The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes - We Are The Mighty
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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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
(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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
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.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
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 TRENDING

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

This 200th episode of Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran Aerial Johnson, better known by her wrestling name “Big Swole,” Aerial shares her time in the military and how she transitioned into civilian life to eventually became a professional wrestler.


Johnson joined the Air Force in 2008 to be a fire truck mechanic. She was stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. On April 3, 2008, on a day she and her family would come to call her “second birthday,” Johnson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after being told she had half an hour to live. She survived a round of emergency surgery and was told that she would never be able to have children or engage in high-impact sports. However, Johnson didn’t let her diagnosis stop her from doing what she wanted to do. When her Crohn’s disease worsened, she had to leave Air Force in 2010 but she didn’t stop to pursue other dreams.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CROHN’S DISEASE

Hull returned to her hometown of Clearwater, Florida, where she started interacting with a local community of professional wrestlers. She became an independent wrestler herself, and after a few years she signed with All Elite Wrestling and has appeared on both AEW Dark and AEW Dynamite.

In this episode, Hull discusses how she overcame the struggles of Crohn’s disease and embraced the lessons she learned in the military to develop the “Swole mentality” of giving everything her all. She is a reminder to people everywhere that with discipline, anything is possible.

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

Articles

This former paratrooper is cycling across America for vets

Devin Faulkner is an infantry veteran of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team who is pedalling across America on a bike in an effort to raise money for veteran causes.


The 24-year-old began his journey Jun. 4 in San Francisco with the intent of riding to New York across 3,900 miles, mostly avoiding major highways and sticking to roads filled with people and other cyclists.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
Devin Faulkner takes a short pit stop on Jun. 6, his second day of riding. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his blog.

Faulkner left a job at Monster Energy to attempt his trip. Faulkner began at Monster as a photography intern assigned to cover military and veteran activities. This quickly led to him getting involved with the Warrior Built Foundation, a veteran-ran group sponsored by Monster which provides vets with recreational therapy through racing events, camping trips, and vehicle fabrication.

While working for Monster with Warrior Built Foundation and other veteran groups, Faulkner found himself thinking back to an idea he had mentioned to his old medic, a ride across the entire continental U.S.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
Devin Faulkner during training in the U.S. Army. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner

And now he’s doing it in what is tentatively planned as a 48-day ride. Faulkner planned the route by looking at weather concerns and finding roads frequented by other cyclists.

“So, my original plan,” Faulkner told WATM, “was to ride from San Bernadino, California, where I live, to New York … but then I thought about, ‘This is June. It’s hot out there. There’s no way I’m built to survive in Arizona on a bicycle without water.'”

So Faulkner looked North and used Strava heat maps to find roads commonly ridden by other cyclists. The final route leads through Nevada and Utah east through Chicago and across to New York. He is hoping to finish in about seven weeks but is leaving himself open to stopping in cities to speak with veteran groups along his route, potentially delaying his arrival in New York.

To keep costs low, he’s carrying a tent and sleeping wherever he can find a spot to pitch it.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
Everything Devin Faulkner will have for the ride is packed on his bike. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his Go Fund Me page.

Unfortunately, he faced trouble even before he could leave for the trip. Faulkner is coming off of two injuries. The first came during a training ride when he moved to avoid a car and struck an obstacle on the road, hurting his wrist and delaying his training. Right after he was able to return to training, he was hurt again when he was riding a motorcycle to work and was sideswiped by a car.

Still, Faulkner was set on beginning his ride on time and climbed back onto the bike just in time to leave for his trip.

All money he raises on the ride is going to post-traumatic stress and groups, such as Warrior Built, that seek to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

Supporters can contribute to Devin’s ride through his Go Fund Me page and can follow his trip through his blog, Downshift With Devin.

Articles

Navy to deploy new anti-ship surface missile

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
Kongsberg.com


The Navy will soon deploy a new missile aboard its Littoral Combat Ship that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles, service officials said.

