The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.

But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.

When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.

Christopher Miller as a major in Afghanistan (Image found in Eric Blehm’s book “The Only Thing Worth Dying For.”)

A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.

At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.

So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.

Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.

Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group talking with General Tommy Franks, the commander of CENTCOM, in the early days of the war in Afghanistan (U.S. Army).

In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)

Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).

Now, after almost two decades, Miller is still advocating for the unconventional warfare approach, remaining a true believer.

Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.

On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these vets give their opinions about whether Hollywood gets the military right

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


In this episode, our group of veterans discusses whether or not Hollywood portrays the military accurately on the big screen.

Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

Articles

3 reasons why the Afghan army uniform may not have been a big waste of money

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on over the alleged waste of millions in taxpayer funds to develop and field a uniform for the Afghan army that investigators claim “doesn’t work.”


And while there’s certainly plenty of blame to go around, a long-time military equipment designer who helped develop the green, brown and tan digital ANA duds says it’s not as dumb as people are being lead to believe.

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.

1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment

Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
See, the Marines are using woodland camo in the insurgent hotbed of Sangin. (U.S. military photo)

Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.

In fact, during the intense fight in Helmand province back in 2010 and later, the Marines were authorized to wear a mix of woodland and desert camo pattern MARPAT uniforms due to the more lush agricultural areas where most engagements occurred.

2. It doesn’t glow at night

The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
These uniforms don’t glow in the dark Mr. Badguy. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released)

One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.

But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.

The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.

3. It sets the army apart

Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
The patchwork of camouflage patterns used by Afghan security forces causes confusion and are easily obtained by insurgents, experts say. (U.S. military photo)

“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”

Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?

Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.

“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.

In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.

The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.

But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.

Articles

The BRRRRRT goes on . . .

The Air Force spent a lot of time trying to mothball the A-10 Thunderbolt II over the past few years. After realizing there is no reliable close-air support (CAS) alternative to the airframe, however, Congress fought the Air Force at nearly every turn.


The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

The plane, dubbed the Warthog for its snoutlike nose and the distinctive sound of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the aircraft is built, is slower than other tactical jet aircraft. Its max speed is 439 mph, while the F-16 tops out at 1,350 mph. What the Warthog lacks in speed, it makes up for in durability, featuring 1,200 pounds of titanium armor plating around the cockpit and its necessary systems. The A-10’s ability to take a beating from ground fire while providing such close support makes it the perfect CAS aircraft.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
Armored vehicle post-A-10 Close Air Support (U.S. Air Force photo)

See Also: The A-10 “sparks panic” in ISIS fighters

The move to retire the A-10 came while American forces were pulling out of Afghanistan and were already out of Iraq. Under budgetary pressure, the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 mission with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose abilities were designed for the entire battlespace. The rise of ISIS and new combat roles for ground forces in the region saved the Warthog from the boneyard. The A-10 was designed to work in tandem with ground forces and theater commanders are seeing more and more demand for the unique support the bird provides.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
(DoD Video Still)

“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
U.S. Air Force Combat Control JTACs from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron call for close air support from a A-10 Thunderbolt II while attending the Air Force’s JTAC Advanced Instructor Course (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

The Pentagon is due to submit its 2017 budget proposal to Congress next week and officials tell Defense One the life of the plane will be extended because of that demand. Congress criticized the Air Force for attempting to retire the A-10 without a replacement plan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L_TjXXx7eQ

As part of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress mandated the Air Force couldn’t retire the plane without an independent study to find a replacement with the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units …  the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”

 

 

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Turkey claims US will disarm Kurdish allies after ISIS defeat

The US has told Turkey that it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.


The United States has told Turkey that it will take back weapons it supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.

President Donald Trump approved arming fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units in May – which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – drawing strong condemnation from Turkey.

Ankara said on June 22nd that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to provide his Turkish counterpart with a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, with the first such inventory already sent.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
General Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

In a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, Mattis said that a detailed record of all equipment provided to the YPG was being kept and that all the weapons would be taken back after Islamic State was defeated, according to Turkish defense.

