VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

VA is partnering with four technology organizations — CaringBridge, IBM, Objective Zero Foundation, and RallyPoint — that share VA’s commitment to preventing veteran suicide. These organizations are working with VA to promote social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources using mobile applications and online platforms.

“Partnerships are a vital component of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which we are implementing at the national, state, and local levels,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention, for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans nationwide and across the globe, reaching even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care. To do that, we are working closely with dozens of important partners across sectors to expand our reach beyond VA facility walls, to deliver care and support to at-risk veterans wherever they live, work, and thrive.”


As identified in the national strategy, engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. While each of our technology partners offers their own unique services, they all use technology to help service members and veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

CaringBridge

CaringBridge is a global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during any health journey through the use of free personal websites. A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, veterans, their caregivers and families during any health journey including mental health and substance use. While enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge also allows its users to conduct personal fundraisers. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ to directly focus on the needs of Service members, veterans, caregivers and their families is now available.

IBM

IBM and VA launched a collaborative suicide prevention program to develop an innovative mobile application currently under development titled GRIT (Getting Results In Transition). GRIT demonstrates how the real-time and consistent collection of personalized data can help service members and veterans understand and strengthen their emotional well-being and resiliency — particularly during the transition from active duty to civilian life. GRIT allows users to create a digital self and gain personal insight into their personality baseline, provides access to a digital assistant powered by IBM Watson, helps to build a squad of social connection and offers employment matching and fulfillment capabilities using IBM Watson Employment Manager among other resources to support the transition out of the military.

Objective Zero Foundation

Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. The Objective Zero mobile application connects service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to peer support through videoconferencing, voice calls, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Volunteer ambassadors sign up for the application, receive training including VA’s own A.V.E. training “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite,”— course to then be on the receiving end of those in need of connecting. Objective Zero aims to be more upstream than the Veterans Crisis Line and allows service members, veterans their families and caregivers to both volunteer and connect to others when they need it most. You can download the free Objective Zero mobile application at https://www.objectivezero.org/app.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RallyPoint

RallyPoint is a social networking company designed to gather service members and veterans connect with each other, discuss military life, share information and exchange stories. The platform is now open for families, caregivers and federal employees of service members and veterans. Users can build out their own professional network, share resources, connect with other members of the military and veterans in a safe, secure social media environment. Career opportunities and resources, active community discussions and increasing social connectedness with over 1 million users is free, ready and available at www.rallypoint.com/.

“VA will not stop working to prevent veteran suicide, but we can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “VA’s partnerships in the technology sector enhance social connectedness and expand the reach of VA’s suicide prevention resources through these technology platforms. We are working with partners in the technology space and other sectors to ensure we reach all Veterans with lifesaving resources and support.”

The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that all veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it — regardless of their discharge status. To learn about the resources available for veterans and how you can #BeThere as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner, or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy battleships pulled off the biggest military deception of Desert Storm

The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.


Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

Here comes the boom.

Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.

If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

Here’s what really happened.

The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.

It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

upload.wikimedia.org

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The US attack sub made famous by ‘The Hunt for Red October’ heads for retirement

The most notable Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine – albeit for her fictional exploits – is headed for retirement. Well, actually, recycling. USS Dallas (SSN 700) completed her final deployment on Nov. 22 of this year.


The submarine is best known for its appearance in the 1984 novel “Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy, and its 1990 film adaptation. In Clancy’s story, USS Dallas, under the command of Commander Bart Mancuso, played a critical role in the successful defection of Captain First Rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy and many of his officers, who brought along a modified Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, the Red October. USS Dallas also made an appearance in the novel “Cardinal of the Kremlin,” where she evacuated the wife and daughter of KGB Chairman Nikolay Gerasimov.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
USS Dallas conducting training operations in 2000. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

In real life, USS Dallas had a distinguished career. The ship twice received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and also two awards of the Navy Unit Commendation. She was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” seven times, and in 1993, received the Battenberg Cup as the best ship in the fleet. Commissioned in 1981, she served for 35 years. In 1984, the year the novel that made her famous came out, she carried out a seven-month deployment in the Indian Ocean, during which she went around the world.

