The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Robert Wilkie, President Donald Trump’s’ nominee to become the next VA Secretary, said June 27, 2018, that he was against “privatization” of VA health care and would work to break the bureaucratic logjams on wait times and benefits appeals.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wilkie also rejected allegations that he supported “racially divisive” issues in his private life and in his past work as a staffer for conservative senators.


Wilkie said he had previously attended events of the Sons of Confederate Veterans involving the display of Confederate flags but said he “stopped doing any of those thing at a time when that issue became divisive.”

He said that former President Barack Obama had sent a wreath to a Southern heritage event, an episode noted in a Washington Post report.

Wilkie also dispute the charge that in the 1990s he marked up draft legislation calling for young women to finish high school before they qualified for welfare.

Wilkie, who was working at the time for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Lott and other staffers made changes in the legislation.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
Trent Lott, Senator from Mississippi.

When asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, whether he believed women should have to graduate from high school to receive government benefits, Wilkie said, “that would never enter my mind.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Wilkie he expected his nomination to be confirmed, but added that Wilkie had worked for a “very racially divisive senator,” meaning the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.

“[And] you were appointed to this job by a very racially divisive president,” Brown said.

In his opening statement, Wilkie said that there were no excuses for failing to address the VA’s problems after Congress gave the department nearly $200 billion in funding and passed the VA Mission Act to overhaul and consolidate the VA Choice Program on private health care options for veterans.

Wilkie said he favored private and community care when the VA could not meet the needs of the veteran, but added that he was opposed to privatization and would keep the Veterans Health Administration fully funded.

If confirmed, Wilkie said his goal would be to make the VA more “agile and adaptive” to meet the needs of a changing veterans population.

“It is clear that the veterans population is changing faster than we realize,” he said. “For the first time in 40 years, half of our veterans are under the age of 65. Of America’s 20 million veterans, 10 percent are now women. The new generation is computer savvy and demands 21st Century service — service that is quick, diverse and close to home.”

Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, had been undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness when he was moved over to the VA in March 2018 as acting Secretary after Trump ousted then-VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants ‘Space Force’ to be its own military branch

While speaking to US Marines in San Diego on March 13, 2018, President Donald Trump suggested creating a branch of the military for space.


“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at Miramar Air Station. “We may even have a Space Force.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space,” Trump said. “I said ‘maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the space force.’ And I was not really serious, and then I said ‘what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.'”

“That could happen, that could be the big breaking story,” Trump said. “Look at all those people back there,” Trump said, pointing to the media in the background. “Look at them… Ohhhh, that fake news.”

Related: Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
(Photo by garysan97/Flickr)

While Trump appears to have wandered into the issue in his speech, the idea is not new.

The Congressional Strategic Forces Subcommittee even proposed creating such a branch in July 2017, which they called Space Corps. But the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that passed in November 2017 actually banned it.

Also read: This is President Trump’s military wishlist for 2019

The proposed Space Corps would have fallen under the Air Force branch.

Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, however, said in February 2018 that he expects such a force to be built in three to five years, according to Defense News.

Supporters of the Space Corps have argued that it’s needed to counter Russia and China’s desire to build anti-satellite weaponry.

MIGHTY TRENDING

UN wants to know who supplied that massive rifle shipment

UN inspectors are examining more than 2,500 AK-47 rifles and other guns seized by the crew of a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Yemen to determine whether the weapons originated in Iran or Somalia.

U.S. authorities said they invited the UN inspectors on board on Oct. 25, 2018, to determine whether the weapons provide proof that Iran is smuggling arms to allied Shi’ite Huthi rebels that are battling the Yemeni government in a four-year civil war. Iran has denied providing weapons to the Huthis.

The United States — in debates at the United Nations — has repeatedly charged Iran with illegally smuggling weapons to the Huthis, in violation of UN resolutions against arming the Huthis.


Yet U.S. forces patrolling the waters around Yemen have managed to seize only a handful of weapons caches like the one seized by the USS Jason Dunham in late August 2018.

“It’s one big traffic corridor,” Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, told reporters on board the vessel on Oct. 25, 2018, speaking of the Gulf of Aden and other waterways around Yemen.