Mattis also said that Arab fighters would form 80 percent of the forces which will recapture Raqqa, the Islamic State’s main urban base in Syria.

Once the mainly Sunni Arab city is taken, it will be held by Arab forces, the defence sources said he told Isik.

Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon’s plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
A Turkish ACV-15 operated by Free Syrian Army. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Turkey’s concerns about the YPG were significant enough for Ankara to launch its own military operation inside Syria in August 2016, dubbed Euphrates Shield.

The operation had the dual goals of targeting IS and the Kurdish militia, particularly to prevent the YPG from controlling a contiguous strip of territory along the Syria- Turkey border.

The SDF – an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 – spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqqa city before finally entering it last week.

An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.

Thousands have fled in recent months, and the UN humanitarian office estimates about 160,000 people remain in the city.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Arnold Schwarzenegger got drop kicked while watching athletes perform in Africa

On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.

While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.


The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.

(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)

“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”

Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.

And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight. By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA

twitter.com

In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.

“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”

Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”

It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.

Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.

twitter.com

Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.

“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”

Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.

“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump released a Gitmo prisoner to Saudi Arabia

A prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been sent back to his native Saudi Arabia to serve out the remainder of a 13-year sentence, making him the first detainee to leave the U.S. base in Cuba since President Donald Trump took office.

The Pentagon announced the transfer of Ahmed Mohammed al-Darbi in a brief statement on May 2, 2018. He had originally been scheduled to return home as part of a plea deal no later than Feb. 20, 2018.


Al-Darbi pleaded guilty before a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba in 2014 to charges stemming from an al-Qaida attack on a French oil tanker. He is expected to serve out the rest of his sentence, about nine years, in a Saudi rehabilitation program as part of a plea deal that included extensive testimony against others held at Guantanamo

His lead defense counsel, Ramzi Kassem, said the transfer was the culmination of “16 long and painful years in captivity” by the U.S. at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, with his children growing up without him and his own father dying.

“While it may not make him whole, my hope is that repatriation at least marks the end of injustice for Ahmed,” said Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has represented the prisoner since 2008.

Al-Darbi was captured at the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June 2002 and taken to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. He has testified to being kept in solitary confinement, strung up from a door in shackles, deprived of sleep and subjected to other forms of abuse as part of his early interrogation.

In a statement released by Kassem, who was part of a legal team that included two military officers, al-Darbi described what he expected to be an emotional reunion with his family in Saudi Arabia.

“I cannot thank enough my wife and our children for their patience and their love. They waited sixteen years for my return,” he said. “Looking at what lies ahead, I feel a mixture of excitement, disbelief, and fear. I’ve never been a father. I’ve been here at Guantanamo. I’ve never held my son.”

His transfer brings the number of men held at Guantanamo to 40, which includes five men facing trial by military commission for their alleged roles planning and supporting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and another charged with the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole gets underway after completing extensive repairs to the ship’s hull and interior spaces.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tina M. Ackerman.)

Al-Darbi, 43, pleaded guilty to charges that included conspiracy, attacking civilian objects, terrorism and aiding the enemy for helping to arrange the 2002 al-Qaida attack on the French tanker MV Limburg. The attack, which killed a Bulgarian crew member, happened after al-Darbi was already in U.S. custody and was cooperating with authorities, according to court documents.

Al-Darbi could have received a life sentence but instead got 13 years in the plea deal. He provided testimony against the defendant in the Cole attack as well as against a Guantanamo prisoner charged with overseeing attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-2006. Neither case has gone to trial.

Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the war crimes proceedings at Guantanamo, said in a February 2018 Defense Department memo that al-Darbi provided “invaluable assistance” to the U.S.

“Al-Darbi’s testimony in these cases was both unprecedented in its detail regarding al-Qaida operations and crucial to government efforts to hold top members of that group accountable for war crimes,” Martins wrote.

The agreement to repatriate al-Darbi was made under President Barack Obama, whose administration sought to gradually winnow down the prison population in hopes of eventually closing the detention center. Trump reversed that policy and has vowed to continue using the detention center.

