This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days - We Are The Mighty
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This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (Collaborative) announced today [Monday, Dec. 19, 2016] that it met the ambitious goal they set in September of this year: to end homelessness for veterans in the City within 100 days (by Christmas Day). This makes La Crosse the first city in Wisconsin to end homelessness among veterans.


This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo: Tomah VA Medical Center)

Over the 100 days, the Collaborative increased its monthly housing placement rate for veterans by 400%, demonstrating what’s possible when multiple agencies join forces and focus on clear, measurable goals.

This goal was not accomplished by doing business as usual. It was accomplished by unprecedented cross-agency collaboration between over thirty agencies, including: the Tomah VA Medical Center, Couleecap, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (full list of Design and Leadership Team members).

This effort elevated action-oriented problem-solving over traditional planning.

Also read: This is an easy way to help homeless veterans this holiday season

With the support of Gundersen Health System’s Office of Population Health, the Collaborative is using a proven innovation and improvement model (adapted from one developed by Community Solutions and the Rapid Results Institute for the 100,000 Homes Campaign) to accelerate housing placements and profoundly improve system performance.

“The key to our success has been the amazing collaboration within our initiative and a strong shared focus from everyone on the team”, said Kim Cable, Design Team member and Housing and Community Services Director at Couleecap). “This is just the beginning of our journey to end all homelessness in the City of La Crosse. We are excited and inspired by our initial success and the support from the community.”

“I am so proud of the La Crosse Collaborative’s incredible efforts to end veteran homelessness here in our community”, said Mayor Tim Kabat, a Leadership Team member.

“La Crosse signed on to the national effort, as part of the Mayor’s Challenge, to work together and provide permanent housing for our homeless veterans and it is awe-inspiring to see this dream realized.  We are so fortunate to live in such a caring, compassionate, and hard-working community.”

“This is a tremendous achievement and milestone for our community,” said Victoria Brahm, Acting Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center. “I am extremely proud of our staff members who worked with the Collaborative. This is the result of a lot of hard work – getting to functional zero was a tough challenge, but one that we were never going to give up on.”

“Gunderson’s Office of Population Health is focusing on elevating the health of the community by engaging beyond the health system walls, and partnering with organizations in communities who are going upstream to prevent illness, disease, injury, and crisis”, said Sandy Brekke, Senior Consultant, Office of Population Health, Gundersen Health System.

“It’s hard to be healthy when you go to sleep hungry, homeless, or in substandard housing. As an institution, GHS recognizes that safe, secure housing is foundational to the health of individuals and families in our community and are proud to support the effort to end homelessness in La Crosse. We are grateful to the Design Team of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, they have brought the community together and have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our Veterans have a warm place to call home.”

Related: 5 ways to support veterans all year long

The Collaborative will celebrate its success tomorrow afternoon, December 20th, at the Waterfront Banquet Room, hosted by Don Weber, CEO of LHI and Leadership Team member, who said: “Veteran homelessness is our nation’s silent shame. It goes without saying that any who has served and protected our nation should not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads. In dedicating ourselves to ending Veteran homelessness in our region, our community has proven that the story does not have to end here. Our Veterans deserve our lifelong commitment to returning to them the same comfort and safety they’ve so selflessly secured for us through their service.”

For more information on what it means to end homelessness (defined nationally as reaching “functional zero”), visit the FAQ section on the Collaborative’s website. On the website, you can also donate to ongoing efforts to end homelessness, sign up to volunteer or—if you are a landlord­—offer housing to others who are homeless in La Crosse.

For more information on the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, contact Kim Cable, Design Team Member, Housing and Community Services Director, Couleecap, at kim.cable@couleecap.org or  608-787-9890. See more here.

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US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is assisted by a tug boat as it pulls away from the pier at Naval Station Norfolk. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Amber O’Donovan)


An investigation into events that led to the reliefs of the commanding officer, former executive officer and command master chief of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge earlier this month implicated 15 other officers and senior leaders on the ship in the scandal.

Cmdr. Sean Rongers, Cmdr. Brandon Murray, and Command Master Chief Richard Holmes, were relieved April 7 by Destroyer Squadron 28 commander Capt. Richard Brawley after an investigation found fireworks were being stored aboard the Bainbridge in violation of Navy instructions and unlawful gambling was taking place among officers, officials said.

