Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

JP is a United States Marine with four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a singer/songwriter, life documenter, spirited lover, and careful father.


Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
JP Guhns (U.S. Marine Corps)

As a teenager, he went to the funeral of his brother’s close friend where someone pulled out an acoustic guitar and played “What I Got” by Sublime. JP fell in love with the way music assisted in healing that day. He also had to say goodbye to friends and loved ones of his own, including his brother and sister. Music became a way for him to document life, writing about love and loss.

Currently, the JP Guhns team is based out of South Carolina. JP is determined to push his blend of southern rock and alternative country out to anyone on a “poor man’s budget and a dad’s schedule.”

He has two children, a wonderful wife, and a strong ambition for life.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s spin doctors want you to believe this week

Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they’re talking about right now.


International Army Games 2018: Obstacle course contest held in Fujian, China

www.youtube.com

Chinese teams are going to impress at the International Army Games

The International Army Games that Russia holds every year are coming up, and China is bragging about the 13 fighter jets it’s sending this year. Two of the pilots are from the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and this is the first time that pilots from that branch have participated.

It also has paratroopers participating, and it’s bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.

But while China’s flexes might be odd, don’t count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.

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(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)

The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong

China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.

China is preferring to call the protests riots and is referring to some of the participants as “radical forces,” and it wants to convince the world that the army is nowhere near the conflict. But it also said that the commander of the Hong Kong garrison condemned the protests Wednesday during a speech celebrating the army’s 92nd Birthday.

China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles

China has been seeking to “re-unify” for years with Taiwan. If you don’t know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.

The countries are separated by the Strait of Taiwan, and any military deployment near that strait changes the balance of power. So, China’s recent deployment of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles manufactured in Russia ruffled some feathers all around the world. China, through China Military, is trying to say that the S-400 deployment is not big deal, though that’s obviously crap.

The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It’s very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It’s simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won’t affect the balance of power there.

China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily

In an op-ed in China Military, Senior Col. Lu Yin argues that China is not a major security threat to the U.S. Her argument centers on three pillars. First, it’s not China’s intent to fight the U.S. or establish a sphere of influence. Second, China is not capable of presenting a true threat to the U.S. due to a lack of mechanization. Finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in 40 years.

These arguments have some serious holes. First, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in decades because it wasn’t ready for one. That’s no longer the case.

But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It’s most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.

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The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.

(U.S. Navy)

Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might

In the previous entry, we mentioned that China hasn’t engaged in a war for decades because it wasn’t ready for war, but has been building up its capability. Well, they’re currently bragging about engineers getting new citations and medals, likely because of their work in full-electric propulsion.

FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.

China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it’s moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it’s unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.

Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa

China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.

Meanwhile international coverage has focused on the efforts of Malian and French troops to contain the threat, especially the Malian troops who identified the suicide vehicle and fired on it as it entered the checkpoint. This forced the vehicle to explode outside the gate with enough distance that injuries were limited.

China Military wants everyone to know that, “Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting.” Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.

Still, that’s not bad considering what troops China deployed to Mali. It has a guard detachment and an engineer detachment on the ground, so hardening the entry points and finishing work on the airport is about all that can be expected. No shame there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Upgrades complete for the Air Force’s massive C-5 Galaxies

Lockheed Martin said in early August 2018 that the last of 52 upgraded C-5M Super Galaxy cargo planes had been delivered to the Air Force, finishing the nearly two-decade-long modernization of the service’s largest plane.

Lockheed began work on the Air Force’s Reliability and Re-engineering Program (RERP) in 2001 and turned over the first operational C-5M Super Galaxy, as the latest version is called, on Feb. 9, 2009.


In the 17 years since the RERP effort started, 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A were upgraded, according to a Lockheed release, first cited by Air Force Times. The upgrades extend the aircraft’s service life into the 2040s, the contractor said.

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A C-5M Super Galaxy lands at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 4, 2016.

(US Air Force photo)

The program involved 70 modifications to improve the plane’s reliability, efficiency, maintainability, and availability, including changes to the airframe; environmental, pneumatic, and hydraulic systems; landing gear, and flight controls.

The main new feature is more powerful engines, upgraded from four General Electric TF-39 engines to General Electric F-138 engines. The new engines, which are also quieter, allow the C-5M to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.

“With the capability inherent in the C-5M, the Super Galaxy is more efficient and more reliable, and better able to do its job of truly global strategic airlift,” Patricia Pagan, a senior program manager at Lockheed, said in the release.

