VA video series receives Emmy Award - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

VA video series receives Emmy Award

A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.

The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.

The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).


The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.

Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans

www.youtube.com

Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”

VA video series receives Emmy Award

In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.

The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.

According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.

Watch the Emmy Award-winning story above or on VA’s YouTube channel.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

The United States Coast Guard Culinary Team beat 19 competitors to be named 2020 Joint Culinary Training Exercise Installation of the Year.

The competition included teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international teams from France, Germany and Great Britain, with the Coast Guard earning 20 medals — five gold, six silver and nine bronze, according to a Facebook post. Chief Petty Officer Edward Fuchs, team manager, says training time helped the chefs prepare.

“One of the things that gave us a leg up this year that we’ve never had before is that we had 10 days of training time leading up to it,” Fuchs said. He added that time to run through everything with a team that had never worked together before, made all the difference. He credits Master Chief Matthew Simolon and his crew for opening up the USCG Yorktown, Virginia, galley for their team as one of the reasons they won.


VA video series receives Emmy Award

Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the Coast Guard Team Advisor, shared that many of the other military branch teams competing there had been working on their craft together for six months or longer to prepare for the competition.

“The reaction from them when they would learn about us (USCG team) only being together for nine days prior to the start of the competition was pretty awesome. They understand how hard this thing is and how much work goes into it,” Jeffries said. “The Yorktown galley made it all possible by getting us rations or running us to the store. Without them, this wouldn’t have been successful at all.”

The road to competing in this culinary competition isn’t easy. The hours are long, often stretching into 12-plus hour days. Fuchs shared there was one stretch where he was away from his hotel room for 30 hours. But that continuous hard work and unfailing dedication paid off.

Fuchs said the Coast Guard has always had to work a little harder because all of the rules and important communications come through the Department of Defense, which led to his team being behind on this year because the group was left out of those important emails. He also shared that throughout the 14 years since the Coast Guard first competed, there were years they weren’t funded to compete.

“For a while it was just us and our personal funds keeping it alive,” he said.

One year, as an example, they were sponsored by The Coast Guard Foundation. In years past, the chefs competing were mostly those located in Washington, D.C. and the Virginia areas that were close by to the Fort Lee competition because they just couldn’t afford to bring in chefs from units throughout the country. He continued saying that “we kept it on life support, waiting for that funding stream to come through.”

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Jeffries echoed Fuchs statement, saying for years it really was a few of them spending thousands of dollars each to maintain a Coast Guard team.

“The coverage was still there because that was our way of being able to showcase to the right avenues, ‘hey we are out here doing awesome stuff and representing the Coast Guard in a great light’ … let’s fund this thing so we can get other people out here,” he said.

They got their wish. The Coast Guard team has been funded for the last two years and this year they were able to bring in chefs from all over the fleet; something they have never been able to do before. And this year’s team was a vibrant representation of the force’s culinary rate and it made all the difference.

“We’ve done this for 14 years and every year you think you have a chance (for culinary team of the year) and then it’s not you. … It’s indescribable, that feeling that you feel when you train a team and they win it. I can’t even put into words the pride and the joy watching them go up on stage to receive the award for culinary team of the year,” Fuchs said.

“We were celebrating the night before because of how great of a job that everyone did in their own personal competitions. The Coast Guard medaled every competition and we already knew that our Coast Guard Chef of the Year had a shot at Armed Forces Chef of the Year, something that the Coast Guard had never won. There was just already so much to celebrate,” Jeffries said.

Both Fuchs and Jeffries describe an “intense” energy in the room after Team Coast Guard was announced as the winner. And so was the respect.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Army just went ballistic on a liquor store partly to ‘deglamorize’ booze

It is probably not a good idea to pick a fight with the Army, so changing your name to avoid battle with the US Military Academy at West Point can be a wise tactic.


The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.

“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.

The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”

The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
Army Black Knight logos from Wikimedia Commons.

The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.

Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.

