Military spouse owned government consulting business leading the way - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse owned government consulting business leading the way

WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.

In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.


After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.

The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.

“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.

“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”

When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.

“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”

By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.

Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.

With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.

Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.

“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.

Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.

When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.

Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.

“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.

“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”

To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

Articles

Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia already threatened the US with its ‘doomsday device’

Since 2015, when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could end all life on Earth.

While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect.

If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit,” previously told Business Insider.


But Russia’s Poseidon is said to use a warhead many times as strong, perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it’s designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea and render it uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.

So why build one now?

A briefing slide captured from Russian state TV is said to be about the Poseidon nuclear torpedo.

(BBC)

A NATO-ender

Davis called the Poseidon a “third-strike vengeance weapon” — meaning Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.

According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.

Russia here would seek to not only reoccupy Eastern Europe “but coerce NATO to not act upon an Article 5 declaration and thus lose credibility,” he said, referring to the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear he seeks the collapse of NATO,” Davis continued. “If NATO doesn’t come to the aid of a member state, it’s pretty much finished as a defense alliance.”

Essentially, Russia could use the Poseidon as an insurance policy while it picks apart NATO. The US, for fear that its coastlines could become irradiated for decades by a stealthy underwater torpedo it has no defenses against, might seriously question how badly it needs to save Estonia from Moscow’s clutches.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin may calculate that NATO will blink first rather than risk escalation to a nuclear exchange,” Davis said. “Poseidon accentuates the risks to NATO in responding to any Russian threat greatly, dramatically increasing Russia’s coercive power.”

Davis also suggested the Poseidon would make a capable but heavy-handed naval weapon, which he said could most likely take out an entire carrier strike group in one shot.

Russia’s new nuclear ferocity

Russia has recently signaled its willingness to use nuclear weapons to coerce the West with its violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Davis said. These missiles are purpose-built for taking out European capitals from the Russian mainland.

But Russia has frequently engaged in nuclear saber-rattling when it feels encircled by NATO forces, and so far it has steered clear of confronting NATO with kinetic forces.

“Whether that will involve actual use or just the threat of use is the uncertainty,” Davis said.

While it’s hard to imagine a good reason for laying the kind of destruction the Poseidon promises, Davis warned that we shouldn’t assume the Russians think about nuclear warfare the same way the US does.

Featured image: AtomCentral.com

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

North Korea’s military parade on Feb. 8 rolled out seven intercontinental ballistic missiles that experts assess can strike the U.S. — and it’s more than the country has ever shown before.


Before the crowd in Pyongyang, where below freezing temperatures reddened the spectators’ faces, North Korea put on its usual display of military might with rows of troops and tanks, but also showed off two new inventions: the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15.

The missiles were both tested in 2017 and have demonstrated they have the range to strike the U.S. mainland. North Korea has used both missiles to threaten U.S. citizens.

The Hwasong-14, a smaller missile, was first tested on July 4, 2017, to the surprise of North Korea experts, some of whom thought that an ICBM capability would continue to elude North Korea for years. North Korea tested it again on July 28, when it flew over 2,300 miles above the Earth before crashing down 620 miles away in the Sea of Japan.

Experts assessed that even though the missile fit the definition of an ICBM by flying more than 5,500 kilometers, it still probably couldn’t haul a heavy nuclear warhead to important U.S. cities, like Washington D.C. or New York City.

Hwasong-15 Transporter erector vehicle (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

But at the end of November 2017, North Korea again shocked critics by testing an entirely new, as of yet unseen design — the Hwasong 15.

The massive missile flew almost 2,800 miles above earth before crashing into the Sea of Japan. This time, experts were nearly unanimous. The larger warhead, with its larger nosecone, resembled the U.S.’s Trident missile, the most powerful warhead the U.S. ever deployed.

The consensus among analysts is that North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM can strike anywhere within the U.S. with a heavy nuclear warhead, or multiple nuclear warheads.

But though the missile has the reach, it may not have the durability. North Korea has never tested an ICBM at full range, and therefore has not demonstrated its ability to build a warhead that can survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone its ability to guide such a missile.

Also Read: US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

On Feb. 7, a U.S. envoy to North Korea said the country could likely master the technology needed to deliver a nuclear blast on Washington D.C. in only months.

North Korea, a paranoid country bent on regime survival as it defies international law, most likely would not display all its missiles at once, for fear that the U.S. would bomb the parade. Additionally, the missiles shown in the parade may not be operational or have been faked for propaganda purposes.

