VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.

Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”


Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.

Wait times are down, study shows

This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.

Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.

The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.

“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.

Choose VA to prioritize patient care

Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.

Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.

It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.

Choose VA today

Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.

Read more about the JAMA wait time study.
Explore a VA career as an emergency room physician.
Apply for an open position near you.
Learn how to Choose VA at www.VAcareers.va.gov.
Follow our Choose VA blog series:

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 pilots will get new state-of-the-art flight suit first

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots in Hawaii are some of the first to try out the service’s new integrated aircrew ensemble (IAE) flight suit and gear.

Active-duty and Air National Guard pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will sport brand-new, custom-fit gear on stealth fighter missions next year, according to a recent Air Force news release.

Representatives from the Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — home to Air Force Material Command — gave pilots the rundown on how to make the most of the upgraded and consolidated flight suits.

“It’s all strategically placed so items are not on top of each other, [and] it minimizes the occurrence of friction, hot spots or wear-down on the system,” Carl Medeiros, IAE program manager, said in the release.


VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen from the 154th and 15th Operations Support Squadrons conduct a trial-fitting of the integrated aircrew ensemble July 8, 2019 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Program managers from Write-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, introduced the gear to the Airmen, which offers a spectrum of improvements over the currently used equipment. F-22 Raptor pilots from JBPH-H have been selected to be the first aviators to bring the ensemble into an operational capacity.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“The material is also moisture-wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, removing and reducing thermal burden, while increasing mobility and comfort levels,” he added. “When it all comes together, there’s a direct correlation and improvement to the physiological effects on the pilot.”

Typically, aircrew in bombers or fighters — or anything with an ejection seat — have layers of add-ons to their flight suits for a variety of contingencies. The Air Force is still offering options, but with a more streamlined and less bulky approach.

Depending on the mission, pilots can choose a combination of seven configuration items including a coverall, which provides heat and flame protection; survival vest; pressure vest; life preserver unit; a chemical, biological and radiological layer; thermal undergarment; and environmental protection layer, the Human Systems Program Office told Military.com.

IAE was tested and approved for all ejection seat aircraft, and the program is “currently in the production phase with the first scheduled roll-out to the F-22 fleet,” the office said in an email.

“Unlike the currently used legacy equipment, which had been piecemealed with additional support items over several decades, each component of the IAE has been designed to complement all other items,” according to the release. “Its material has been influenced by recent advancements in sports technology to aid aviators who endure harsh flight conditions.”

The upgrades have been long in the making. According to an earlier Air Force news release, B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews began experimenting with a version of IAE in 2013. In 2016, the Defense Department awarded TIAX LLC of Lexington, Massachusetts, a .7 million contract delivery order on a previously awarded contract for initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE) for IAE. The Pentagon at the time said that .6 million from fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) funds had also been allocated toward the effort.

Why this Air Force marking is so rare

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Why this Air Force marking is so rare

In recent years, flight suits and better-fitting uniforms have become a priority for the service.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety. Teams of airmen began reviewing not only flight suits, but all the gear needed to fly for hours on end.

Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the Human Systems Program Office, recently told Military.com that she and her team had been working a number of initiatives — some tailored toward men, others to women — to get aviators better equipped before takeoff.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said during an interview in April. That includes flight vests; G-suits, which prevent the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and other gear, such as a bladder relief apparatus.

The service in April approved the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty as an option to the one-piece flight duty uniform.

Raptor pilots are scheduled to receive the IAE uniform during the first half of 2020, the release states.

The Human Systems Program Office team has also visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the team is scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, next month, officials said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military identifies 2 sets of Korean War remains from July

The US has successfully identified two American service members from among the remains North Korea returned in July 2018 as part of the agreement signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

“We will notify the family first,” John Byrd, the director of scientific analysis at the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency explained to Reuters Sept. 10, 2018. The two US service members, who were identified through DNA analysis and historical documents, are believed to have died in late 1950 in an area near the Chongchon River, where US forces suffered heavy losses during the Korean War.


The fight where the two service members likely died was characterized as a “huge battle,” as an estimated 1,700 missing US troops are suspected to have fallen there.

“One of the reasons that we were able to identify them so quickly [was because their remains] were more complete than usual so it gave us more to look at and narrow down the identity with,” Byrd told The Wall Street Journal. One of the deceased is presumed to be African-American.

The condition of some of the remains is decidedly better than that of others.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

The honor guard assigned to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command move a flag-draped case from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

Researchers and analysts at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii have so far sampled 23 of the 55 sets of remains returned in late July 2018. The US military estimates that more than 7,000 US troops who lost their lives during the Korean War remain unaccounted for. The US is still in talks with North Korea on the return of additional sets of remains of US war dead.