“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

The Cold War gave the world intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could carry nuclear weapons, and cruise missiles that could be launched from ships and aircraft.


Now, like a lot of Cold War-era military equipment, these weapons are getting a 21st-century tune-up. But it is not the payloads that are becoming more advanced — it’s the delivery systems.

Missiles that can fly at hypersonic speeds could render global missile defenses useless and, if left unchecked, could become the next global arms race amongst the nations of the world.

Related: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.

Two types of weapons

VA video series receives Emmy Award
A screenshot from a video about hypersonic missile nonproliferation made by the RAND Corporation that shows the two types of hypersonic weapons under development. (TheRANDCorporation Youtube)

HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.

Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.

HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.

Also read: Watch the Air Force launch an ICBM in mid-air from the back of a C-5

Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.

What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
An image from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) showing how a hypersonic glide vehicle is launched. (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.

Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.

Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons

Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.

According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.

These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
Concept art of the WU-14, a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle.

The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.

The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.

The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

More: These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.

RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.

Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight

Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.

Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
A Pratt Whitney SJX61-2 successfully completes ground tests simulating Mach 5 flight conditions at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia, 2008.

Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.

The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.

“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”

The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.

“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.

Read next: Air Force developing hypersonic weapons by 2020s

Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.

Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.

“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.

The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.

Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to talk to the US about abandoning his country’s nuclear arms and pursuing peace with South Korea, according to the South Korean president’s office, the Blue House.


After a historic meeting between South Korean diplomats and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea is apparently open to denuclearizing, with Kim himself reportedly expressing a willingness to talk to the US about the touchy subject — something unthinkable mere months ago.

North Korea also said it would suspend provocations like nuclear and missile tests during negotiations, the Blue House said March 6, 2018.

Also read: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

“Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”

“Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” he added.

Under Kim, North Korea wrote the possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution, and it has bitterly opposed any efforts to rid the country of its weapons. The US has maintained that it will denuclearize North Korea whether by force or by diplomacy, making the subject of denuclearization the major roadblock toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1994.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings, said, according to Yonhap.

“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.

Related: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

The news follows a year packed with white-hot nuclear threats and increasingly provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea. The US put together the harshest sanctions package ever against the country and increased its military posture, with President Donald Trump making some overt threats.

But even as the US has applied what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” approach, South Korea, under the new leadership of a more engagement-minded liberal political party, extended olive branches to Pyongyang by including the North in the Pyeongchang Olympics and holding talks that thawed relations.

North Korea reverses course

VA video series receives Emmy Award
Kim meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea appears to have changed its tone after repeatedly declaring its nuclear arsenal nonnegotiable and reserving the right to attack US forces stationed in South Korea.

North Korea has talked about denuclearization before, but promises fell through before implementation. South Korean and US officials have repeatedly said verifiable denuclearization would need to take place before larger discussions over peace or reunification of the Koreas could happen.

More: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

Yonhap reports that the groundwork has now been laid for Kim to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in what would be Kim’s first meeting with another head of state.

North Korean media reported on March 5, 2018 that Kim wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and would “rapidly take practical steps” toward creating peace between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950.

North Korea had previously refused to engage with the US as long as international sanctions and the US military in the region applied pressure to Kim’s government.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army wants a cannon that can hit targets in the South China Sea

The US Army wants a cannon that can fire a round over 1,000 miles, with the aim to blow a hole in Chinese warships in the South China Sea should a conflict occur, according to Army senior leadership.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels, or whatever,” Secretary of the Army Mark Esper revealed Jan. 23, 2019, “We can — from a fixed location, on an island or some other place — engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets.”


The Army, relying heavily on the newly-established Army Futures Command, is undergoing its largest modernization program in decades, and it is doing so with a renewed focus on China and Russia, the foremost threats to US power in the National Defense Strategy.

A key priority for the new four-star command is Long-Range Precision Fires, a team which aims to develop artillery that can outrange top adversaries like Russia and China.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Soldiers fire 155 mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system.

