He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.
Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.
We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.
“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”
He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.
Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:
Chuck Norris visited Marines at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq in 2006. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle)
The celebrity dead rumor mill is at it again. This time the (supposed) victim is Chuck Norris. According to rumors circulating on social media, the 80-year-old martial arts action movie star and Air Force veteran was felled by the novel coronavirus.
What fools these mortals be.
Norris, who served in the Air Force in Korea and beyond, is alive and well still, and maybe forever. He’s just the latest target of the endless rumor mill surrounding celebrity deaths — a rumor mill that had better watch its back.
Especially if it’s going to target Chuck Norris. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Corporal Ben Eberle)
Celebrities are frequently the targets of such rumors, dating all the way back to Mark Twain, who was famously reached for comment about his own death in a June 1897 issue of the New York Journal. Beyonce, Clint Eastwood and — arguably the most famous — Paul McCartney have all supposedly died before their time.
The age of COVID-19 has brought out a lot of new rumors surrounding celebrity deaths, given the misunderstandings about the virus and its lethality. Many celebrities have (really) contracted it, including actors Tom Hanks and Tony Shalhoub, singer-songwriter Pink and even the UK’s Prince Charles. All went into isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.
Chuck Norris isn’t one of those. Chuck Norris puts the coronavirus in isolation.
“Corona Virus claims a black belt. Carlos Ray ‘Chuck’ Norris, famous actor and fighter, died yesterday afternoon at his home in Northwood Hills, TX at the age of 80.”
Like many things on Facebook, readers apparently only read one part of the gag and then ran with it to spread the “news” among their networks. If they had kept reading, they would have arrived at the obvious joke.
“However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well. It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”
(Are You Not Entertained/Facebook)
Remember to keep a skeptical eye toward rumors of celebrity deaths. Just because your favorite celebrity’s name is trending somewhere, doesn’t mean they’ve met their maker. They might have instead met Chuck Norris.
As for Chuck, when Chuck Norris actually decides to die, you’ll know. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death, he wins fair and square.
You get a call on the way to the office and your boss says he needs you in Dubuque on the next flight.
If you’re not there, the deal won’t get done, and you’ll have to stand tall before The Man.
As a vet, you remember how your cammies held everything for a patrol — from bottled water to extra gloves to a couple of spare mags. So why would it be any different in civilian life?
Today’s tactical pants borrow from the utility of military versions with civilian-worthy styling that doesn’t scream “SEAL wannabe!” while still delivering the storage and durability those issued trousers were known for during service. They can hold another AR mag and a bottle of water or two, but since your “business trip” no longer entails kicking in doors and grabbing tangos, those pockets now serve a far more pedestrian purpose.
So you’re on the clock, you don’t have time to pack a bag. Can your tactical pants pick up the slack and help you make that crucial meeting two states away?
Here’s a basic loadout that’ll get you through a couple of days in front of a client.
Think you can’t fit that into your TacPants? Think again…
1. Skivvies are essential
Think about it folks, who wants to face down a big business deal with skanky set of drawers? Success demands feeling fresh, and that requires a extra set of skivvies to deal with sweaty “subjects.”
2. Batten down the button-down
Rolling on an unannounced trip usually means planes, trains, and automobiles. And when you finally arrive at the destination, you’re probably going to look like a soup sandwich.
So go-ahead, pack that fancy button-down to turn heads — there’s room for that.
3. Don those Dockers
Sure, we all love our tactical pants — heck, that’s what got you to your destination ready to roll, right?
But sometimes those civilian types might think you’re from Delta Team 6 come to snatch bin Laden if you’re sporting pants that feature pockets for extra pistol mags. So bring those Dockers to the party, you’ve got room for them!
4. Prepare for after hours
The client dug your pitch and signed on the dotted line. What better way to celebrate your victory than with a couple of beers out on the town with your new business partners?
But those nights can get cold on the road, and any former trooper worth his salt is going to pack some snivel gear for when the sun goes down and the temps drop. Fortunately, you still have plenty of room to pack your pants with fleece.
5. Don’t forget fresh breath
All the other gear is worthless if you’re sporting bad breath and low-reg grooming. Would gunny flame spray you if you sauntered up to formation with a 5 o’clock shadow? Then you can probably figure that the deal won’t get sealed if you’re rolling in looking like a college puke who spent last night at a Chi O mixer.
