VA transitioning urgent care network managers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

VA’s goal is to give eligible Veterans who need same-day urgent care for minor illnesses or injuries as many avenues as possible at the right time, right place and right provider.

VA is transitioning its urgent care network managers on Sept. 1, 2020, from TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) to Optum Public Sector Solutions, Inc. (Optum), which is part of UnitedHealth Group, Inc.


The changes will take place in Community Care Network (CCN) Regions 2 and 3.

VA’s goal is for the transition to be seamless for Veterans. However, the change will result in new urgent care providers being added to its contracted networks while others may be removed.

Minor illnesses at in-network non-VA urgent care providers

Veterans have the option for urgent care treatment of minor injuries and illnesses such as colds, sore throats and minor skin infections at in-network, non-VA, urgent care providers. In addition, Veterans can receive same-day, urgent care treatment at VA medical centers.

Veterans who need urgent care may have the option to use telehealth (phone- or video-based visits) instead of in-person visits at VA or in-network community clinics. Telehealth allows Veterans to conveniently access health care at home while reducing their exposure to COVID-19.

“VA is committed to providing the safest and highest quality health care to Veterans, whether they are receiving their care within VA or in the community,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care, Dr. Kameron Matthews.

Veterans required to pay for out-of-network providers

VA can only pay for urgent care if the provider is part of VA’s contracted network. Veterans who go to an out-of-network urgent care provider must pay the full cost of care.

The change in network management will also affect pharmacies. Veterans who require urgent care prescriptions of 14 days or less can find an authorized in-network provider or contact their local VA medical facility to identify a VA network pharmacy to avoid paying out-of-pocket costs.

States where changes will impact Veterans

The change will impact Veterans in the following locations: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Veterans in these states or U.S. territories who need urgent care should use VA’s facility locator or contact their local VA medical facility for help identifying in-network urgent care providers.

Through this unified system, VA continues to deliver care for Veterans at VA and in the community.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations command, said on Tuesday that the US and its allies in the fight against ISIS had killed more than 60,000 of the terrorist group’s fighters.


That estimate was considerably higher than the 50,000 ISIS-dead estimate given by US officials in December.

Thomas, whose command includes Navy SEALs and the Army Special Forces, was cautious in his remarks but held up the total as a sign of the anti-ISIS campaign’s impact.

Related: SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” he said, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, DC.

“So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific,” he added.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

The increase between December and now may be attributable to stepped-up campaigns in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, but body counts are generally considered a dubious metric for a number of reasons.

In the case of ISIS, it’s difficult to first assess just how many fighters the terrorist group has.

According to Military.com, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in 2014 that ISIS had 100,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, while the Pentagon said in summer 2016 that there were just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in those two countries.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers
Statistically, most of these guys are probably dead.| Photo via Flickr

Complicating matters is the UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon’s estimate of the number of ISIS slain. “More than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed,” Fallon said in December.

Differing assessments of ISIS’ manpower are likely to make it more difficult for the Trump administration and its allies to develop an effective strategy to counter the terrorist group.

Body-count assessments also have a bad reputation as a relic of the Vietnam War, when rosy estimates, often made by officers angling for promotions, earned scorn.

During the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government reversed its policy on body counts more than once.

A body-count figure released by the Obama administration in mid-2015 was undercut several times.

“These are the types of numbers that novices apply,” a US military adviser told The Daily Beast at the time.

Chuck Hagel — who served as US defense secretary prior to Ash Carter — has also recently dismissed the policy of keeping body counts.

“My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in December. “Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?”

“References to enemy killed are estimates, not precise figures,” Christopher Sherwood, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told CNN. “While the number of enemy killed is one measure of military success, the coalition does not use this as a measure of effectiveness in the campaign to defeat ISIS.”

popular

Watch this 92-year-old World War II veteran bring the heat at a major league baseball game

Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.


On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.

See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian-backed separatists violate truce on New Year’s

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and two others wounded in clashes in the country’s east despite a fresh cease-fire agreement between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists.

The Defense Ministry said on Jan. 2, 2019, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire three times on Jan. 1, 2019, by firing guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces returned fire, killing one separatist and wounding four others.


The separatists accused Kyiv’s forces of violating the truce.

Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.

Fighting persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

A new truce between Ukrainian forces and the separatists took effect at midnight on Dec. 29, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 quick tips sergeants wished their new troops knew

Ah, the new soldier. A blessing for the command and an absolute nightmare for the first-line supervisor. You don’t know if they’re about to blow a few paychecks worth of money on strippers, salvia, or an overpriced Camaro. Worse, they could be the kind to hit on local girls and accidentally stumble into the first sergeant’s daughter. Here’s what the sergeant wishes the new kids would know before they even showed up:


VA transitioning urgent care network managers

It’s a Mustang. Try to look at it without buying one. At least for the duration of the article.

