General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for many things, including outstanding leadership, delivering motivational quotes and demonstrating perfectly executed knife hands.
Mattis entered in the Marine Corps in 1969 and attended Central Washington University as part of the ROTC program.
Working his way up the ranks, Mattis oversaw a Marine recruiting station in Portland, led the historic 1st Marine Division into Iraq in 2003, held the position of commander of the United States Central Command since 2010, and served under the Trump administration as the 26th Secretary of Defense until 2019.
Having served nearly his entire 41-year military journey in a position of leadership, he’s had to answer all sorts of tough questions.
Check out the Marine Corps‘ video as the legend himself answers the most important question of his career. What’s the kill radius of his knife-hand?
Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.
Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.
Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police, and a chief of surgery.
Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.
Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.
Former President Barack Obama originally appointed Shulkin as a VA undersecretary. By the end of the Obama administration, however, Shulkin had grown increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union and other groups defending bad employees’ supposed right to a government check even when they hurt veterans.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.
In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.
Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.
The published data predates those new powers, and does not note which disciplinary actions were later overturned.
One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB.
Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald seemed to have so little grasp on firing employees that in August 2016, he said that he had fired 140,000 employees, a figure that made little sense since that would be nearly half the workforce.
Former Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo.
He said “you can’t fire your way to excellence” and blamed “negative news articles” for a morose culture, rather than the individuals perpetrating the misconduct described in those articles.
Though high-level hospital officials were affected, according to the data covering the first six months of the Trump administration, relatively few disciplinary actions occurred in the central offices where Washington bureaucrats work. Those employ fewer people than the hospitals, but repeated scandals have also shown such employees looking out for one another to preserve each others’ jobs.
There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.
The data does not include employees’ names, and does not show which employees were on new-employee probationary status. Employees can be fired much more easily during their first year.
During the Obama administration, McDonald lamented that in the private sector “you cut a deal with the employee and you’re able to buy them out,” but said you cannot do that in government.
Yet VA repeatedly made five and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit after they threatened to gum up the works by appealing disciplinary actions. The department even allowed Hamlin to offer a low-level employee $300,000 to quit after she refused to help management retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed Hamlin’s arrest.
The agency paid more than $5 million in settlements to employees under McDonald, which had the effect of encouraging bad employees to relentlessly appeal and make unsupported charges of discrimination when they were targeted for discipline, in an often-successful attempt to convert punishment into reward.
Shulkin said he “will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged … and not as a matter of ordinary business.”
Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.
While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.
“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”
While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.
For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.
“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.
The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.
“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.
Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.
“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”
Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.
“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”
The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.
“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”
Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.
“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”
Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.
We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.
Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.
“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.
“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.
When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.
“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.
Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.
But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.
A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)
The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.
“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”
Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.
According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.
U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
These fights could easily be long and drawn out.
“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.
And, the waiting is tough.
“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”
“It’s a cool story later,” he added.
No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.
“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin used a drone to fly his hard drives out of his high-rise apartment shortly before police raided his home.
A video posted to YouTube shows Sergey Boyko operating the drone as police try to enter his apartment in the city of Novosibirsk, Siberia, to confiscate his electronics around 10 a.m. Sept. 12, 2019, local time.
He then answers his front door, where loud banging can be heard.
“Some people are pushing the door to the apartment,” Boyko tweeted on Sept. 12, 2019, around the same time the video was taken.
Boyko’s apartment was one of 200 houses and offices linked to Navalny’s foundation across 41 cities on Sept. 12, 2019, according to Navalny.
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation — Russia’s federal anti-corruption agency — warned last Sept. 8, 2019: “Searches are being carried out at a number of FBK employees’ residences, the organization’s office, and other locations.”
The raids on FBK-linked venues led to “a dozen laptops, hard drives, flash drives, phones, bank cards, and even smart watches” being taken, with some staff members having their bank accounts blocked since, according to a statement posted to Boyko’s website.
Footage broadcast by independent media outlet Romb showing a police raid on an Alexei Navalny supporter on Thursday. It’s not clear whose house this is.
On Sept. 13, 2019, Boyko wrote on Russian social-media site VK that his brother Vadim’s house was raided at 7 a.m. that morning, even though “he is not involved in politics and yesterday’s drone didn’t fly to him.”
Boyko did not say where the drone or his hard drives went.
The raids on Navalny’s allies came on the same day pro-Putin candidates lost ground in nationwide elections Sept. 8, 2019.
Checking out your weapon from the armory is like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.
When you do get it, you spend your day dry firing your weapon at the range and then check it right back in at the close of business.
It happens every day, and the repetition can be very annoying.