Cellphone, schmellphone — stash that toothpaste and razor right up front and make sure you’re as fresh as a boot in the squad bay for that all-important pitch.
Sure, it’s pretty unlikely you won’t have time to zip home and pack a duffel for that FRAGO from your boss. But isn’t it nice to know that the folks who’re designing the street-legal version of today’s combat gear have your back — with a fashion-forward place to stow all your gear and still dress for success?
The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete
Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.
America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?
And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.
The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.
The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”
And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):
“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”
As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.
Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:
“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”
From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:
“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”
Two F-22As in close trail formation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)
Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.
As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:
“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”
How Should America Respond?
So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?
First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)
However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,
“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”
Indeed, only time will tell.
(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.
But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.
Of the three charter members of the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Iran may be the last man standing, thanks to the guys with the crazy hair – Kim Jong-Un and Donald J. Trump.
The Iranian leadership’s special blend of messianism, self-pity, and paranoia has fueled its hegemonic push West, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and meddling in the territory of its neighbors, Yemen and Afghanistan. This makes sense in the regime’s House of Leadership, while it husbands its nuclear weapons development capability for another day, thanks to the “Iran nuclear deal” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it undercuts Iran’s need to attract foreign investment to revive its deteriorating economy.
Despite the surprise election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Iran’s leadership no doubt hoped the opportunity for contracts for U.S. companies, read Boeing, would be too good to pass up despite candidate Trump’s disdain for the JCPOA, which he called “the worst deal ever.” And in May 2018, after delaying for over a year and giving the U.S. Congress or the other JCPOA partners an opportunity to fix the agreement, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the “horrible one-sided” JCPOA.
On the other side of the world, North Korea’s hereditary leader, Kim Jong-Un, had a face-t0-face meeting in Singapore with Donald Trump, who had only recently derided him as “Rocket Man.” Kim has visited Beijing several times to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a historic trip to the Panmunjom truce village where he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stepped over the border into South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so.
What does Iran have to do to get some respect?
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
There may not be much Iran can do because North Korea has one thing Iran lacks: neighbors who want a peace process to succeed and can brandish the appropriate carrots and sticks.
Iran’s neighbor Iraq is key to Iran’s regional strategy due to its location and large Shia Muslim population, but Iran’s involvement increases Iraqi Sunni anxiety, leaving them open to manipulation by outside forces; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have neither the financial or political heft to improve Iran’s economy or its security situation; Turkey, a regional competitor, will likely bide its time as Iran’s isolation continues; in the Southern Caucasus, secular Azerbaijan is wary of its militant neighbor, and Armenia is a shambles and hardly able to help itself much less anyone else. And across the Persian Gulf lies Saudi Arabia, anxious to take down its regional rival as its ambitious young ruler looks to reshape its economy and society.
Iran’s remaining partners in the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are distant from the consequences of any regional instability and are primarily motivated by trade opportunities.
North Korea lives in an entirely different neighborhood. To its North are China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and, in China’s case, a diverse, growing economy – the world’s second largest. To the South is South Korea, home of the world’s eleventh largest economy and a vibrant exporter of cultural and technology products. Across the Sea of Japan is, well, Japan, a leading technology exporter and home of the third largest economy.
North Korea’s neighbors have significant security concerns: China wants to stop North Korean refugees escaping across its border and to be able to mitigate the increasing stress in its relations with the Kim regime. South Korea is interested in threat reduction and family reunification; Japan can’t move out of range of the North’s missiles, so would like the missile and nuclear weapon programs to end. And the U.S., with 28,000 troops and numerous family members in the South, is fully invested in both denuclearization and a peaceful end of the Korean War, which started sixty-eight years ago in June 2018.
Chinese president Xi Jinping
If war broke out again on the Korean Peninsula, the effect would worldwide and immediate as South Korea is a vital part of the global supply chain for high technology equipment. And it’s unlikely someone else could quickly pick up the slack: it is estimated that the replacement cost of the display manufacturing capability of Samsung and rival LG will top billion. In the words of one analyst, “If Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop.”