Called the Naval Strike Missile, or NSM, the weapon is developed by a Norwegian-headquartered firm called Konigsberg; it is currently used on Norwegian Nansen-class frigates and Skjold-Class missile torpedo boats, company officials said.

“The Navy is currently planning to utilize the Foreign Comparative Testing program to procure and install the Norwegian-built Naval Strike Missile on the USS FREEDOM (LCS 1).  The objective is to demonstrate operationally-relevant installation, test, and real-world deployment on an LCS,” a Navy spokeswoman from Naval Sea Systems Command told Scout Warrior.

The deployment of the weapon is the next step in the missiles progress. In 2014NSM was successfully test fired from the flight deck of the USS CORONADO (LCS 4) at the Pt. Mugu Range Facility, California, demonstrating a surface-to-surface weapon capability, the Navy official explained.

First deployed by the Norwegian Navy in 2012, the missile is engineered to identify ships by ship class, Gary Holst, Senior Director for Naval Surface Warfare, Konigsberg, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The NSM is fired from a deck-mounted launcher. The weapon uses an infrared imaging seeker, identify targets, has a high degree of maneuverability and flies close to the water in “sea-skim” mode to avoid ship defenses, he added.

“It can determine ships in a group of ships by ship class, locating the ship which is its designated target. It will attack only that target,” Holst said.

Holst added that the NSM was designed from the onset to have a maneuverability sufficient to defeat ships with advanced targets; the missile’s rapid radical maneuvers are built into the weapon in order to defeat what’s called “terminal defense systems,” he said.

“One of the distinguishing features of the missile is its ability to avoid terminal defense systems based on a passive signature, low-observable technologies and maneuverability. It was specifically designed to attack heavily defended targets,” Holst said.

For instance, the NSM is engineered to defeat ship defense weapons such as the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS – a ship-base defensive fire “area weapon” designed to fire large numbers of projectiles able intercept, hit or destroy approaching enemy fire.

CIWS is intended to defend ships from enemy fire as it approaches closer to its target, which is when the NSM’s rapid maneuverability would help it avoid being hit and proceed to strike its target, Holst added.

Holst added that the weapon is engineered with a “stealthy” configuration to avoid detection from ship detection systems and uses its sea-skimming mode to fly closer to the surface than any other missile in existence.

“It was designed against advanced CIWS systems. It is a subsonic weapon designed to bank to turn. It snaps over when it turns and the seeker stays horizontally stabilized — so the airframe turns around the seeker so it can zero-in on the seam it is looking at and hit the target,” he said.

Raytheon and Konigsberg signed a teaming agreement to identify ways we can reduce the cost of the missile by leveraging Raytheon’s supplier base and supplier management, Holst explained.

Konigsberg is working with Raytheon to establish NSM production facilities in the U.S., Ron Jenkins, director for precision standoff strike, Raytheon Missile systems, said.

Konigsberg is also working on a NSM follow-on missile engineered with an RF (radio frequency) sensor that can help the weapon find and destroy targets.

The new missile is being built to integrate into the internal weapons bay of Norway’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Konigsberg and Raytheon are submitting the missile for consideration for the Navy’s long-range beyond-the-horizon offensive missile requirement for its LCS.

“The Navy has identified a need for an over-the-horizon missile as part of their distributed lethality concept which is adding more offensive weapons to more ships throughout the fleet and they wanted to do this quickly,” Holst explained.

The Navy’s distributed lethality strategy involves numerous initiatives to better arm its fleet with offensive and defensive weapons, maintain a technological advantage over adversaries and strengthen its “blue water” combat abilities against potential near-peer rivals, among other things.

They are pitching the missile as a weapon which is already developed and operational – therefore it presents an option for the Navy that will not require additional time and extensive development, he said.

“The missile is the size, shape and weight that fits on both classes of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Holst said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first openly transgender recruit joins the US military

The first openly transgender person has signed up to join the U.S. Armed Forces.


