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 urgentcare 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 careprescriptions 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.
In the 121st iteration of their rivalry, the Black Knights will face off against the midshipmen next Saturday in the Army/Navy game brought to us by the great folks at USAA. The game marks the end of the regular college football season and is expected to be one of the year’s best. This year’s game will be played at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. West Point isn’t an unusual location since most Army-Navy games are played in the northwest region of the country. The only two exceptions of the entire series are the 1926 game in Chicago and the 1983 game in Pasadena, California. This year’s game is the first time it’s been played on campus in several years, so expectations that the Black Knights win are high.
Even though the Black Knights will have a home-field advantage, the midshipmen have historically proven that they’re the superior team. Not only does the Navy hold the largest victory – 51-0 in the 1973 game, but the midshipmen also hold the longest winning streak, having successfully defended their title for 14 years in a row, from 2002 to 2015. Overall, the Navy leads the series with 61 leads, 52 losses, and just seven ties.
The Army/Navy rivalry dates back to 1890 when cadet Dennis Michie accepted a football challenge from the Naval Academy. The two football teams faced off at West Point for the first game on November 29, 1890, and have met every year since 1930.
But this interservice rivalry football game isn’t just about the game. It’s also about the uniforms and what they mean to the players who are wearing them.
Last weekend, the Army released the uniform the Black Knights will be wearing. The “Tropic Lightning” uniforms were constructed to honor the 25th Infantry Division and their efforts during the Korean War. The 25th ID was the second unit to arrive on the Korean Peninsula and participated in some of the Korean War’s most difficult battles. The Division is known as the Wolfhounds because it served with the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia during WWI.
The Army website says that the uniforms help embody the spirit of the soldiers from the 25th ID. “Among their division, the wolfhounds struck fear into their enemy with their ferocious fighting nature in combat.”
To celebrate the Navy’s 175th anniversary, the midshipmen’s uniforms were inspired by history. The Navy website says that the midshipmen will be wearing uniforms inspired by “historic architecture.” The uniforms have been crafted to highlight “the marble stone pattern featured in its landmark buildings: the Naval Academy Chapel and Bancroft Hall.” To be fair, the midshipmen will look like marble because of the “high contrast of the white veins on the navy stone,” an aesthetic effort that’s supposed to create the feeling of “whitecaps on the rough open seas.”
These Ocean Camo uniforms might not have the history of the 25th ID as their impetus, but they were designed with a nod to history in mind – especially to the Navy’s history. The blue and white pattern is supposed to reflect the Naval Academy grounds and is a subtle nod to both John Paul Jones and George Bancroft. Jones was a Naval Commander during the Revolutionary War, and Bancroft founded the Naval Academy.
No matter if you’re a Go Army, Beat Navy! family or if you’re staunchly flipped, the game is going to be worth watching, if only because it honors the tradition of this fantastic interservice rivalry. The game will be streamed on CBS at 3pm local time.
North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.
“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”
USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”
Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.
“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”
According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.
“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.
As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.
The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.
Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.
Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.
Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.
“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).
Sure, everyone wants to get off for the weekend so they can celebrate the big win by Delta and raise a toast to the operator we lost this week. Here are 13 memes to keep you chuckling until release formation:
Robert Swan Mueller III is perhaps best known as the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is now responsible for the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
But before he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the position of FBI Director, Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War. As the Washington Post attested, Mueller’s service was brief but remarkable. He studied politics at Princeton University, where he met lacrosse teammate, David Spencer Hackett, who would be killed by enemy fire in Quang Tri Province on April 30, 1967.
“But many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be, even before his death. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of Princeton. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of battle as well. And a number of his friends and teammates joined the Marine Corps because of him, as did I.”
Mueller applied for Officer Candidate School and would train at Parris Island, Army Ranger School, and Army Airborne School. As a Marine, Mueller’s attendance in elite Army training was a testament to his proficiency — the positions were highly competitive and reserved for the best.
Mueller deployed to Vietnam with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, a unit that was decorated for two particularly intense battles. In December 1968, Mueller, then a 2nd lieutenant, would receive the Bronze Star Medal with the “V Device” for his valor during combat.
According to his citation, Mueller was the lead element in a patrol that fell under attack when he “skillfully supervised the evacuation of casualties from the hazardous area and… personally led a fire team across the fire-swept terrain to recover a mortally wounded Marine who had fallen.”