A United Nations Command delegation led by US Air Force Major General Michael Minihan met with North Korean officials at Panmunjom Friday to discuss “military-to-military efforts to support any potential future return of remains,” AFP reported Sept. 11, 2018.

The return of the remains is probably the most visible and concrete achievements of the president’s summit with the North Korean leader, as denuclearization talks appear to be at an impasse. Despite setbacks in the nuclear negotiations, North Korea has maintained its moratorium on weapons testing, has toned down its rhetoric, and attempted to downplay the threatening nature of its arsenal, as was evidenced by its decision not to feature ICBMs in its most recent military parade.

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

Articles

Travis Manion Foundation honors fallen Marine — and builds America at the same time

Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.

Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.


Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.

www.youtube.com

When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”

Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)

Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:

  • Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
  • Be accountable
  • Purpose begins with passion
  • Out of many, one
  • We are fueled by gratitude
  • Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo

Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.

The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.

Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.


“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.

The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.

“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”

Equine programs

Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.

Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.

BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.

In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”


Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.

However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.

To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.

Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”

The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.

Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”

Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”

After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”

When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”

After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.

Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.

Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.

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

Intel

Here’s why hundreds of strangers attended this homeless veteran’s funeral

Jerry Billing served in the Navy during his young life as an Aviation Machinists Mate. He died homeless and alone at the age of 69. No family showed up to claim his remains.


But more than 750 strangers came to his funeral.

“This is a way that we can honor these men and women that leave this world without any family, it’s kind of the final respect,” funeral home director Todd Tramel said.

Here’s how Dignity Memorial and a community came together to pay their respects to a man they never knew:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ig-kUVPP_w

NOW: This dying Vietnam veteran is giving away everything he owns to charity

OR: This journalist nails the reason why young men want to go to war

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

The US is finally ready to take its most expensive fighter jets into battle, as the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters sailing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex may soon be called to conduct strikes against insurgent forces in Afghanistan, CNNreported Sept. 25, 2018.

The USS Essex arrived in the Middle East early September 2018. Having already sailed through the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea, the ship should move into the Persian Gulf in the very near future, a defense official told CNN. The stealth fighters on board have reportedly been conducting intelligence and reconnaissance operations in Somalia, but they have yet to engage an enemy in combat.


While the US Air Force was the first service to declare its version of the F-35 combat ready, it appears the Marine Corps may be the first to take the plane into combat. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.

The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to take off from the USS Essex, a ship much smaller than a modern US aircraft carrier. The incorporation of the F-35B, an powerful aircraft built to support the Marine Corps, into the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) “is a very significant enabler for me and for my team,” Capt. Gerald Olin, Amphibious Squadron 1 commander and Essex ARG/Marine Expeditionary Unit commodore, told USNI News in early September 2018.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, sit on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“It increases battlespace awareness with data fusion and the ability to share information with the ships and the ships’ combat control system. So it’s really an extension of our sensors, and it also brings to the table a greater increased lethality than what we had with previous generation aircraft,” he added, calling it a “game changer.”

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Over the years, the F-35 has faced significant criticism, largely due to high costs.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

Articles

Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Taliban bases in Pakistan pose a “big challenge” to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.


Stoltenberg told reporters Nov. 7 at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels that he regularly raises the issue in meetings with Pakistani leaders and will continue to do so.

“We have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times. It is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists,” said the NATO chief.

Stoltenberg insisted if regional countries deny sanctuaries to insurgents the fight against the Taliban and terrorist groups in Afghanistan “will gain so much.”

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (Photo by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

He spoke just hours after a top Pakistani Foreign Ministry official again rejected allegations terrorists are operating out of her country.

Pakistan denies presence of safe havens

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, while briefing a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said Islamabad told Washington in recent high-level bilateral talks that all areas in Pakistan have been cleared of terrorists.

Related: Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Janjua reiterated Pakistani forces will take immediate action if the United States provides “actionable intelligence” regarding the presence of terrorists in the country. She went on to assert terrorists are operating not out of Pakistan, but from across the Afghan border.

“In Afghanistan, 45 percent of the country is not under government control, which is why the Haqqani network and other terror groups do not need a safe haven in Pakistan,” Janjua said.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
Afghan National Police working in Kandahar Province’s Maruf district participate in training with members of Special Operations Task Force – South in Maruf, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2011.

NATO to boost support for Afghanistan

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO will continue and strengthen its financial and military training support to Afghanistan, saying the number of foreign troops in the country will be increased from currently around 13,000 to a new level of around 16,000 troops.

