VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness - We Are The Mighty
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VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.


Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.

“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.

“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.

Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.

“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”

Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”

To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.

While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.

“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”

Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.

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Today in military history: Congress passes Espionage Act

On June 15, 1917, the United States Congress passed the Espionage Act.

Two months after entering World War I, the United States feared saboteurs and infiltrators could severely damage the American war effort. Congress sought to prevent anyone from interfering with military operation, supply, or recruitment – in any way.

The Espionage Act outlawed the sharing of information that might disrupt American intervention in the Great War. This included promoting the success of any of America’s Central Power enemies – Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. 

Violation of the Espionage Act was punishable by 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine (about $200,000 today). 

A controversial amendment known as the Sedition Act was added in 1918, which forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government. The Sedition Act was repealed in 1921, but the rest of the Espionage Act remains largely intact to this day. The constitutionality of the law and its relationship to free speech have been contested in court since its inception.

Notable persons charged with offenses under the Act include communists Julius and EthelRosenberg and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who released documents that exposed the NSA’s PRISM Surveillance Program.

Featured Image: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave the U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury. (Library of Congress image)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company wants to make the Army’s M17 into way more than a pistol

Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.

That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.


VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)

Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.

The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAirGk_hVsc
The new Flux Defense MP17 // FluxDefense

youtu.be

According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.

FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.

Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.

(FLUX Defense)

Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.

Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.

Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A nuclear cruise missile that can be carried by jets

US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.

Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.

Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.


The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.

While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.

A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.

As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

United States Tomahawk cruise missile.

“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.

“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.

At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.

“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.

Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.

“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.

However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.

“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.

In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.

The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.

Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.

While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.

The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.

Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.

Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.

However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.


And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.

Here are eight examples.

1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.

The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.

On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.

In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.

Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.

It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”

Here’s the Navy version:

3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.

The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.

These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.

Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).

shellback ceremony Photo: Wikimedia Commons

4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.

Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.

Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.

5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.

Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.

This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.

The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
Photo: MCB Hawaii

Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.

These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.

7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.

Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.

While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”

That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.

8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.

Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.

Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).

According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

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These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.


Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.

Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.

But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.

“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”

Related: These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.

Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”

In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
A gun on the U.S.S. Mongolia. | Public Domain photo

Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.

More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.

Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.

The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.

Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.

In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.

On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI.  Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard made the first-ever helicopter carrier

Believe it or not, some of the greatest pioneers in the use of military helicopters were Coast Guardsmen. These early breakthroughs took place during World War II when the Navy was too busy expanding traditional carrier operations to focus on rotary wing, and the Army had largely sequestered helicopters to an air commando group. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, was working on what would be the first-ever helicopter carrier.


VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

USCGC Governor Cobb underway after its conversion into a helicopter carrier.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Obviously, we’re talking about a ship that carries helicopters, not an aircraft carrier that flies like a helicopter. The Avengers aren’t real (yet).

The potential advantages of helicopters in military operations were clear to many of the military leaders who witnessed demonstrations in the early 1940s. Igor Sikorsky had made the first practical helicopter flight in 1939, and the value of an aircraft that could hover over an enemy submarine or take off and land in windy or stormy weather was obvious.

But the first helicopters were not really up to the most demanding missions. For starters, they simply didn’t have the power to carry heavy ordnance. And it would take years to build up a cadre of pilots to plan operations, conduct staff work, and actually fly the missions.

The Army was officially given lead on testing helicopters and developing them for wartime use, but they were predominantly interested in using it for reconnaissance with a secondary interest in rescuing personnel in areas where liaison planes couldn’t reach.

So, the Coast Guard, which wanted to develop the helicopter for rescues at sea and for their own portion of the anti-submarine fight, saw a potential opening. They could pursue the maritime uses of helicopters if they could just get a sign off from the Navy and some money and/or helicopters.

The commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche, officially approved Coast Guard helicopter development in June 1942. In February 1943, he convinced Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Ernest King to direct that the Coast Guard had the lead on maritime helicopter development. Suddenly, almost every U.S. Navy helicopter was controlled by the Coast Guard.

A joint Navy-Coast Guard board began looking into the possibilities with a focus on anti-submarine warfare per King’s wishes. They eventually settled on adapting helicopters to detect submarines, using their limited carrying capacity for sensors instead of depth charges or a large crew. They envisioned helicopters that operated from merchant ships and protected convoys across the Atlantic and Pacific.