In April 1969, Mueller was shot in the thigh during an ambush, but maintained his position and ensured fire superiority over the enemy and defeated the hostile forces. For his actions that day, he received the Purple Heart and a Navy Commendation Medal for valor. He remained in Vietnam despite his wounds, however, and continued to serve after his recovery.
Mueller separated as a captain in 1970, and would be inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2004, where he was credited with leading the FBI “through the dramatic transformation required in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.”
“I do consider myself fortunate to have survived my tour in Vietnam. There were many – men such as David Hackett – who did not. And perhaps because of that, I have always felt compelled to try to give back in some way,” Mueller said in his 2013 commencement speech. “The lessons I learned as a Marine have stayed with me for more than 40 years. The value of teamwork, sacrifice, and discipline – life lessons I could not have learned in quite the same way elsewhere.”
The U.S. Navy and numerous NATO partners are developing a new, high-tech ship defense weapon designed to identify, track and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles and other threats, service officials explained.
The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II, or ESSM, is a new version of an existing Sea Sparrow weapons system currently protecting aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, amphibious assault ships and other vessels against anti-ship missiles and other surface and airborne short-range threats to ships, Navy officials said.
The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can achieve improved flight or guidance to its target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, said Raytheon officials.
The ESSM uses radar technology to locate and then intercept a fast-approaching target while in flight; the use of what’s called an “illuminator” is a big part of this capability, Raytheon officials said.
The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.
Block 2 relieves the missile from the requirement of having to use a lot of illuminator guidance from the ship as a short range self-defense, senior Navy officials have said.
A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target, Raytheon weapons developers have explained. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon official added.
The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance.
“The ESSM Block 2 will employ both a semi-active and active guidance system. Like ESSM Block 1, the Block 2 missile, in semi-active mode, will rely upon shipboard illuminators,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng, Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
Also, the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Navy officials explained. The so-called kinematic or guidance improvements of the Block 2 missile give it an improved ability to counter maneuvering threats, Navy and Raytheon officials said.
ESSM Block 2 is being jointly acquired by the U.S. and a number of allied countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey. All these countries signed an ESSM Block 2 Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, designed to solidify the developmental path for the missile system through it next phase. The weapon is slated to be fully operational on ships by 2020.
“The ESSM Block 2 will be fired out of more than 5 different launching systems across the NATO Seasparrow Consortium navies. This includes both vertical and trainable launching systems,” Eng added.
U.S. Navy weapons developers are working closely with NATO allies to ensure the weapon is properly operational across the alliance of countries planning to deploy the weapon, Eng explained.
“The ESSM Block 2 is currently in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. The ESSM Block 2 will be integrated with the various combat systems across the navies of the NATO Seasparrow Consortium nations,” Eng said.
The ESSM Block 2 weapon is part of what Navy officials describe as a layered defense system, referring to an integrated series of weapons, sensors and interceptors designed to detect and destroy a wide-range of incoming threats from varying distances.
For instance, may ships have Aegis Radar and SM-3 missiles for long-range ballistic missile defense. Moving to threats a litter closer, such as those inside the earth’s atmosphere such as anti-ship cruise missiles, enemy aircraft, drones and surface ships, the Navy has the SM-6, ESSM, Rolling Airframe Missile and SeaRAM for slightly closer threats. When it comes to defending the ship from the closest-in threats, many ships have the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS, which fires a 20-mm rapid-fire Phalanx gun toward fast approaching surface and airborne threats.
We hope you’re not sick or sick of memes, either. Somehow quarantine is dragging on but the memes and tweets still don’t disappoint. Another week, another meme-drop. Stay safe, wash your hands and remember: Laughter is the best medicine. That is, until we have medicine.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our time in quarantine together… isn’t it that pants are optional?
2. Gamers for the win
You sweet little adorable social recluses. At least you’re better at talking to people online than anyone else we know. We’re sorry we never saw this as a skillset.
True story, Pam. True story.
Who needs the freshman 15 when you have the COVID-19?
5. Two types of people
Definitely team carrot cake over here.
6. Zoom church
The struggle is real.
7. Wine break!
Of course we’re still watching. What else would we be doing??
We like this a latte.
9. Self care
You know everyone checks the closets. The car is safe. For now.
525,600 minutes. In Zoom meetings, in cancelled plans, in meals cooked, and cups of quarantine coffee.