(Installation Management Command, Mr. Stephen Baack)

Seriously, don’t buy the car

OMG, you have a bonus check, and a few paychecks and so many people want to loan you money against your guaranteed government paycheck (unless you are in the Coast Guard, and then it’s mostly guaranteed but not totally, right?).

But you can Uber for a week or two and wait to buy a car you actually like at a decent price instead of getting the first Camaro you can see on the lot.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

Don’t care if you’re on Tinder or Grindr, just please do like, a day of due diligence before hopping in the sheets with ’em.

(U.S. Army Amy Walker)

Really, you don’t need to get laid right away

Yeah, it’s been a long time since you got some. Unless, of course, you were one of the folks hooking up with randos behind the port-a-potties at basic training during blue phase which, ew, gross. You need to get checked out.

If you can get some on your first week at a new duty base, congrats. If you happened to get some back home during leave, good work, but don’t jump through a bunch of stupid hoops to get a new notch in your belt here the first week. Feel free to take a couple of weeks to get the lay of the land, find out who’s likely healthy and who is or isn’t a good idea for a partner.

Stumbling into the first dark room you can find is a good way to trigger IEDs, not a good way to enjoy yourself.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

Please don’t let that be a mug of vodka. I mean, I know the dude in the photo is a sergeant and is experienced enough to handle it, but still. (For the record, it’s a water guy holding a mug of water.)

(U.S. Army Spc. Aaron Goode)

Drink in moderation

Yeah! You can finally drink again! Time to —!

No. Just no. Go get a couple of beers and sip on them. New soldiers drinking until they asphyxiate on their own vomit is the stupidest of cliches. Get drunk. Enjoy it. Get tipsy. Fall over once or twice.

Just don’t drive, and don’t keep drinking until you fall over a balcony. Please. Your NCO support channel has their own stuff to do this weekend that doesn’t include talking to the MPs about your untimely demise.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

Yeah, we weren’t gonna go out and take photos of signs outside the nearest base, so here’s a photo of a soldier who still carries coins in her pocket for some reason.

(U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Keenan)

Avoid literally any place that advertises to you

Don’t care if it says “We accept junior enlisted,” “Finance E-1 and up,” “All ranks welcome” — if it advertises to the military, you shouldn’t be there. Those signs are basically the equivalent of a “Free Candy” sign on the side of a van, and you’re the unsuspecting child.

Please, don’t get in the van.

If (s)he has a military dependent ID, (s)he’s not for you

It does not matter how many times he or she bats their eyes at you, flexes their pecks, or makes obscene gestures with their mouth while pointing at your belt, you are not to engage with them if there is a single sign that they might be the child of a military member or married to one (especially married to one).

Just go find a local hottie…or maybe set up an online dating account.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

Doesn’t even matter if your form isn’t perfect. Just do some d*mn sit-ups.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell)

Do like, four sit-ups every day

Yeah, you’re out of basic and AIT. Congratulations. But when your physical training drops to just the morning formations, there’s a chance that you’re going to start sucking every time you squeeze yourself into some overly tight PT shorts. So, please, for the love of all physical training regulations and military readiness, just do a couple of sit-ups every night before you nuzzle up to your PlayStation controller.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps’ amphibious assault vehicle in California bursts into flames with 15 Marines inside

An amphibious assault vehicle with 15 Marines inside burst into flames during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, California on Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.


Although the vehicle was engulfed in flames, all of the Marines were able to escape.

However, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to talk with reporters, said that at least three Marines were being taken by helicopter to a local hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.

The extent of their injuries is not yet known.

The training involved Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, an infantry unit situated at the northern end of the base at Camp Horno. The unit was carrying out a Combat Readiness Evaluation, the source added.

Camp Pendleton’s media relations office confirmed there was an incident involving an AAV fire on base, but directed questions to 1st Marine Division.

“All Marines are currently being treated for injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines and their families as they receive medical care. Officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at this time,” 1st Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Paul Gainey said in a statement.

This post will be updated as more details become available.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Veteran is unsung hero in COVID-19 battle

Army Veteran Kolan Glass is not a doctor or a nurse. Still, in the battle against COVID-19, he is one of the most critical employees at North Las Vegas VAMC. Glass is the primary housekeeper in the emergency department. After a Veteran has been released, Glass ensures the room is sanitized and prepared for the next patient.