A 149-page preliminary inquiry report released to Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request found the ship’s leaders also failed to get a pregnant officer transferred off the ship in keeping with Navy policy, conducted certain ship maneuvers that endangered gear, and encouraged relaxed uniform guidelines under long underway periods with the sale of “no-shave chits.”

A command climate survey also obtained by Military.com dating from February also found that the ship’s top officers presided over a command marked by exeptionally poor trust in leadership and leadership and organizational cohesion.

According to the February investigation, Rongers, the commanding officer, directed the purchase of just under $1,500 worth of fireworks for a July 4 display aboard the Bainbridge, using funds from the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation account. In April 2015, Rongers directed a subordinate to purchase the fireworks, knowing that the ship had conducted a similar fireworks display in 2013.

The subordinate, whose name is redacted in the report, negotiated a deal with the company Phantom Fireworks to buy the pyrotechnics. An overnight trip was made to purchase the goods, which included fireworks with names like “The Beast Unleashed” and “Swashbuckler 72-shot.”

Some of the fireworks purchased were not available for sale in Virginia, the investigation shows. Then, while the ship was operating in the Virginia Capes area, near Virginia Beach, Rongers dispatched rigid-hulled inflatable boats to pick the fireworks up at Rudee Inlet in a late-night operation.

Rongers told investigators that the fireworks were brought aboard via late-night boat operations in order to avoid force protection measures or other regulations that might have prohibited them coming through the main gate when the ship was pierside in Norfolk, Virginia. He also said he checked with another officer about the legality of using MWR funds for fireworks and got the all-clear. The officer, whose name is redacted in the investigation, denied that Rongers had checked with her.

The fireworks were stored in black trash bags in the ship’s pyro locker, near its barbershop. Ultimately, however, officials from Destroyer Squadron 28 got wind of the fireworks plan when a prospective weapons officer from the Bainbridge raised concerns, saying he had already confronted Rongers and Murray, the executive officer about having them stored aboard ship.

Rongers had the fireworks removed from the ship and loaded into his own car. The MWR funds used to purchase them were never reimbursed, however.

Investigators found that Rongers and Murray failed to do the research needed to ensure the fireworks purchase and display were legal. They violated MWR policy prohibiting funds from being used to pay for “hazardous activities,” according to the report, and Rongers “rationalized” his actions because a fireworks display had taken place before, even though Navy policy prohibits fireworks being stored aboard ship and transported the way that they were.

Rongers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military.com.

The gambling accusations stem from a weekly Friday night officers’ poker game that took place in the Bainbridge officers’ wardroom with Rongers and Murray’s consent and participation during the ship’s 2015 deployment. There was a $10 buy-in, and participants played with chips in lieu of money and kept scores and money owed written on a piece of paper.

Concerns arose after an officer was asked to pay a buy-in fee she claimed she was never informed about. A legal officer approached Rongers and Murray with doubts about the legality of the command-sanctioned game, according to the report, but they dismissed these concerns, saying no one was forced to play.

Ultimately, the game was temporarily closed down and replaced by a non-gambling game night with activities like Uno and Risk. However, the game started up again later in the deployment, investigators found.

The investigation also revealed a booming business: the purchase of “no-shave chits” which allowed Navy personnel to grow facial hair or, if female, to wear their hair in a ponytail during long periods underway. At $30 a pop, the MWR raised nearly $12,700 on a single deployment from sale of the chits, the investigation found. The ship’s leaders sanctioned this practice, and Rongers even purchased a chit at one point, documents show. While the practice of selling the chits is fairly common, investigators found, it is not permitted by policy.

Bainbridge leadership also fell afoul of policy when an officer became pregnant. Though regulations stipulate that pregnant sailors need to be transferred off-ship by the 20th week of pregnancy, she was not transferred until some five weeks after that deadline, even though the report shows she repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of her chain of command. Moreover, Murray waited until January 2016 — past the pregnancy’s 20-week point — to inform the ship’s placement officer of the need to transfer the officer, even though he was aware of the situation in November, the investigation found.

Finally, Rongers’ handling of the Bainbridge on breakaways following underway replenishment caused alarm among sailors and led to the loss of some gear, the investigation found. On multiple occasions, witnesses testified, Rongers would conduct the breakaways at high speed, before personnel and gear were secured. In one case, sailors ordered to clear the deck could hear items tumbling around as the ship broke away. Two aluminum drip pans were lost over the course of the deployment, and one “killer tomato” or inflatable naval gunnery target, was struck loose by the wind, but was ultimately recovered.