11. We salad you
And if you need a snack, you’re all set.
That’s what I’m taco-ing about.
He was willing to make a deal….
14. Weekend at Kim’s house
Any chance that guy is just quarantining? No?
They’re probably on the black market with the hand sanitizer and TP.
This one will never get old.
18. CAROLE BASKIN!
Poor woman is *almost* as hated as a North Korean dictator.
Can you imagine social distancing at Central Perk?
Poor Furby looks like every dude out there right now.
He’s looking pretty smart right about now.
Everyone should have that neighbor. Also, please come do all our Home Improvements.
23. Grapes of mom’s wrath
This history lesson brought to you by Chardonnay.
24. MURDER HORNETS
Go home 2020. You’re drunk.
25. Chin up!
Hahaha, noticing the decline in selfies on social media, aren’t ya?
26. 2020 progression
Jokes on all of us.
27. Lockdown message
You can barely tell.
Living that best solo life. You were born for this.
29. Please forward
Karen would have sent the message.
We hear deuling is pretty good too.
31. Make the call
I mean just how many games of that weird snake situation could you play?
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.
Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).
However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)
McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.
“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.
A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)
In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.
“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.
In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.
By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.
To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.
“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.
This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.
Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.
In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.
While some children grow up with aspirations to become scientists, professional athletes, or actors, Mohammad Nadir’s goal was to become a United States Marine, stemming from an early childhood amid a strong military presence.
As the sixth of ten siblings, Nadir grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he constantly lived among uniformed personnel.
“My mom would tell me stories about the military when I was younger, my father was a cop with the Afghan police . . . and many people welcomed the Americans, even during times of strife,” Nadir explained.
Intrigued by the lifestyle, Nadir’s curiosity for the military grew after he graduated high school and discovered several private companies hiring Afghan locals.
“They were hiring Afghan locals to work as interpreters for the International Security Assistance Force,” said Nadir. “This was my chance to be around the military.”
Under the impression Nadir would be safe, his family wished him well as he left to the Sangin District of Helmand province, Afghanistan, in October 2011, where he spent the next three years working with multiple operational units and serving as a key influencer to the community.
“I told my family it was a nice job and would be safe, but they didn’t know it was nothing like that. . . It was the worst place,” said Nadir.
Although translators play a crucial role for the U.S. military, many Afghan-born employees are branded a traitor by the Taliban and other groups for working with the U.S.
“We were the ears and eyes of ISAF,” Nadir recalls. “I was serving my country and also the United States. I felt great. But you could see the distance between the locals and the U.S. personnel.”
Nadir recalls the apprehensive nature of locals whenever Americans traveled to a new area in their country.
“They’d initially be scared and then realize we were here for good reasons. We would explain everything in their language and made them understand,” said Nadir. “We brought them closer together.”
Nadir’s responsibilities lied heavily with bridging the language and cultural gaps between locals and U.S. service members who needed the community to understand their presence.
Educating the Afghan police about improvised explosive devices and operational safety were other key tasks Nadir appreciated doing to heighten overall protection of Americans and Afghans in the area.
“It was something I really liked doing and I felt good when I got a chance to work with the Afghan police,” Nadir commented.
As an interpreter, Nadir also had the opportunity to apply for a Special Immigrant Visa, which helps provide protection for translators and their families to migrate to the U.S. after their service.
Through this program, Nadir took his first steps on American soil on Nov 10, 2014, the Marine Corps’ much-celebrated birthday, and set forth on his journey to become a United States Marine.
“I told my family I was going to come to America and become a Marine, so I did,” said Nadir.
Nadir traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he stayed with Marine Corps Maj. Mark Nicholson, a former administration adviser for the Afghan National Police Advisory Team with Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan.
“We met him at the airport and brought him to our home,” said Nicholson. “Nadir helped us out when we needed him. He had been in some pretty dangerous situations, but was as good as they got. Interpreters put themselves in a lot of danger, more than we do.”
Nicholson built a strong bond with Nadir and other interpreters as he supervised a majority of the administrative tasks handled for these employees. The type of relationship between the interpreters and U.S. service members require a lot of trust and reliability.
“Nadir is a really smart guy,” said Nicholson. “We relied on interpreters for our safety and knowledge of the culture. I trusted him with my life.”