“We will not go back in combat operations, but we need to strengthen the train and assist and advise mission, the Resolute Support mission, to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to the Taliban, to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground,” asserted Stoltenberg.

The only way the Taliban can achieve anything, he noted, is by sitting down at the negotiating table and be part of a peaceful negotiated political solution to the Afghan war.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
US, Czech, and Georgian soldiers receive a mission brief before conducting a security patrol led by Afghan soldiers in Parwan province, Afghanistan, May 8, 2015. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Wheeler)

The Islamist insurgency, however, has refused to engage in talks until all foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The Taliban has instead intensified its attacks against Afghan security forces, particularly since US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan.

Insurgent attacks on Afghan forces have killed hundreds of army and police personnel in recent weeks.

Articles

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

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
Photo: DirecTV


“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.

The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.

“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018
Photo: DirecTV

The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.

And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.

It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.

“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.

NOW: The most-epic military movie ever needs your help to get made

AND: Nepal was hit by a huge aftershock – these photos show the US military response

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a comedian can go from Hollywood to Kabul


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

“It was like walking onto the surface of the moon,” Graham Elwood says of his first experience walking off of a C-17 in Afghanistan.

His experience was not unlike many of our own first times deploying to a far-off edge of the world. We take a long, long C-17 (or god help you, C-130) ride for seemingly endless hours. There are no windows. The plane is packed. Forget about an in-flight movie or looking out the window. And when you walk off, it’s invariably the middle of the night and you and the hundred or so people you’re with walk off the flightline in a single file.

From there, who knows? There’s a good chance the “hurry up and wait” has just begun. For civilians visiting war zones for the first time, it’s no different – except they have no idea how to speak the acronym language.

“They said ‘When your bird hits the LZ, find your POC, they’ll take you to the MWR tent then you can go to the DFAC,'” he jokes. “It’s like… what are you saying to me right now, man?”

Elwood is a Los Angeles-based comedian with appearances in comedy clubs across America, on college campuses, and even CBS’ Late Late Show. He’s also a veteran podcaster with shows like Comedy Film Nerds, and The Political Vigilante, and he’s a co-creator of the Los Angeles Podcast Festival.

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

None of that prepared him for performing for U.S. troops deployed in combat zones. His first documentary, LaffghanistanComedy Down Range, is about his first time volunteering to go do just that. It’s amazing how fast you can go from playing the Hollywood Improv to playing Bagram Air Base.

Elwood’s film documents his personal journey from the sunny beaches of Southern California to the sun-baked moonscape of Afghanistan, where the military’s Department of Morale, Welfare and Recreation enlisted him to entertain the troops. Elwood’s psychedelic travels through a war zone are simultaneously hilarious, harrowing, and heartbreaking. His journey becomes unpredictably personal, creating a documentary that no one expected, least of all Graham.

For someone who admits he’s pretty far removed from the Global War on Terror, it all came home to him when went around the small firebases of Afghanistan. It was his first time in helicopters, driving in unarmored vehicles on the ground in Afghanistan, and seeing minefields. It got real for him for him real fast.

“What was said to me and what I’ve said to other comedians,” he says. “Well don’t go over there if you don’t want to be changed. It will change you. You have no idea. This is no joke.”

Now that Elwood has done a number of these shows and tours around deployed military bases, he looks back at his first experience in this episode of Mandatory Fun.

Nothing could adequately prepare him for performing a comedy act in Afghanistan. All the dive bars and sh*t holes he played as a young comedian is the best thing he could do to prepare. He was still freaking out but couldn’t help but put himself in the shoes of young troops.

“I’m here for two weeks,” Elwood says, “and MY family is freaking out. Imagine them and  their families and how much they’re freaking out.”

But they quickly realized that they need to be the comics. They were there for a reason: to give American troops fighting overseas a few laughs, a taste of a normal night, and a show to help ease their tension, even if it was only for a short time.

Mandatory Fun guest: Graham Elwood has been a stand-up comic for over 20 years working comedy clubs, colleges, TV shows, Holiday Inn Lounges, war zones, dive bars, and one time on the top of a double-decker tour bus in Chicago (not joking)

. You’ve probably seen him on the TV as the host of the socially relevant game shows “Cram” (GSN) and “Strip Poker” (USA), along with making the world a better place by appearing on shows like “Best Bodies Ever” on VH1. Don’t forget the time when he told jokes on “The Late Late Show” (CBS). He has also starred in the theatrical plays Speed the Plow, Light Sensitive, and Cash Flow, and co-wrote the one act play Brothers. Learn more about Elwood:

Mandatory Fun is hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

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