On Feb. 27, the Pentagon confirmed that the recruit signed a contract to join the military after a federal judge ruled that transgender individuals who meet the standards for military service must be allowed to join.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
A protest held July 26, 2017 in Times Square outside the U.S. Army Recruiting Center in response to President Trump tweeting that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. (Image via Jere Keys)

Here is a brief timeline of recent events concerning transgender military eligibility: 

June 30, 2016: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. was lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

June 30, 2016: A RAND study determined medical care for individuals who transition would cost roughly $2.4 to $4 million annually, thus amounting to no more than 0.13% of spending on healthcare for active duty armed service members.

July 26, 2017: President Donald Trumped announced on Twitter that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Aug. 29, 2017: Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that currently serving transgender troops would be allowed to remain in the armed services, pending the recommendations of a panel study and consultation with Homeland Security.

Jan. 1, 2018: Transgender individuals were allowed to join the U.S. military after the Pentagon was forced to comply with a federal court ruling issued in December 2017.

February 23, 2018: The Pentagon confirmed that there is one transgender individual under contract for service in the U.S. Military.

Under the guidelines effective Jan. 1, 2018, transgender applicants must be certified by a medical provider as stable without “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” for 18 months in order to be eligible to serve.

Secretary Mattis maintains that “our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran just shot down one of the US military’s most advanced drones

Iranian forces took out a US unmanned aerial vehicle June 19, 2019, with a surface-to-air missile, US Central Command confirmed. The drone the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot out of the sky happens to be one of the US military’s most advanced high-altitude unmanned aircraft.

The Iranians shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, which the military uses to conduct recon operations over oceans and coastal waterways, among other areas.

The US military called the incident “an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace” over the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf. The Iranians have accused the US drone of entering Iranian airspace, an allegation Central Command characterized as completely false.


The RQ-4, which informed the development of the newer MQ-4C drones, is one of the most advanced high-altitude drones being employed operationally, The War Zone said. These aircraft, Northrop Grumman aircraft that have been used extensively in the Persian Gulf, rely on a suite of high-end electronic sensors and other intelligence-gathering systems to peer into other countries.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

MQ-4C prototype.

The aircraft, which is used by both the US Air Force and the US Navy, has a price tag higher than the US military’s new F-35 stealth fighters. A Global Hawk has a unit cost of roughly 3 million, while an F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter costs only million.

“This isn’t a throwaway drone whose loss the US will just shrug off,” Ulrike Franke, a drone expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter. But it’s not just the price tag that makes the loss of this drone a big deal. The drone is designed to be harder to hit, she said, because they fly at altitudes beyond the reach of some air defense defense systems.

“The RQ-4 flies at upwards of 65,000 feet,” Tyler Rogoway, the editor of The War Zone, wrote. “So this would have been a sophisticated radar-guided surface-to-air missile that shot the aircraft down, not a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile.”

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Iran said the IRGC shot down the US drone with an upgraded Khordad missile-defense system, which can detect and track targets 95 miles away and down them at a distance of 30 miles, Breaking Defense reported. The system can target enemy aircraft flying as high as 81,000 feet, or roughly 15 miles.

The Global Hawk does not have any stealth capabilities or high-end countermeasures for penetration missions, leaving it vulnerable to any air defense systems that can hit high-altitude targets.

The latest incident comes just days after the crew of an Iranian boat fired an SA-7 surface-to-air missile at a MQ-9 Reaper drone, a roughly million drone, but missed. Wednesday’s shoot-down marks a serious escalation in tensions between the US and Iran.

“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters earlier this week.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US & India practiced hunting subs together; keeping an eye on China

The US and India practiced hunting submarines in the Indian Ocean last week, a first for the two nations since the signing of a major agreement making it easier to keep track of Chinese undersea assets.

US and Indian P-8 multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, together with the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, participated in anti-submarine warfare training exercises, focusing on information sharing and coordination, the US Navy said in a statement.