All together, the RERP upgrades yield “a 22 percent increase in thrust, a shorter takeoff roll; [and] a 58 percent improvement in climb rate,” according to release, which said the modifications give the C-5M greater fuel efficiency and reduce its need for tanker support.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

Airmen and Marines load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Oct. 6, 2014.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock)

The C-5 stands 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan. The upgraded C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.

The plane can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies.

The first C-5A was delivered to the Air Force in 1970. By 1989, 50 C-5Bs had joined the 76 C-5As that were already in service. Two C-5Cs, modified to carry the space shuttle’s large cargo container, were also delivered in 1989.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

An Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy taking off.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

The modernization push

The Air Force began a C-5 modernization push in 1998, starting the RERP in 2001 with plans to deliver 52 upgraded planes by fiscal year 2018. The remainder of the C-5 fleet was to be retired by September 2017.

But the C-5 fleet has face administrative and operational issues in recent years.

Due to budget sequestration, a number of C-5s were moved to backup status in over the past few years, meaning the Air Force still had the aircraft but no personnel or funding to operate them. In early 2017, Air Force officials said they wanted to move at least eight C-5s from backup status to active status.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” then-Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton Everhart said at the time.

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A C-5M Super Galaxy taxis down the flight line before takeoff at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Aug. 17, 2015.

(US. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

In the months since, the Air Force’s C-5s have encountered maintenance issues that required stand-downs.

In mid-July 2017, Air Mobility Command grounded the 18 C-5s — 12 primary and six backups — stationed at Dover Air Force Base after the nose landing-gear unit in one malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days. Days later, that order was extended to all of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s, which had to undergo maintenance assessments.

The issue was with the ball-screw assembly, which hindered the extension and retraction of the landing gear. The parts needed to fix the problem were no longer in production, however, but the Air Force was able to get what it needed from the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where unused or out-of-service aircraft are stored.

In early 2018, the nose landing gear again caused problems when it failed to extend all the way for an Air Force Reserve C-5M landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The plane landed on its nose and skidded about three-quarters of the way down the runway. The cause of the accident and extent of the damage were not immediately clear, but none of the 11 crew members on board were hurt.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Copy of Footage shows Russian ammo depot explosion that launched debris 9 miles

An ammo depot in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia has been the scene of a series of large explosions over the past two weeks, killing one Russian soldier and injuring at least 32 other people thus far.

The first massive explosion occurred last Monday, killing one and injuring at least 10 others. Then, two more large explosions tore through the facility on Friday, reportedly as a result of lightning due to the facility’s lightning management apparatus being destroyed in the previous explosions. Multiple smaller explosions have also been reported at the facility during the intervening days, resulting in more than 16,000 people being evacuated from nearby communities.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61eQmFBLjdc
MASSIVE Explosions at Ammunition Depot – Achinsk, Russia – Aug. 5, 2019

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Soldiers assigned to Russia’s “74008 military unit,” as officials called them, were ordered to take cover in bomb shelters until the explosions stopped.

According to Russian state media, the facility housed thousands of artillery shells and propellant bags filled with explosive material used to launch the artillery. While Russian authorities have not offered any detailed explanation as to what may have caused the incident, at least one Russian Defense Ministry official cited “human error” as the preliminary cause of the first explosion, pending a more thorough investigation.

The local governor’s office offered only slightly more detail, explaining that the first explosion took place during “shell clearing” operations. That, combined with reports of two “disposal sights” that are still burning, suggests that the munitions involved in the explosion may have been old and awaiting disposal. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that the site of the explosion is among Russia’s oldest existing munition storage and logistic sites, dating back to its use by the Soviet Union. The entire facility is slated for demolition in 2022.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

Russia’s Uran-14 Robot can supposedly fight fires and clear mines. Two have been deployed to Achinsk.

(Russian Ministry of Defense via WikiMedia Commons)

Russian firefighting efforts, which are already largely taxed by a series of large wildfires in the Siberian forest, are reportedly being bolstered by Uran-14 firefighting robots that, according to Russian state media, can spray water a distance of up to 180 feet and move up to 10 tons of debris.

These claims, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, as Russia also once claimed their Uran-6 infantry robot had successfully participated in combat operations in Syria, only for it to be revealed months later that the robot had actually been a dismal failure.

Unfortunately for the Russian military, these explosions are not the highest-profile incident to occur last week, with another explosion at a missile test site that seems to have involved Russia’s much-touted nuclear-powered cruise missile claiming the lives of at least five and injuring a number of others.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the Grinch in your unit:

~a case of premium craft beer by Greater Boston’s #1 veteran brewmaster~

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
Frosty the Craft Beer, had a tiny foamy head… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

Does the thought of the Holidays — and all of the fluff-trimmed kerfuffery that comes with them — make you just want to start drinking? No?