In a separate statement on May 2, 2018, the Defense Department said it had sent the White House a proposed set of guidelines for sending prisoners to Guantanamo in the future “should that person present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to provide any details about the new policy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s latest war game practiced closing the Strait of Hormuz

Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.

“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”


“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.

The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency Photo)

President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.

In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani , and even a powerful Iranian general, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani , have also been bickering back and forth over the past couple of weeks.

CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.

The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.

Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.

Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.

“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.

And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.

James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.

“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

US Senator John McCain today applauded the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences Act, which would bolster the Veterans Choice Program and consolidate the VA’s community care network.


The proposal also includes several measures Senator McCain has strongly advocated to expand quality and timely care for veterans in their communities, such as eliminating the current 30-day/40-mile limit to permit all eligible veterans to use the VA Choice Card.

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

It would also offer patients access to a network of walk-in clinics for minor health issues. This is modeled on a path-breaking partnership in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 veterans to visit dozens of local CVS MinuteClinic locations for care.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
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

Senator McCain released the following statement supporting the VA’s new proposal:

“The VA’s proposed Veterans CARE Act would improve access to health care by developing a consolidated community care network that places veterans first. I am especially pleased to see the VA’s proposal incorporates some of the major reforms I have long advocated, such as eliminating the 30-day/40-mile restriction in the Veterans Choice Program, and expanding the successful pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows veterans to visit local walk-in clinics nationwide.

Veteran Issues: Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

“Over the last few years, demand for community care through the Veterans Choice Program has grown considerably. Millions of veteran appointments have been made with quality community health care providers around the country. Today, veterans no longer have to wait in long lines or drive hundreds of miles to receive care. Unfortunately, the Veterans Choice Program has also been a victim of its own success, and has outpaced the VA’s ability to accurately predict growing demand for the program. Until the VA can accurately assess demand for care in the community, Congress’ efforts to create an integrated and efficient VA health care system will continue to face difficulty.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

“Those efforts must reflect the lessons learned through the Veterans Choice Program. We must set standards for care that are easy to use and understand. We must require the VA to accurately assess demand for care in the community. And we must produce a standardized and transparent system that integrates community and VA services.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, my colleagues on the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and veterans service organizations to build on the proposed Veterans CARE Act and deliver our veterans the timely, quality, and flexible health care they deserve.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WATCH: MilSpouse in quarantine performs hilarious coronavirus balcony concert

Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.

Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”


We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.

WATM: What prompted this?

Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!

I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.

Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.

One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!

So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.

And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.

Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!

So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?

Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.

WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?

Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

MIGHTY TRENDING

Stephanie Kwolek: The chemist who invented Kevlar

On the morning of Dec. 21, 2012, Pennsylvania State Trooper Timothy Strohmeyer was pursuing a man who had just murdered three people. With Strohmeyer and other police closing in, Jeffrey Lee Michael rammed his Ford F-250 truck into another trooper’s patrol vehicle head on, pinning the officer inside. Michael emerged from his truck with a gun, headed toward the trapped officer. To save his fellow officer, Strohmeyer rammed his police car into the back of Michael’s truck. The desperate Michael spun around and dumped a magazine of rounds into Strohmeyer’s windshield. One of the bullets hit Strohmeyer in the wrist and ricocheted to his chest. But rather than kill him, the bullet was stopped by the Kevlar bulletproof vest he was wearing.

“I believe he had intentions of shooting or killing every single person that he came in contact with,” Strohmeyer told the Kevlar Survivors’ Club in 2014. “He killed three people prior to contacting me, and he definitely tried to kill me.” 

Strohmeyer is one of more than 3,100 police officers who have escaped death or serious injury because of Kevlar body armor, according to a registry kept by the Kevlar Survivors’ Club, a project of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and supported by Kevlar maker DuPont.

All, whether they are aware or not, owe a deep debt to groundbreaking chemist Stephanie Kwolek.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
At the DuPont Textile Fibers Pioneering Research Laboratory, left to right: Paul Morgan, Herbert Blades, and Stephanie Kwolek. Photo courtesy of DuPont.