So a major conflict in Asia will damage economies worldwide; more trouble in Iran’s neighborhood, short of stopping all oil exports from the Persian Gulf, is Page 3 news.
President Trump probably looked at Iran and North Korea and correctly concluded that North Korea was the greater strategic threat to the U.S. and must be dealt with first. The North has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can soon reach the U.S. mainland, even if it now lacks warhead re-entry capability and terminal guidance technology. But Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” was then amplified by Pyongyang’s neighbors who have their own economic and political heft and who want the North to denuclearize and join the world economy.
Iran is a noisy, regional menace but is being countered in part by aggressive economic sanctions which, coupled with the regime’s economic mismanagementand corruption, are doing more damage than a subversion campaign sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. But that’s probably going on, too.
Kim signaled he was taking the country in a new direction in 2016, at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where he emphasized his policy of “byungjin” — or “simultaneous pursuit” — equating economic growth and the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. His likely goal is to announce significant economic growth at the 8th Workers’ Party Congress in 2022.
Shortly after Trump’s return from his meeting with Kim, U.S. media reported North Korea had increased nuclear production at secret sites. Was Trump snookered by Kim as some observers hoped? Possibly, but Kim likely wants to maximize production of nukes and missiles, so he has more to trade when trading day arrives. He also needs to keep the military-industrial complex busy and motivated as he prepares for years of difficult negotiations with the U.S. and his neighbors.
Indeed, strategists at Korean conglomerate Samsung think North Korea is “already past the point of no return,” and the economy will overtake the military as the regime’s means of survival. If so, regime insiders will want to be rewarded for their fidelity, as visions of mobile phone licenses and mining concessions dance in their heads. Though North Korea is a long way from mass politics, economic success will enable Kim to solidify his popular base as a counterweight to regime insiders.
In fact, Kim may be ahead of his cadres in the new politics game. In 2017, in a national broadcast, he admitted “My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability,” a startling admission from someone the subject of a pervasive personality cult. And Kim and Trump know a picture of two men shaking hands is enough to start a political reordering.
Where is Iran in all this? As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”
The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.
And time is of the essence, as the media recently uncovered the possible use of Danske Bank Estonia in Tallinn to finance weapons deals between North Korea and Iran. North Korea was the focus of the news cycle two weeks ago, but if its future disclosures lag media reporting, it will be continually reacting to disclosures about its money laundering and use of the informal transportation sector and for no benefit.
And the U.S. must not forget the Iranian people – they are a key audience (aside from swing voters in the 2020 U.S. elections). They should be the target of news reports on economic progress in North Korea as their economy continues to stagnate so they, and the young especially, can ask why their leaders can’t get the world’s respect and engagement. To underline what happened, they should be reminded that Trump traveled to Asia – Kim’s neighborhood – to meet him.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s invocation of “resistance” will be increasingly threadbare if Iranians’ quality of life deteriorates as additional sanctions bite and China stops taking Iran’s calls.
Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei – they’ve both done awful things, but now we’ll see who’s the transformational leader with his eyes on the future.
Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs chose a contractor to run its Choice Card program who was previously fired for allegedly defrauding the government after working on a similar contract with the Department of Defense.
The contractor, TriWest, now takes so long to schedule appointments with private healthcare providers that many veterans could shorten wait times by opting for traditional VA care, whose delays Choice was intended to allow veterans to escape.
Choice Card links vets with private doctors, but VA seemingly tried to sabotage the program, fearing it jeopardizes its budget.
TriWest contracts to administer parts of Tricare, the active military’s healthcare system, since 1996. TriWest paid $10 million in September, 2011, to settle charges that it defrauded the government by negotiating low prices with doctors but not passing the resulting savings on to taxpayers.
“Those who overbill Tricare threaten to undermine the health care provided to our men and women in uniform,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said of the legal settlement at the time.
But the standards seem to be lower for care owed to those who formerly wore the uniform of the U.S. military, because VA gave TriWest a contract in September, 2013, to run its Community Care program, a precursor to Choice Card that allowed veterans to use private doctors in some circumstances.
Inspector general reports said that program was run poorly, pointing the blame both at TriWest and the way VA set up their work. Meanwhile, Congress created the Choice Card program to enable any veteran delayed more than 30 days for VA care, or who didn’t live close to a VA facility, to seek private health care services.