So, you’re this guy:

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

That’s cool. But we bet there’s someone on your list who’s less Jingle-bell-jazzed than you.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
Found him. (Photo via Flickr, Evil Erin, CC BY 2.0)

For this guy, consider the gift of beer. Really good beer.

Donovan Bailey — Army tank operator, beer brewing genius, and owner of Greater Boston’s Down The Road Brewery — crafts exactly the kind of Holiday Cheer we’re talking about.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
Bailey, brewmaster of the 3rd Armored Cav. (Photo credit: David Rainville/Greenfield Recorder)

Allow us to direct your attention his extensive line of tasty craft beers.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
That’s actually only half of them. Here’s the full menu.

Since dropping his first batch of Pukwudgie American Pale Ale in April 2015, Bailey has been quietly deepening his alchemical mastery of the hops, malts, and yeasts. (That’s Boston’s version of the breaks, rhymes, and beats.)

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
Bailey’s state-of-the-art brewing facility. (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

He cuts his love of European craft brewing tradition with a fiendish need to iterate and remix.  As a result, the Down The Road brew line-up is a veritable mix-tape of innovative, sample-heavy, world heritage beers. DTR very literally has something for everyone.

And as of Nov. 3 of this year, they now have their very own 2,500-square-foot taproom in Everett, MA, complete with 35′ bar, retro-pinball lounge and food trucks-a-go-go.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns
Crowds that deep, they’ll need more bartenders… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

If you live in the Northeast, grab your Grinch and treat him to a few tasting rounds at the taproom. Or present him with a case of Queequeg’s Revenge New England IPA and see if he doesn’t crack a smile as he cracks himself a cold one.

Because beer is full of many wonderful ingredients, not the least of which are millions of tiny, alcoholic fun bubbles that just want you to lighten the hell up for the Holidays.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

Articles

‘Tactical miscalculation’ likely if Iran boat harassment persists

With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.


During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.

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Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”

To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.

“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”

Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”

It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.

The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.

“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.

The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.

Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.

Articles

The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

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Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

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Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

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We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition says US has begun withdrawal from Syria

A U.S. military spokesman says the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from the country.

The spokesman, Colonel Sean Ryan, said in a Jan. 11, 2019 statement that “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” had begun, however he did not reveal specific details.


“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” Ryan said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the U.S.-led coalition had started scaling down its presence at the Rmeilan airfield in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakeh.

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Marines fire an 81mm mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Hajin, Syria, Aug. 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

It said the U.S. troops began to withdraw from the military base on Jan. 10, 2019, describing the development as “the first such pullout of American forces” since President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 19, 2018, that he intended to withdraw all of an estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Trump’s announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stunned U.S. allies and has been criticized within his own administration.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military formally linked to Malaysia Airlines crash

International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.


The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.

“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.

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The Joint Investigation Team examined the markings on the on the recovered missile fragments.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

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(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:

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(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.

Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.

The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.

Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.

Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.

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

Articles

Kim Jong-un reveals its spec ops force in military parade

North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.


The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.

“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.

The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.

North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.

U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”

“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.

The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea ramps up production of its own anti-missile system

South Korea’s military is planning to mass produce the Cheongung, a self-developed midrange surface-to-air missile system after a reassessment or reappraisal.


The development of a long-range radar and an aerial infrared countermeasure may also restart after they were suspended, Newsis reported Dec. 26.

Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the announcements following the 108th arms acquisition project committee meeting.

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South Korea’s Cheongung. (Image Youtube Screengrab)

Discussions of mass production of the Cheongung, also known as the Cheolmae-2, or KM-SAM, began on Nov. 17, according to the South Korean press report.

The technology is part of the country’s homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense.

KAMD in turn is part of South Korea’s “three-axis system” that also includes Seoul’s homegrown anti-missile systems and Kill Chain, a pre-emptive strike system.

Defense authorities said programs to develop a fixed long-range radar system to detect North Korea aircraft, and infrared countermeasures, are to be suspended following the discovery of flaws, but to be resumed as “soon as possible,” according to Newsis.

Yonhap reported Dec. 26 LIG Nex1, a local defense contractor, developed the radar that failed in an operational test in 2014.

Also Read: Iran’s home-grown surface-to-air missile shows new military aspirations

“Multiple defects were found in the test and a violation of contract terms was also detected,” DAPA said.

South Korea’s military is planning to make changes following the explosion of a K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer in August, News 1 reported Dec. 26.