Investigators faulted many other officers for failing to take appropriate action in light of the improper behavior taking place aboard the Bainbridge. While Rongers and Murray were advised they were suspected of violating articles 92 and 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violation of a general order and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman, respectively, 16 others were cited on suspicion of dereliction of duty or violation of a general order.

These include the ship’s chief engineer, the supply corps officer, the weapons officer, the force protection officer, the recreational services officer, the Tomahawk leading chief petty officer and others, though the names of these individuals were redacted.

Investigators recommended that Rongers face non-judicial punishment for directing a subordinate to illegally transport and store fireworks. They also recommended that the ship’s chief petty officers ensure sailors are taught lessons on “misplaced loyalty” with regards to the fireworks incident, since many aboard ship were found to have covered for leadership, rather than adhered to policy.

While the investigation does not cover how problems with the ship’s command affected the rank-and-file, a command climate survey from the time reveals troubling trends. Fifty-three percent of sailors on the Bainbridge rated their trust in leadership unfavorably, according to the survey. On leadership cohesion, 63 percent of sailors gave unfavorable ratings, and 47 percent of sailors rated organizational cohesion unfavorably. Organizational processes received a 52 percent unfavorable rating, and 42 percent of sailors rated their job satisfaction unfavorably.

A spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, said Rongers, Murray and Holmes remain assigned to SURFLANT in Norfolk. Vasquez said the administrative process was still ongoing for the sailors named in the investigation and declined further comment.

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The 8 worst guns in the history of warfare

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Latente Flickr


In “The World’s Worst Weapons,” Martin Dougherty details the long history of over-ambitious, under-achieving weapons that failed to hit their mark.

From brass knuckle-knife-revolvers to rocket propelled ammunition, we’ve described the eight worst guns ever produced.

8. Sten gun MK II

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Half length portrait of a paratrooper carrying a Sten gun, having loaded it ready for immediate action. | Imperial War Museums via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately the Sten gun MK II tended to misfire frequently. Furthermore, there were reports of the gun’s bullets bouncing off of targets.

“At a time when Britain faced invasion and vast numbers of weapons were needed, the Sten was quick and easy to put together, and it was a lot better than nothing,” Dougherty wrote.

Country: United Kingdom

Entered service: 1940

Type: Submachine gun

Range: 230 feet

Capacity: 32 rounds

7. The Bazooka

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
US Army Signal Corps

One glaring problem with the bazooka was the massive flare it created when fired, which both exposed the shooters position and shot dust, debris, and flames back at the soldier firing the weapon. Later versions of the bazooka included a back blast shield.

“The best thing about the bazooka was that it formed the basis for better weapons that came along later,” Dougherty wrote.

Country: United States

Entered service: 1942

Type: Unguided antitank weapon

Range: Under 500 feet

Capacity: Single shot rocket launcher/ 3.5 pound explosive

6. LeMat grapeshot revolver

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
The LeMat grapeshot revolver. | Forgotten Weapons via YouTube

The LeMat grapeshot revolver is another great idea for the battlefield that suffered from poor execution. Designed as a cavalry weapon late in the US Civil War, the LeMat revolver stored 9 pistol rounds in a revolver set up, with an additional barrel and single shotgun shell in the middle.

The user would toggle the movable firing pin to select which round they wanted to fire. While it was a great idea in theory, in practice the guns proved to be poorly made.

Country: United States

Entered service: 1856

Type: Handgun

Range: 164 feet

Capacity:  9 rounds

5. Krummlauf

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
A soldier holds an extreme 90 degree version of the Krummlauf. | Public Domain

The Krummlauf looks like a good idea, if only the physics from Elmer Fudd cartoons held true in real life.

This gun was meant to shoot around corners with its curved barrel, between 30 and 45 degrees, and a mounted periscope sight on a fairly standard assault rifle.

After much time and money spent tinkering with the design, it was deemed too expensive and unsuccessful to produce on a larger scale.