In 1986, USS Dallas took part in Operation ELDORADO CANYON, when the U.S. retaliated against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya for sponsoring a terrorist attack in Berlin that killed an American soldier outright and caused another to die from his wounds two months later. The submarine completed a North Atlantic deployment in 1988, the year the novel Cardinal of the Kremlin came out.

Ironically, USS Dallas did not play herself in the 1990 film. Instead, that honor fell to USS Houston (SSN 713) and USS Louisville (SSN 724). Her most memorable scene is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MehBu5crI2s

While many Los Angeles-class submarines have been slated for the scrapheap (the common euphemism being “recycling”), there are efforts underway to save at least some parts of USS Dallas and use her as a museum in her namesake city.

Articles

Project goes into the woods with ‘off the grid’ veterans

A few years ago a team of journalists from Syracuse University traveled to rural Washington state to tell the stories of hundreds of veterans living there, some off-the-grid, away from the country for which they fought.


The project includes the story of Chad Olsen, a Marine who killed his wife and himself in 2009, and the stories of those who knew him. It features the stories of Ryn Rollins and Adam Howerton, who (at the time) were 18 and enlisting in the Army. The project also shows how one Marine veteran who struggles with post-traumatic stress and returning to everyday life after three tours in Iraq.

The project also follows “trip-wire veterans,” a small group of vets who escaped their lives into the wilds of American back country because they were unable to face their war memories and were provided little help when they returned. The term “trip-wire” comes from the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong would booby trap trails used by U.S. servicemen to injure and maim troops outside their bases.

The term was first coined in the early 1980’s, when around 85 people were documented living in the Washington wilds. It was not known then how many were out there. One former trip-wire vet was Mike McWatters. He lived in New York’s Adirondack Mountains for two years after seeing heavy combat in Vietnam. In 1983, he started work to reach out to these veterans to encourage them to seek treatment.

“I know one vet who went into the woods naked,” McWatters said. “He came out in full leather clothing, having gained 40 pounds, carrying weapons he’d made.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Photo by Juliette Lynch

When these veterans were first discovered, the media often inaccurately portrayed them as criminals and drunks or worse. In June, 1988, Dan Rather and CBS News interviewed six “Vietnam veterans” who admitted to killing civilians or seeing friends killed in action, and had since become homeless, suicidal drug users after the war. Later investigations showed none of it was true.

The reality is not so black and white. The project hit important topics beyond PTSD – women, race (specifically Native Americans) and the wives and children veterans leave behind, all from the rural town of Republic, Washington.

 This team did more than just tell tales of the people living there. They provided thoroughly researched background information on veteran suicide, the steps to getting a VA disability claim, and an infographic on U.S. wars from 1900 (current as of 2010) and those who fought them.

Now: A top US intelligence official ‘privately floated’ a potential deal to bring Snowden home 

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy prepared to counter favorite Russian tactic

The Russian military and its NATO counterparts have been increasingly active in Eastern Europe, as the West moves to counter what they view as Russian aggression in the region.

One facet of Russian military activity that has been well noted by Western military planners is the expansion of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, capability in strategically valuable areas.

Assets like the S-400 air-defense system — believed to be able to target aircraft from as far as 250 miles away, even the latest stealth aircraft — have been set up around Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s exclave on the Baltic Sea, further south on the Crimean Peninsula and around the Black Sea, and on the Syrian coast, which provides a base from which to reach into the eastern Mediterranean.


Surface-to-air missile systems deployed around Kaliningrad, which is tucked between Poland and Lithuania, were “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” retired Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc told The New York Times in January 2016, when he was head of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa.