Stearney declined to say if he thought Iran was responsible for the weapons seized by the Dunham’s crew, but he said the UN inspectors were experts on illicit weapons from Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)

The U.S. destroyer’s crew while on patrol in the region in August 2018 noticed large bags being transferred from a dhow about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen into a smaller skiff. A dhow is a traditional ship that commonly sails the waters of the Persian Gulf region.

The Navy ship intercepted the skiff and, after talking to the crew on board, determined they were smuggling weapons.

The rifles, in bundles of four or five, were wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in styrofoam and hidden in green burlap bags, according to Navy Commander John Hamilton, commander of the Dunham.

A small number of reporters on board the ship were allowed to see the assault rifles, which were heavily rusted after nearly two months at sea. The weapons had been unpacked and piled up, and were ready to be inspected by the UN team.

Hamilton said the crew on the dhow told them they were carrying flour and wheat, but he said none of the foodstuffs were found on board.

Navy Captain Adan Cruz, commodore of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the weapons could have been shipped from Somalia rather than Iran. The UN inspectors, he said, will determine the guns’ origin and “see first-hand the weapons flowing into the region.”

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in calling for a crackdown on Iran at the UN, has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying the Huthis. in 2017, she displayed the remnants of missiles that the Huthi rebels fired at Saudi Arabia, which is backing the Yemeni government in the civil war, saying they provided “undeniable evidence” that Iran was illegally supplying weapons to its Yemeni allies.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US Air Force A-10 accidentally fired off a rocket over Arizona

A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.

The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.

The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.


The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.

Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)

At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.

While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.

A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.

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

Articles

One of America’s top enemies in the Iraq War just won big in Iraqi elections

For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.


In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
For most of the Iraq War, however, he was intent on blowing Sunnis apart.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.

Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.

“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”

Some American veterans of the 2003-2011 Iraq War are not happy with his 53-seat win.

Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.

Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
Ask Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, Bob Dole, Etc.

The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.

“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.

Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.

American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
And yet, here we are.

The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.

Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.

MIGHTY FIT

Do you need a Drill Instructor in your civilian life?

Remember your initial indoc school to the military? I do: It was hot and heavy, and not in a good way, like at a rave or water park. You were asked in a short period of time to learn the entire guiding doctrine of your service of choice, so much so that you could easily fold into the operational forces upon completion of the school.

That is no small task.

How was this accomplished? We weren’t given textbooks and told to read. We weren’t even put into classes and told to take notes. Nope.


The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

I’m just walking bro, no need to yell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship/Released)

We were taken under the wing of professionals who have already lived and breathed that which we were about to undertake.

I fully understand that that is a rose-colored-glasses approach toward the DI, MTI, RDC, or Drill Sergeant that you still have nightmares about. Hear me out though: an argument can be made that an instructor, who I’ll affectionately refer to as a “coach” from now on, is the one thing standing between you and your personal and professional goals.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

He wants you to hate him. It’s his coaching style.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

The research

The body of literature on the topic of coaching is dense and complicated, but suffice it to say that the question is not if a coach is effective. It’s how can coaches be most effective.

Two of the main factors discussed are attitude and control.

The attitude evoked by the person who is teaching you dictates how well you perform. You and your coach need to be on the same page. In your basic training, your “coach” did this whether you realized it or not. It was most likely in an “us vs. them” approach. Meaning your instructor made you want to prove him or her wrong. The dirty secret is that they wanted you to prove them wrong as well. #reversepsychology.

Control is simple. The person learning needs to have some sense of control over their outcome. In the beginning of your schoolhouse, undoubtedly you had little to no control. Over time, you were given choices and tasks that directly impacted whether or not you chose to be successful.

These are the fundamentals of great coaching in a high volume way.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Civilian life has its pitfalls too. Don’t wait until it feels like its too late.

(Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash)

Civilian life

The assumption of a coach is that you are going to get better, and faster than you would with no one helping. Eventually, you would have figured out the rules of the military well enough to “graduate” to the active forces, but it would not have been as cleanly or efficiently as it was with the guiding force of your instructor.