Country: Nazi Germany

Entered service: 1945

Type: Longarm

Range: 6,561 feet

Capacity: 30 rounds

4. Chauchat

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Belgian machine gunner in 1918 guarding trench with the much-hated ChauChat. | Wikimedia Commons

In 1915 at the height of World War I, France’s Chauchat light machine gun exemplified everything a light machine gun should not be.

The weapon was both poorly manufactured to the point that it kicked like a mule. The firing mechanism frequently jammed, and even when it did work perfectly, the gun’s 20-round capacity was inadequate for combat.

Country: France

Entered service: 1915

Type: Support weapon

Range: 3,280 feet

Capacity: 20 rounds

3. Gyrojet

The Gyrojet pistol was one of the most creative ideas in modern history of firearms.

Gyrojet pistols used rocket propulsion to fire its ammunition. However, the guns were terribly inaccurate and were therefore discontinued.

Country: United States

Entered service: 1965

Type: Handgun

Range: 165 feet

Capacity: 6 rounds

2. Mars Pistol

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Two Mars pistols, which despite being manufactured within 13 serial numbers of each other have small but significant differences. | Forgotten Weapons via Youtube

Two Mars pistols, which despite being manufactured within 13 serial numbers of each other have small but significant differences.

At the beginning of the 20th century, inventors tried to create a self-loading pistol. Eventually, the Colt M1911 would become the standard, but before that, many mistakes, like the Mars pistol were made.

The Mars was very complicated to operate and ejected used cartridges directly into the shooters face.

“About 80 were made, after which the Mars quite rightly faded from the scene,” Dougherty wrote.

Country: United Kingdom

Entered service: 1900

Type: Handgun

Range: 131 feet

Capacity: 6 rounds

1. Apache pistol

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Apache revolver – Curtius Museum, Liège. | Latente Flickr

Perhaps no other gun on this list over promises and underperforms like the Apache pistol. This pistol appears to combine the effective ingredients of a knife, brass knuckles, and a small caliber revolver into a neat, fold-out package.

In practice none of the three components of the weapon deliver.

The brass knuckle component works well enough, but the knife is thin and flimsy on its hinge. The revolver, with virtually no barrel to speak of, is terribly under-powered and inaccurate.

Additionally, because of the unguarded trigger, the user is likely to accidentally fire the weapon often.

Country: United States

Entered service: 1880

Type: Personal defense

Range: Close combat

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines tackle, subdue threatening passenger on long-haul flight

Three Marines who sprang into action to restrain a hostile and disruptive fellow passenger are now being recognized by their unit commanding officer for their bravery and quick thinking.

The incident happened Monday on a flight from Tokyo to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. The three North Carolina-based Marines, all assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, were Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt. They had been traveling back to the U.S. for various reasons, about halfway through a six-month Unit Deployment Program pump in Okinawa.


During the flight, according to a Marine Corps news release, a passenger barricaded himself inside one of the plane’s bathrooms and loudly began to make what officials described as threatening comments.

“While watching a movie during my flight from Japan to Texas, I started to hear screaming coming from the restroom on board,” Dietrick, an infantry assault section leader from Mechanicsville, Virginia, said in a statement. “When I took off my headphones, I heard a man sounding very distraught and screaming from the bathroom.”

The Marines then moved quickly, according to the release. While a flight attendant got the door unlocked, the three men grabbed the passenger and used flex ties to bind him. They took him back to a seat and stayed with him to make sure he remained restrained for the rest of the flight.

“I knew I had to step in when he became a danger to others and himself,” said Meinhardt, a mortarman from Sparta, Wisconsin. “I didn’t think twice about helping restrain him through the rest of the flight.”

Kult, an infantry officer from Coons Rapids, Iowa, credited the Marines’ quick, decisive actions to their training.

“We just assessed the situation and acted,” he said. “Working with the flight crew, we got the door open and from there worked together to subdue him. We didn’t take time to talk it over. We just got ready and did what we needed to help.”

In light of the episode, the plane was rerouted to the Los Angeles International Airport. The problem passenger was disembarked and sent to a mental health facility for evaluation, according to the release. The incident will be investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, officials said.

Of the bravery of the three Marines, their battalion commanding officer simply said he was not surprised.

“I happen to know all three of them, two of them well, and they are all what I would call ‘men of action,'” Lt. Col. Chris Niedziocha, commander of 1/6, said in a statement. “I’m continually amazed by and grateful for the people we have in this battalion.”