Meanwhile back at the barracks, you’re sitting in front of your TV watching your favorite movies or playing your favorite video game, and you begin to think that the futuristic laser gun might be a lot of fun to use against actual bad guys.
Every so often Hollywood makes a military movie that’s so compelling in the eyes of the audience that it helps shape how they view the world. War stories in general display how dangerous life can be for those serving on active duty — mostly in the infantry.
But from time-to-time, some minor aspect of these films call out to movie-goers and motivate them to serve.
So we asked several veterans what movies made them want to join the armed forces and here’s what they told us.
As the use of surgical robotics increases, the Air Force Medical Service is training its surgical teams in the latest technology, ensuring patients have access to the most advanced surgical procedures and best possible outcomes.
To address the demand for training military healthcare providers, Maj. Joshua Tyler, director of robotics at Keesler Air Force Base, helped to establish the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE). The first of its kind in the Air Force, the facility trains Air Force, Army, Navy, and Department of Veterans Affairs surgical teams to use state-of-the-art medical robotics. Access to this type of training was previously only available through private industry.
“Robotic surgery is becoming the standard of care for many specialties and procedures, but Air Force surgeons had limited opportunities to train with surgical robots,” said Tyler. “We needed a way to get surgeons trained without relying solely on the private sector. With the creation of InDoRSE we are able to do just that by using existing facilities and personnel.”
The InDoRSE training site addresses challenges unique to military healthcare. The training also uses a team-based model, which helps overcome some of the challenges of implementing of robotic surgery in military hospitals.
“Between deployments, operational tempo, and varying surgical volumes at military facilities, it is important that whole teams are fully trained on surgical robotics,” explained Tyler. “Also training the nurses and medical technicians, in addition to the surgeon, ensures that everyone has tangible experience with the robot, and helps get surgical robotics up and running much quicker.”
Robotic surgeries have been shown to deliver better outcomes for patients than traditional surgery. Robotics offers increased mobility for the surgeon, allowing them to make smaller incisions, and gives them better visualization. This precision leads to more successful surgeries and quicker recovery times, which improves patient satisfaction and lowers costs.
“The best outcomes I’ve ever given my patients came using robotics”, explained Tyler. “We see significant decreases in post-surgery pain, surgical site infection rates, and length of hospital stay. That quicker recovery means patients get to return to their normal life more quickly.”
The InDoRSE facility at Keesler stood up in March 2017. There are already plans to double its training capacity soon. Soon after Keesler’s facility opened, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base set up their own surgical robotics program. Travis Air Force Base in California and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada are currently working on their surgical robotics acquisition now.
“Use of robotics is increasing in many medical specialties,” said Tyler. “Providing opportunities for our whole surgical teams to receive training on this cutting-edge technology is vital to the AFMSs focus on continuously improving the patient experience.”
The National Guard commander of the U.S. state of Iowa has cancelled a visit to Kosovo over Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s refusal to cancel 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina confirmed on Feb. 11, 2019, that Major General Timothy Orr’s visit was canceled “in connection to tariffs of Serbian and Bosnian goods.”
The spokesman added that the embassy had no comment on further visits or scheduled training.
Kosovo Security Forces commander Rahman Rama said he had been told the visit had been scrapped, and then informed Kosovo President Hasim Thaci of the decision in a letter.
“This is a consequence of the fees imposed on Serbia, which prompted the decision of the U.S. government,” Rama told RFE/RL.
Orr was scheduled to arrive for a three-day visit on Feb. 16, 2019, during celebrations for Kosovo’s 11th birthday.
The Iowa National Guard has worked with the Kosovo Security Force as part of the State Partnership Program since 2011.
Kosovo President Hasim Thaci.
Rama said that cooperation with the National Guard was one of the best partnerships the country has with the United States, not only for its military benefits, but also in the areas of culture and education.
Both Brussels and Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods, which has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.
Kosovo imposed the import tax in November 2018 in retaliation for what it called Belgrade’s attempts to undermine its statehood, such as spearheading a campaign to scupper Pristina’s bid to join Interpol.
Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla war.
More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict.
The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated in 2018.
But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is against ceding any territory to Serbia and recently said the fate of the tax shouldn’t be linked to relations with Belgrade.
Late yesterday afternoon Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Ca., added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require female American citizens to register for the draft when they reached 18 years old. The amendment passed in the House by a vote of 32-30. Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment, saying that he added it only to force a debate about the issue.
“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” Hunter said. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”
But it looks like the Marine Corps veteran lawmaker’s plan may have backfired in that the measure actually passed and seems to have the support of many of his colleagues.
“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Ca., said.
Another veteran congressman, Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s in combat and recently went after the Air Force over their close air support budgetary priorities, suggested that Hunter’s rhetoric was long on emotion and short on fact, pointing out that draftees aren’t all sent to the front lines but also used to fill support billets.
