US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Afghan forces backed by the U.S. airpower have intensified the offensive against the insurgents in the country, killing scores of militants including a Taliban shadow governor in fresh air raids, a security official said.


Mawlawi Helal, the Taliban’s self-proclaimed governor for northern Baghlan province, has been killed along with his top four commanders and up to 15 more fighters in Dand-e-Ghori district, Ikramuddin Saree, the security chief for the province, told Anadolu Agency.

Local media reported a few civilian casualties in the raid, but the officials have not acknowledged any.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Hopping during a mission to disrupt Taliban forces in Larr village and establish a presence in the area. (DoD photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

In February, the Taliban confirmed the death of their governor for Kunduz Mullah Abdul Salam in a U.S. airstrike in the Dasht-e-Archi district.

In mid-April, the Afghan officials also claimed to have eliminated the militants’ shadow governor for Takhar province in the same district.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has stated in a message that three al-Qaeda affiliates have been killed in an air raid in southern Zabul province.

The Taliban, on the other hand, claimed to have killed a district police chief and 10 other policemen in the Shenkai district of the province.

Also read: 300 Marines will deploy to help counter Taliban insurgents

Zabul lies between Ghazni and Kandahar, where the Taliban are quite active, particularly in the rural parts.

Gul-e-Islam, spokesman for the provincial government, has only confirmed the death of district police chief Saifullah Hotak and one of his guards. He claimed the militants’ assault on security check posts has been repulsed.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan has announced strong desire to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups in 2017, however, aspiration for a peace deal with the Taliban has been expressed on a number of occasions.

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This is how special operators respond so quickly when sh-t hits the fan

Special operators are often America’s 911 call, flying to the scene of emergencies and safeguarding American interests while outnumbered and sometimes outgunned. Years of training and military exercises hone them into deadly weapons.


But it takes a lot of logistics to get the premier warfighters from their home bases or staging areas and into the fight, ready to kill or be killed on America’s behalf. Here’s a glimpse of the process:

1. Step one of deploying special operators is preparing gear and recalling personnel.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

2. Operators and support personnel rush vehicles and other gear to loading areas. The exact makeup depends on the planned mission.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
This photo is from an exercise. Rumor is there are less smiles and jokes for actual combat missions. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

3. The vehicles are secured for transport. Often, this means the gear is going into planes. Gear that will roll off is secured to the plane itself while gear that will be airdropped is typically secured to a pallet.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

4. Operators sometimes take part in securing their gear since it guarantees that it will come out as expected on the objective.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

5. Once the gear is ready to go, the personnel have to get strapped in. While these guys are strapping on parachutes, some missions require they run off the ramp on the ground instead.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

6. Attention to detail is critical since any mistake on the objective can cost lives.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

7. While MC-130Js are one of the more famous planes for special operators, there are plenty of other aircraft that will do the job, such as this MC-12.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks)

8. Or Black Hawks… Black Hawks are good.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

9. Of course, operators on the ground like to have fire support, and they can’t be guaranteed artillery on the ground. So they’ll often fly in with extra firepower as well.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

10. The AC-130s can bring everything from 20mm miniguns to 105mm howitzers. The typical modern armament is 25-105mm cannons. Jets and helicopters can bring the boom when necessary.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

11. And then the operators get to work, grabbing bad guys, ending threats, and chewing bubble gum.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress upgrades award for hero killed at COP Keating

More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”


The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.

“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.

“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.

As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.

“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.

Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.

“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”

Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.

Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This soldier’s wild-looking ghillie suit makes him a deadly force

Snipers have to be able to disappear on the battlefield in a way that other troops do not, and the ghillie suit is a key part of what makes these elite warfighters masters of concealment.

“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard, previously explained.

“Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position,”he added.

A ghillie suit is a kind of camouflaged uniform that snipers use to disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow. US Army Staff Sgt. David Smith, an instructor at the service’s sniper school, recently showed off a ghillie suit that he put together from scratch using jute twine and other materials.