It’s not the first time U.S. service members in transit have jumped into action to prevent a disaster. Perhaps most famously, a soldier and an airman traveling on a train in France in 2015 helped to avert a terror attack — and were eventually awarded honorary French citizenship in thanks for their efforts.

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

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6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.


A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
The Taliban and other antigovernment groups participate in and profit from the opiate trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. Pictured here, a Marine posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012.

The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.

A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”

Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.

Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.

The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korean special forces train to steal North Korean nukes

The US and South Korean militaries carried out a training exercise focused on “infiltrating North Korea and removing weapons of mass destruction in case of conflict,” military sources told Yonhap News.


Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan, a spokesman for the US military in South Korea, told Business Insider that the US military doesn’t “discuss specific scenarios,” but that “exercises are vital to the readiness of the US and our allies, and ensure we are ready and trained for combined-joint operations.”

Online video of the exercise, called Warrior Strike, shows US troops training in protective gear and in urban environments, much as they might if they had to fight through a situation where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had been used.

Also Read: South Korea’s Marines are almost as scary as the Americans’

The training, which took place on Dec.15, followed up a week-long air drill that involved an unprecedented number of stealth aircraft carrying out simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets.

If war broke out between the US, South Korea, and North Korea, a key task early in the conflictwould be seizing control of, or destroying, Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction.

Though its arsenal remains secretive, experts suspect North Korea possesses chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. North Korea has frequently threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and demonstrated nuclear devices six times.

At the moment, China and Russia accuse the US of escalating tensions with North Korea as it increases its military drills, while the US pushes the world to implement strict sanctions on Pyongyang and refuses to accept the nation’s illegally forged nuclear status.

 

 

 

 

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This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater

Combat veteran and Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen was born to be in the ocean, but these days he doesn’t blow things up underwater anymore. He’s saving it all instead. 

Larsen grew up in Santa Cruz, California, where his mother taught at the university. Surrounded by “watermen,” the ocean was always home, he said. In 1995, he brought his aquatic abilities to the water polo team at the Naval Academy, committed to following a long, family tradition of military service. 

“My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my father was a Marine during Vietnam so I thought it was important that I serve too. Because I came from this really aquatic background, the SEAL Team was a natural fit for me,” he explained. 

Larsen transferred to the University of California in 1997 and then commissioned through Officer Candidate School (first in his class) in April of 2001. Not long after, our nation was at war. He was in the first phase of BUD/S class when America was attacked on 9/11. After graduation, he led teams into covert combat operations in the War on Terror for multiple deployments. In 2007, he transitioned from active duty after five years into the reserves.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Photo provided by Larsen.

Larsen left the Navy reserves in 2018 as a Lieutenant Commander. 

After his active-duty military service, Larsen attended graduate school at Harvard for public policy and counter-terrorism studies. He very quickly became a familiar face on CNN, ABC or MSNBC where he reported from war zones across the world. 

And, he volunteered to be water-boarded on live television.

You could also find him hosting VICE on HBO, where he produced documentaries on conflict and national security. Larsen was the only embedded journalist during the Nigerian fight against Boko Haram. The SEAL became an award-winning documentarian, journalist and producer. 

His passion for national security and the military community merged his love of the ocean when he joined Force Blue Team as a veteran ambassador.

“Force Blue takes former special operations veterans and repurposes those underwater military skills for ocean conservation,” Larsen shared. “We have this dual mission of both healing the ocean and in doing so we can help heal veterans from our time in service. I really believe in the therapeutic and healing power of the ocean.”

You’ll find combat veterans just like him on the ocean floor planting coral, rescuing turtles, completing vital fish counts and conducting oceanic surveys. “It’s like my life has come full circle. Underwater demolition used to be my job and now I’m replanting coral reefs and watching them come back to life,” Larsen said. 

In 2021, Larsen teamed up with veteran Marine Raider Don Tran for what was supposed to be a one-mile underwater ruck run when Ten Thousand challenged them to a feat of strength. The challenge was definitely accepted.

“We started training in the pool where it was definitely tough and challenging. But we accomplished it and like any two spec ops guys standing next to each other, we decided to ratchet up the intensity a little,” Larsen said with a laugh. 

That “just a little” turned into a never-been-done-before five-mile underwater ruck. Using the freediving buddy system of one up and one down, the former special warfare operatives leapfrogged across the living ocean floor for five miles, all while carrying a 45-pound rock. 