Those systems could affect NATO operations in Poland and the Baltic States, Gorenc said. (Russian forces using Kaliningrad to block the Suwalki Gap and cut the Baltic States off from the rest of NATO is a particular concern for the alliance.)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

“But the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force, Hodges said. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

Russian state media said another battalion of S-400 missiles had assumed combat duty in Crimea at the end of November 2018, amid a state of increased tension with Ukraine over a violent encounter between their navies in the Black Sea.

Other air-defense systems, including the less advanced but highly capable S-300, are deployed in the region, including in the Black and Baltic seas. Other deployed A2/AD assets include coastal missile batteries firing anti-ship missiles.

When those systems — long embraced by Moscow to counter NATO’s technical and numerical superiority at sea and in the air — are paired with electronic-warfare and radar systems, the concern is they could limit NATO’s freedom of movement, especially in situations short of all-out war, when offensive options are restrained.

But “the alliance is alive to these challenges” and would “be prepared to use all the different things that would be required” in response to them, Hodges said, without elaborating.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

Russian S-400 Triumph launch vehicle.

Navy Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who recently took over the Navy’s newly reestablished Second Fleet, which oversees the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean, echoed Hodges during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.

“Without going into things I shouldn’t talk about, I’m confident that we can operate in an A2/AD environment, in a contested environment,” Lewis said when asked about Kaliningrad and A2/AD. “In fact, I know we can.”

“I know we can with our carrier force. I know we can with our surface force. We have a very clear way of doing that. It is based upon maneuver,” he added. “It’s based upon physical maneuver. It’s based upon maneuver in the spectrum, and it’s based upon our ability to keep quiet when it’s time to keep quiet and talk when it’s time to talk.”

There was still room for improvement, Lewis said, but he was confident US forces could get there.

“That’s something that we’re really, really focused on, and we have been focused on for a number of years now, and we’re getting a lot better.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ faces a life sentence for war crimes

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will hand down its verdict on Nov. 22 in the five-year war crimes trial of Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic.


Mladic’s trial is the last at the ICTY, which was established at The Hague in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. He is accused of 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
General Ratko Mladić during UN-mediated talks at Sarajevo airport in 1993. (Image Wiki)

Mladic, 75, is charged with ordering artillery attacks on civilians in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and for organizing the summary execution of some 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, one of the more shocking events of the bloody Bosnian war.

Prosecutors say Mladic’s soldiers pushed past Dutch UN peacekeepers before separating the males for execution and putting the elderly, women, and children on buses and trucks to Bosniak-controlled territory.

In 2007, the ICTY that ruled the massacre was genocide carried out by Bosnian Serb forces.

Read Also: 22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

The ICTY filed charges against Mladic in 1995, but he remained in hiding in Serbia until Belgrade arrested him and handed him over in May 2011.

Mladic has denied all charges.

The ICTY in 2016 found Mladic’s political chief, Radovan Karadzic, guilty of similar charges, including genocide, and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. He has appealed that verdict.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see new career field-specific physical testing as the Air Force expands physical training beyond the standard PT test, officials announced Jan. 31.


It marks the first time specific career fields will have “occupationally specific and operationally relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment,” the service said in a release.

“ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced,” Dr. Neal Baumgartner, chief of the Air Force’s Exercise Science Unit (ESU), said in the release.

“There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets,” he said.

Because of the critical skills these career fields require, Baumgartner said, the unit — with support from Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, and its Project AIR FORCE team — initiated the science-based review.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Blakeney (second from left), 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Hood, Texas, launches a medicine ball at the fitness center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Job-related exercises

Based on the study and focus groups, the new Tier 2 test — which is still being augmented in certain cases — includes such exercises as follows:

  • 1,000-meter row (measured in minutes and seconds);
  • Pull-ups (measured in repetitions);
  • Trap bar deadlift (five repetitions, measured in pounds);
  • Two-cone agility drill (measured in seconds);
  • Medicine ball toss (measured in feet);
  • Grip strength test (measured in pounds per square inch);
  • 100-yard farmer’s carry (or 4 x 25 yards, measured in seconds);
  • Extended cross knee crunch (measured in repetitions);
  • Weighted lunges (measured in repetitions); and
  • A faster 1.5 mile run (measured in minutes and seconds).