“Our goal is to further standardize our procedures, so we can work more efficiently in future real-world operations,” said US Navy Lt. James Lowe, a pilot with Patrol Squadron 8.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian navy)

The exercises, which took place near the island of Diego Garcia, were the first ASW drills since India and the US signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in September 2018, The Diplomat reported last week.

The agreement allows for real-time operational intelligence sharing, especially in the maritime domain, where China is stepping up its surface and undersea activities.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” an unnamed source told the Times of India when the agreement was signed.

It was first disclosed two years ago by Harry Harris, then the US Navy admiral in charge of US Indo-Pacific Command, that the US was working with India to better monitor Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean.

“There is sharing of information regarding Chinese maritime movement in the Indian Ocean,” Harris explained in early 2017, adding that the US works “closely with India and with improving India’s capability to do that kind of surveillance.”

“Chinese submarines are clearly an issue and we know they are operating through the region,” said Harris, who is now the US ambassador to South Korea.

The US and India established their first secure communications link between the two navies as part of the COMCASA agreement in early April 2019.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

(Indian navy)

The Department of Defense noted several times in its 2018 report on China’s growing military might that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to deploy submarines to the Indian Ocean and is “demonstrating its increasing familiarity with operating in that region.”

“These submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN’s emerging capability both to interdict key sea lines of communication (SLOC) and to increase China’s power projection into the Indian Ocean,” the Pentagon argued.

The Indian navy stood up its first squadron of P-8I Neptunes, a variant of the P-8A Poseidons used by the US Navy, in 2015. It currently operates a fleet of eight, but it has placed an order for four more of these planes, which are widely recognized as the best anti-submarine warfare aircraft in the world.

Earlier this month, the US approved the sale of two dozen submarine-hunting, multi-role MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters to India for .6 billion.

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

Articles

Russian bombers and patrol planes carry out major probes around Japan

Heightened tensions in the East Asia region increased after Japan scrambled F-15J Eagle fighters in response to Russian military activity.


According to a report by the Daily Mail, the first incident involved a pair of Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers. Japan then scrambled the Eagles, which are locally-built versions of the F-15C Eagle in service with the United States Air Force.

The Russians later sent two pairs of maritime patrol planes. One consisted of Tu-142 “Bears,” the other were Ilyushin Il-38 “May” aircraft.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. (Photo by Ministry of Defense)

The actions come as the United States and Japan are planning what Reuters called a “joint show of force” in the East China Sea. The United States has sent the Nimitz-class carrier U.S. Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to the area as the tensions have risen, and Japan reportedly plans to deploy destroyers alongside the American carrier.

In March 2017, the United States and Japan conducted joint drills, and Japan sent their newest carrier, the Izumo to the South China Sea.

The Tu-95 “Bear” is Russia’s primary strategic bomber. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, it has a range of 8,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling.

Depending on the version, it can carry up to 16 AS-15 “Kent” cruise missiles that have nuclear or conventional warheads. The plane can also carry anti-ship missiles or regular bombs.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

The Tu-142 is an antisubmarine-warfare aircraft based on the Tu-95. This plane was exported to India in the 1980s, and it served until late March 2017, when it was replaced with P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

The Il-38 is a maritime patrol aircraft that is smaller than the Tu-142. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the Il-38 has a range of 3,890 nautical miles, a top speed of 390 knots, and can carry up to 11,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Il-38 was involved in a February 2017 incident in which the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed.

Articles

Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Syria still possesses chemical weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Israel on April 21, warning against the banned munitions being used again.


At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes following the cruise missile attack earlier in April in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas.

Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.

He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.

“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.

Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.

In response to the April 4 attack, the United States fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base it said was the launching pad for the attack.

Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.

“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.

Related: US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Guard teams up with Hungarian forces in successful live-fire exercise

National Guard units joined with the U.S. Army and Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF), who partnered for a live-fire training exercise as a part of Breakthrough 2019 in June.