“The first 250 yards was brutal. It was not like the training in the pool. Here we had the ocean and current pushing us around. But like any marathon or mission we put one foot in front of the other and just grinded it out,” Larsen said. 

Grind it out they did. It took them six hours and 28 minutes. The entire extraordinary event will be shown to the world in a documentary coming soon.

For this veteran Navy SEAL who relied on the ocean for so much, taking care of it is a mission he’s happy to accept.  “I know the beauty and wonder of the sea. I also see with my own eyes the terrible impact happening to our ocean,” Larsen said. “I am dedicated, along with my brothers from Force Blue, to helping heal that thing which has done so much to help heal me.”

You can learn more about Kaj Larsen by clicking here and then dive (pun intended) into Force Blue’s mission over here.

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The Super Hornet just got its first kill against an enemy fighter

A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.


Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
A Polish Su-22 Fitter at the 2010 Royal International Air Tattoo. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.

Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory/Released)

There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.

The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
A fighter with the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President visited wounded service members at Walter Reed

President Donald Trump paid a holiday visit Dec. 21 to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Medical Center, hailing them as “some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”


During his visit, the president awarded the Purple Heart to 1st Lt. Victor Prato of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan.

Prato, 25, of Somers, New York, suffered multiple soft tissue injuries following a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device blast, according to the White House.

“One of the most powerful moments of my life watching @POTUS give the Purple Heart to this American Hero,” wrote press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter, where she posted a photo of Prato. “Amazed by the strength and resilience of the men and women in our Armed Forces.”

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Purple heart medals. USMC photo by Cpl. Sara A. Carter

Trump also met with other sick and injured service members from all branches of the armed forces, Sanders said.

Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to the medical center that he was going to “say hello to some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”

“We’re just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year,” he said. “We love those people.”

Also Read: DARPA’s new bionic arm is now available for vets at Walter Reed — Video

The president last visited the military hospital complex in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, in April.

During that visit, he awarded a Purple Heart — his first — to an Army sergeant recently wounded in Afghanistan during what is now America’s longest war.

Trump is expected to return to the facility in the new year to undergo a physical.

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Navy rescues puppy “lost at sea and presumed dead” for 5 weeks

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Warrior Scout


The U.S. Navy has rescued a small and very hungry German Shepard puppy which had been lost at sea for five weeks and presumed dead.

Luna, a friendly dog, disappeared from a fishing vessel on Feb. 10 of this year off the coast of San Diego, Calif.

“On Feb 10, 2016, personnel assigned to Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island received a call for help from a fishing vessel.  Nick Haworth (Luna’s owner) reported that he and the crew were bringing in traps, and one moment Luna was there and the next she was gone. They were about 2 miles off the coast and he thought she may head for shore,” said a Navy statement given to Scout Warrior.

After this incident, ships continued to search the waters nearby San Clemente Island for an entire week without finding Luna, only to determine the little puppy was “lost at sea and presumed dead.”

“We searched the island. The initial radio call was taken by a Navy helicopter in the area,” Sandy DeMunnik, spokeswoman for Naval Base Coronado, Calif., told Scout Warrior. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 was the unit that received the call, she added.

“They fly MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters,” she said.

Then, on March 17, Navy officials found Luna on the coast of the island sitting next to the road.

“They were shocked,” the Navy statement said, because there are no domestic animals on the island because of the very sensitive environmental programs that take place there.

“Luna ran right up to the staff,” Navy officials said.

Luna was examined by our wildlife biologist and found to be undernourished but otherwise uninjured and in good spirits, service officials added.

She will be reunited with a family friend of her owner who is out of town for work and unable to get home in time.  When her owner returns to town, Luna will be reunited with him.

It is not clear how a young German Shepard would be able to survive for five weeks at sea with no food or shore.

“Luna swam somewhere between one and two miles. That is not smooth water out there. It is rough water,” DeMunnik said. “The fact that she survived for five weeks in that water struck a chord with military personnel on the island because they know how treacherous the waters there can be.”

Due to Luna’s resilience and spirit, the Commanding Officer of Naval Base Coronado presented Luna with a military dog tag with four lines inscribed on it saying — “Luna, keep the faith.” “Keep the Faith” is the moto of the Navy’s SERE, Search Evasion rescue escape training.