US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Ghillie bottoms have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back of it where jute and other materials can be attached to break up the outline of the groin area.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

A view of the ghillie bottoms from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Ghillie tops, like the bottoms, also have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back and shoulders where jute can be attached to break up the outline of the shoulders and the space beneath the arms.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

A view of the ghillie top from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

The Ghille tops and bottoms have been reinforced in the front with extra material in order to allow for longer wear of the suit with less damage to the natural material under it and to allow for individual movements like the low crawl.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

The head gear, which can be a boonie hat, ball cap, or some other head covering, has webbing or net material sewn in so that the sniper can attach jute or vegetation to it in order to break up the natural outline of a wearer’s head and shoulders.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Snipers concealed in grass by their ghillie suits.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

When it all comes together, snipers become undetectable sharpshooters with ability to provide overwatch, scout enemy positions, or eliminate threats at great distances. “No one knows you’re there. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, previously told Insider.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army’s unconventional big-city recruiting strategy is paying off, officials say

The Army was on track to meet or exceed its recruiting goals again this year, with help from an unexpected boost of enlistments in the traditionally difficult northeast region, Army officials said Wednesday.

“The whole East Coast, from Richmond north, is really taking off,” Army Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, said at a Pentagon roundtable with defense reporters.


He didn’t have specific numbers at the ready, but said Army recruiters had met 100% of their goals in New York City and Boston, where recruiting has normally lagged behind the South and Southwest.

Muth and Dr. Eugene “Casey” Wardynski, assistant Army secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, also said that the surging economy, with unemployment at 3.6%, was not having the usual effect of discouraging enlistments.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

“We want to be great in a great economy,” Wardynski said. “We’re in a position to do great when America is doing great.”

Muth said the Army fell short of its goal in fiscal 2018, when about 70,000 were recruited, compared to the goal of 76,000. Last year, the Army met its goal of 68,000 new recruits. And so far this year, the service is pacing 2,026 recruitments ahead of the same period last year, Muth said.

The plan was to have the end strength of the Army at 485,000 by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, Wardynski said. With recruitments currently going well, the Army already has plans for a late entry pool for recruitments in excess of 485,000, he said.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Both Wardynski and Muth attributed the improving recruiting numbers to a new marketing campaign called “What’s Your Warrior,” begun last November to highlight opportunities in the Army for today’s youth.

They also emphasized a switch to focus more on 22 major cities for recruiting, and a targeting of so-called “Generation Z,” those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.

Under Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing, the Army marketing team moved from its headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago last fall to get closer to private-sector expertise. That includes DDB Chicago, which has a billion contract as Army’s full-service ad agency until 2028.

Fink said the effort to connect with Generation Z through such innovations as virtual recruiting stations and more creative uses of Instagram and YouTube were already paying off. In December, the Army logged 4.6 million visits to GoArmy.com, Fink said.

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

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POTUS announces Army secretary pick after first choice withdraws nomination

President Donald Trump is planning to nominate a Tennessee legislator to be Army secretary.


The White House says Trump has chosen Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green for the post. The West Point graduate is a physician and the CEO of an emergency department staffing company.

As an Army doctor, Green served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East. He also has served as an airborne rifle company commander and as a top Army recruiter.

Trump’s first choice, businessman Vincent Viola, withdrew his name for the position in early February.

Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses. He was the founder of the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial.

popular

This flight student’s first attempt to land on an aircraft carrier ended in disaster

Navy pilots like to separate themselves from their Air Force brethren with the fact that they land their jets on the limited (and moving) real estate of an aircraft carrier instead of an 11,000-foot runway. Operating around “The Boat” is a unique skill, and over the years many student Naval Aviators have made it most of the way through flight training only to be tripped up when they tried to land on an aircraft carrier.

One extreme example of this happened on October 29, 1989 as a student pilot made his very first approach to the U.S.S. Lexington (CVT 16). The dramatic footage below — shot from cameras at various places around the flight deck — shows the T-2 Buckeye, which was attached to VT-19, a training squadron based in Meridian, Miss., rolling out of its final turn behind the carrier. The pilot “calls the ball,” telling the Landing Signal Officer standing on a platform on the port side near the stern that he sees the glideslope indicator.