Kwolek’s parents, immigrants from Poland, taught their daughter a passion that eventually led to her work on the lifesaving fabric.

Her father died when she was 10, but in the years they had together, he was an enthusiastic naturalist and instilled in Kwolek a curiosity about nature and science. The two roamed the woods together looking for animals, wild plants, leaves, and snakes, and Kwolek kept a scrapbook of all her discoveries.

Kwolek’s mother worked as a seamstress and taught her the details of making clothes and working with fabric.

“I used [my mother’s] sewing machine when she wasn’t around,” Kwolek told the Science History Institute in 2007, adding her first clothes were for paper dolls before she upgraded to outfits she could wear made out of fabric. “It was fun and it was creative and it gave me a great deal of satisfaction.” 

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Kwolek studied chemistry at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). It was a time when many women who held doctorates in science lasted only a couple of years as researchers before quitting to raise families or for jobs in education. When she joined DuPont, she worked for 15 years without a promotion.

“I was stubborn,” she said. “I decided I was going to stick it out and see what happened.”

DuPont was one of a handful of chemical companies remaking every area of daily life in the years after World War II, as the use of synthetic materials and plastics began to replace heavier materials in manufactured goods. DuPont created nylon, the first synthetic fiber. When Kwolek arrived in 1946, she joined a team of experienced scientists at DuPont’s Pioneering Research Laboratory.

In 1964, there were discussions about a gasoline shortage, and DuPont challenged its researchers to develop a synthetic fiber that could replace steel wire in tires. Kwolek’s experiments in transforming a polymer solution from a liquid into a fiber required spinning the chemicals, not unlike how a tuft of cotton candy is formed. Typically, liquids in her groupings were thick and clear and looked like corn syrup, but one solution came out thin, watery, and milky. The liquid was so different that the operator of the machine used to spin the fibers refused to use it, out of fear it would break the equipment.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
Stephanie Kwolek, left, laid the groundwork for Nomex, a flame-resistant material used in firefighting bunker gear. She also was a consultant in the development of spandex. Video still courtesy of Science History Institute/YouTube.

Nevertheless, Kwolek insisted, and when it was spun into a fabric, test results were beyond what any at DuPont had ever seen before. The fiber was five times stronger than steel. “It wasn’t exactly a ‘eureka moment,’” she told USA Today in 2007, adding she didn’t want to tell management at first because she was afraid the tests were wrong. “I didn’t want to be embarrassed. When I did tell management, they didn’t fool around. They immediately assigned a whole group to work on different aspects [of the material].” 

Kwolek’s fiber became the basis of Kevlar, which is used in more than 200 applications today. This long list includes cut-resistant gloves for chefs, armored vehicles, helicopter rotor blades, the landing cushions on Mars rovers, and everyday objects like athletic shoes, hockey sticks, and frying pans. Kevlar also provides material support in the aerospace, marine vessel, and rail industries.

Beyond Kevlar, Kwolek consulted on Nomex, the flame-resistant nylonlike material firefighters use in their bunker gear, and Lycra spandex, a springy material that makes clothes stretchy. Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995, the fourth woman of 113 inductees at the time. A year later she accepted the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and in 1997 she received the Perkin Medal, which is considered one of the highest honors in the chemistry field. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and died in 2014 at age 90.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Arlington National Cemetery needs to become more exclusive

Arlington National Cemetery will reach full capacity by the early 2040s if changes aren’t implemented soon, according to the Army National Military Cemeteries executive director.


“Arlington National Cemetery is an iconic place devoted to honoring the memory of individuals in the armed services who made a significant commitment of service to the defense of our nation,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, during a House Armed Services Committee briefing about Arlington’s current and future plans, March 8, 2018.

Also read: Who is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

“The Army recognizes that the cemetery is at a critical point in its history … changes to eligibility combined with expansion will ensure Arlington continues to be an active cemetery well into the future,” Durham-Aguilera said.