It’s quite common for former service members to decide they can do everything alone upon separation. That’s a mistake. We assume that we are now the commander of our own lives until we eventually hit a wall. Then we start looking for guidance.

Don’t wait for that moment.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Pro athletes know this truth. They can’t do it alone.

(Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash)

“No man is an island…” -John Donne

If you want to be an entrepreneur, find someone who has done it and learn from them. They will keep you from falling into all the typical pitfalls.

If you want to stay home and raise a family, read from the best and learn from your friends and family that have the types of children you want.

If you wanna get in killer shape, find someone who makes that happen for people.

Don’t waste your time.

You are always in the basic training of something.

Don’t spend more time on Parris Island getting eaten by sand fleas than necessary. Find and follow the coach that will lead you past your goal.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

How would he know where to crawl if it wasn’t for explicit guidance?

(Photo by David Dismukes)

Tips for finding a keeper

For many service members, the whole reason they get out is because they are sick of other people telling them what to do.

Now you have the choice as to what type of person you want to get your guidance from. If you don’t like the volatile gunny with bad breath and a worse temper, you don’t need to work with him anymore. Here are five things to look for in your coach of choice for any endeavor you may have.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

This kid knows what’s up. What’s his economy of force coach?

(Source: pixabay.com)

  1. Attitude: Find someone who has a similar attitude towards your goal that you have or hope to develop.
  2. Control: Look for someone who allows you to maintain control over your life. Someone that guides instead of mandates.
  3. Save time: The whole purpose is to find someone who gets you where you want to get faster with less time wasted. Don’t spend more time digging a hole than is necessary.
  4. Feel happier: Happiness is subjective. You need not be smiling the entire time. You simply want to feel like you are making progress that you can be proud of.
  5. Find your economy of force: A great coach will show you where to employ the bulk of your effort and show you what tasks and practices you should approach with a minimum effective dose mentality.
The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unexpected downsides to deploying to a combat zone

Deploying is just one of those things every troop knows will happen eventually. There are two ways troops look at this: Either they’re gung-ho about getting into what they’ve been training to do for years or they’re scared that they’ll have to do what they’ve been training years to do for years. No judgement either way, but it’s bound to happen.

The truth is, combat only makes up a fraction of a fraction of what troops do while deployed. There are some troops who take on an unequal share of that burden when compared to the next, but everyone shares some of the same downsides of deployment.

Today’s troops have it nicer than those that came before them and some units may inherently have an easier time of things. Still, everyone has to deal with the same smell of the “open air sanitation pits” that are lovingly called “sh*t ponds.”


The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Yep. And the VA is still debating whether this is unhealthy or not.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)

Sanitation

Speaking of open pits of disposed human filth that are totally not going to cause health problems down the road, the rest of your deployment won’t be much cleaner.

Sand will get everywhere no matter how many times you sweep. Black mold will always creep into your living areas and cause everyone to go to sick call. That’s normal.

What’s not normal is the amount of lazy, disgusting Blue Falcons that decide that using Gatorade bottles as piss pots is more convenient than walking their ass to a proper latrine but get embarrassed by their disgusting lifestyle so they horde that sh*t under their bunk in some sick, twisted collection. True story.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

That is, if you can get to an uncrowded USO tent to actually talk to your folks back home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael)

OPSEC

Everyone knows they’re going to have to be away from their family, but no one really prepares you for the moments when you’re going to have to tell them you can’t talk a few days because something happened — “Comms Blackouts.” They’re totally normal and it freaks out everyone back home. it’s up to the troops to explain the situation without providing any info that would incur the wrath of the chain of command.

We’ve all heard the constant, nebulous threats. “The enemy is always listening!” “All it takes is one puzzle piece to lose the war!” Such concerns aren’t unfounded — and it leaves troops clammed up, essentially without anything interesting to talk about while deployed.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

I’m just saying, we’re doing you a favor by not saluting you where there could be snipers…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

Other units’ officers

Every unit falls under the same overarching rules as set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, if someone’s doing something that breaks said code, any troop can (and should) step in to defuse the situation. That being said, every unit functions on their own SOPs while downrange and there’s always going to be a smart-ass butterbar who raises hell about not being saluted in a combat zone.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Don’t worry, though. This guy will probably have a a “totally legitimate” copy of all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD.