Exactly how many missiles it has in its arsenal is unknown, but North Korea has now told the world it has multiple missiles it can strike the U.S. with.

Articles

This music legend stole a helicopter and landed it at Johnny Cash’s house

For country music fans there are few names that so completely embody the Country and Western genre as Kris Kristofferson.


Check out this video for the full story:

Rolling Stone called him “one of America’s finest songwriters.”

“Kris Kristofferson ruined my education” Turk Pipkin wrote proudly in Esquire in 2014.

But before he was a recording artist, Kristofferson, under pressure from his family and following in the footsteps of his Air Force General father before him, joined the U.S. Army.

Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.

A Rhodes Scholar educated at Oxford, Kristofferson was more interested in creative writing and music than the military, so, rather than accept orders to West Point, Kristofferson chose to leave the Army.

The move allegedly caused his family to sever ties with him, and he is rumored to not have spoken to his mother for over twenty years as a result.

Leaving the Army did not immediately pay off for Kristofferson. He found himself struggling to make ends meet in Nashville and working as a janitor at a recording studio. It was there that Kristofferson first came across June Cash. He gave her a demo tape and asked her to pass it on to Johnny Cash, which she did…but the tape went unheard.

Kristofferson, struggling to support his growing family, then briefly served in the Tennessee National Guard.

That’s when Kristofferson did something that would land most service members today in the brig:

He stole a helicopter.

“I flew in to John’s property,” Kristofferson recalls. “I almost landed on his roof.”

The country music legends Kris Kristofferson (left) and Lyle Lovett (right) performed in the East Room of The White House for D.C. schoolchildren on Nov. 22, 2011. (Image by Flickr user John Arundel | (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Kristofferson notes that he was lucky Johnny Cash didn’t shoot down the old helicopter with his shotgun.

The risk payed off, though, as Johnny Cash wound up recording the song Kristofferson was trying to get him to listen to: “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” That recording “lifted me out of obscurity,” Kristofferson admits.

Cash was a fan of Kristofferson’s bravado, and the two would go on to work together many times. With publicity help from Cash, Kristofferson penned dozens of hits, including “Vietnam Blues,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Together with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Cash and Kristofferson completed the group “Highwaymen.”

Kristofferson wrote songs for the likes of Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Sammi Smith, Ray Price, and Janis Joplin (with whom he had a brief relationship before her death).

(Johnny Cash & Kris Kristofferson — “Sunday Morning Coming Down” | YouTube)

His bravado served him well on screen, too, and Kristofferson has enjoyed a long running acting career in addition to his music career.

He appeared with Wesley Snipes in the “Blade” movies and even had a song on “Grand Theft Auto.” Kristofferson worked alongside Martin Scorsese, starring in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” and with Barbra Streisand in “A Star is Born,” for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

Kristofferson went on to work with Matthew McConaughey, Mel Gibson, and Tim Burton.

In 2014, Kristofferson received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award to go along with his many awards, gold records, and top 40 hits.

Also in 2014, Kristofferson’s son, Jesse Kristofferson, enlisted in the Coast Guard.

To think, it all happened because he bucked his family military tradition, got disowned, and stole a military helicopter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private doctors are now a longer wait than for VA care

The Veterans Choice Program for private health care is in such bad shape that the bill backed by President Donald Trump to fix it will be difficult to implement even if done right, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

The Choice program was aimed at reducing wait times through increased access to private health care, but the GAO’s performance audit conducted from April 2016 through May 2018 found that, in many cases, veterans would have been better off making appointments at VA facilities.


“Timeliness of appointments is an essential component of quality health care,” the report released June 4, 2018, said, but poor management and bookkeeping under the Choice program can result in veterans waiting up to 70 days to see a private doctor.

In 2016, the average wait for a private appointment was 51 days, the GAO said, although the VA eligibility rules made private care an option when the veteran had to wait 30 days to see a VA doctor.

“Delays in care have been shown to negatively affect patients’ morbidity, mortality, and quality of life,” the report said, and the “VA lacks assurance that veterans are receiving care from community providers in a timely manner.”

At a White House ceremony June 6, 2018, Trump is expected to sign the VA Mission Act, which provides $4.2 billion to overhaul and expand the Choice program for private care while consolidating its seven existing care options into one.

President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The GAO report warned that staff shortages, bureaucratic roadblocks and poor communication between the VA and private doctors under the existing Choice program make a quick fix unlikely.