The spirit of the saying is, among other things, designed to connote that in the event someone is missing, fellow service members will never stop searching, DeMunnik added.

“We’ve all been walking around smiling for three days because she survived,” she said.

Jobs

5 reasons veterans leave civilian jobs

For most hiring managers, sourcing, and hiring employees is only half the work: Retaining and engaging them is critical. According to a study published by the Society of Human Resources Professionals in late 2017, “The average overall turnover rate in 2016 was 18%. The 2016 rate is similar to the 2015 rate (19%).” This indicates a huge savings for employers, as replacing employees is time intensive and costly.

As companies recognize the benefits of hiring military veterans, the question often arises: Will they stay? Replacing an employee who is also a veteran is costly (as with any employee) and often emotional (I feel bad for not retaining someone who served our country).


A 2014 study from VetAdvisor and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families IVMF) at Syracuse University found that nearly half of all veterans leave their first post-military position within a year, and between 60% and 80% of veterans leave their first civilian jobs before their second work anniversary.

There are many reasons an employee leaves their current job – some are within, and others are outside of their control. For instance, downsizing, performance issues, and natural employee attrition certainly account for some retention statistics.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

In the case of military veterans in civilian careers, the five reasons that stand out for turnover include:

1. Lack of leadership

Leadership is a foundational value and skill developed in the military. From the moment an individual puts on the uniform, to the day they leave the military, they are taught how to lead, why leadership matters, the importance of driving towards a mission, and caring for their teams/colleagues. In their civilian careers, veterans often seek to lead or be led in similar ways: Ascribing to a high set of values and principles, complete accountability and responsibility for actions, and caring for others. When these goals fall short, the veteran might feel disillusioned and could leave the company in search of a more meaningful contribution or leader.

2. Feeling a deficiency of support

Unlike your recent college graduate, or civilian employee, your veteran will likely not feel comfortable asking for help, resources or support. They are accustomed to being self-sufficient to solve problems. When they hit a wall, they were trained to go around, over, under or through it to get to resolution. But what happens when they feel stuck, lost, confused or hopeless? Unless the employer has a structure in place (that is well communicated to the veteran employee,) about what to do when needing support, the veteran could leave the company rather than risk the embarrassment of asking for help.

3. Found a better job

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Lt. Col. Donald Elliott, of the Adjutant General School, talks to a representative from Penske. Elliott is retiring in a year and wants to start preparing for his transition into civilian life.
(Photo by Ms. Demetria Mosley)

With 5 million veterans estimated to be in the workplace by 2023, and more employers recognizing the value in hiring military talent, it’s common today for veteran employees to be recruited out of their current job. As social media tools have enhanced their search ability for prospects, savvy recruiters are contacting employees and recruiting them away.

4. Skills not aligned

Perhaps the employer took a chance on a veteran candidate who lacked several of the key skills for the job. And, maybe that employer neglected to give that employee access to training and tools needed to do the job well. Combine this with the veteran’s reluctance to ask for help… and you may have an employee who is not skilled up on the work needed.

5. Chose the wrong job

There are a number of military veterans who will accept the first job offer they get simply to create some stability in their transition. This is not ideal for the employer or the employee, but it does happen. The pressure and stress of transitioning from a career, culture, and team you are very familiar with, to something completely unknown, is daunting.

When it comes to military veteran employees, employers can do more to increase the support network, open communications channels, and demonstrate leadership aligned with values to positively impact retention.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Board Chairman Cheryl L. Mason: Paving career paths for military spouses

Cheryl L. Mason understands the life of a military spouse — for more than 20 years, she lived it. Now, as Chairman of the VA Board of Veterans Appeals who oversees a staff of 1,200, Mason works to ensure that military spouses at the Board have the support they need to be successful. One of her many missions is to make it easier now than it was when she was a military spouse to find and maintain fulfilling positions and careers.

Recognized as a “military spouse champion,” Mason works with Hiring Our Heroes and the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) to help military spouses land portable positions and careers across the federal government and private sector.


Military spouses are well-educated and highly qualified for a range of careers. But of the more than 600,000 military spouses worldwide who are actively seeking employment, 30% are unemployed and 56% are underemployed. One of the many challenges they face is the reluctance of employers to hire them due to their spouse’s service-related relocations, according to Mason.