Breakthrough 2019 aims to identify the capabilities and limitations of the U.S. Army and HDF on a tactical level while in theater. During the exercise, firing systems are tested to demonstrate multi-echelon interoperability between both the U.S. and Hungarian military forces. This provides an opportunity to observe the synchronization and execution of both manned and digital firing upon specified targets within a tactical environment.

“We are grateful to our strong NATO ally Hungary for hosting this outstanding training event,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe.” We appreciate the coordination and planning conducted by all of our allies and partners in the Balkan peninsula that ensured the success of this exercise.”


Breakthrough 2019 promotes regional stability and security while increasing readiness.
Units such as the 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion from Ohio and New Hampshire National Guards worked along with Hungarian Defense Forces.

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Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, salute the raising of the American flag during the opening ceremony of Breakthrough 2019

(Photo by Spc. Joseph E.D. Knoch)

“The exercise brings together the Ohio Army National Guard and other National Guard units from four other states to exercise with U.S. Army Europe’s 2d Cavalry Regiment,” Lt. Gen. Cavoli said. “We are strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. Our combined training grants an opportunity to greatly improve interoperability among participating allies and partners such as the HDF.”

All of Breakthrough 2019 is set up as a joint training exercise which is designed to afford U.S. and Hungarian military units of similar skill set the chance to work together in a field environment.

“One of the Army’s top priorities is training with allies and partners to improve multinational cooperation,” said Lt. Col. Davis Ulricson, 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard. “I don’t think we’ve ever waged a war on our own. So if we don’t exercise together, we don’t understand each other, how we work together, or what our capabilities are, then we can’t be effective. So it’s important that we come together and exercise these things by really working together and understanding each other.”

Ulricson expressed his support for the opportunity that Breakthrough 2019 is affording his soldiers who brought, M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) all the way from New Hampshire in order to shoot with the Hungarian cannon unit.

“That’s pretty exciting,” Ulricson said. “It’s good for my Soldiers to understand cultures in other nations, meet other people and really just get to know people outside of their neighborhood, It makes them feel comfortable and fosters a trust that allows us all to do our jobs better.”

The Hungarian Defense Forces were quick to affirm Breakthrough 2019 in a positive light.

“It’s very important, the cooperation between the Americans and the Hungarian Defense Forces,” said Brig. Gen. George Sandor, Artillery Battalion, Hungarian Defense Forces.

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Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, calls for fire during Breakthrough 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Nyatan Bol)

Cavoli said that no nation can confront today’s challenges alone, and Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the U.S. resolve to stand side-by-side with our NATO allies and partners.

The interoperability of Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the realistic challenges of multi-domain exercises, which are orchestrated in order to learn how these armies are capable of fighting together.

“Breakthrough 2019 showcases the U.S. Army’s ‘Total Army’ concept,” Cavoli said. “Breakthrough demonstrates our ability to conduct combined field artillery operations with the Hungarian Defense Forces, which builds our interoperability and collective readiness.”

Exercises like Breakthrough involve the U.S. Army’s ability to move units and their equipment from the United States, offload them into European ports and then move them quickly throughout the region.

“In coming to Breakthrough 2019, readiness was our priority,” Ulricson said.

In sharing the real aspects of preparing a unit for an undertaking such as this, Ulricson said that a large portion of the work comes down to paperwork and online training for his soldiers. But he also shared that there are many aspects to preparing such as cultural awareness training, equipment inspections and tactical training, among other things.

“The movement here from New Hampshire lasted most of the year,” Ulricson said.

The 197th first had to prepare every piece of equipment, and every vehicle for the trip. Then a long series of events had to unfold. The vehicles were placed on a train to Charleston, then put on a boat and shipped to Slovenia, where they offloaded and driven by the unit the rest of the way to Hungary.

“It was an amazing effort. All in all, this is a lot of coordination and work from the people who keep this unit moving.” Ulricson said.

That same dedication and work ethic remained evident.