Tier 2 is scored on a 1-10 scale in each of the 10 components. The ALO or TACP must score at least 46 points out of 100 to pass, according to the scoring sheet provided to Military.com.

In addition, TACPs or ALOs must now complete the 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes, 31 seconds, or less, the scores reveal.

Unlike the Tier 1 test, age, and gender are not a factor.

The tape test — widely unpopular among airmen, which measures weight and waist circumference — will still be taken, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Master Sgt. Kyle Anderson, 3rd Air Support Operations Group, runs between two cones during a speed, strength and agility demonstration at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Science-based review

The study, which began in 2011, found that in order “to properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks; develop fitness tests and physical task simulations; validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements; implement and verify these tests and standards; and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period,” Baumgartner said.

The first step used Air Force focus groups to identify 44 air liaison-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs, the release said. They were reviewed and approved by senior leaders in the operations community.

The ESU team then identified 10 testing components deemed critical for strength training, dubbed “Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery.”

They included grip strength, medicine ball toss, back and side; three cone drill; trap bar deadlift, five repetition maximum; pull-up; lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome; extended cross knee crunch, metronome; farmer’s carry, 2 x 50 pound, 100 yards; row ergometer, 1000 meters; and 1.5-mile run.

Related: Here’s how to get in shape to be an Air Force special operator

“The important takeaway here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets,” Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge, said in the release.

“The grip strength test, for example, measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why?” he said.

“While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement,” Gruse said.

Lastly, Rand designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, which were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and tested during a pilot study.

Physical Task Simulation components included rope bridge; rope ladder; cross load personnel and equipment; casualty movement; and small unit tactics.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Master Sgt. James Blair, 12th Combat Training Squadron, performs a farmers drag during a strength and agility demonstration as part of the Air Force special operations community’s new fitness assessment program at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Coming in 2019

All airmen are required to pass the service-wide Fitness Assessment known as Tier 1, Brzozowske said.

With Tier 2 in the mix, there is some nuance.

“ALOs and TACPs are granted permanent exemption from the aerobic (1.5-mile run) and muscle fitness (sit-up and push-up) components [under] the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment,” Brzozowske said in an email Wednesday. They were granted the exemption on Nov. 1, 2017, she said.

That is because the sharper run is already built in their new Tier 2 training.

Brzozowske said, “The exemption applies only to ALO and TACP personnel assigned to positions that are required to take the Tier 2 [Occupationally-Specific, Operationally-Relevant] Fitness Assessment per forthcoming Air Force Instruction 13-113, TACP Training Volume 1 policy. All other ALO and TACP personnel must continue to take the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment.”

While there were no women represented in the career fields during the pretrial testing, officials said they are eligible for either career field provided they “meet all minimum standards outlined in respective qualifications summaries.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (second from left) poises to launch a medicine ball over his head Jan. 9, 2018 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Wright visited a demonstration for a new occupational fitness program performed by senior noncommissioned officers from across the special operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

How and when the Air Force intends to implement the Tier 2 testing is still being determined.

The service is also weighing expanding job-specific physical testing standards for other Special Tactics career fields such as combat controllers, weather officers, combat rescue and combat pararescue, as well as non-battlefield airmen careers such as fly-away security teams, loadmasters and firefighters, which require more endurance on the job.

To prepare and to avoid duplication, some of these careers — combat control (1 C2Xl ), combat rescue officer (13DX), pararescue (1 T2Xl), special tactics officer (13CX), special operations weather technician (1 WOX2) — may be granted a temporary exemption of the aerobic run, push-ups, and sit-ups until Dec. 1, 2018, Brzozowske said. The waist-tape test will still occur.