The LSO “rogers” the student pilot’s ball call and says, “You were a little long in the groove; next time I want you to turn sooner,” meaning the student wound up too far behind the carrier during his final 180-degree turn. The student replies with a “roger, sir.”

The LSO then tells the student to “work it on speed,” a command for the student to push his throttles forward, adding power, followed quickly by “a little power, you’re underpowered, power” and then an emphatic “wave it off,” which is an order for the student to push the throttles all the way to full power — while maintaining a steady nose position — and go around to try it again.

The flight student doesn’t respond quickly enough, and instead of simply pushing the throttles forward and climbing out, he pulls the stick back — a bad move. As the LSO says, “come left” (as if the student pilot had any control of his jet at that point), the Buckeye rolls onto its back. Someone transmits, “Eject!”

The pilot initiates ejection well out of the seat’s envelope and is killed an instant before the T-2 hits the island and explodes, which kills four more personnel on the flight deck. As sailors immediately go for fire hoses to suppress the flames, other flight students parked adjacent to the island waiting to take off jettison their canopies before unstrapping and quickly climbing out of their jets and getting away from the fire.

There’s an old aviation saying that goes something like, “flying is not inherently dangerous but very intolerant of errors.” This footage proves that.

WATCH:

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Here’s when the F-15 outperforms the F-22 or an F-35

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.


The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis

Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”

An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.

The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.

But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.

The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.

Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
An F-22 Raptor | US Air Force photo

“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.

Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptions happen all the time, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.

The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
F-35s are incredible aircraft, but within visual range confrontations are not their fight. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.

Articles

Stories Behind the Stars: An extraordinary commitment to our fallen World War II heroes

World War II veterans are widely regarded as “The Greatest Generation.” Interviews with the surviving veterans are sacred but one man felt like something was missing. We’d forgotten to tell the stories of the 416,000 heroes who didn’t make it home. 

“It always bothered me a little bit that coverage goes to those who survived but we don’t get a lot of attention on those who never made it back,” Don Milne, Founder and Director of Stories Behind the Stars said. He began by using his free time to research and tell the stories of those fallen World War II heroes who’d be celebrating their 100th birthday, if they’d survived. 

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
Photo submitted by Don Milne

Milne started with those who died in the attacks on Pearl Harbor, thinking he’d stop there. “I thought that could be my contribution as a memorial to remember these people,” he shared. 

But it didn’t end there. When he announced he’d be stopping, those following and reading his stories implored him to keep going. Through research Milne learned about Fold 3, an Ancestry company that saves the stories and records of America’s military. “So we said, why don’t we start saving the stories here and invite other people to do the same,” he explained. 

Not long after that, his 30-year role at a bank had been eliminated and he was given a generous severance package. The pandemic had just hit the United States and opportunities for employment were slim. With a year on his hands, Milne knew what he wanted to do with it. 

The Stories Behind the Stars was founded as an official nonprofit and he was all in on honoring the fallen of World War II, beginning right at home. “I reached out to the media in Utah and explained what I was doing and my hope to tell the stories of all the World War II fallen in the state,” Milne explained. “I got some good help and ended up with 126 volunteers. Over a six month period we ended up doing all 2,100 stories.”

After that, Milne connected with the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. “We got their list of the 2,502 Americans who died on day one of D-Day. I put the word out for more volunteers…since January until now, these 130 people have been taking time out of their day writing these stories,” he said. “It’s a way to raise awareness…we are hoping enough people will see this and think it’s a fun project to be a part of.”

He hopes that this will reach young people in particular. “As they walk through these fields and scan these graves, they’ll find that many of them are around their age,” Milne said. 

A trip to Gettysburg National Ceremony with his grandson would lead to a life-changing teaching moment. Milne said he found the grave of a fallen World War II veteran he’d written about and asked his grandson to figure out how old he was when he passed away. 

“He did the math and said ‘He was 16 years old, that’s how old I am!’ and I think that touched him more than more than most because that was an individual that had to lie to get into the Navy, probably because he wanted to support the effort to bring freedom here and around the world,” he shared. “Stories like this will not be forgotten.”