Nadir found work soon thereafter to help support his family back home. He also took lessons to help improve his English fluency and prepare for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
“My English was terrible, so I had to study,” Nadir joked. “I moved to Anaheim, Calif., with a friend and that’s when I met a Marine recruiter, Sgt. William Soukthavong.”
Nadir enlisted in February 2017 and recently graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on May 26, 2017.
“I watched the movie Full Metal Jacket, but when I arrived it was totally different,” said Nadir. “Receiving company was so easy, then we met our actual drill instructors and they ‘destroyed our house.’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, I wasn’t expecting that!’ It was very different and I believe mentally it was easier for me since I’ve been in stressful situations. I tried my best and worked as hard as I could.”
He added that living in the rugged environment of Afghanistan with the mountainsides helped him physically as well, a “I was good at the hikes,” said Nadir, a quality truly needed for the demanding terrain recruits endure at boot camp.
Looking back at the 13 weeks spent at recruit training, Nadir says it was tough but his memories of Marines in his home of Afghanistan are the inspiration for him moving forward for training as an infantryman.
“When I saw the Marines fighting I knew I wanted to do that,” said Nadir. “They are the brute force for a military and I respect them a lot for what I saw those Marines do in Afghanistan.”
Nadir has lived a life of service and becoming a Marine has given him another opportunity to serve, one which he has undoubtedly earned.
“I love Nadir like a brother,” said Nicholson. “I’m very excited that he is now a U.S. Marine.”
Keen Sword is a Western Pacific region-wide multinational military exercise focused on the Japanese islands and their surrounding waters. This exercise, conducted by service elements from the United States, Canada, and Japan, is a biennial exercise conducted every other year. Keen Sword is a great representation of the cohesion and cooperation found within the U.S.-Japan Alliance and indicates the continued security focus of the Indo-pacific regional partners — a partnership that has existed for more than 60 years. Keen Sword exercises have been conducted since 1986.
Keen Sword 21, or KS21, was conducted between October 26th and November 5th, 2020. The FTX (Field Training Exercise) included nearly 10,000 personnel from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The multinational, multi-service team also saw ships from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (pictured in the feature image) and more than 100 fixed and rotary wing aircraft — from all three participant nations.
While a significant amount of the exercise concentrated on both sea-surface and aviation assets, boots on the ground were also an absolutely integral part of the training and testing. Japan Self-Defense Force CH-47JA Chinooks dropped off Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade troops while their U.S. Marine counterparts from the USS Ashland hit the beach in small boats, as the units honed their coordinated amphibious and air-mobile assault skills. INDOPACOM and it’s partners no doubt take island-to-island combat seriously.
Though many events throughout the FTX were conducted at the unit level, unilaterally, the multinational integration portions were coordinated from the BECG (bilateral exercise control group) headshed located on Yokota Air Base, outside Tokyo. And although it says “bilateral,” we need not discount the aviation and surface assets present from the Royal Canadian Navy.
In addition to all of these warfighting domains, Japan’s air defense network was also tested. United States Army and Air Force ADA personnel worked alongside their JSDF allies to synchronize everyone’s ability to protect Japan in the event of an attack.
“The intent of this exercise was to enhance our combat readiness and interoperability by combining Air Defense capabilities with those of the U.S. Air Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces and that’s exactly what we did,” said CPT Daniel F. Emig, Air Defense officer, 38th ADA.
“As we develop new and better ways to operate and integrate, exercises like this clearly demonstrate the growing strength of the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” stated LTG Kevin Schneider, commander, U.S. Forces Japan.
Furthermore, CPT Naochika Fujiwara, Japan Joint Staff director of training and exercises, and BECG co-director, said, “Exercises such as Keen Sword provide the opportunity to enhance our joint-bilateral capabilities, particularly by identifying and then overcoming obstacles through realistic and challenging training scenarios. Even more, Keen Sword provided a message that our Japan-U.S. Alliance continues to be a cornerstone of regional peace and security.”
According to Japan’s Asahi newspaper, the largest ever Keen Sword exercise — the previous iteration, in 2018 included “57,000 sailors, marines and airmen” of which “Japan’s contingent of 47,000 personnel represents a fifth of the nation’s armed forces.” Given the location of the FTX, of course the host nation will have the largest available force. But USINDOPACOM, U.S. Forces Japan, and the Royal Canadian Navy all have an important and significant role to play — just as they would in a real life live-fire wartime scenario.