VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 Veterans Health Administration staff have volunteered for more than 3,700 deployments to support Veterans and civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country.

Volunteers deploy through VA’s Disaster Emergency Personnel System (DEMPS), VA’s main program for deploying clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster elsewhere in the country. The all-volunteer assignments vary in skillsets, geographic locations and length of time for the support.

Many volunteers deploy multiple times

Sophia Didley, a nurse manager at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland, has deployed three times through DEMPS.

Didley, a 24-year Air Force Veteran, went to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. More recently, she deployed to assist with the COVID-19 response at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, a state Veterans home. She also deployed to the Waters Edge Healthcare Rehabilitation Center, a private rehabilitation facility, both in New Jersey.

Didley describes the DEMPS experience as similar to the military in the sense that you are volunteering at any given moment to go anywhere in the world, or in the case of DEMPS, the country.

These VA employees put aside their fears, leave their homes and families, and volunteer where they are needed most – to support their colleagues while caring for Veterans sick with COVID-19.

No truer definition of paying back Veterans for their service

“Most of the time your family is proud of you and fearful at the same time,” Didley said. “My friends were my cheerleaders. I was proud to be helping with this pandemic.”

To date, VA personnel have deployed to more than 49 states and territories to support VA medical centers with surges of COVID-19 cases and to provide support to state and community nursing homes.

VA staff are currently deployed to facilities and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional response coordination centers across Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ruth Ortiz, a respiratory therapist at the Gainesville VA Medical Center in Florida, has also been on three DEMPS deployments – all three in this year alone. At the beginning of the year she went to Puerto Rico for earthquake relief. Later in the year she traveled to New Orleans and then San Antonio for COVID-19 relief.

“You’re not really sure what you’re walking into when you get there,” Ortiz said. “Once you are presented to the department where you’re going to work, you’re given your assignment and you’re oriented and basically you hit the ground running. For New Orleans and San Antonio, I was working in their COVID ICU. So that was a very new and challenging experience for me.

“The DEMPS program is a very rewarding program. It is going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a very rewarding challenge. You’re going to use your skills and your knowledge in any type of critical care setting you might come into. It is just an amazing experience to be a part of.”

VA’s Fourth Mission – assisting the nation

Since its inception in 1997, the DEMPS program continues a long history of service and support. It has grown in scope and complexity. DEMPS volunteers deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also deployed to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For a period of four months in 2017, DEMPS deployed more than 1,200 staff in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The state and community support is provided as part of VA’s Fourth Mission to assist the nation in times of emergencies and disasters. During the pandemic, VA has supported states with direct patient clinical care, testing, education and training. We have provided more than 908,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and other resources. As part of Fourth Mission humanitarian support, VA has also admitted 376 non-Veteran citizens for COVID-19 care at VA medical centers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

What would it mean to aircraft carrier power projection and attack capability if its fighters could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?


Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?

While some of these questions may, upon initial examination, seem rhetorical or rather obvious — they are at the heart of a now very critical Navy effort to engineer a new carrier-launched re-fueler by the early to mid 2020s. The drone aircraft, it appears, could bring the promise of more than doubling the strike range of an F/A-18 or F-35C.

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(USAF photo)

With this end in mind, the Navy has recently released a draft Request For Proposal asking industry for design ideas, technologies and a full range of potential offerings or solutions which might meet the aforementioned criteria.

The concept of the effort, called the MQ-25 Stingray, is to fortify the Carrier Air Wing with a hack-proof unmanned refueler able to massively extend the strike and mission range of its on-board aircraft.

“MQ-25 is the next step in Navy’s integration of UAS into carrier strike group. The primary mission is a robust organic fueling capability to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters. The program has identified two KPPs for program: carrier suitability and mission tanking.” Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, told Scout Warrior in a statement several months ago.

A draft request for proposal will solicit input from industry developers regarding range, shape, speed, performance, avionics and sub-components – as part of a broader to find a synthesis between requirements envisioned for the aircraft and what is technically achievable within the desired time frame. The input will then be analyzed by the Navy in preparation for a formal Request For Proposal to advance industry competition.

The service previously awarded four development deals for the MQ-25 to prior to this draft proposal to industry by sometime this. Deals went to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman.

The process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What every soldier wishes they could vote on

Since the ultra-new and always-correct rules of social correctness have dictated that the only acceptable thing we can discuss or see online from now until election day is voting, we thought it only appropriate to create an article on everything the military wishes they could have some say in, but in reality, never will.