Questions have emerged about the managerial ability of White House physician Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald’s Trump pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government’s second-largest agency.
If confirmed, Jackson would replace David Shulkin as the secretary of veterans affairs. Trump announced his decision to fire Shulkin on March 28, 2018.
Though Jackson has an impressive resume as a career naval officer who served as an emergency trauma doctor in Iraq, as well as a White House physician for the 12 years, he seems to lack any management experience.
Considering the VA has 360,000 employees and a $186 billion annual budget, that has some people worried.
“It’s great that he served in Iraq and he’s our generation. But it doesn’t appear that he’s had assignments that suggest he could take on the magnitude of this job, and this makes Jackson a surprising pick,” Paul Reckhorn, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post.
Shulkin had managed several hospitals before, including some that were part of the VA, and almost all of his predecessors were either high ranking managers in the private sector, or military leaders.
Senior White House officials told the Washington Post that Jackson “was taken aback by his nomination,” and was reportedly hesitant to take the position. One official described an “informal interview” process, without the traditional Cabinet-level vetting.
The White House had reportedly planned to announce that Shulkin would leave on March 28, 2018, with an interim director to run the department until a permanent head could be found. Trump apparently changed that plan when he tweeted that Jackson was his pick to lead the VA.
Virtually nothing at all is known about Jackson’s views on the issues that currently face the VA, like Trump’s views on privatization of elements of the VA.
Photo by James Lucas
“We are doing our homework on Dr. Jackson,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson, told the Washington Post.
“His name was never floated around,” Maddox said, “so we are doing our due diligence.”
It is unclear if Democrats will support Jackson’s nomination. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both of her legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down, released a statement saying that she would “carefully review” his qualifications.
“The next VA Secretary must be able to protect the department from becoming consumed by partisan politics,” Duckworth said.
“I hope Dr. Jackson is someone who is willing and able to do that by continuing the important tradition of VA Secretaries working in a bipartisan manner.”
Times are tough right now for the Coasties. Since they’re essential personnel, they have to work but, apparently, they’re not essential enough to get paid during this government shutdown. They got lucky with the December 31st paycheck, but things aren’t looking so good for the mid-January paycheck.
Missing even a single paycheck is going to cause massive ripples that will unceremoniously toss many of them into unnecessary debt. This is a serious problem for our brothers and sisters who serve in the Coast Guard, and there’s no amount of “nice words” that can smooth over the pain they’re feeling — only paying their rent can do that.
To make matters even more awkward, the Coast Guard officially put out a five-page sheet on how to “help” their troops. It has since been rescinded and taken down, probably because it felt a lot like putting salt on the wounds.
Plus, I think most people use social media or websites to sell old stuff nowadays, so you might get a better deal there instead of spending your weekend in the driveway.
(Photo by Bob N. Renee)
Now, in defense of the author of that five-pager, it does have some good (albeit basic) information that could help the furloughed Coasties. Step one details that should the mid-month paycheck get missed, their first line supervisor will discuss possible options for getting through the resulting sh*tty situation. Chances are, the leaders will understand that this is far above anyone’s control and won’t hold them back from taking reduced days.
Offering “reduced days” implies that the Coast Guard is expecting troops to make ends meet through alternative measures — as indicated by step four on the document, which was “supplement your income.”
Literally the first thing (in step four) it suggests is to hold a garage sale. Honestly, though, the logistics of throwing a garage sale often cost you more money than you make. If you were already planning on getting rid of that old TV sitting in the guest room, by all means, go for it. But if you’re selling your beloved Xbox for quick cash only to buy the exact same thing later on, you’re throwing money down the drain. Think ahead is all I’m saying.
I recommend staying close to the CGX.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber)
The rest of the document goes into detail about learning about your personal situation and how to manage your debt. It also says you should avoid using credit to supplement your income. That’s fantastic advice but, realistically, it’s a rule that may have to be broken.
Do not go out and get a credit card to make up for all the wasteful spending you’d normally do. Do not use credit to run up a bar tab because you’re short on actual cash. That’s a terrible idea regardless of the furlough.
The fact is, however, that children need to be fed and heating bills still need to be paid. A credit card may help in that moment, but use them with extreme caution and don’t forget to pay it back when this blows over.
The document offers up, as a final option, bankruptcy. For the love of Uncle Sam, do not go into bankruptcy on a whim because of a momentary, terrible situation. There will be a light at the end of this tunnel.
There are organizations out there that can help. Don’t ever feel like you’ve been thrown to the wolves. The military is a giant family, and we look after our own. Ask for help if you need it and help others if you don’t.
For a complete look at the “Managing Furlough” document, check it out below.