(Official Marine Corps Photo by Eric S. Wilterdink)

Everything you’re going to miss out on

Being deployed is kind of like being put in a time capsule when it comes to pop culture. Any movie or television show that you would normally be catching the night of the release is going to end up on a long checklist of things to catch up on later.

To make matters worse, troops today still have an internet connection — just not a very good one. So, if some big thing happened on that show you watch, it’s going to get spoiled eventually because people assume that, after a few weeks, it’s all fair game to discuss. Meanwhile, you’re still 36 weeks away from seeing it yourself.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

You’d think this isn’t comfy. But it is.

(U.S. Army)

Sleep (or lack thereof)

Some doctors say that seven to nine hours of sleep are required for the human body to function. You will soon laugh in the face of said doctors. You’ll be at your physical peak and do just fine on five hours of constantly interrupted sleep.

War is very loud and missions occur at all hours of the day. What this means is just as soon as you get tucked in for the night, you’re going to hear a chopper buzz your tent while a barely-working generator keeps turning over which is then drowned out by the sounds of artillery going off. Needless to say, when the eventual IDF siren goes off, you’ll legitimately debate whether you should get out of bed or sleep through it.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Ever wonder why so many troops make stupid films while in the sandbox? Because we’re bored out of our freakin’ minds!

Boredom

The fact that you’re actually working 12-hour days won’t bother you. The fact that you’re going to get an average of five hours of sleep won’t bother you. Those remaining seven hours of your day are what will drive you insane.

You could go to the gym and get to looking good for your eventual return stateside. You could pick up a hobby, like learning to play the guitar, but you’d only be kidding yourself. 75 percent of your time will be spent in the smoke pit (regardless if you smoke or not) and the other trying to watch whatever show is on at the DFAC.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

“Oh, look! It seems like everyone came back from deployment!”

(U.S. Army)

All that money (and nothing to spend it on)

Think of that episode of The Twilight Zone where the world’s end comes and that one dude just wants to read his books. He finally finds a library but — plot twist — he breaks his glasses and learns that life is unfair. That’s basically how it feels when troops finally get deployment money. It’ll be a lot more than usual, since combat pay and all those other incentives are awesome, but it’s not like you can really spend any of it while in Afghanistan.

If you’re married, that money you’re be making is going to be used to take care of your family. Single troops will just keep seeing their bank accounts rise until they blow it all in one weekend upon returning.

Articles

Tragic accident takes young Marine’s life at Camp Pendleton

A U.S. Marine was killed in a freak accident on August 4 after a tree fell on him during physical training at his California base.


Lance Cpl. Cody Haley, 20, was working out in a wooded area at Camp Pendleton with members of his unit when the incident took place. While on a run, the Marines tried to move a log they were unaware was holding up a dead tree, which fell on top of Haley and killed him, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Knapp

A native of Hardin, Iowa, Haley had deployed in 2016 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was awarded the National Defense Service medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service medal, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon, the Marine Corps said.

“We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of a member of the Marine Corps family, and we will do all we can to comfort the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased,”  the Corps said in a news release to the Marine Times.

The incident is under investigation, according to CBS 8.

Articles

Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.


Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
Marines, veterans and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.

The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.

Articles

USS Zumwalt will return the honor for late Marine who escorted remains

James Zumwalt is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Operation Desert Storm. The son of the late Navy Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., he’s also a best-selling author, speaker and business executive. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.


The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
U.S. Navy photo

On Jan. 2, 2000, less than 48 hours into a new millennium, the U.S. Navy lost a 20th-century hero and revered, visionary leader.

Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., 79, had succumbed to mesothelioma — a lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, incurred during his naval career. He died at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.

As a grieving family focused on making preparations for a funeral to be held Jan. 10, 2000, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Marine Col. Michael Spiro stepped forward to escort the remains home.

Spiro had served as Zumwalt’s Marine aide, initially during the Vietnam war and later when the admiral was promoted to the Navy’s top position as (the youngest ever) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in the summer of 1970.