“To the extent that these factors persist under the consolidated community care program that VA plans to establish, they will continue to adversely affect veterans’ access to care,” the GAO said.

Citing the problems with Choice detailed in the report, the GAO said, “Ignoring these lessons learned and the challenges that have arisen under the Choice Program as [VA officials] design the future consolidated program would only increase VA’s risk for not being able to ensure that all veterans will receive timely access to care in the community.”

VA pledges action to correct problems

The blizzard of acronyms used by the GAO in its report, and by the VA in its response, illustrates the difficulty the individual veteran has in navigating the system.

The GAO called for better coordination among the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA medical centers (VACMs), the VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC), third-party administrators (TPAs), the Computerized Patient Record Systems (CPRS), the Community Care Network (CCN) and private doctors themselves, who often complain of late payments.

In its response to the GAO report, the VA concurred with four of the five recommendations for improving the transition from the Choice program to the VA Mission Act but disagreed with the GAO on urgent care.

The GAO found that “VAMCs and TPAs do not always categorize Choice Program referrals and authorizations in accordance with the contractual definition for urgent care.”

The GAO said that a referral to private care is to be marked “urgent” when a VHA doctor determined that it was essential and “if delayed would likely result in unacceptable morbidity or pain.” However, the GAO found that some referrals originally marked as routine were changed to urgent to speed up the slow appointment process.

Even that conclusion was difficult to reach because of the VA’s lack of reliable records and data, the GAO said. “Without complete, reliable data, VHA cannot determine whether the Choice Program has helped to achieve the goal of alleviating veterans’ wait times for care,” the GAO said.

In its response to the report, the VA said that the GAO’s recommendation on urgent care “is no longer needed because VHA has resolved the issue with the new CCN (Community Care Network) contract.”

Under the new contract, VHA staff will have responsibility for scheduling community care appointments with providers, as opposed to the old system in which administrators routed referrals to the TPAs (third-party administrators), the VA said.

In the transition from Choice to the VA Mission Act, the VA will also set up a new referral and authorizations system that will be called “Health Share Referral Manager (HSRM).”

The VA said that HSRM will “measure the time it takes to review and accept consults, prepare referrals and schedule veterans community appointments.”

The VA in flux

The VA Mission Act has been estimated to cost as much as $55 billion over five years. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has said that funding sources have yet to be identified, but he was confident they would be found.

When Trump signs the bill June 6, 2018, as one of the major achievements of his administration, he will not have a VA secretary looking over his shoulder.

Robert Wilkie, who had been the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was named acting secretary after Trump ousted former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.

Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(United States Department of Veterans Affairs photo)

However, Wilkie stepped down as acting secretary to get around a law that made it questionable whether an acting secretary could succeed to the permanent post.

Trump has said that he intends to nominate Wilkie to the permanent job, but the Senate has yet to set a date for his confirmation hearing. In the meantime, Peter O’Rourke, who had been the VA chief of staff, has become acting secretary temporarily.

Its major proponents have acknowledged that the VA Mission Act and the overhaul of Choice will be difficult to implement.

At a panel discussion last month sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America, which lobbied hard for the expansion of private care, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that putting the VA Mission Act into effect will sorely test the VA.

“Let me tell you, it is a painful thing to do,” Roe said. “This is a massive undertaking. It could be very disruptive to the VA. It’s humongous.”

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

Articles

Afghan special forces are trying to take back Tora Bora from ISIS

The Afghanistan Defense Ministry says the military operation against Daesh is ongoing in Pachir Aw Agam district in the southeast of Nangarhar province and security forces will soon reach to the Tora Bora region recently captured by the group.


The security forces are determined to defeat and eradicate Daesh from the area, the Afghanistan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said on June 16th.

Daesh captured the strategic Tora Bora region on June 13th. The area was used as a hideout by Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, who was killed in a US operation in 2011.

Emblem of the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan. Photo licensed under public domain.

“Our security forces are in Pachir Aw Agam district and Daesh will be eliminated in the near future. The military operation against Daesh will continue without any delay,” Waziri said.

Meanwhile, Nangarhar Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said Tora Bora will never turn into a safe haven for Daesh fighters.

“Daesh fighters have come to Pachir Aw Agam, but they will be defeated. Daesh and their supporters should be aware that there is no place for them [in the district],” Rahimi said.

Reports indicate that at least 600 families have left their houses in Dara-e-Sulaimankhail village close to Tora Bora area in Pachir Aw Agam district.