“This exemption is contingent upon each career field manager resuming and continuing development and validation of their new AFSC-specific, operationally specific/relevant fitness assessments,” she said.

The Tier 2 test is expected to be fully implemented for the ALO-TACP career fields by the start of 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.

“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney, a Vietnam War veteran who was homeless a decade ago, watches TV in his room.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.

Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney (left) and Frank Hundt sit on the front porch of the Baltimore home they share with caregiver Joann West on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.

“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”

The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.


Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.

“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”

VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Caregiver Joann West sits in the living room of her Baltimore home, which she shares with veterans Frank Hundt (left) and Ralph Stepney.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.

“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”

To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.

The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.

Pilot program takes off

Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.

The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.

Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney holds photos from a cruise he took to Bermuda with West and Hundt. Stepney put the photos into a keepsake album that he keeps at their home.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.

More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.

It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.

In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.

And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.

A guardian ‘angel’

Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Frank Hundt watches TV in his bedroom at caregiver Joann West’s home in Baltimore on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”

Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.

“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”

It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”

Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.

For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”

When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”

“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News. Follow @KHNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DOD describes space as a ‘warfighting domain’ and urges Space Force

The U.S. Space Force will allow the Defense Department to deliver space capabilities and results faster, better, and ahead of adversaries, Pentagon officials said March 1, 2019.

Officials spoke with reporters on background in advance of the announcement that DOD delivered a proposal for establishing the sixth branch of the armed forces to Congress. The proposal calls for the U.S. Space Force to lodge in the Department of the Air Force.

“What underpins the entire discussion is the importance of space to life here on Earth,” an official said. “Space truly is vital to our way of life and our way of war, and that has really been increasing over time.”


The Space Force will allow the department to face down the threats of great power competition in space, officials said.

Today, the United States has the best space capabilities in the world, they noted, but they added that this is not an entitlement. “Our adversaries have recognized that, and they recognize what space brings to the United States and our military,” an official said. “As a result, they are integrating space into their forces, and they are developing weapon systems to take away our advantages in a crisis or conflict.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

Space has changed the character of war. “Space is not just a support function, it is a warfighting domain in and of its own right where we really need to be prepared to compete, deter and win,” he said.

The Space Force is a strategic step forward that will bring greater focus to people, doctrine, and capability needed to wage a war in space, officials said.

If Congress approves the proposal, the new service will grow incrementally over the next five fiscal years. Planners already are discussing the culture of the organization and what people they would like to see populate it. “We’re going to try to establish a unique culture — the special training, the care for promotions, development of doctrine,” another official said.

Pending passage, DOD will begin transferring personnel from the Air Force to the new service in fiscal year 2021 — most of the personnel in the U.S. Space Force will come from the Air Force. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel will be affected in later years. Civilian employees will come to the new service under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force, just as civilian employees of the U.S. Marine Corps work for the Department of the Navy.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
(Photo by Ryan Keith)

Building a culture

On the military side, the service will look for individuals who will build the culture of the new service. “We want people to be recruited into the Space Force as similar to the way the Marine Corps recruits Marines,” a senior official said. “We don’t recruit [Marines] into the Navy — they go after the specific kind of people with a vision that is necessary to build that culture.”

It will take some time for Space Force service members to build that culture. “When you grow up in your service, you are a part of a culture and that is your mindset and focus,” a senior military officer said. “The Air Force includes space, but the personnel still grow up in an Air Force culture today. I would argue that if you ‘grow up’ in a Space Force where you are solely focused on the space domain, your ability to think clearly and focus on that domain will get after the problem set much more effectively.”

The force will look for people with a technical background to apply toward warfighting. “We need people who, at their core, understand what warfighting is and how to do those things that bring together that capabilities from across all services to pursue strategic objectives as part of the joint force,” another officer said.

If Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force will have about 15,000 people — the smallest U.S. armed force. “It is a small, but mighty group,” a senior official said. “As we look forward to the importance of space to our country and national security, it is really elevating it.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Jesse Iwuji — Navy to NASCAR

Sometimes, all it takes is a whiteboard and a marker to jump-start a dream into reality. This week’s Borne the Battle features guest Jesse Iwuji, whose creative and hardworking mindset led him to overcome great challenges and become a NASCAR driver.

Growing up, Iwuji excelled at both track and football. His high school accomplishments led him to the Naval Academy’s football team where he played safety. He graduated from the academy in 2010. After seven years active duty, Jesse transitioned to the Navy Reserve.


After his football career ended, Iwuji found competitiveness in racing. However, he was at a disadvantage compared to his peers who started racing at a very early age: Iwuji started in his mid 20s. He lacked sponsorship and he wasn’t born into a racing family. Despite this, his determination and led him to a variety of open doors. He funded the first part of his NASCAR KN racing career through a variety of ways to include starting his own business. Currently he is racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Today, Iwuji represents sponsors from several different organizations, which many help veterans. He uses racing as a platform to advocate for veterans’ rights and he shares his passion in Veteran communities and schools. To Jesse, nothing is impossible if you have vision and hard work behind it.

Faces of the Fleet: Jesse Iwuji teaser #1

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Child with cancer gets wish granted by NASCAR driver & US Navy LT Jesse Iwuji

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier gave up life as an actress to join the Army

Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.

“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”

No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.


“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”

Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.

“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”

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Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.

“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.

“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”

Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.

“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”

Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.

“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”

Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”

As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.

While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.

“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Army’s futuristic new helicopter just flew for the first time

Bell Helicopter’s next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-280 Valor, has made its first flight, the company announced in a release Dec. 18.


The black prototype, which resembles the older V-22 Osprey, also made by Textron Inc.’s Bell unit and Boeing Co., completed the roughly maiden flight around 2 p.m. local time at the company’s Amarillo, Texas, facility, according to the company.

“This is an exciting time for Bell Helicopter, and I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight of the Bell V-280,” Mitch Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter, said in a statement.

“First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership’s modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives,” he added. “The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake.”

Bell’s V-280 Valor is slightly bigger than a UH-60 Black Hawk and hold a crew of four and carry up to 14 passengers. By comparison, the Black Hawk can hold a crew of four and transport 11 troops fully loaded or 20 lightly equipped.

The Valor is competing against SB-1 Defiant, a more conventional helicopter with a pusher-prop for added speed designed by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit and Boeing, for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program.

The demonstrator effort is designed to hone requirements for a Future Vertical Lift acquisition program to fill the Army’s requirement for a mid-sized, next-generation rotorcraft with twice the speed and range of a conventional helicopter to replace its UH-60 Black Hawks probably in the 2030s.

Bell wants to sell the V-280 to all the services, but the Army — with its thousands of Black Hawks alone — offers the biggest potential market. To land the deal, the firm will have to overcome the service’s traditional opposition to tilt-rotor aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a conventional propeller-driven aircraft.

The SB-1 Defiant, meanwhile, is expected to make its first flight in the first half of next year. Lockheed’s Sikorsky earlier this year released footage showing a smaller coaxial design, the S-97 Raider, undergoing flight testing.

Also Read: Video: This is the changing face of rotary-wing aviation

The Raider was initially designed for a $16 billion U.S. Army weapons acquisition program called the Armed Aerial Scout to replace the OH-58Kiowa Warrior, one of the smallest helicopters in the fleet, which was retired from Army service this year.

While the Army put that acquisition effort on hold due to budget limitations, Sikorsky, maker of the Black Hawk helicopter and other aircraft, still plans to sell the coaxial design in the U.S. and abroad, and the firm along with its suppliers have spent tens of millions of dollars developing the technology.

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