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, and Rear Admiral Robert S. Salzer, Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam, discuss their recent visit to Nam Can Naval Base as they fly to their next stop. May 1971. | US Navy photo

Zumwalt had been most impressed with Spiro’s professionalism and sense of duty. As CNO, the admiral was about to embark upon various programs that would shake up the naval service. He knew success turned on having a loyal staff in place to support his changes.

When Zumwalt asked Spiro to join him at the Pentagon, there was no hesitation on the colonel’s part. Immediately accepting, Spiro knew by doing so, time spent working for Zumwalt’s Navy was not time spent working in a Marine Corps billet to further his own career. Yet, driven by a sense of personal loyalty, Spiro answered the admiral’s call. The two men developed a close friendship.

As CNO, Zumwalt faced enormous challenges implementing changes that TIME magazine credited with bringing the U.S. Navy “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”

With re-enlistment rates at an all-time low in 1970, Zumwalt focused on making the Navy a much more people-oriented service. His changes eventually leveled the playing field for all serving — especially for long, over-looked minority service members.

Meanwhile, Spiro, who might well have gone on to make brigadier general had he elected to leave Zumwalt and take a Marine Corps command billet, opted instead to serve at his friend’s side.

Spiro was committed to helping Zumwalt achieve his goal — and with him, Zumwalt did. By the time the admiral retired in 1974, the Navy’s re-enlistment rates had tripled. The evidence the playing field for minorities has successfully been leveled today can be found by examining the faces of the Navy’s top leadership.

Although Spiro retired in 1976, he donned his Marine Corps uniform during the first week of January 2000 to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home from North Carolina.

Having become an Annapolis resident after his own retirement, Spiro, for years after the admiral’s death, often visited the gravesite. Brushing off winter leaves or recently-cut summer grass, Spiro occasionally left a rock on the headstone. The significance of this custom, lost to many today, is a sign of respect a friend had visited.

The year Zumwalt died, then-President Bill Clinton announced the Navy would build a new class of warship — unlike any other ever built. A stealth ship, it was to be the world’s largest destroyer. The ship would bear Zumwalt’s name.

Sixteen years after Clinton’s announcement, USS ZUMWALT became a reality. Built by General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works in Maine, this magnificent vessel is now to be commissioned Oct. 15, 2016, in Baltimore.

After her commissioning and official entry upon the Navy’s active ships registry, USS ZUMWALT will depart from Baltimore, undertaking a most unique mission.

Col. Spiro, 86, passed away on Nov. 28, 2015. As was his wish, he was cremated.

Upon the USS ZUMWALT’s arrival in Baltimore in October, Spiro’s son, Peter, will present his father’s remains to the ship’s commanding officer. Following her Baltimore departure, somewhere in route to her homeport of San Diego and at the mandatory distance offshore, USS ZUMWALT will come to a dead stop. The ship’s crew will then conduct a brief ceremony rendering Spiro final honors as the colonel’s ashes are committed to sea.

Sixteen years earlier, Col. Spiro was honored to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home. Later this year, the USS ZUMWALT seeks to return the honor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Victims of the 1983 Beirut bombing will finally be compensated

A federal judge has awarded a $920 million judgment to 80 victims of the 1983 bombing of a Beirut USMC barracks. The judgment is against the government of Iran for supporting Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for the bombing.


The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization
Wreckage and remains — USMC barracks, Beirut, 1983 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Cohen Milstein Sellers Toll PLLC, a national plaintiffs’ law firm, filed the lawsuit in 2014, suing Iran on behalf of the victims of the attack. While foreign nations are normally granted sovereign immunity from US lawsuits, Cohen Milstein argued that compensation is due under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows citizens to sue foreign countries if they are victims of state-sponsored terror. Cohen Milstein argued that Hezbollah perpetrated the attack at the direction and with the support of Iran.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the judgment after Iran failed to respond to the lawsuit, awarding roughly $207.2 million in compensatory damages and $712.8 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff group made up of service members injured in the Beirut attack and the estates and family members of those who perished.