The first sea trials of the helicopter took place just months later with an Army-owned HNS-1 operating from the tanker Bunker Hill. It went well, and the U.S. Coast Guard and Great Britain planned to convert one ship each to a helicopter carrier.

The Coast Guard quickly overhauled the steam-powered passenger ship named Governor Cobb into CGC Governor Cobb, the first helicopter carrier. The Coast Guard added armor, a flight deck, 10 guns of various calibers, and depth charges. Work was completed in May 1943, and the first detachment of pilots was trained and certified that July.

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Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson stands beside an HNS-1 Hoverfly and his co-pilot Lt. Walter Bolton sits within.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The early tests showed that the HNS-1 helicopters were under-powered for rough weather and anti-submarine operations, but were exceedingly valuable in rescue operations. This was proven in January 1944 when a destroyer exploded between New Jersey and New York. Severe weather grounded fixed-wing aircraft, but Coast Guard pilot Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson took off in an HNS-1s.

He strapped two cases of plasma to the helicopter and took off in winds up to 25 knots and sleet, flew between tall buildings to the hospital and dropped off the goods in just 14 minutes. Because the only suitable pick-up point was surrounded by large trees, Erickson had to fly backward in the high winds to get back into the air.

According to a Coast Guard history:

“Weather conditions were such that this flight could not have been made by any other type of aircraft,” Erickson stated. He added that the flight was “routine for the helicopter.”
The New York Times lauded the historic flight stating:
It was indeed routine for the strange rotary-winded machine which Igor Sikorsky has brought to practical flight, but it shows in striking fashion how the helicopter can make use of tiny landing areas in conditions of visibility which make other types of flying impossible….Nothing can dim the future of a machine which can take in its stride weather conditions such as those which prevailed in New York on Monday.

Still, it was clear by the end of 1944 that a capable anti-submarine helicopter would not make it into the fight in time for World War II, so the Navy slashed its order for 210 helicopters down to 36, just enough to satisfy patrol tasks and the Coast Guard’s early rescue requirements.

This made the helicopter carrier Governor Cobb surplus to requirements. It was decommissioned in January 1946. The helicopter wouldn’t see serious deployment with the Navy’s fleet until Sikorsky sent civilian pilots in 1947 to a Navy fleet exercise and successfully rescued four downed pilots in four events.

But the experiment proved that the helicopters could operate from conventional carriers, no need for a dedicated ship. Today, helicopters can fly from ships as small as destroyers and serve in roles from search and rescue to anti-submarine and anti-air to cargo transportation.

Articles

United States of Al is the military comedy we all need right now

Hot off their Big Bang Theory success, Chuck Lorre, Maria Ferrari and David Goetsch are bringing a new comedy to CBS. United States of Al will follow the relationship between a Marine combat veteran (Parker Young) and his unit’s Afghan interpreter (the extremely charismatic and endearing Adhir Kalyan), who has recently moved to the United States.

Premiering April 1 on CBS, here’s the official trailer:

https://youtu.be/SQEwuapZ5RA

While it’s definitely a challenge to tell military stories that honor the reality of combat and service while striking an uplifting and, in this case, comedic tone, Ferrari and Goetsch have armed themselves with plenty of military veterans in their crew. From the writers room to the COVID compliance officers to technical advisors, they’re getting feedback directly from the source – including WATM’s own Chief Content Officer, Chase Millsap.

The Big Bang Theory showed me the power of the [multi-camera comedy] format. It’s our hope that we can reach people — those who might have lived this experience and also those who haven’t — to tell an important story,” Ferrari told We Are The Mighty.

The concept for this series began near the end of The Big Bang Theory’s epic 12-season run when Goetsch read articles about the struggles U.S. service members were having finding protection for their Afghan interpreters. In 2009, Congress approved a Special Immigrant Visa program, which has over the years granted thousands of Afghans and their dependents protection. Still, the number of visas needed lagged behind, often taking years to find approval. During that time, Afghan interpreters faced grave consequences at the hands of the Taliban.

United States of Al

Like I said, not an easy subject for a comedy.

United States of Al follows the friendship between Riley, a Marine who is adjusting to civilian life back home in Ohio, and Awalmir (Al), the Afghan interpreter he served with and who has just arrived in the U.S. to start his new life. Riley has returned home to live with his father, who is also a veteran, and his sister, who plays a grieving military spouse. 

“Through creating this series, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of what the military can do, as well as how powerful the unit is and how challenging it can be to lose the mission and the community when veterans come home,” Goetsch observed. He and Ferrari wanted to honor the veterans and their families who struggle with these issues every day. 