VA managers and leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents most of the department’s employees opposed it, fearing that fewer veterans in the government system would mean smaller budgets and fewer civil service jobs.
When VA leaders claimed budget shortfalls threatened closure of hospitals, they asked Congress to let them re-purpose $3.3 billion originally authorized for the Choice Card program.
When the bill became law anyway, VA gave the Choice Card contract to TriWest and HealthNet, another company that worked on Community Care.
A VA spokesperson said that “in order to enact [Choice] within 90 days, VA held an industry day to try to partner with industry to operate the program. Unfortunately, given the timeline set to roll out the program, VA’s only option was to modify a previously existing national community care contract, which was never intended to handle the scope” of the Choice Card model.
Official data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows that more vets are now waiting months for private care because contractors take so long to schedule appointments.
Consequently, VA bureaucrats and their union will likely get the result they sought: veterans going back into the government healthcare system despite its delays.
Private care doctors aren’t happy with the Choice Card initiative either, because the companies, which also manage payments, have been so slow to pay, causing many private care physicians to refuse veterans, leading to the same result.
A knowledgeable VA source told TheDCNF that after a patient does finally see a private doctor, TriWest takes up to 75 days to get the medical results of that appointment back into the VA system. That makes followup care impossible.
Darin Selnick, an Air Force veteran and former VA official under George W. Bush who now runs Concerned Veterans For America’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, said that “TriWest and HealthNet may not have been the best choices,” but much of the failure is because VA “didn’t want it to work.”
Officials at VA “didn’t like the idea of patients going outside,” because “what does any organization want to do? It wants to get more money, more people, more power, it wants to grow,” Selnick added.
Scheduling delays happen because the system has a middleman, Selnick said. What other health care plan has “a system where you have to call a 1-800 number and they set up an appointment for you” with a provider that they select?,” he asked.
Half of all veterans are on Medicare anyway, so the VA should simply pay a small supplement to Medicare providers, instead of creating multiple administrative layers of VA bureaucrats and contractors in between veterans and healthcare workers, Selnick noted, which would purportedly save billions of tax dollars annually.
Those close to the issue believe “the chief problem with Choice is that we’ve had to rely on VA to implement it, and the department is just not very good at implementing things,” a spokesman for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which designed the Choice Card program, told TheDCNF
The committee never requested a third-party administrator to schedule appointments, the spokesman noted.
Companies involved in the Choice program defend their record. “Overall, TriWest is processing 90% of clean claims from providers within 30 days,” the company explained, adding that it got “exceptional” and “very good” performance ratings for its Tricare work, and saved the military money, but voluntarily entered a settlement on the assumption that more savings were possible.
Hiring people with prior records of failure is a pattern at VA. When hospital directors come under criticism for poor management, VA executives routinely remove them, then reinstate them at another hospital where the poor performance continues.
Only weeks after the Chicago VA fired Deloris Judd from the federal workforce for patient abuse and dishonesty, the Phoenix VA hired her to work on the Choice Card program.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat award, at Ross’s Landing Riverside Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 7, 2017.
Sullivan and Wyatt were awarded the medal for their actions during the July 16, 2015 shooting that occurred at the Naval Reserve Center Chattanooga and also killed Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.
“We talk about these men so that we do not forget their sacrifice,” said Maj. Chris Cotton, former Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, the unit that Sullivan and Wyatt were assigned to.
According to eye witness statements and 911 transcripts during the event, Sullivan and Wyatt took charge in the evacuation of unit personnel and contacting authorities. They also returned to the scene of the incident when personnel were unaccounted for, risking their lives in the process.
“This is a day to celebrate the heroic, exemplary, and selfless service of two great Marines, who were by all counts great human beings, devoted Marines, and wanting nothing more than to take care of their Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, commanding general of 4th MARDIV, who attended the ceremony along with Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Miller, sergeant major of 4th MARDIV.
During the ceremony, Cotton presented the medal to Jerry and Betty Sullivan, parents of GySgt Sullivan; and to Lorri Wyatt, wife of SSgt Wyatt.
“It’s a great honor and we’re humbled by it, it’s something you don’t want to receive but it’s good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day,” said Jerry Sullivan.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who perform an act of heroism at great personal and life-threatening risk to the awardee.