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U.S. Army Lt. General Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe, receives a briefing from Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, while observing a live fire exercise as part of Breakthrough 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph E. D. Knoch)

“One of the biggest challenges was getting into the vehicles after having not seen them for so long and running communications checks to make sure that everyone was up and ready so that vehicles didn’t break down on the road.” said 2nd Lt. Taylor Mitchel, Platoon Leader, Bravo Battery, 3rd 197th Field Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard.

On the day of the live fire, Lt. Col. Ulricson explained that part of that day’s mission was to shoot one M142 HIMARS round each out of four separate MLRS within a tight time frame of just several seconds. The rockets would then travel close to the speed of sound to an impact area.

Mitchel said one of his favorite parts of this mission was the opportunity to plan and strategize.

“Especially in situations like where our launcher chiefs are coming out and finding places to hide, engage and deploy,” Mitchel said. “It showed a lot of the new guys, especially myself, who haven’t deployed, the process that is behind the deployment; moving an element of individuals as well as the equipment out to a battlefield area so that we can operate in that environment.”

He said another personal highlight to working in the POC and directing fires was finally seeing the HIMARS, that he helped call out, go off right next to him.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling as well as very humbling because of the power and teamwork that goes behind getting that rocket down range where it needs to be, it’s awesome,” Mitchel said.

As breakthrough 2019 came to a close Brig. Gen. Sandor shared his thoughts on the overall success of the training.

“Breakthrough 2019 was very useful,” said Sandor. “This exercise provided an opportunity to address differences between Hungarian and American military weapons, which has resulted in a more unified tactical preparedness between the two countries.”

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

Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

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WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

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Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

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PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudis ramp up oil production to hurt Iran and Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has told him Riyadh will ramp up oil production in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.

The Saudi government confirmed the two leaders had spoken about global oil markets, but made no mention of any agreement for Riyadh to increase production.

The June 30, 2018 conversation comes as oil prices have ticked upward following Trump administration pressure on allies to stop buying oil from Iran.


In a post to Twitter, Trump said Salman had agreed to an increase, but did not indicate a time frame for the possible 2 million barrels.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump said in a June 30, 2018 tweet.

Trump added: “Prices to high! He has agreed!”

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

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of May 5

Memes call! Find your favorites, share them with your buddies, or don’t. We’re not your supervisor.


1. A training video on “Abdominal Circumference” may actually help some units (via Air Force Memes Humor).

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And Troy McClure videos would be a huge upgrade from all these Powerpoints.

2. Being outside a firefight without your rifle is worse than being in a firefight with it (Weapons of Meme Destruction).

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Feels like death, and might be worse.

3. Allow the E4 to teach you a little about the military (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Starting with: Never go back to the unit right away.

4. Back blast area clear!

(via Team Non-Rec)

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Gonna be hard to explain this to the homeowner’s association the next morning.

5. It’s always embarrassing to remember that next generation’s history books will include this generation’s actions (via Decelerate Your Life).

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At least you can write some of the histories ahead of time.

6. Will pay to see “You’re Welcome” parody with Coast Guard swimmers (via Coast Guard Memes).

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The Coast Guard used this exact same pun two years ago while talking about teaching rescue swimmers to swim.

7. Senior enlisted problems:

(via Terminal Lance)

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Decisions, decisions. Sorry, junior Marines.

8. Some NCO better fix that little guy’s gig line (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Can’t tell if the label in the top right corner is from the past or future …

9. Last guy to switch from BDUs is definitely the first guy to crack a beer (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

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Love the shades.

10. Your recruiter lied to you (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Better volunteer for some cool-guy schools and get into some high-speed units.

11. Kinda hard to take the new guy on a welcome-to-the-unit bender if someone has to make him a fake ID first (via Military World).

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Highly recommend ordering the apple juice so at least no one else in the bar can tell.

12. It’s all about composite risk management (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Dirt raking is dangerous.

13. Remember all those grinning, proud faces when all the boots got their new uniforms?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

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Of course, those uniforms get pretty salty before the end of the contract.

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