'The West Wing' cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts - We Are The Mighty
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‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and other former cast members of NBC’s The West Wing reunited to produce an advocacy video on behalf of Justice For Vets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of Veterans Treatment Courts in the U.S. criminal justice system.


Half of the U.S. military’s returning service members experiencing some form of mental health issues, one in five have some form of post-traumatic stress, and one in six struggle with substance abuse, both related to experiences in their service. Many of the 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of their service-related trauma, addiction, or mental illness. This is not limited to the veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2008, Judge Robert T. Russell of Buffalo, New York noticed many of the returning faces in his courtroom were veterans. The rising number of veterans in the city’s treatment courts led to the creation of the country’s first Veterans Treatment Court. The idea was to create a support group among the niche population of veterans adopting, with slight modifications, ten key components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components, combining those with the ten essential elements of Mental Health Courts.

These courts allow veterans to appear before judges who understand the unique challenges facing them. More than that, Veterans Treatment Courts give vets the the chance to participate in recovery with fellow veterans, to re-establish the esprit de corps kindled by their military service. The court becomes their new unit with the judge in the role of commanding officer. The new team members support each other and are mentored through their rehabilitation period.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Veterans Service Officers share a unique bond with particpants and help them access their claims. (Photo: Justice For Vets)

The Department of Veterans Affairs plays an important role in guiding recovery of the veteran. The courts area “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services.  A Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during hearing to give the courts on the spot information about health records, treatment options, disability benefits, and to make appointments. The VJO is not a member of the court, but plays a critical advisory role.

And there is a lot of evidence showing Veterans Treatment Courts work.

“The concept is creating a community,” Judge Marc Carter of Harris County, Texas told a crowd gathered to watch the Justice For Vets public service announcement in Los Angeles. “It’s not only important in Veterans Courts but in the entire criminal justice system. While they’re in treatment they have success, but when they’re back to their homes they face the same triggers that sent them to me in the first place. In the Veterans Courts we create that community. It can change their lives forever.”

There are now 264 Veterans Treatment Courts in 37 states, and one in Guam. 13,200 veterans are in the care of the courts and their community instead of behind bars, with 3,000 more veterans serving those courts as volunteer mentors. The structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring of Veterans Treatment Courts are producing more permanent positive treatment outcomes, returning more veterans to their communities, and saving the American taxpayer the cost of incarceration.

“Vets courts will continue to grow as they do in Texas,” Judge Carter said. “The value of bringing people back healthy to their communities as opposed to putting them in prison and returning them in the same conditions is immeasurable.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s Knifefish underwater drone sub is ready to hunt

The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.

Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.

The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.


Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)

The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.

The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.

The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

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

Intel

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The below is an excerpt from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad:

In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.


What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”

Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.

That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.

In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.

In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.

Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.

Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.

A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?

This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.

My mind was spinning.

What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?

Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
The author, Michele Rigby Assad, was an undercover CIA agent for 10 years.
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.

The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”

“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”

“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”

Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.

My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.

I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.

My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.

They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.

Taken from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.

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

Articles

The destruction of these villages shows the complex calculus of the Afghan War

On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.


A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.

Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.

The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.

Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.

The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: Youtube.com

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: Youtube.com

No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)

Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.

Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.

NOW: ‘The Fighting Season’ nails the gritty realities of the Afghan War

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

Articles

5 ways Russia trolled the US on July 4th

Russia is an expert-level troll.


During the Cold War, Syria remained a staunch ally to the Soviet Union – a source of power and stability for the Assad regime. In 2012, the United States began supporting Syrian rebels, stepping into the conflict and into Russia’s backyard.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Remember when Syrian battle maps had only three colors and non of them were ISIS? Good times.

Ever since, the Russians have made it a point to antagonize the Americans at every opportunity. Not being content to cross “red lines” and annex Crimea, Putin expertly trolls the U.S. and its president every Independence Day.

2016: Vladimir Putin addresses the American people

President Putin took the time to write to the U.S. about his wish for better relations.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
“Американцы поверят чему угодно.”

“The history of Russian-American relations shows that when we act as equal partners and respect each other’s lawful interests, we are able to successfully resolve the most complex international issues for the benefit of both countries’ peoples and all of humanity,” Putin wrote to President Obama.

At the time, he was directing an all-out effort to disrupt the American election with a coordinated misinformation campaign.