The Reserve Center, the Chattanooga community, and across the nation people have all been sending their support and condolences, said Jerry Sullivan.
“We take care of our Marines and families,” said Cotton, “No man gets left behind.”
The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Government, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Tennessee’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.
“This is truly a touching moment,” said Fleischmann. “As a member of congress, it makes me remember the men and women who serve us in the United States Marines and all our branches, are truly our very best and willing to put on the uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These fallen Marines did that and they are being justly honored today.”
Fleischmann also took part in ensuring all the service members who died in the 2015 shooting received Purple Hearts and a permanent memorial at Ross’s Landing Park.
“I hope this does bring a little closure to the families,” said Fleischmann. “But I also hope it forever honors and serves and memories of these fallen heroes, and they are heroes to America.”
For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project:
In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.
Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.
“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”
Still, Shields kept fighting.
“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”
But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.
“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.
The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.
Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.
“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.
Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.
At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”
The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”
Massive missile strikes conducted by US, UK, and French air and naval assets on April 13, 2018, hit three targets that were allegedly related to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program. The strikes appear to have been largely successful.
US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, described the operation as “precise, overwhelming, effective,” and said that it “significantly crippled” the Syrian government’s chemical weapons capabilities.
In all, 105 weapons struck the Barzah Research and Development Center outside of Damascus, the Him Shinshar bunker, and a storage site near Homs.
“Taken together … these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense systems,” he said.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
McKenzie also said that Syrian air defenses fired up to 40 surface-to-air missiles “without guidance,” and that they were “largely ineffective” as they had not managed to shoot down any US aircraft or prevent the intended targets from being destroyed.
Often overlooked in the assessment of the operation is the fact that two new weapons, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, known as the JASSM-ER, and the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine both made their combat debuts during the operation — and appear to have performed perfectly.
The JASSM kept bombers out of Syrian airspace
The JASSM is a standoff air-launched cruise missile made by Lockheed Martin. It is usually dropped from a bomber like a B-1B Lancer or B-2 Spirit, but can also be carried by F-15s and F-16s.
Its standoff capability enables it to be launched well away from its target, meaning its carrying vehicle may not even need to enter hostile airspace. This appears to be what happened in Syria, as Air Force spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told Military.com that the B-1B was able to “launch stand-off weapons from outside Syrian airspace.”
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The JASSM has a range of 200-500 nautical miles, a 1,000 pound penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead that can strike within 10 feet of its target, and a stealthy airframe that, in Lockheed Martin’s words, make it “extremely difficult to defeat.”
The missile has been in service since 2009, and at least 2,000 of them were delivered to the US Air Force. They are also in service with Australia, Finland, and Poland.
A total of 19 JASSMs were launched from B-1 bombers on April 13, 2018, all of which struck the Barzah Research Center. The bombers flew from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar with an escort of EA-6B Prowlers that are designed for electronic warfare.
The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the quietest submarines in service
Made by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the newest classes of submarines in the US Navy, and is considered by some to be one of the quietest submarines in service.
It has 12 vertical launch missile tubes that can fire 16 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles, as well as four 533mm torpedo tubes.
(U.S. Navy photo)
A Virginia-class submarine, the USS John Warner, was one of four US Navy vessels that took part in April 13, 2018’s operation, firing six Tomahawks. The other vessels were the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Monterey, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Higgins and USS Laboon.
USS Laboon and USS Monterey fired 37 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea, while USS Higgins fired 23 from the Persian Gulf.
The Warner was notably the only US Navy vessel firing weapons from the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia reportedly has a considerable naval presence. Before the strike, a former Russian navy admiral said the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the Mediterranean, if it carries out a strike on Syria.
In the end, the Cook didn’t fire, and the Warner, a submarine, fired missiles while submerged, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface.
The Navy released footage of USS John Warner launching its cruise missiles, which you can see here:
They’re the swimmers that everyone else counts on.
Coast Guard rescue swimmers are rarely the subjects of much media attention, that 2006 Kutcher-Costner film notwithstanding. But this tiny cadre of athletes, typically numbering between 300 and 400, conduct some of the highest risk, highest-stakes rescues around the world.