Appropriate labels for MRE sides and snacks.  

It is probably a good thing that MRE ingredients will always remain a secret. There is a big difference between assuming you are eating flame retardant and knowing it. If nothing else, soldiers should be allowed to suggest and vote on accurate MRE snack labeling.

Crackers to be re-labeled “desert sand molded to resemble inedible wafer.”

Bread to read “crust flavored chew toy similar to what you give your dog.”

Teriyaki beef sticks are really “tastes nothing like meat but we’ll fool you with the looks.”

All Captains must run for office

Enlisted ranks everywhere cannot wait to stand at attention for a “short” speech on what is inevitably to be an hour-long retelling of your life’s story. Imagine a world where Company Commander’s have to depend on how well they convinced Private I-just-want-to-go-play-XBOX-in-my-room of their ability to lead the Company. 

All we’re asking is a choice between two, maybe three twenty-somethings in charge of telling a 40-year-old First Sergeant how “in their experience” the Company should fix bayonets for every field problem and assault across that open field like it’s 1918.

Weapons spending 

In the movies, every soldier carries top-of-the-line gear straight out of a Bond film. Yet, actual soldiers know this could not be farther from the truth. Try driving your 1970’s vehicles into battle with a Desert Strom-era issued carbine with night-vision goggles straight out of the Cold War instead. The job definitely lacks sex appeal when you realize that the Army is nothing like Call of Duty.

While opting for a vintage-looking dress uniform (the second change and counting in less than a decade) seems to be the most pressing thing to spend money on up at the top, we’re betting the Infantry may have other suggestions. After all, uniforms don’t kill the enemy, weapons do!

Warning labels for MRE consumption 

You will only make the mistake once of consuming a new MRE flavor without first asking your veteran peers of the inevitable side effects unique to each meal. We think every soldier would benefit from putting up to date feedback on the packet. Besides, who wouldn’t love to vote on the year’s best review?

Beef taco
Severe explosive diarrhea is likely. Best consumed within crawling distance of a latrine.

Chili with beans
Days long blockage likely, leaving consumers with walking-fart syndrome. Public shunning period necessary due to lung health of the platoon.

Mandatory “fun day” funds 

Nothing says fun like mandatory fun. To kick off the only free day you will have in the foreseeable future, Company Commanders seem to think that there’s nothing better than a day full of mandated activities and awkward bonding over low-quality meat and the local grocery’s prepared foods section.

Ah, yes, much better than an actual day off. Especially when you are forced to spend it with the same group of people you see all day for five days straight every single week for years on end. Year after year the idea that soldiers possess the ability to have fun outside what is regulated continues to perplex leadership. Is this the year to hear the will of the people?

Term limits for CIF staff 

“This is dirty. Clean it and make an appointment to come back another day,” says the CIF employee with a shit-eating-grin about the still factory sealed part you just turned in. Good thing it was the last item you needed to turn in so you can clear CIF and PCS from the seventh circle of Hell you currently call home.

We’re not sure what the Training Manual on CIF Operations reads like, but find it likely that any study would show a correlation between the years a human spends at CIF and an increase in unrealistic, even psychopathic expectations. Save a soul, impose CIF term limits.

Holding a new private draft like schoolyard dodgeball

It’s no secret that standards at basic have slipped with each passing decade, resulting in Privates showing up to companies expecting amenities straight out of the Ritz. Nothing would bring more joy to sadistic Sergeants everywhere than to line up and publicly select incoming Privates to their unit like it’s the NFL draft. Perhaps a more accurate welcome to the company than what is currently in place would help the poor darlings adjust a little better.

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Israel is buying copter drones bristling with machine guns

The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.


According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.

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(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”

Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.

This has been done before. Last year, the Dallas Police Department used a modified bomb disposal robot to take out a mass shooter who had killed five police officers. The Marines have also begun to use robots to replace humans as “door kickers” in urban operations.

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An armed tracked drone with 40mm grenade launchers and a machine gun. (Photo from Qinetiq)

The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.

But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.

The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.

The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.

You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.

Articles

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. officials now admit they are hunting al-Qaida in new Afghan provinces, after nearly a decade of referring to the group as “decimated.”


“Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” President Obama roundly declared at his foreign policy debate with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The U.S. Department of State even claimed al-Qaeda was “severely degraded” in its 2016 country report on terrorism.