2015: Russian bombers drop by to say hello

American fighters intercept two Russian bombers 39 miles off the coast of California. Upon interception, the Russians radio the Americans:

“Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your 4th of July Independence Day.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the phone with President Obama the entire time, calling to wish him a Happy Independence Day.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

At the same time, Russian aircraft are intercepted in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.

2014: Russian bombers intercepted off of Alaska and California

American F-22 Raptors intercept four long-range Tupolev 95 Bear H bombers and their aerial refueler just 200 miles off the coast of North America.

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They actually do that a lot. This photo is from 2007. Just not July 4, 2007.

Two of them veer off back to Russian airspace while the other two skirt U.S. airspace 50 miles from the California coastline.

2013: Infamous Russian spy publicly proposes to Edward Snowden

Fully 10 days into his permanent residency in Russia, American whistleblower Edward Snowden received a public marriage proposal from Anna Chapman (aka Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko), an outed Russian spy– which was quickly spread by Russian state media.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Everything we learned about Russian spies from movies was right. Apparently.

Chapman was exchanged with nine other Russian agents in 2010, garnering notoriety because of her bright red hair, history of modeling, and Cold War-era spy story.

She publicly tweeted her proposal more than once, even asking the NSA to babysit their potential children.

2012: Nuclear-capable bombers enter Alaska Air Defense Zone

The 200-mile zone between the U.S. and Russia was penetrated by two Tu-95 Bear H Bombers on July 4, 2012, but the planes did not enter American airspace.

Defense officials called it “Putin’s 4th of July Bear greeting to Obama.”

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Any Russian aircraft entering the area are always intercepted by American fighters, but this time it was notable because it happened on Independence Day – the first of many to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 craziest ways you could fight in the World Wars

The two World Wars were some of the first true industrial wars, forcing leaders to innovate so they would lose fewer troops and have a chance at victory. While some were slow to change, some leaders figured out truly novel ways of using everything from bicycles to railroads to artists. Here are just seven of the crazy jobs that were created:


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German bicycle troops in World War I.

Bicycle troops

Believe it or not, bicycles were a huge part of World War I. France and Britain has about 250,000 troops in bicycle units by the end of the war, and most major combatants had at least a couple thousand. This included bicycle couriers, reconnaissance cyclists, and bicycle infantry, all of which were exactly what they sounded like.

But there were also more surprising applications. Some bicycles were welded into tandem, side-by-side configurations that allowed cyclists to create silent, mobile machine gun platforms, ambulances, and even vehicles with which to tow small artillery.

American motorcycle Corps Train

www.youtube.com

Motorcycle tank repairman

Want to work on two wheels but don’t want to pedal so much? Fair enough, maybe the motorcycle corps was for you. Motorcycles were used for everything that bicycles were, and occasionally even pressed into service as anti-tank weapons. But the craziest way to use motorcycles was definitely tank recovery.

See, before a random tank operator thought to convert some tanks into recovery vehicles, the Army used motorcyclists to deliver tools and spare parts to tanks under fire on the battlefield. While this was fast, it meant that a motorcycle rider had to tear through No Man’s Land under fire that had just crippled or bogged down a tank.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

A fake M4 Sherman, an inflatable decor, sits on the ground in World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Fake Army/city creator

On both sides of World War II, artists were put to work creating decoy forces or, in the case of Britain, decoy cities to draw away attackers and waste the enemy’s resources. The most famous of this is likely America’s “Ghost Army,” a collection of mostly inflatable military hardware complete with fake radio traffic that caused the Germans to overestimate the enemy they were facing and even got them to think D-Day was a feint.

But perhaps the most ambitious program was in England where engineers created entire fake cities and landing strips, complete with lights, ammo and fuel dumps, and planes. They were able to convince German bomber crews at night that they had reached their targets, resulting in thousands of tons of bombs dropping on fake targets.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

British Chindits, guerrilla fighters from Britain who fought in Burma, discuss operations in a captured town.​

(Imperial War Museum)

Guerrilla warfare fighter/trainer

For major combatants with lots of territory to fight over, it’s always easier if you can put a small number of troops or trainers into position and force a much larger enemy force to remain there to fight them. That’s what America achieved with guerrilla trainers like Detachment 101 and the British achieved with guerrilla units like the Chindits.

In both cases, sending in a couple dozen or a couple thousand men tied down entire Japanese divisions and inflicted heavy losses. The situation was similar in Europe. A Marine guerrilla warfare unit of just six men provided support to French resistance fighters and killed so many Nazis that the Germans assumed they were an entire battalion. And they achieved this despite losing two Marines on the jump into France.