What’s unique about this project and all of these stories is that they aren’t just going on the internet. “We are going to have a smartphone app so that you can find any of these people from World War II and scan their headstone to find and learn their stories,” Milne said. “There’s no reason why we can’t bring the vast knowledge that we have on the internet and make every grave a portal to the stories of the fallen.”

Although covering all of the World War II fallen is a lofty goal, Milne feels confident in being able to do it with enough volunteers. “If we can get a couple thousand volunteers and write one story a week…we can have them all done by the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II in September of 2025,” he said. 

Signing up to volunteer is easy and it’s done through their website. As we approach Memorial Day, this is a true way to honor and remember America’s fallen heroes. By telling and sharing their stories, we can ensure that the willing ultimate sacrifice of their lives will never be forgotten.

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.”

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
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.

Articles

The VA flubbed private care option after hiring a firm the Pentagon fired

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.


US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
(Photo from DoD)

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.

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13 Funniest military memes for the week of March 10

It was a hectic week, what with revelations that Rangers are in Syria, radioactive boars in Japan, and as-holes taking nude photos everywhere.


For a quick break from the insanity, check out these 13 funny military memes.

1. Sorry, first sergeant, we’re all busy looking for hiding spots (via Military Memes).

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Unfortunately, some of us didn’t find our spots in time.

2. You were my boss and an as-hole. Look elsewhere for buddies (via Pop smoke).

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
Go tell Army stories to your cousins or something.

ALSO SEE: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

3. Coast Guard is going to be looking for a lot of lifehacks in the next few years (via Coast Guard Memes).

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
Maybe you guys can buy your way into the DoD or something?

4. The coveted “pace and distance” profile protects from all formation runs (via Lost in the Sauce).

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You can still run 10 miles if you want, but only if you want.

5. Why are the machines doing all the heavy work?

(via Maintainer Nation)

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In machine circles, all humans are nonners.

6. Aging pretty well for a Devil Dog (via Imgflip).

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Only 10 more years to 50% retirement.

7. The only bad thing about this is the red, mirrored sunglasses (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Bet the Coast Guard is just jealous that they aren’t in the Paw Patrol.

8. Yeah, but earning compensation days is rarely worth it (via Air Force Nation).

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
Unless it turns a normal weekend into a 3-day.

9. Army logic isn’t logic (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

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In other news, no more eating in the dining facility.

10. But if you can’t do your guard shifts, you can’t keep your fire watch ribbon (via The Salty Soldier).

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Looks like someone is losing a piece of chest candy.

11. If you had brought a dang-ole bayonet, you might be able to fight your way out of this (via Pop smoke).

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Should’ve joined a real military.

12. Just remember: On V-A day, everything hurts (via The Salty Soldier).

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We’re not saying cheat to get free Veterans Affairs money, but don’t downplay anything, either.

13. Pretty sure that “missing specialist” just faked his death for an early discharge and huge life insurance payout (via The Salty Soldier).

US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan
But don’t investigate too hard or the E-4 mafia will disappear you for real.

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South Korea’s new real-life MechWarrior may be staring down North Korea in 2017

It’s not exactly supposed to be a weaponized robot (yet), but this pilotable giant robot from South Korea’s Hankook Mirae Technology looks like something from the video game series “MechWarrior.”


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Just add rocket launchers. (Video still by Vitaly Bulgarov)

The 13-feet-tall, 1.5-ton behemoth, dubbed “Method-2,” was designed by Vitaly Bulgarov, who has film credits like “Transformers” to his name.

“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme, hazardous areas where humans cannot go,” Hankook Mirae Technology chairman Yang Jin-Ho told Unilad.

 

In all likelihood, Yang’s described “extreme, hazardous environment” is the North-South Korean border zone, widely known as the DMZ. Its metal arms weigh in at almost 300 pounds each, complete with human-like hands to allow the pilot to manipulate objects with the dexterity of its driver.

“It was quite an ambitious project that required developing and enhancing a lot of technologies along the way,” Bulgarov wrote on Instagram. “That growth opens up many real world applications where everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real world problems.”

The Method-2 project is only one year into development and still needs work on its balance and power systems, but designers hope to have it ready for production by the end of 2017.

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