But the U.S. military is now hunting al-Qaeda leaders in seven different provinces, indicating a high level of growth since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. John Nicholson admitted to reporters yesterday.

Al-Qaeda operations have increased throughout Afghanistan since the end of U.S. combat missions in 2014. The U.S. assisted an Afghan-led operation in 2015 that destroyed the largest al-Qaeda training camp seen in the history of the Afghan war. U.S.-backed Afghan forces raided another al-Qaeda training base Sept. 19. The base was well stocked with weapons, suicide vests, and fake identification.

“The US government and the military has downplayed al Qaeda’s presence for more than six years, despite evidence that al Qaeda has remained entrenched in Afghanistan some 15 years after the 9/11 attacks,” The Long War Journal noted Saturday.

Nicholson indicated al-Qaeda is increasingly taking advantage of the security vacuum in Afghanistan in remote parts of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented battlefield gains against the U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014. The Afghan forces maintain control over approximately 70 percent of the country, according to testimony by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joesph Dunford before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday.

The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to use Afghan territory in the years leading up to 9/11 to plan attacks on the U.S. Al-Qaeda recognizes the leader of the Taliban as the true leader of the Islamic world. After the U.S. killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri immediately swore his allegiance to the new Taliban leader.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea fired 360 warning shots at violating Russian aircraft

When you’re the closest neighbor to a country like North Korea, you tend not to put up with a lot of provocative behavior from unfriendly countries. It should be no surprise that there’s a huge difference between how the United States and South Korea respond to violations of their airspace. The U.S. will send the most advanced fighters to intercept the perpetrator and escort them back to international airspace.

South Korea comes in guns blazing.


In late July 2019, Russian military aircraft, two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, flew into South Korea’s air defense identification zone off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. But the Russians didn’t stop there. The A-50 flew closer to South Korea, entering its airspace. In response, the South launched interceptor planes who scrambled into the area firing flares and live ammo at the intruder.

The Russian got the message and quickly evacuated the area – and maybe his pants. But he didn’t stay gone for very long. Just a few minutes later the Russian returned to South Korean airspace.

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The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bomber

Scrambled South Korean fighters again rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Russian A-50, this time with twice as many flares and many, many more rounds fired in the Russian’s direction. The Russians, of course, deny all of this.

“If the Russian pilots had identified such a threat to themselves, they would have immediately given an appropriate response,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash told Russian state news media.

Although it’s unclear what the “appropriate response” from the Russian fighters might be, the Russians did say their aircraft were flying over international waters and not violating any treaty obligations. Kobylash said the South Korean air defenses scrambled and merely escorted the Russians, but they did it over neutral airspace. He described the South Korean Air Force’s actions as “aerial hooliganism.”

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Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft.

No matter what the South Koreans did or did not do in the face of the Russian aircraft, South Korea lives in what has become a rough neighborhood in recent years, with provocations from North Korea increasing in number and in the severity of potential threats, along with a more aggressive China and Russian air and naval forces, South Korea takes its defense very seriously.

South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told Russia as much, saying another incident will warrant a much stronger response from the Republic. This was the first foreign military violation of its airspace since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Articles

UK lawmakers rule on Royal Air Force drone strike in Syria

British lawmakers say a U.K. man killed by a Royal Air Force drone strike in Syria was an Islamic State group attack planner who posed a “very serious threat” to Britain.


Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee scrutinized the August 2015 strike that killed Reyaad Khan and two others. It was the first such drone strike acknowledged by the British government.

Committee chairman Dominic Grieve said April 26 that intelligence assessments left “no doubt that Reyaad Khan posed a very serious threat to the U.K.”

But he said lawmakers still had questions about ministers’ decision-making, because some documents were withheld from the committee. Grieve said that was “profoundly disappointing.”

In January, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said it is legal to kill militants overseas if they pose an immediate or unstoppable threat.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers put new, more accurate rifle to the test

US Army sharpshooters recently field tested a new, more accurate sniper rifle out west, where these top marksman fired thousands of rounds and even when waged simulated warfare in force-on-force training.

Eight Army Ivy Division snipers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tested out the new M110A1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), an upgraded version of the current M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), at Fort Carson in Colorado, the Army revealed in a statement.


Comparatively, the new CSASS offers advantageous features like increased accuracy and reduced weight, among other improvements.