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“Mad” Jack Churchill leads his troops off the boats during a training exercise while preparing for D-Day. He’s the one with the sword at far right.

(Imperial War Museum)

Bagpiper/swordsman/bowman

Granted, these jobs only came up under one commander: Jack “Mad Jack” Churchill, a British officer who led his men onto the beaches of Normandy while carrying a claybeg (basically a smaller claymore) and a longbow. And he did use the weapons in combat, at one point riding through France on a bicycle with his quiver hanging from the frame.

And, on D-Day, British soldier Bill Millin, a personal piper to Lord Movat, was ordered to play his bagpipes as his unit hit the sands of Normandy. The Millin wasn’t shot and asked a group of Nazi prisoners of war why no one hit him since he was such an obvious target. The German commander said “We thought you were a ‘Dummkopf,’ or off your head. Why waste bullets on a Dummkopf?

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Poison gasses float across a battlefield in World War I.

(Public domain)

Chemical warfare operator

The first large-scale deployment of chemical weapons came at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, but, luckily, was largely outdated by changes in international law before World War II, so there were just a couple of years in history where offensive chemical warfare operators were a real thing.

That first attack required hundreds of German soldiers to bury 6,000 steel cylinders over a period of weeks, but allowed them to break French lines across an almost 4-mile front. But it was hard to exploit gaps from chemical attacks since, you know, the affected areas were filled with poison.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

U.S. sailors fire a 14-inch railway gun in France during World War I.

(U.S. Navy)

Railway gun operator

If you’ve never seen one of the railway guns from World War I and II, then just take a look at the picture. These weapons were massive with 14-inch or larger caliber guns mounted on railway carriages. When the U.S. joined the war, they immediately sent five naval railway guns across the Atlantic.

Railway artillerymen were usually outside of the range of enemy fire, so it was relatively safe. But expect some serious hearing loss and even brain damage. Massive amounts of propellant were required to launch these huge shells.

Articles

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

When natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, America usually sends its military to aid in rescue and recovery. Engineers, search and rescue, and logistics specialists pour into the area to save as many people as quickly as possible.


Here are 17 photos that show what that’s like.

1. Troops are rushed to the area, usually via cargo aircraft.

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

2. In the crucial first hours, disaster survivors can be rescued from collapsed or flooded structures. Engineers carefully shore up crumbling buildings and cut through obstacles.

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Tania Reid

3. During hurricanes and tsunamis, there’s a good chance some survivors will have been swept to sea. Trained swimmers work to extract them.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey

4. Survivors are transported to safe areas in military aircraft and vehicles.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

5. When possible, the Navy sends its hospital ships to the disaster zone. The USNS Mercy and USNS comfort are floating hospitals with capacity for 1,000 patients each.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

6. Field hospitals are set up to receive and treat the injured or sick after the disaster.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Justyn M. Freeman

7. As survivors are being evacuated to care facilities, equipment, food, and other necessities surge in.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Roy A. Santana

8. If the local transportation network has been damaged, the U.S. military finds workarounds. Here, a group of Air Force combat controllers direct air traffic at Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there knocked out the control tower.

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios

9. As supplies come in, they are moved overland to shelters and distribution centers.

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Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

10. Sometimes, engineers have to prevent additional damage from aftershocks or continuing flooding.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

11. The engineers can operate 24-hours-a-day to get ahead of rising water.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

12. Sandbags and materials can be dropped into place by helicopters, vehicles, or carried in by troops.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

13. When helicopters are used, the crew chief directs the pilots in order to get the materials in the right spot.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air National Guard Airman Megan Floyd

14. Clearing roads allows for more vehicles to move supplies and evacuees.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit

15. If invited by local government officials, troops will help patrol disaster areas.

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Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Brian Calhoun

16. As the situation begins to stabilize, the military will assist with clean up as well. Eventually, they’ll be released back to their normal missions.

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stefanie Pupkiewicz

Articles

6 things MPs do (besides give you tickets)

Military police get a bad rap. Sure, they spend a lot of time trying to catch speeders going 2 mph over the limit in the middle of the night and give the driver a ticket that stalls his career for no good reason, but they also do useful stuff like these six things:


1. Engage in maneuver warfare

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A Marine Raider supervises military police training on urban patrolling on Nov. 2, 2016, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler)

Believe it or not, the troops voted most likely to work as mall security after they get their DD-214 are trained to take and hold territory from the enemy in war. While the MPs aren’t as specialized in these tasks as the infantry, they are capable.