The military plans to install a black box in the artillery and require personnel to wear flame-resistant combat uniforms, according to the report.

The explosion, caused by a mechanical flaw, wounded four soldiers and killed three, according to Yonhap.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. accuses Russia of sending jets to Libya to support mercenaries

The United States says Moscow has deployed military jets to Libya to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle the North African country’s internationally recognized government.

The Russian military aircraft flew to Libya via Syria, where they were repainted to disguise their identity, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement on May 26.


“For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way,” said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM.

AFRICOM said the Russian jets had arrived in Libya recently. It did not say how many aircraft were transferred.

Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces in their fight against the Government of National Accord (GNA). A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.

Moscow has denied the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.

There was no immediate comment from Russia’s Defense Ministry following the latest U.S. accusations.

But Andrei Krasov, deputy head of the Defense Committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, rejected the U.S. claim as “disinformation,” according to the Interfax news agency.

The United States posted 15 photographs of what it said were the Russian jets in Libya.

Townsend said that neither Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) nor Vagner had the ability to operate and finance the jets without Russian government support.

“Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya,” he said.

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is now seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, and his LNA is battling GNA forces.

The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

In a phone call with Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh on May 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “there needs to be a constructive dialogue involving all the Libyan political forces” and “an immediate cease-fire,” according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Haftar and the GNA have held several rounds of peace talks in France, Italy, Russia, and Germany, but they have failed to reach an agreement to end the fighting.

U.S. Air Force General Jeff Harrigian said that if Russia seized bases on Libya’s coast, it could potentially deploy permanent capabilities to deny area access.

“If that day comes, it will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says artificial intelligence could be a game changer

The Army is looking at artificial intelligence to increase lethality, and a senior Army official said the key to A.I. is keeping a proper level of decision-making in the hands of soldiers.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dr. Bruce Jette spoke about artificial intelligence, modernization and acquisition reform Jan. 10, 2019, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.


Jette said response times against enemy fire could be a crucial element in determining the outcome of a battle, and A.I. could definitely assist with that.

“A.I. is critically important,” he said. “You’ll hear a theme inside of ASA(ALT), ‘time is a weapon.’ That’s one of the aspects that we’re looking at with respect to A.I.”

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Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, discusses artificial intelligence and modernization with reporters at the Defense Writer’s Group breakfast Jan. 10, 2019.

(Photo by Joe Lacden)

Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy has been very active in positioning the Army so that it can pick up such critical new technology, Jette said.

Artificial intelligence technology will play a crucial role in the service’s modernization efforts, Jette said, and should incrementally increase response times.

“Let’s say you fire a bunch of artillery at me and I can shoot those rounds down and you require a man in the loop for every one of the shots,” Jette said. “There’s not enough men to put in the loop to get them done fast enough,” but he added AI could be the answer.

He said the service must weigh how to create a command and control system that will judiciously take advantage of the crucial speed that technology provides.

A.I. research and development is being boosted by creation of the Army Futures Command, Jette said.

Smoother process

One year after the Army revamped itself under the guidance of Secretary Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, the service has seen significant improvements in the acquisition process, Jette said.

The Army identified six modernization priorities and created new cross-functional teams under Futures Command, to help speed acquisition of critical systems.

One change involves senior leaders meeting each Monday afternoon to assess and evaluate a different modernization priority. Jette said those meetings have resulted in a singular focus on modernization programs.

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Artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing were the theme of the April-June 2017 issue of Army ALT magazine and its cover art is shown here.

(US Army photo)

“There’s much more of an integrated, collegial, cooperative approach to things,” Jette said.

The service took a hard look at the requirements process for the Army’s integrated systems. This enabled the Army to apply a holistic approach in order to develop the diverse range of capabilities necessary to maintain overmatch against peer adversaries, Jette said. One result is, the Army will deliver new air defense systems by December 2019, he said.

“I don’t deliver you a Patriot battery anymore,” Jette said. “I deliver you missile systems. I deliver you radars. I deliver you a command and control architecture.”

Now, any of the command and control components will be able to fire missiles against peer adversaries and can also leverage any of the sensor systems to employ an effector against a threat, he said.

“We’re looking at the overall threat environment,” Jette said. “Threats have become much more complicated. It’s not just tactical ballistic missiles, or jets or helicopters. Now we’ve got UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), I’ve got swarms. I’ve got cruise missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars. I’ve got to find a way to integrate all this.”

A retired Army colonel, reporting directly to Esper, Jette provides oversight for the development and acquisition of Army weapons systems. He said that his role in the modernization efforts is to find a way to align procurement with improved requirements development processes.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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