“The CSASS is smaller, lighter, and more ergonomic, as the majority of the changes were requested by the soldiers themselves,” Victor Yarosh, an individual involved in the weapon’s development, explained in summer 2018. “The rifle is easier to shoot and has less recoil, all while shooting the same round as the M110,” which fires a 7.62 mm round.

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A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Maj. Michael P. Brabner, Test Officer, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Operational Test Command)

“The CSASS has increased accuracy, which equates to higher hit percentages at longer ranges.”

The recent testing involved having the “snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” according to Maj. Mindy Brown, a US Army Operational Test Command CSASS test officer.

These types of drills are an “extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft,” Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, one of the snipers involved in the testing said.

The CSASS has not been fielded yet, but in 2018,Congress approved the Army’s planned .2 million purchase of several thousand CSASS rifles.

The Army began fielding the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R), distributing the weapon — a derivative of the CSASS — to a few select units for limited user testing last fall. The rifle “provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges,” the Army said.

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

Articles

USMC versus Peoples Liberation Army Marine Corps in the South China Sea

With tensions in the South China Sea simmering — and getting hotter (the People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American underwater drone) — the chances that America and China could come to blows are increasing. The fight could very likely be a naval-air fight, but there could also be the need for something not really seen since the Korean War: amphibious assaults.


The United States has the world’s preeminent military force in that capacity: The United States Marine Corps.

The People’s Republic of China turns to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps for its needs in this area. These two forces are similar in that both have a mission to deploy by sea to carry out operations on land.

The Chinese force, though, consists of two brigades in the South China Sea area, totaling 12,000 active-duty personnel, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Calling up reserves could boost the force to 28,000.

That force is arguably outmatched by the USMC’s III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based out of Okinawa. A typical MEF has over 50,000 Marines, and features both a division and an air wing.

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U.S. and Chinese Marines shoot the type-95 rifle in a joint training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy J. Harper)

The Chinese Marines are equipped with armored vehicles, notably the Type 59 main battle tank and the Type 63A amphibious tank. The former is a knockoff of the Soviet T-55, carrying a 100mm gun.

The latter is an interesting design, equipped with a 105mm main gun, which holds 45 rounds, but capable of swimming to shore. China also has large stocks of Soviet-era PT-76 and indigenous Type 63 amphibious tanks in its inventory as well.

The Marines have the M1A1 Abrams tank, which is not amphibious. That said, this is a very tough tank that has deflected shells from more powerful tank guns from 400 yards. Against the Type 63A, it would easily survive a hit and then dispatch the tank that shot at it.

While the Type 63A can swim to a battlefield, it trades protection for that ability. The result is that its thin armor can be easily penetrated, and that is bad news for its crew.

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Chinese Type 63A amphibious tank, complete with a 105mm main gun. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The tank disparity is not all that would hamper the Chinese Marines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy did not see fit to provide the Chinese Marines with any organic aviation. III Marine Expeditionary Force has the 1st Marine Air Wing, a powerful force that includes a squadron of F/A-18D Hornets, KC-130J tankers, and AH-1Z attack helicopters. That does not include units that rotate in from the United States, including AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18C Hornets.

In short, the United States Marine Corps brings in over 240 years of tradition, as well as far greater manpower, resources and capabilities. At present, if the United States wants China off of its unsinkable aircraft carriers, the American leathernecks would, in all likelihood, succeed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA passed a major milestone March 7, 2019, in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.


“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”

Splashdown of SpaceX Crew Dragon, Completing Demo-1 Flight Test

www.youtube.com

Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test designed to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission began March 2, 2019, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of “firsts” in less than a week.

  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.
  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.
  • First autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft’s return journey and ocean splashdown.

“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly. It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

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Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast.

(NASA Television)

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test – a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft. After SpaceX processes data from this mission, teams will begin refurbishing Crew Dragon for its next mission, an in-flight abort test targeted to take place this summer. Demo-2, the first crewed test flight, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the spacecraft’s final flight to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

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NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“For the first time, we’ve gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we’ve brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we’ve gotten to see how they all work together, and that’s very important as we move toward putting people onboard,” said NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will crew SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2. “I’m, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle.”

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

Ivan Slyshkin was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, but his name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists.


That’s because he was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.

Also Read: Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

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‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

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Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call
Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call
Graham and Charley in Bayeux

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call
On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps excited for full-rate production of G/ATOR system

The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.

“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”


G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.

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U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)

The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.

As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.

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