The U.S. Army military police school’s manevuer training focuses on breaching operations, route recon and surveillance, controlling river crossings, and other essential elements of controlling the battlespace.

2. Guard mission-critical infrastructure

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U.S. Marine military police conduct immediate action drills alongside Philippine Marines at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)

So, yeah, there’s a reason that MPs do make good mall cops if they ever feel the need to take that route. They do train to protect stationary places from local hooligans. It’s just those stationary places are air bases and ammo dumps and those local hooligans are hardened insurgent fighters.

The MPs call it “critical site security.” And they train to do it in chemical gear, under fire, and facing off against enemy infantry. So you better believe they can keep the stoner kids out of Spencer Gifts.

3. Evacuate civilians from conflict areas and natural disasters

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A military policeman pulls security as other soldiers load a CH-47 during non-combatant evacuation training. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Scaggs)

When the rains come, whether they’re rains of artillery or torrential downpours of water, the MPs are just as ready to rush in and get civilians out of harm’s way as they seem in all those recruiting commercials.

“Dislocated Civilians,” “Populace and Resource Control,” and “Straggler, Dislocated Civilian Control” are all military police functions that pretty much mean that MPs will corral you to safety and help figure out the food situation during the next zombie apocalypse.

4. Investigate crimes

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Military police analyze a foot impression during training at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, on July 13, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army photo Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)

Unless you’re a murderer. Because the MPs will definitely not have your back if you’re a murderer. Or a drug user. Or dealer. Or really, any crime. That’s because some military police become MPIs, military police investigators, and will be investigating those crimes.

While the MPIs don’t get the headlines like the special agents of the Criminal Investigations Division or the Naval Criminal Investigations Service, they do assist in the investigations of major crimes by collecting witness testimony and physical evidence. And, like all MPs, they are federal law enforcement officers.

5. Contain riots and civil unrest

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Army soldiers complete fire phobia training. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Cody Barber)

Military police don’t just train on hunting enemy soldiers and tracking down hardened criminals. They also learn how to deal with angry protestors. The military emphasizes de-escalation when possible, but MPs learn how to hold the line against Molotov cocktails and armed protesters if necessary to contain riots and civil unrest. This includes everything from fire phobia training to the proper use of tear gas.

6. Teach policing fundamentals to partnered military and law enforcement agencies

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American Marines and Republic of Vanuatu Police Force officers train together on frisk and search procedures on Oct. 26, 2016, at Port Vila, Vanuatu. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Quavaungh Pointer

Of course, all this training turns new recruits into law enforcement experts, or at least people with enough expertise to train brand new police officers. Military police units are often sent around the world to train the police departments of American allies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran claims its military controls the Persian Gulf

“Everything north of the Strait of Hormuz is under our control,” said Ali Fadavi, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. If that’s true it would mean the Islamic Republic controls the flow of one-fifth of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran also says it controls the American Navy.


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Let’s see how that works out for Iran.

“American battleships in the region are under the complete control of Iran’s army and the Revolutionary Guards,” Fadavi told Fars News Service, without providing any further details. While Iran isn’t going anywhere near the recent rocket attack that struck the Green Zone just a few days before the IRGC Navy commander made the statement, the provocations against American forces in the region appear to continue.

Meanwhile, the United States is increasing its presence in the Gulf region, sending bomber aircraft along with three more ships to bolster its forces. The Pentagon is also weighing a plan to deploy five to ten thousand more troops to the region.

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The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group entered the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in 2016

Iran has approximately 20,000 men from the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in and around the Persian Gulf, manning missile boats, torpedo boats, and even speedboats. Of most concern to the ships of the U.S. navy and its allies, however, is the number of coastal and aircraft-fired anti-ship missiles in the region. On top of the IRGC’s naval assets are the approximately 15,000 men and Marines aboard the the dozens of more traditional ships – frigates, destroyers, corvettes – in the Gulf.

As for the buildup of American troops in the Gulf, Iran recently said the power posed by the force have turned from threats to targets.

“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander told the Iranian Students’ News Agency .

Articles

This D-Day vet played the role of his British commander in ‘The Longest Day’

On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.


Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.

Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.

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Pegasus Bridge, June 9, 1944. Richard Todd helped defend this bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”

By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.

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When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.

“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.

Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”

Articles

4 reasons the Navy needs more ships

The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that the Navy has stated in its latest Force Structure Assessment that it needs a larger force – setting an ideal goal of 355 ships, an increase from the 308 requested in the 2014 update. Currently, the Navy has 273 ships that are deployable.


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Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

Why does the Navy need all those ships? Here’s a list:

China is modernizing and getting aggressive

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China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

The theft of a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle is just the latest in a series of incidents where China has been crossing the line. There have been buzzing incidents in the South China Sea that have gotten very close to Navy electronic surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft. They also have built unsinkable aircraft carriers on some islands in the maritime hot spot. USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out a stealth freedom of navigation exercise earlier this year without incident, but with the buzzing incidents, the next one could get rough.

With the South China Sea becoming a potential free-for-all, the Navy may want more ships.

Russia is modernizing and getting aggressive

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Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Maybe it’s the way they snatched Crimea, or their actions in Syria and the Ukraine, but it is obvious that Russia is also acting up in a manner that doesn’t bode well for American allies in Europe.

Aside from the Kuznetsov follies — notably the splash landings — the Russians are modernizing their fleet. They seem to have come up with a littoral combat ship design that outguns the Navy’s.

Iran may need a smackdown

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Iran has threatened Navy aircraft, harassed U.S. Navy vessels, and is developing a knockoff of the S-300. It is also a major sponsor of terrorism, is still pursuing nuclear weapons, and is buying weapons from Russia.

While ISIS is one threat, Iran is lurking as well.

The Littoral Combat Ship needs work

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Let’s face it, if we were looking for a new Coast Guard cutter, the littoral combat ship would have been fine. But the Navy needs smaller combatants because there will be a need to handle some of the dirty jobs, like mine warfare.

But with engine problems, the littoral combat ship is having trouble getting its sea legs, if you will. The Navy may well need to look at buying some other ships to buy time to figure out how to fix the technical problems, maybe accessorize it a little, and to figure out what to do with these ships.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

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“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

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An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

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An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker is still an expensive piece of junk

The first operational KC-46A Pegasus — the tanker being designed by Boeing to replace the aging KC-135 — took its maiden flight on Dec. 5.


That flight came after numerous delays and cost overruns that have stymied the tanker’s development over the past several years. Even though it got off the ground in December, Boeing admitted at the time that it would miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first operational KC-46 by the end of 2017.

Now the Air Force expects to receive the first operational KC-46 by spring 2018, and Boeing is obligated to deliver 18 of the new tankers by October. But major defects remain unresolved, according to Aviation Week.

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The KC-46A Pegasus. (Concept image from Boeing)

The most worrying deficiency is the tendency of the tanker’s boom — where the fuel flows — to scrape the surface of the aircraft receiving fuel.

The problem could endanger the aircrews involved and risks compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded.

Representatives from the Air Force and from Boeing told Aviation Week that they are working on the problem, with personnel from the government and industry reviewing flight data to assess such incidents and compare them to international norms.

Their assessments will help decide whether changes are to be made to the camera used for refueling on the KC-46. The Pegasus’ boom operator sits at the front of the aircraft while directing the boom, relying heavily on the camera. Older tankers have the boom operator stationed at the back of the plane to guide the boom in person. A decision on the camera is expected by March.

Also Read: Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

A Boeing spokesman said similar contact between the boom and the receiving aircraft happens with the Air Force’s current tankers as well.

A Boeing spokesman also told Aviation Week in December that an issue with the KC-46’s high-frequency radio had been resolved, but an Air Force spokeswoman said the force was still working on it, expecting to have options to address it by January.

The radios use the aircraft’s frame as an antenna, which sometimes creates electrical sparks. The Air Force wants to ensure they can never broadcast during refueling in order to avoid fires.

Issues with uncommanded boom extensions when the refueling boom disconnects from the receiving aircraft with fuel flowing have been reduced to a Category Two deficiency, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week. The solution to that problem is expected to be implemented in May, the spokeswoman said.

The Air Force still expects the first operational KC-46s by late spring, arriving at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee)

Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times that once testing is finished and the new tankers start to be delivered, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.

Boeing won the contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. Under the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. As of late 2017, the defense contractor had eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

Despite his limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, telling them he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.