(U.S. Army photo by Evan D. Marcy)

“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” Col. John Rafferty, head of the LRPF cross-functional team, explained to reporters in October 2018.

The Chinese and Russians have made significant advancements in the development of effective stand-off capabilities. Now, the Army is trying to turn the tables on them.

“You want to be outside the range that they can hit you,” Esper told Task Purpose Jan. 23, 2019.

“Why was the spear developed? Because the other guy had a sword. A spear gives you range. Why was the sling developed? Because the spear closed off the range of the sword,” he explained. “You want to always have standoff where you can strike without being struck back. That’s what extended-range cannon artillery gives us.”

VA video series receives Emmy Award

An M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)

The ERCA is an ongoing project that may eventually create opportunities for the development of a supergun with the ability to fire a round over 1,000 miles. The extended-range cannon artillery currently has a range of 62 miles, which is already double the range of the older 155 mm guns.

The Army is also looking at adapting current artillery for anti-ship warfare.

During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise. The drill highlighted what a war with China in the Pacific might look like.

China has one of the world’s largest navies, and there is significant evidence that it intends to use its growing military might to drive the US out of the region.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 7 recap: Things get dark

The penultimate episode of season one brings us Chapter 7: The Reckoning, wherein director Deborah Chow returns — and brings along some familiar faces.

Here’s your spoiler warning:


VA video series receives Emmy Award

Yeah girl.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Our Mandalorian-of-honor receives a transmission from Greef Carga, who has a proposition that is clearly a trap. Navarro is now overrun with Imperial troopers and Carga wants them off his back, so he’s willing to team up with Mando to kill The Client.

Our Mandalorian seems to decide that this is the best deal he can get so he decides to take Carga up on his deal — but not without reinforcement. He returns to Sorgan to recruit Cara Dune, who’s brawling for credits in a bar (fun to see Gina Carano showing off some of her moves).

To my surprise, they leave Omera behind (I’m still waiting to find out why she’s such a good marksman) and head off to Arvala-7 to grab Kuiil instead.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

RIP.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Here we learn that the Ugnaught has spent the time since we last saw him repairing and reprogramming IG-11. For some reason that hasn’t yet paid off, this episode spends a lot of time on the montage of IG-11’s journey back to functioning droid. I feel like I got the gist the first time Kuiil said he reprogrammed the killing out of IG-11?

Kuill finally agrees to accompany Mando but insists on bringing IG-11 and three blurrg with him.

(Side note: I basically just ignore space and time in Star Wars otherwise I’ll get too distracted wondering how those blurrg fit in the ship? And how much time has actually passed? It only feels like a few days or weeks but I guess it’s longer?)

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Silly billy! No Force-choking friends without their consent!

The Mandalorian, Disney+

During their flight back to Navarro, Mando and Cara arm-wrestle. Seeing this, the Yoda Baby misinterprets Cara’s actions as an attack against Mando so he decides to Force-choke her.

“That’s not cool!” Haha but it is hilarious. Little baby Force-choke! That’s impressive!

What’s most interesting is the reaction — no one in the ship talks about the Force after the incident. Kuiil is theoretically old enough to remember the time of the Jedi Order (he mentions to Cara that he’s lived three human lifespans), but none of the group seem to know firsthand about the Force.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Beware the intelligent adversary.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

On Navarro, the group meets up with Carga and his back-up. They decide to walk until sundown, camp for the night, then head into the city at first light. Unfortunately, they are attacked by some sort of pack of flying dragons or mynocks or wyverns. The creatures carry off two blurrgs (which was deeply unsettling — why do the innocents always have to die?) and rake Carga’s arm with poisonous claws.

Here we get to learn a pretty fun new fact about the Force — it can be used for healing. The Yoda Baby walks up to Carga, places his tiny little hand on Carga’s wounded arm, and closes the wound and eliminates the poison. Cool!

