. Tasked with infiltrating deep behind enemy lines, Green Berets link up with local forces and train them for battle. Instead of kicking down doors, they train indigenous forces to kick the doors down for them. They can always expect to be faced with limited resources and, even worse, limited time, but Green Berets have a special skill that’s fostered from the very first day of their training: They focus on people first and live by a principle that “humans are more important than hardware.”

This strict belief in a humans-first mentality is why some NFL Coaches are turning to former Green Beret Jason Van Camp and his team of Special Operations veterans from Mission 6 Zero, a management consulting company that combines Special Forces with Science. Over the past seven years, Jason and his Mission 6 Zero team has worked with NFL and MLB teams to improve their performance both on and off the field by focusing on trust as the foundation of team building. This is a mission that Jason and his team know very well. They’ve helped foreign allies around the world achieve peak performance in some of the most austere environments. Now, instead of working deep behind enemy lines, these Green Berets are embedded in locker rooms across the league, training players, coaches, and front office personnel.

In the process of driving Mission 6 Zero to an elite level, Jason and his team decided to create Warrior Rising, a non-profit organization that helps veterans start or accelerate their own businesses. The Minnesota Vikings (one of the NFL teams that Mission 6 Zero advises) offered to sponsor a fundraising event in Minnesota to support Warrior Rising’s vetrepreneurs. The fundraising event was attended by Vikings players and coaches and intended to be a team bonding experience focused on trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful team, but there are thousands of factors that can degrade trust within organizations, including fear, communication problems, family issues, values conflicts, and more. The veterans with Warrior Rising know that a lack of trust is what can lead a convoy into an ambush — or a turnover in the Redzone — but before Jason, a former West Point football player himself, and his team can help the NFL, they start their work by listening.

This tactic is essential, especially in today’s NFL where any action, from an off-handed comment in the locker room to an overt gesture like kneeling, can have an impact that extends far beyond the playing field. Jason explained his approach to We Are The Mighty,

“Working with an NFL team is very similar to being a Green Beret in Iraq or Afghanistan – you must master the art of communication in order to succeed. Proper communication leads to trust. Trust is an amazing weapon, but before you step out into battle, you need to understand the barriers that are keeping your teammates from trusting each other.”
Once the Green Berets have an understanding of the issues facing the team, that’s when they develop a full training plan to turn up the heat — literally — by using flamethrowers. Yeah, you read that right: flamethrowers, because there’s nothing quite like using pressurized-fuel weapons to build trust among teammates.
The ‘Space Force’ series trailer is here… and it’s outta this world

Jason briefs the Minnesota Vikings on there next training exercise.

Jason and the Green Berets’ logic is simple – get comfortable being uncomfortable. A little shared danger, adrenaline, and communication about team issues can help burn down (sorry) the obstacles between peak performance. Jason believes that,

“Having a talented roster alone does not make you a great coach. Great coaches create an environment that allows their players’ talents to flourish.”

In preparation for the 2018 Season, Jason and his team have used their unique approach to team-building with the Minnesota Vikings. As the season starts, we’re all excited to watch how the Green Berets’ trust training will translate into touchdowns.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information