The memory of the 1983 USMC barracks bombing in Beirut, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US military history, has surely been eclipsed in the minds of the American public by the horrors of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent drumbeat of terrorist bombings that underscores the Global War on Terror.  At the time, the Beirut bombing was considered by the FBI to be the largest car bomb attack ever and the largest non-nuclear detonation since WWII, but it’s likely that neither designation still applies.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush tours the bomb site, led by Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, for the families of the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers who lost their lives in the attack, the day still lives in infamy. Though Iran isn’t participating in the suit, the judgement gives the plaintiffs access to restitution from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was set up to provide compensation to the 53 Americans who were held captive for 444 days at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 – 1980, but was expected to extend to other victims of state-sponsored terror.

Several more lawsuits against Iran are ongoing.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Satellite snaps rare photo appearing to show Chinese submarine using secretive underwater cave at South China Sea base

A Planet Labs commercial satellite managed to capture a rare photo this week of a Chinese submarine at what observers believe is the entrance of a secretive undersea cave at a strategically important naval base.

The photo, first posted online by Radio Free Asia, appears to show a Chinese Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine at Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, The War Zone reported.

The important base sits at a strategic gateway to not only the contested South China Sea but also Taiwan and the Western Pacific.


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Chinese submarine at the entrance of Yulin Naval Base. Planet Labs Inc.

China likes to hide some of its strategic assets underground. For instance, the “Underground Great Wall of China” is the name given to the network of tunnels China is believed to use to store intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While the vast, hardened underground tunnel system offers a potential second-strike capability in the event of nuclear war, Dean Cheng, an Asian studies expert at the Heritage Foundation, told Insider that “it is also a way of deceiving your adversary to make sure that they have no idea how many of anything you have.”

In the case of Yulin Naval Base, submarines are most vulnerable at dock, so hiding them in underground tunnels, as has been done in the past, offers a certain degree of protection from potential adversaries, such as US Navy forces patrolling nearby.

“The benefit of underground berthing is it prevents overhead sensors like visual or electronic intelligence satellites from tracking submarine deployments to cue other surveillance and tracking assets like US submarines, patrol aircraft, and surface combatants,” Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider.

“These kinds of cues are important for US and allied intelligence gathering against adversary submarines, since they can be hard to find once they get to sea and submerge,” he added, explaining that Yulin’s location at the southern end of Hainan allows PLAN submarines to access deeper waters more quickly than other bases might permit.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese view information as a resource,” Cheng explained.

“They work very hard to make sure that all information is tightly controlled,” he said. “To their mind, it is always in their strategic interest to keep you guessing about where are my boats, how many boats do I have, and for you to be left wondering.”

“Imagine you’re playing football and all of a sudden, the other side puts 14 additional people out on the field,” he said. “Your entire playbook just went out the window.

“That’s how the Chinese view information more broadly,” Cheng said. “If I can hide things from you, when I suddenly reveal new capabilities, new numbers, you’re going to have to chuck your entire playbook that you’ve been training to, that you’ve been resourcing to, that you’ve been typically oriented toward, out the window.”

The tunnels at Yulin also make it difficult for an adversary to observe Chinese military preparations and intentions, Carl Schuster, former director of operations at US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN.

“You have no evidence of (the submarine’s) combat readiness, operational response times and availability,” he said. “Tunnels blind potential opponents to the submarines’ operating status and patterns, denying them the ability to determine the state of China’s military preparations, knowledge critical to assessing China’s intentions and plans.”

Yulin Naval Base has been operational for decades and houses nuclear-powered fast attack and ballistic-missile submarines, among other assets.

The most recent Department of Defense assessment of China’s military strength states that the “modernization of China’s submarine force remains a high priority for the PLAN.”

The Pentagon expects the submarine force to continue to grow, and China watchers say Chinese subs are becoming increasingly capable as the country modernizes its force, making it more of a threat to rivals.

The photo from Planet Labs appears to show a Shang-class submarine, one of China’s newer nuclear submarines. While the boats are considered “substantially noisier” than US Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines, “the Shangs have vertical-launch tubes for YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and could be a threat to US naval forces or logistics ships operating in the open ocean,” Clark said.

China is believed to have six of these submarines, some of which are based at Yulin.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

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Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

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