Carga thought so, too, because the next day he shoots his men and confesses that they were just going to turn on Mando. Now Carga is committed to saving the baby and killing The Client.

He suggests there will only be about four Stormtroopers guarding The Client and not to worry…

Only now, Kuiil will take the baby back to the Razor Crest and they’ll pull the ol’ fake-prisoner bit, bringing in Mando in handcuffs, and just pretend the baby is in the carrier.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Insert a “we’ve got company” quote here.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Of course, the plan goes awry. Though The Client apparently believes the baby is “sleeping,” his boss doesn’t. Moff Gideon (played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) calls via hologram right before ordering an attack on everyone in the room. He shows up in a fancy TIE fighter to join his Death Troopers and trap Mando and Cara behind enemy lines.

Mando then decides to, for some reason, communicate with Kuiil over comms that are easily intercepted by Scout Troopers, who take off to capture Kuiil.

A very stressful race begins, with Kuiil and the Yoda Baby on a fleeing blurrg, racing toward the ship while the Scout Troopers speed off toward them. (I mean, how did the Scout Troopers know which way to go? Why didn’t Mando use clean comms — or at least some code?? Questions for another day…)

Honestly, I was waiting for IG-11 to burst out of the ship and save the day…but instead we cut abruptly to the Yoda Baby on the ground, scooped up by a Scout Trooper, leaving the dead blurrg and Kuiil in their wake.

With that, we’re left on an Empire-like cliffhanger waiting for the finale on Dec. 27.

You’ve heard of Elf On The Shelf but are you ready forpic.twitter.com/0dyFHkbkCR

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Happy Holidays, everyone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. officially withdraws from Open Skies Treaty; Moscow says ‘All options are open to us’

The United States formally withdrew on November 22 from the Open Skies Treaty, an 18-year-old arms control and verification agreement that Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of violating.

The withdrawal is the latest blow to the system of international arms control that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly scorned, complaining that Washington was being either deceived or unfairly restrained in its military capabilities.

The U.S. State Department confirmed the move, noting six months had expired since notice of the pending exit had been issued and saying “the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”

The National Security Council confirmed the withdrawal and added that “Russia flagrantly violated [the treaty] for years.”

It quoted national-security adviser Robert O’Brien as saying the move was part of an effort to “put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefited our adversaries at the expense of our national security.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 announced the U.S. intention to withdraw and gave the six-month notification to Open Skies’ 34 other members, as required under the treaty’s rules.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. decision.

“Washington has made its move. Neither European security nor the security of the United States and its allies themselves have benefited from it. Now many in the West are wondering what Russia’s reaction will be. The answer is simple. We have repeatedly emphasized that all options are open to us,” the ministry said in a statement on November 22.

Signed in 1992, the treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 members to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to collect data on military forces and activities. More than 1,500 flights have taken place under the agreement.

The treaty’s proponents say the flights help build confidence by showing that, for example, adversaries are not secretly deploying forces or preparing to launch attacks.

But its critics, particularly among U.S. Republicans, have asserted the treaty has been violated repeatedly, first and foremost by Moscow.

In his May statement, Pompeo charged that Russian violations included restrictions on flights near breakaway regions over Georgia, along Russia’s southern borders, and limits on the lengths of flights over the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

“Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will,” he said.

Arms control experts have said while some of the U.S. complaints have merit, others are misleading. And U.S. military and intelligence agencies will lose an important source of data by not being party to the treaty, they said, and NATO allies support the agreement.

“While Russia has violated the treaty, the United States has reciprocated. NATO allies support the treaty — which focuses first and foremost on enhancing European security — and wish the United States to remain a party,” Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador and arms control expert, said in commentary published last week.

The Trump administration has targeted several international treaties over the past four years, most notably the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key Cold War agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union.

After years of complaining that Russia had secretly designed, then deployed, a treaty-violating missile, Washington withdrew in 2019 and the treaty collapsed.