“I clean every room as I would want it if I was the next patient to be staying in it,” says Glass. “I sanitize each room with my full attention.”

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

North Las Vegas VA housekeeper and Army Veteran Kolan Glass sanitizes the emergency department.

Using technology to ensure safety

Glass and his fellow housekeepers employ the latest technology to prevent infection. This includes a remote-controlled system that uses ultraviolet light to purify equipment, room surfaces and objects.

“Probably about 90 percent of us [housekeepers] are Vets,” he says. “That means we talk and we don’t panic. Sure, we’re dealing with a pandemic, but we still have to get the job done and keep everybody safe.”

Glass experienced first-hand how a viral outbreak can test the emergency department. In March, Glass came in contact with a COVID-19-positive patient. He and other employees were placed on a 14-day quarantine.

“I didn’t get nervous,” Glass says. “I understood it was a precautionary measure, but I was ready to get back to work.”

Glass’s supervisor recognizes his dedication and leadership.

“Even after he had to self-isolate from his family, and with the stress of waiting for testing results, he immediately picked up right where he left off,” says Jesse Diaz. Diaz is chief of environmental management safety (EMS) at North Las Vegas VAMC. “He’s been very vocal in educating the staff and his housekeeping peers in his area. He wants to develop a partnership with the clinical staff and EMS to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 infecting or impacting others.”

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

Articles

This Green Beret is starring in the first-ever story mode for ‘Madden 18’

For the first time ever, EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise will feature a story mode in “Madden NFL 18.” Called “Longshot,” the story is about overcoming all odds, not just winning football games or scoring the big contract.


“Longshot” is the story of Devin Wade, a quarterback who played at the University of Texas but joined the Army in the middle of his college career. While in, one of Wade’s commanding officers encourages him not to give up on his dream of starting in the NFL.

The captain in “Longshot” is played by a real Green Beret, whose story is very similar to that of Devin Wade. Army veteran Nate Boyer was a Special Forces soldier who played at Texas after leaving the Army.
“It was  a big coincidence that the storylines were so similar, especially with him going to University of Texas,” Boyer told We Are The Mighty. “Some things are switched around. Devin Wade went to college first and then joined the army and now is going back to try and play football in the NFL. But still, it was kind of weird.”

Boyer is joined in the cast by “Moonlight” and “Luke Cage” actor Mahershala Ali, who plays Devin’s dad, Cutter, as well as real pro players J.R. Lemon and Dan Marino.

Even the title “Longshot” resonates in Nate Boyer’s life. ESPN featured Boyer and his story in a piece called “The Longshot.”

ESPN’s feature documented then-34-year-old Boyer trying to get on the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper after leaving the University of Texas.

“When I came out of the army I was 29 and I never played football in my entire life,” Boyer recalls. “I just wanted to try and make the University of Texas roster. That was like my first goal: Just make the team.”

VA transitioning urgent care network managers
Boyer as a Green Beret in Iraq and later as a long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks.

Then Boyer wanted to get on the field. He did. Then he wanted to start. For three years, Boyer was the starting long snapper for the Longhorns. He even made Academic All Big-12 during his tenure.

Now Boyer will play Capt. McCarthy, U.S. Army. He’s part-mentor to Devin, part-life coach. Like Boyer, McCarthy pushes his troops to live without regrets – that they could do anything if they want it badly enough.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers

“Captain McCarthy was kind of like the voice in my own head,” says Boyer. “The good voice. The angel, not the devil on the other shoulder, sort of pushing myself and encouraging myself and wanting me to believe in myself.”

The story mode in “Madden 18” is a simplified version of the game, according to Kotaku. The plays are called by the computer and there are no time outs. You can only control Devin and whichever receiver gets the ball. But you do get to play a pick-up game in a deployed location.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers
(EA Sports)

To any aspiring “Devin Wades” out there who might be wearing the uniform of the United States right now, but who hope to wear an NFL uniform (or any uniform) in the future, Boyer recommends fearlessness and hard work.

“No matter what it is you’re interested in, if it’s something positive and it challenges you, just go for it,” he says. “Even if you’re a little afraid to pursue it, just put everything you have into it. Take the things you overcome and accomplish, the sacrifices you make, and apply that moving forward. The military is a stepping stone, not the pinnacle of your life. Find that next challenge.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

The movie 12 Strong arrives in theaters Jan. 19 and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. Special Forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in that country.