The first few episodes are a far cry from the gritty realism of Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, but they aren’t meant to serve the same purpose. This is a show that wants to tackle hard topics and leave the viewer feeling uplifted at the end. 

We’re rooting for United States of Al. Tune in April 1, 8:30 EST on CBS.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this generation’s Lance Corporals are different

If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.

Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.


Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”

The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.

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Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”

Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.

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Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”

Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.

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Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”

The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.

“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our short, national nightmare is over – get back to work

President Donald Trump signed a short-term funding bill Congress passed on Jan. 22, officially ending the three-day federal government shutdown.


The key vote came in the Senate, where most members supported a key procedural vote to let the funding bill proceed without a filibuster. The cloture vote easily cleared the 60-vote threshold with a final vote of 81 to 18. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, voted against the measure, as did 16 Democrats.

The deal will keep the government funded until Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the date in the House-passed funding bill that the Senate rejected on Jan. 19.

The final bill passed in the Senate a few hours later with the same vote as the cloture measure. The delay between the cloture vote and the final vote was due to members working out language that will allow federal workers to receive back-pay for the days the government was closed, per reports.

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The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

The House then agreed to the deal, passing the measure shortly after the Senate by a vote of 266 to 150. 45 Democrats voted for the funding bill, while six Republicans crossed party lines to vote no.

Trump weighed in on the deal following the cloture vote with a statement partially committing to an immigration deal.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

Given Trump’s wild change of hearts during the immigration discussion, it is unclear what exactly a deal that is “good for our country” would look like.

The impasse was broken after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to hold an open debate process on a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Securing a vote on DACA was a key priority for Democrats, but the deal with McConnell appears to have fallen short of the party’s original request.

Despite McConnell’s commitment, there is nothing binding the House to the deal. A 2013 immigration bill received bipartisan support in the Senate but never made it to the floor of the House.

Also Read: The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

McConnell previously promised Republican Sen. Jeff Flake there would be a DACA vote by the end of January, which does not look likely.

Schumer said that if McConnell did not hold a good-faith vote on the DACA issue by Feb. 8, the Republican leader “will have breached the trust” of Senate Democrats.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to keep the Dreamers from being deported,” Schumer said, referring to DACA recipients.

The program will expire on March 5, potentially leaving nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minors at risk of deportation.

The Senate funding bill will also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. CHIP funding technically expired in September.

Articles

These are the Air Force medics trained for special ops

Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.


According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.

According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.

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This is a typical Combat Support Hospital. (DOD photo)

The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.

In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.

Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.

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U.S. Air Force photo

At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.

It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

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A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just sent 2,200 of these Fort Bragg paratroopers to Afghanistan

Fort Bragg is sending thousands of additional soldiers to Afghanistan to bolster US forces in the nation’s longest war.


Approximately 2,200 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers began quietly deploying this month, part of a long-discussed troop surge that involves more than 3,000 US service members on top of the more than 10,000 already serving in Afghanistan.

The local soldiers — part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team — were alerted to the mission earlier this month and quickly deployed. Once in Afghanistan, they will be reunited with their brigade leadership and about 1,500 soldiers from the brigade who deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year.

Those soldiers are spread throughout the country, from Bagram Airfield and Kabul to Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

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Soldiers of 82nd Airborne Division conduct a change of command ceremony at Pike Field, Fort Bragg. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez.

They also have a variety of missions, tasked with training, advising, and assisting Afghan partners and providing security for other US forces in the country.

The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, said the latest deployments are an example of how the division’s paratroopers remain ready for whatever the nation asks.

“This past week, the remainder of our 1st Brigade Combat Team departed Fort Bragg to join their fellow Devil Brigade paratroopers already engaged in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan,” Kurilla said. “We were directed to provide additional forces in Afghanistan and, as always, we stand prepared to provide combat power on short notice while continually maintaining readiness for other contingencies should those emerge. We are the 82nd Airborne Division; this is who we are and the business we are in.”

The 82nd Airborne Division is part of the nation’s Global Response Force — which is tasked with deploying anywhere in the world on short notice. The division’s paratroopers also are often in high-demand by combatant commanders around the world.

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US Army 1st Lt. Andrew McCornack, a jumpmaster with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division exits a CH47 Chinook helicopter. US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq, Kuwait and Syria this week, following a nine-month deployment in support of the fight against the Islamic State.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team, in addition to the paratroopers in Afghanistan, also has several hundred soldiers in Kosovo, deployed as part of a peacekeeping mission.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which has soldiers training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is serving on the Global Response Force.