Another more consequential treaty, the New START agreement, is also set to expire in February 2021, and U.S. and Russian officials have been struggling to find a way to keep it intact.

But Trump administration officials want to expand the treaty to include China. And they have also sent mixed signals about new conditions for extending New START, something Moscow has rejected.

Adding to the uncertainty is Trump’s expected departure from the White House on January 21, 2021, when Democrat Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated and take office.

Biden has signaled support for extending New START and preserving other treaties.

“Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump…should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance,” Biden said in a statement in May.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US watchdog: Afghan forces are struggling to regain control

The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban militants while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a U.S. government watchdog says.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted in its latest quarterly report on Oct. 31, 2018, the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul.

“The control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter,” the agency said.


The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on the provinces of Farah and Ghazni in 2018, but they control large parts of the countryside, the SIGAR report says.

Data from Afghanistan’s NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had “failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter”, SIGAR said.

As of September 2018, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to depart from Afghan base Camp Maiwand in Logar province to go on a routine patrol.

(NATO photo taken by U.S. Navy Lt. Aubrey Page)

However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.

SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1, 2018, was “the greatest it has ever been during like periods.”

Figures for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are no longer available after Washington in 2017 agreed to Kabul’s request to classify the numbers.

Before that, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 casualties each year.

General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month that Afghan casualties were increasing from 2017.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 90-year-old vet got an honorable discharge after 60 years

After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.


In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.

After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.

Also read: The first openly-gay service member fought the Air Force to a standstill

 

VA video series receives Emmy Award
Indicative of the changing times, a rainbow flag is placed in the ground for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month during the Picnic in the Park at Nussbaumer Park, June 27, 2015, in Fairbanks, Alaska. More than 200 flags were handed out to members of the 354th Fighter Wing and members of the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

She was discharged as “undesirable” and was denied any benefits, insurance, or severance.

Unable to face her family and without any assistance from the GI Bill, James moved to California and worked to pay for her own education, advancing her way through degrees in Physical Therapy.

Related: This Holocaust survivor recounts his daring escape from Auschwitz

In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.

And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.

VA video series receives Emmy Award
U.S. Air Force veteran Helen James with her military memorabilia. (Photo courtesy of Helen James)

For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.

“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps plans to replace LAV with new ‘transformational ARV’

The Marine Corps plans to begin replacing its legacy Light Armored Vehicle with modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle late in the next decade.

The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal. The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.

“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.


Since the 1980s, the LAV has supported Marine Air-Ground Task Force missions on the battlefield. While the LAV remains operationally effective, the life cycle of this system is set to expire in the mid-2030s. The Corps aims to replace the vehicle before then.

Marine Corps Systems Command has been tasked with replacing the vehicle with a next-generation, more capable ground combat vehicle system. In June 2016, the Corps established an LAV Way-Ahead, which included the option to initiate an LAV Replacement Program to field a next-generation capability in the 2030s.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle.

Preliminary planning, successful resourcing in the program objectives memorandum and the creation of an Office of Naval Research science and technology program have set the conditions to begin replacing the legacy LAV with the ARV in the late-2020s.

“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”

The Office of Naval Research has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.

The office is amid a science and technology phase that allows them to conduct advanced technology research and development, modeling and simulation, whole system trade studies and a full-scale technology demonstrator fabrication and evaluation.

These efforts will inform the requirements development process, jump-start industry and reduce risk in the acquisition program.

The office is also supporting the Ground Combat Element Division of the Capabilities Development Directorate by performing a trade study through the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Michigan. This work will help to ensure ARV requirements are feasible and to highlight the capability trade space.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division standby to be armed with ammunition to conduct a platoon level gunnery range at Fort Irwin, California, March 22, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Smith)

ONR has partnered with industry to build two technology demonstrator vehicles for evaluation. The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an “at-the-edge” vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.

“The purpose of those vehicles is to understand the technology and the trades,” said Myers.