In February 2017, Army officials engaged with Congress to explain how the current space constraints limit the amount of time Arlington National Cemetery will be able to continue to serve veterans.

Current eligibility requirements for in-ground burial at ANC are the most stringent of all U.S. national cemeteries. Nevertheless, most veterans who have at least one day of active service other than training, and who have been honorably discharged, are eligible for above-ground inurnment at the cemetery, officials say.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

“It’s a tough reality. The current veteran population is over 20 million. The retiree population is over two million. The total force, both active and reserve, is over 2 million right now. Today we have around 100,000 available burial spaces. We cannot serve that population,” Durham-Aguilera said.

During that 2017 meeting with Congress, Army officials outlined considerations for additional expansion opportunities beyond current boundaries, and evaluated alternative ideas for maximizing the space within the cemetery’s geographic footprint, Durham-Aguilera said.

“With no changes, we would be out of space in the early 2040s. If (Arlington) were to get a southern expansion, that can push us for another ten years,” said Katharine Kelley, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent. Still, she characterized the value of that possible expansion as not providing a significant gain for the cemetery.

Related: Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

In addition to the physical expansion, Arlington officials have considered increasing the amount of niche wall inurnment sites. However, that option would only serve as a temporary solution and could change Arlington’s “iconic look and feel,” Kelly said.

Moving forward, Army officials have determined a need to redefine Arlington’s eligibility criteria for interment and inurnment. The last significant change to Arlington’s eligibility criteria was in the late 1960s, Durham-Aguilera added. Another, more recent change occurred in 2016 when active duty designees were added to the above-ground eligible population at ANC. These groups consist of about 200,000 active duty designees, or nearly double the current capacity at the cemetery.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

To help make a better-informed decision about the cemetery’s future, officials conducted an initial public survey about burial options in November 2017.

Out of the 28,000 people polled, 94 percent agreed that the cemetery should remain active well into the future. Additionally, over 50 percent of those who were in favor of expansion also recognized the need to modify eligibility policy. Further, if no expansion is possible, a full 70 percent were in support of restricting eligibility in some manner to extend the life of the cemetery.

Based off the survey results, officials are now considering restricting Arlington’s eligibility requirement to service members killed in action, Medal of Honor and high award recipients, former prisoners of war, and military members that were killed while on active duty during operations or training, Kelley said.

More: Mattis spent Veterans Day with fallen warriors in Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington officials are slated to conduct another survey in the coming weeks. At the conclusion of the study, results and recommendations will be compiled by cemetery officials and released to the secretary of the Army. From there, information from the study will be shared with the other armed forces secretaries and the secretary of defense, and eventually released to Congress, Durham-Aguilera said.

Finding ways to keep Arlington National Cemetery open well into the future, while at the same time honoring all who served, will be a challenge, Durham-Aguilera said. “These hard choices are on our minds every single day, as we go out and lay our veterans and patriots to rest.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Venezuela made this stupid video to scare US Marines

It’s not the Razzle Dazzle from Stripes, but it might as well be. Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro thinks his country is staring down the barrel of an upcoming U.S.-led invasion. The only problem is that no one in the American government really seems to care about Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. He’s just a trash version of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez – who wasn’t that great of a dictator anyway.

Still, the military members still loyal to Maduro somehow believe him when he says they can defeat the United States. And apparently, the first step is (attempted) intimidation of the United States Marine Corps. IT did not have the effect Maduro hoped.


To answer the questions on everyone’s mind, it’s not a joke, and the video was really intended to frighten U.S. Marines who might be going into Venezuela, according to the Facebook page on which the video was released. They call parts of the video “intense training activities.” The activities include running, running in place, screaming, and the world’s worst obstacle course.

Of course, even the casual viewer is going to find this hilarious, knowing it wouldn’t even intimidate the Air Force, let alone the Marine Corps. When the shooting started, there didn’t seem to be magazines in their weapons.

What the training didn’t include was how to run from an A-10, how to survive a JDAM, and what to do when a K-Bar is stuck in your neck.

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

Don’t worry, Venezuela, we will bring the answer to those questions for you.

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