The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania sent shockwaves throughout the world. While the tragedy prompted responses of love and comfort, it also inspired a sense of resolve and retribution. In fact, the sun hadn’t even set on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center when the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. military, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command began planning a response. They would rain fire on the terrorists who had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans, and on the brutal regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered them.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers
Now-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers poses with Afghan fighters and warlords who opposed the Taliban. Fowers served on one of the first Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to arrive in Afghanistan following 9-11. Their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. (Photo courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers)

Task Force Dagger

It was soon clear that the initial operation, named Task Force Dagger, would involve bomb drops and small teams of special operators who would link up with local warlords and resistance fighters known collectively as the Northern Alliance. The task force would train and supply the Afghans, coordinating between the U.S. and the various ethnic groups — many of which were historic enemies of one another.

The Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) eagerly took on the mission, despite little available intelligence on Afghanistan, and despite the fact that few Soldiers could speak Dari or Pashtun. The task force picked up a few phrases pretty quickly and worked using three-way translations with other languages they already knew, such as Arabic, Farsi, and Russian.

“You had all of the emotions going on from 9-11,” remembered Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers, then a junior weapons sergeant on Operational Detachment A 574. It would be his first combat deployment, and his team wound up escorting future President Hamid Karzai into the country. “There was a lot of emotions, excitement, amazement. It was an extreme honor. Looking back on it now, it’s humbling. … It was a very privileged moment in our history to see how things unfolded and what so many are capable of doing.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

“We went carrying what we believed to be the hopes of the American people with us,” added Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, former USASOC commander, in a speech. In September 2001, he served as the 5th Special Forces Group (A) commander. “If there was any fear that we had, it was that we would be worthy of the American people … the people of New York, the people of Washington, the people of Pennsylvania, the people of our great country and all those … who lost people that day. So that was with us constantly, the fear that we would not be worthy of the American people.”

Knuckle-whitening flight

After almost two weeks of bombings, which kicked off Oct. 7, 2001, the first insertion was set for mid-October. As with any covert, nighttime flying operation, the dangerous mission was assigned to the Night Stalkers of the 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), “the finest aviators in the world, bar none” according to Mulholland.

But the mission to insert the Green Berets into Afghanistan, flying from Uzbekistan over the Hindu Kush mountains — which could reach up to 20,000 feet and caused altitude sickness — was something else. The weather, sandstorms, and a black cloud of rain, hail, snow, and ice was so bad it delayed the first insertion by two days until Oct. 19 — an eternity for men who pledge to always arrive at their destination on time, plus or minus 30 seconds. The weather could change from one mile to the next, from elevation to elevation, and continuously caused problems throughout Task Force Dagger.

VA transitioning urgent care network managers
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) poses in front of De Oppresso Liber, or the Horse Soldier, a 16-foot bronze statue honoring the work of Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in the last months of 2001. As a flight engineer on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook, Baker helped transport the first Special Forces teams into Afghanistan through horrible weather and in some of the most challenging flying conditions in history. (U.S. Army Special Operations Command photo by Cheryle Rivas)

“Just imagine flying when you can’t see three feet in front of you for a couple of hours, landing or hoping the weather would clear so you could refuel, and then flying through the mountains all the while getting shot at and hoping our (landing zone) was clear,” recalled Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker, now of the SOAR’s Special Operations Training Battalion. Fifteen years ago, he was a young, brand-new flight engineer on his first combat mission.

I was proud and scared. … There was a lot of stuff going on. There was bad weather. A lot of people compared those first missions to Lt. Col. (James) Doolittle in World War II because we were doing stuff no one had ever done before. … We had a mission to make sure these Soldiers got in. … It was my first time ever getting shot at. That’s a pretty vivid memory. … It was war. I don’t think I’ve ever been any closer to my fellow brothers-in-arms than I was then. All we had was each other.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.


That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.

“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.

The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.

Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.

The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.

“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”

The F-35B’s first landing on the Queen Elizabeth was in September 2018, as it sailed off the US coast. The Queen Elizabeth has since landed and launched British F-35Bs, but its first operational deployment, in 2021, will be with a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron.

“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.

“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”

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MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters on the Ford’s flight deck, January 16, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort

Time to think about the other things

The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.

The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.

“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.

The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.

The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.

Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e3254b862fa815fb35c65d2%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=493&h=384e6c5b70751f76d229c9cd0f02854785f7016281d63c9f1d320c0da2760e6f&size=980x&c=2815517446 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e3254b862fa815fb35c65d2%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D493%26h%3D384e6c5b70751f76d229c9cd0f02854785f7016281d63c9f1d320c0da2760e6f%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2815517446%22%7D” expand=1]

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, left, and an E/A-18G Growler on one of the Ford’s aircraft elevators before being lifted from the hangar bay to the flight deck, January 21, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist Seaman Jesus O. Aguia

The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”

“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”

The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”

“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.

Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.

The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.

“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”

The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.

But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.

“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says Iran will seek a deal to ease the pain of sanctions

U.S. officials are claiming that looming sanctions are putting economic pressure on Iran and helping to stir up street protests, with President Donald Trump saying he expects the economic “pain” to force Tehran to seek a deal with Washington.

“I know they’re having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing. But I will tell you this, at a certain point, they’re going to call me and they’re going to say, ‘Let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal. They’re feeling a lot of pain right now,” Trump said at a news conference in Brussels on July 12, 2018.


Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while attending a NATO summit in the Belgian capital, have been pushing European allies to increase the economic pain in Tehran by supporting the U.S. sanctions, which are due to go into effect on Nov. 4, 2018.

“We ask our allies and partners to join our economic pressure campaign against Iran’s regime,” Pompeo said in a tweet before meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

But Europe’s biggest economic powers — France, Germany, and Britain — have pledged to try to counteract the U.S. sanctions as part of their efforts to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which provided Tehran with sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May 2018 and announced the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions.

Pompeo has pointed to the recent arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a gathering of Iranian expatriates in Paris in trying to convince U.S. allies to join the Washington’s pressure campaign on Tehran.

“There’s no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence, and instability in one of our countries next,” he tweeted. “We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism and proxy wars.”

‘Malign Activities’

During a visit to Dubai on July 12, 2018, Sigal P. Mandelker, a U.S. Treasury undersecretary, said the economic pressures on Iran were helping fuel street protests and should prompt Tehran to stop what she called its “malign activities” in the Middle East.

“You’ve seen the Iranian people, of course, stand up loudly, at risk of their own lives, shouting in protest about the corruption that’s happening within Iran,” Mandelker said. “So much money has gone to support malign activities elsewhere, with very little focus on the economy itself.”

Iran’s support for the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hizballah, Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, and embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad all represent a “despicable use of Iranian revenue,” she said.

Since the United States moved to reimpose sanctions on Iran, the Iranian rial has plummeted to 78,500 to the dollar, nearly half the official exchange rate, while unemployment has remained high.

Economic protests swept the Iranian countryside at the end of 2017 and have occurred in recent weeks as well. Wildcat strikes and demonstrations have also erupted over water scarcity.

Promised billion-dollar deals with Western firms that emerged after the nuclear deal was signed have evaporated in recent weeks, with businesses citing worries about being penalized by the U.S. sanctions and cut out of the U.S. consumer market if they continue to operate in Iran.

Reuters reported that Iranian oil exports to India, Iran’s second largest customer for crude, fell by 16 percent in May 2018 as privately owned refineries cut back purchases even as state refineries increased purchases from Iran.

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After a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 12, 2018, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top adviser said Russian firms are prepared to fill in for some of the loss of business.

“Putin said that Russia is prepared to continue its oil investment in Iran at the level of billion. It means Russia is ready to invest this amount in Iran’s oil sector,” Ali Akbar Velayati told Iranian state television.

“This is an important amount that can compensate for those companies that have left Iran,” he said.

Velayati claimed that one of Russia’s major oil companies has signed a billion deal with Iran, which he said “will be implemented soon,” without elaborating.

“Two other major Russian oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, have started talks with Iran’s Oil Ministry to sign contracts worth up to billion,” he said.

Mandelker said the Trump administration was aiming to “very significantly reduce” Iran’s crude oil exports. She said the administration also wants to make sure allies shut off financial avenues Tehran could use to evade the sanctions.

“The world needs to be wise to the ways in which they move deceptively,” she said.

However, limiting Iran’s ways of evading sanctions could prove difficult in the Persian Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), in particular, has a large ethnically Persian population and a long history of trade with Iran.

Iran has already exploited the U.A.E.’s free economic zones to set up companies to acquire otherwise-prohibited materials, and a recent report found that Dubai’s luxury real-estate market offers a money-laundering haven for Iranians.

Moreover, Dubai has traditionally served as a hub for exports to Iran, with data showing such exports totaled .9 billion in 2017.

Despite these extensive ties, Mandelker said Washington has an “excellent partnership” with the U.A.E. and that “there’s no question in my mind that working together, we can take significant action to disrupt [Iran’s] ability to fund themselves.”

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

Articles

Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.


According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.

This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.

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Imagine what Amazon can do with MREs. (WATM Archives)

MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.

The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.

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Could MATS mean nobody has to have this any more? (WATM Archive)

The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.

“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

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MATS could make the MRE look like this K-ration above. (US Army photo)

One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.

Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.