In support of acquisition activities, PM LAV anticipates the release of an acquisition program Request for Information in May 2019 and an Industry Day later in the year to support a competitive prototyping effort. The Corps expects a Material Development Decision before fiscal year 2020.

“We will take what we’ve learned in competitive prototyping,” said Myers. “Prior to a Milestone B decision, we’ll be working to inform trade space, inform requirements and reduce risk.”

The Corps believes the ARV will support the capability demands of the next generation of armored reconnaissance.

“This vehicle will equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion within the Marine Divisions to perform combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance and security missions in support of the ground combat element,” said Myers. “It’s expected to be a transformational capability for the Marine Corps.”

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

MIGHTY GAMING

Lando Calrissian will get his own ‘Star Wars’ movie and it’s about time

Ahead of the premiere of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” many critics have praised Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian in the film, despite the film’s lukewarm overall reception. But more importantly, Glover’s role seems to have won over the people behind the movie.

On May 16, 2018, Lucasfilm studio chief Kathleen Kennedy told the French publication Premiere that she would “love” to give Lando Calrissian his own spin-off movie.


With over a week until the release of “Solo,” the film is projecting to be the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” film since “Attack of the Clones.”

“Solo” currently has a 72% critic rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, but many reviewers, including Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio, have heaped praise on Glover’s performance.

Guerrasio wrote in his review that Glover “completely knocks it out of the park as Lando Calrissian.”

In a review for The Atlantic, Christopher Orr wrote, “If you are not already a fan of Glover (and, let’s be clear, you should be), this ought to make you one.”

Critical praise for Glover’s role, along with Glover’s star rising from his Emmy-winning FX show, “Atlanta,” and his recent viral hit single as Childish Gambino, all rightfully have Lucasfilm encouraged to pursue a film with Glover in what would be his first blockbuster lead role.

VA video series receives Emmy Award

UPDATE: After the publication of the original article by Premiere, Lucasfilm clarified to the publication that while the company would “love” to devote a spin-off film to Lando in the future, such a film had not been confirmed yet and would not be “next” (as implied by the original Premiere article).

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mystery ‘Rocket Man’ reported near LAX, 2020 keeps getting weirder

Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

It’s… a guy in a jetpack?


Pilots flying into Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday evening reported seeing a man in a jetpack flying at an altitude of around 3,000 feet and about 10 miles from the airport. The first pilot to see the mysterious aviator said he was only about 300 yards away from the plane.

You can hear the exchange of the actual transmission here.

“Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jetpack”.

A second pilot also reported seeing a flying apparition in the sky in the same area.

The air traffic controller acknowledged the message and quipped, “Only in LA”.

He then sent a warning to other pilots to use caution when approaching LAX.

While one might think the pilots were seeing things or tired, aviation experts doubt that. Pilots are highly trained and have a great sense of vision and perception. For two pilots on two separate flights to notice the same man in a jetpack gives credibility to the story.

That begs the question. Who was this Rocketeer?

The FAA reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate it, but after a flyover of the area, the LAPD did not see any flying men.

Jetpack technology has been around for awhile. Anyone old enough to remember will recall the wonder of seeing one at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. But the technology of jetpacks is limited by two things: altitude and fuel efficiency. Jetpacks can’t get too high off the ground and they can only be in the air for moments at a time. That is what makes this case so perplexing.

Was it actually a jetpack? Was it actually a man?

Maybe it was a drone, balloon or something else?

Was it David Blaine practicing his balloon stunt?

Was it a new military device? Did SpaceX create a new jetpack for their Mars mission? Is there a new tech company that is testing a new device?

Well, if there is one way to find out it’s the Feds. The FBI is now looking into the mystery and is hoping to find answers soon.

While there is some type of levity to the story (not the craziest thing to happen in 2020), there is concern of someone or something drifting into the path of an approaching plane. Pilots already must deal with birds and natural objects, but lately also have to keep an eye for drones, balloons and now…. Jetpacks.

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