Remember when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico? One part of that crisis response was the rescue swimmers who helped airlift out survivors and establish triage to save all the lives they could. Over 100 people jumped from Deepwater Horizon or were blown off the rig into the water. Tragically, 11 died, but over 100 survived.
They jump into the water from helicopters or planes and then swim into burning ships or complicated, underwater cave systems. They can save ship crews in hurricanes and downed aviators in combat if they get the call. And they can even fight any of their rescuees underwater for control if a panicking survivor tries to resist.
The video embedded above shows a group of these swimmers going through the grueling Coast Guard school to earn their place in the lifesaving profession.
But while the video and most descriptions of their duties focus on the extreme physical requirements for these Coast Guardsmen, equally important is their ability to maintain and troubleshoot their own gear and the gear on their aircraft. This can include everything from parachutes to oxygen systems, pumps to protective clothing, and cargo to flotation equipment.
And they are expected to attain and maintain medical qualifications, because they could be the only emergency technician available for crucial minutes or hours. This requires an EMT qualification at a minimum.
And, finally, they have to be comfortable working on a variety of aircraft. Their most iconic ride is the Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk, that distinctive orange and white beauty based on the Navy’s SH-60 Seahawk and the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk.
But they can also be assigned to the HH-65C Dolphin or, more rarely, fixed-wing aircraft.
Less than a week after receiving his new Integrated Head Protective System, or IHPS, the neck mandible saved the soldier’s life in Afghanistan.
The armor crewman was in the turret manning his weapon when a raucous broke out on the street below. Amidst the shouting, a brick came hurdling toward his turret. It struck the soldier’s neck, but luckily he had his maxillofacial protection connected to his helmet.
The first issue of this mandible with the IHPS helmet went to an armored unit in Afghanistan a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for soldier protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.
The neck protection was designed specifically for turret gunners to protect them from objects thrown at them, she said. She added most soldiers don’t need and are not issued the mandible that connects to the IHPS Generation I helmet.
A new Gen II helmet is also now being testing by soldiers, said Col. Stephen Thomas, program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at PEO Soldier.
A new generation of Soldier Protection System equipment is displayed during a media roundtable by Program Executive Office Soldier during the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 150 of the Gen II IHPS helmets were recently issued to soldiers of the 2-1 Infantry for testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. The new helmet is lighter while providing a greater level of protection, Whitehead said. The universal helmet mount eliminates the need for drilling holes for straps and thus better preserves the integrity of the carbon fiber.
The new helmet is part of an upgraded Soldier Protection System that provides more agility and maneuver capability, is lighter weight, while still providing a higher level of ballistic protection, Thomas said.
The lighter equipment will “reduce the burden on soldiers” and be a “game-changer” downrange, Thomas said at a PEO Soldier media roundtable Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
It will allow soldiers flexibility to scale up or scale down their personal armor protection depending on the threat and the mission, he said.
The new soldier Protection System, or SPS, is “an integrated suite of equipment,” Thomas said, that includes different-sized torso plates for a modular scalable vest that comes in eight sizes and a new ballistic combat shirt that has 12 sizes.
The idea is for the equipment to better fit all sizes of soldiers, he said.
The ballistic combat shirt for women has a V-notch in the back to accommodate a hair bun, Whitehead said, which will make it more comfortable for many female soldiers.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center) holds the Ballistic Combat Shirt.
The modular scalable vest can be broken down to a sleeveless version with a shortened plate to give an increased range of motion to vehicle drivers and others, she said.
The new SPS also moves away from protective underwear that “soldiers didn’t like at all” because of the heat and chafe, Whitehead said. Instead the new unisex design of outer armor protects the femoral arteries with less discomfort, she said.
PEO Soldier has also come out with a new integrated hot-weather clothing uniform, or IHWCU, made of advanced fibers, Thomas said. It’s quick-drying with a mix of 57% nylon and 43% cotton.
In hot temperatures, the uniform is “no melt, no drip,” he said.
Two sets of the IHWCU are now being issued to infantry and armor soldiers during initial-entry training, he said, along with two sets of the regular combat uniform.
The new hot-weather uniform is also now available at clothing sales stores in Hawaii, along with those on Forts Benning, Hood and Bliss, he said. All clothing sales stores should have the new uniform available by February, he added.