In this interview, Mason shares her career path as a military spouse: how she rose to the top political position at the Board of Veterans Appeals where she oversees 850 lawyers, 102 Veterans Law Judges, and 200 operations and legal staff.

This post is part of a blog series VA Careers has developed along with other initiatives and activities to recruit and hire military spouses for careers at VA. At VA, we value the experience of military spouses and offer remote work options that accommodate the transient nature of military service.


What does a typical day look like for you at the VA Board of Veterans Appeals?

It depends on the day. I’m the CEO of the Board, so I set the vision and direction and provide overall leadership. The Board’s mission is to resolve appeals by holding hearings and issuing decisions on Veterans’ VA benefits and services. Each day, I have a series of internal meetings to discuss strategy, structure and procedures. I work closely and collaboratively with colleagues at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration, Office of Information and Technology, and Veterans Experience Office. Externally, I also work and collaborate with Veteran Service Organizations and other stakeholders. In addition, I serve as an ambassador to the PREVENTS [President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide] task force on suicide prevention.

How does your experience as a military spouse help you in your day-to-day duties at VA?

When you’re surrounded by military people as I was, you understand what active duty military and Veterans are going through or have gone through; you understand the culture. I’m able to navigate the military health care system, which is very important. Every time my son went to the doctor, I had to recite his medical history. Sometimes military members won’t go to the doctor because they don’t want to go through a five-minute recitation of their medical history every time or because they’re concerned that going to the doctor means they won’t be able to perform their duties. So when I see Veterans’ files, I’m able to identify gaps and read between the lines. I understand the situation because I lived it.

When we relocated to Germany, I had to leave my job in Washington, D.C., but was excited to be able to support my husband and the mission. I applied for 200 jobs and got none of them. While I was obviously a little discouraged, I had to get creative and, like a true military spouse, make the situation work. I initially went to work for Central Texas College running their paralegal program, which reached across several countries, and I taught paralegal studies to service members and family members. I eventually got a position as an executive assistant to an Air Force colonel who oversaw military contracts, information technology, budget and Air Force personnel for all of Europe.

I learned a lot of great lessons in Germany, such as how to lead, multitask and be agile. I’m grateful for my time there, and I don’t think I could have been as successful as I’ve been in my career, or in this position, had I not had that experience in Germany.

What appealed to you about a career at VA?

I’m the daughter of a World War II Veteran who died by suicide, so serving Veterans and VA’s mission are very important to me. My family and I received benefits from VA after my father died, which allowed me to go to college and law school. I know firsthand the difference VA benefits and services make in a person’s life.

I graduated college with a degree in psychology and political science and decided to go to law school. When I came to the Board and started writing decisions, I realized the work I was doing allowed me to use both my law and psychology degrees, because many of the appeals I was working on were related to mental health. I could really sink my teeth into the work. I went to law school to make a difference, and I found I could do that at VA. I could be the one making a difference for thousands of Veterans and their families every day and, hopefully, help them the way VA helped me.

Why is VA a good career move for military spouses?

Military spouses are incredibly unique. Many have put aside their own careers to support their service member and eventually transition with them to Veteran status. People forget that when a service member serves, their family serves with them. The choice to come to VA is a perfect transition for military spouses because we understand the mission and live with it every day.

Now, more than in the past, VA allows you to both have your career and move with your military member wherever duty calls. You can also support your military member as they transition into Veteran status. Military spouses have a spot in all career areas at VA because we bring a different perspective. For example, I’ve facilitated many nursing careers for military spouses because they bring such experience and talent to the job. Military spouses can make a difference in how VA operates, which is why VA needs them.

What advice would you give military spouses who are considering a career at VA?

Military spouses aren’t always valued the right way, either in government or the private sector. I usually tell military spouses not to sell themselves short or [not to] take no for an answer. I certainly didn’t, and I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today if I did. Military spouses are extremely resilient and talented — and can think on their feet because they have to. I tell them to use their [military and VA] networks because we have strong ones — and to look for the opportunities.

Work at VA today

Cheryl Mason’s experience as a military and Veteran spouse enriches her career serving Veterans and other military spouses. If you’re a military spouse, see if a VA career is right for you, too.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

These Afghan moms are taking up arms to fight the Taliban and ISIS

As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.


The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.

Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.

Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”

Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.

“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”

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