And the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade has had soldiers deployed to South Korea and the Horn of Africa in the past year.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division stand ready with their unit guidons during the All American Week Airborne Review at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 25, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Hewitt.

This month, the division also deployed several hundred paratroopers — most from the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade — to Florida where they are part of Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

Kurilla said the division focuses on sustainable readiness to ensure its paratroopers are able to deploy rapidly when the nation calls.

That means working to avoid the peaks and valleys of readiness from past training models. Those models — fueled by regular deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — would see units train up to reach peak readiness just before a deployment only to have that readiness plummet once the unit returned and soldiers began to leave for other units while newer troops replaced them.

“We can’t afford those kinds of cliffs and valleys in today’s uncertain environment,” Kurilla said. “Instead, we maintain a model whereby our paratroopers maintain a continuously high level of readiness.”

That means that even when a unit is deployed, paratroopers will rotate in and out of theater to attend professional development schools, transfer to new units, or even retire. New paratroopers are brought into the organization through rear detachment units, rapidly trained, and then sent into theater to join their fellow paratroopers.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
Commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs.

“This model allows units to sustain readiness while deployed, and to return from deployment ready to immediately move on to the next mission as required,” Kurilla said.

The general said his paratroopers are ready to deploy anywhere in the world in as little as 18 hours, no matter the threat or mission.

“But, more than just that, we are prepared to have multiple elements from the division deployed all while continuing to maintain readiness and preserving combat power for the long haul,” he said. “In an era of near-persistent conflict, this is what sustainable readiness must look like.”

“In an environment in which persistent, unpredictable threats loom, it is important to maintain this readiness model that allows us to counter those threats as they emerge,” Kurilla added.

While the latest deployments to Afghanistan came with short notice, they were not completely unexpected.

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
photo Pvt. Zakery Jenkins, front, with Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security in Mush Kahel village, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 23, 2012. Photo by Spc. Andrew Baker.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team, like most of the 82nd Airborne Division, has repeatedly deployed to the country, with the most recent tours in 2012 and 2014.

And when 1st Brigade soldiers deployed in June, Col. Tobin Magsig told the paratroopers remaining at Fort Bragg to be prepared. He said those not set to deploy would stand ready in case they were needed.

In addition to the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, Army officials in Alaska announced that an additional 1,000 soldiers there would also be deploying to Afghanistan.

Those soldiers are part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Originally, 1,200 paratroopers from the brigade were slated to deploy to Afghanistan, but the pending troop increase in Afghanistan increased that number to about 2,100 soldiers.

The 1st Brigade soldiers have deployed in small groups over more than a week.

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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division ready their gear prior to jumping. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg.

On Sept. 13, nearly 150 paratroopers waited to deploy from a building at Pope Field. They said they had been eagerly awaiting the call that would send them to join their brigade in Afghanistan.

“Absolutely,” said 1st Lt. Mason Bell when asked if the soldiers were ready. “We’ve been waiting for the word since June.”

Bell and other soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment had said their goodbyes to families and friends earlier in the day. Now, with a huge American flag as a backdrop, they waited the last several hours before leaving for Afghanistan.

For the past several months, the soldiers had received several tentative dates for deployments. But nothing was ever final.

Then, last month, President Trump made a national address recommitting the United States to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division board a C-130 Hercules at Pope Army Airfield. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson.

“That’s when we kind of knew it would go down,” said 2nd Lt. Alexander Rodino.

The soldiers had about a week’s notice that they would deploy. They spent that time preparing themselves and their families for what is expected to be a six- or seven-month deployment.

Some, like Staff Sgt. Adam Watkins, will be returning to Afghanistan for the first time in years. Watkins last deployed to the country seven years ago. He said he’s eager to see what has changed in that time.

He said finally knowing that the unit is leaving was a relief to his family, who had dealt with a constant “will they or won’t they” for the past several months.

“We are finally here,” Watkins said. “That part is over.”

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division jump from a C-17 Globemaster III. USAF photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom.

Bell said families were understanding of the mission.

“It’s mixed emotions,” he said. “They’re proud of us. But they’re worried, too.”

The soldiers expect to hit the ground running, they said.

“We train all the time,” Rodino said. “Very few of us get to go do what we train to do.”

“We’re excited,” added Bell. “We’re getting to join the others in our brigade. And we’re serving our country.”

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