The mountains of Tora Bora. DoD Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

“Daesh came and captured the [Tora Bora] area and we left our villages,” a resident of Sulaimankhil said.

“Our goods have remained in our houses and all the people have fled,” another resident of Sulaimankhil said.

A number of military analysts said the presence of Daesh in Tora Bora would pose a serious threat to Nangarhar and its neighboring provinces.

“The reason behind the changing of Daesh into a big threat is that we concentrate on others instead of those who are killing the people and who loots their properties,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former Deputy Minister of Interior.

A line of ISIS soldiers.

On June 15, Abdul Saboor Sabet, the head of the National Directorate of Security in Nangarhar, claimed that Pakistani militia fully supported Daesh in their offensive against the Tora Bora region this week in eastern Nangarhar province.

In a trip to Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district, Sabet said that Pakistani militia are still backing Daesh militants in the region.

“Daesh militants sustained heavy loses, whenever they suffer a toll, they get reinforcements from the other side of the border who are the Pakistani militias. The [Afghan] public uprising forces are bravely defending all districts against the enemies,” said Sabet.

Earlier this week, Waziri stated that up to 700 Daesh operatives had been killed in Nangarhar as a result of a military operation by security forces over the past three months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Constant B-52 flights rattle China in disputed waters

The US military has stepped up to regularly challenge Beijing’s dominance in the South China Sea and has achieved one of its main missions — controlling the narrative — with the help of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers.

For years, Beijing has laid unilateral and illegal claims to about 90% of the South China Sea, a rich shipping lane where trillions of dollars in annual trade pass and untold billions in oil resources lie.

Through environmentally damaging dredging, China built up island fortresses around the waterway.


Chinese President Xi Jinping stood next to former President Barack Obama in the White House’s Rose Garden and promised not to militarize the islands. But China has flown its own nuclear bombers, fighter jets, and other military aviation to the artificial land features that now hold radar and missile sites.

The US’s main way of challenging China’s claims to these waters have been freedom of navigation operations, or sailing a US Navy destroyer close to the islands to show that its military doesn’t respect Beijing’s claims, as they violate international law.

“US military aircraft, you have violated our China sovereignty and infringed on our security and our rights. You need to leave immediately and keep far out,” a recent Chinese warning blared to the US, according to The New York Times.

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brittany Y. Auld)

China built not only islands, but its own narrative insisting on its ownership of the South China Sea. Any US military flights in the South China Sea used to make prominent news because Beijing would heavily object using its substantial media clout.

In August 2018, the US flew B-52s over the South China Sea four times.

“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist, state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked at the time.

But on Sept. 24, 2018, the US flew four B-52s clear across the South China Sea with hardly a peep from US or Chinese media.

Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider the B-52 flights were a matter of course.

“The movement of these aircraft require them to fly multiple routes, to include in the vicinity of the South China Sea, part of regularly scheduled operations designed to enhance our interoperability with our partners and allies in the region. The United States military will continue to fly sail and operate wherever international law allows at a times and places of our choosing,” Eastburn said in an email.

By making US military transit across the South China Sea a non-news item, something that happens regularly and without incident, the US has started to turn the tide against China’s unilateral claims.

By declaring the South China Sea as its own and trying to pressure the US into backing down in the face of missiles and fighter jets, Beijing may have opened itself up to being challenged by a superior force.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Milspo Mask Makers: Making a difference, one mask at a time

In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.

When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.


www.militaryspouse.com

Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.

Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.

Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of April 20th

Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.


Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.

Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.

(Terminal Lance)

(WATM)

(Decelerate Your Life)

(/r/Military)

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

(WATM)

(PNN)

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

(Military Memes)

(Army as F*ck)

(The Salty Soldier)

(Disgruntled Vets)

Soon, this won’t be a joke.

When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.

(Pop Smoke)

Articles

Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.


Our nation expects a great deal from its military, but it comes at a cost. Air Mobility Command — the organization responsible for airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and enroute support — is constantly faced with challenges testing the resilience of our airmen.

Whether airdropping combat supplies, fueling fighters and bombers on the way to destroy terrorist camps, or aiding natural disaster victims around the world, Mobility airmen perform the mission with professionalism and at great personal risk and sacrifice.

I’m painfully aware our airmen have been subject to high operations demand for quite some time. Most are tired, as are their families. They do what we ask them to do, and they are always there, conducting the mission professionally, selflessly and with great effect.

Capt. Michael Kerschbaum, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot and 1st Lt. Renn Nishimoto, a pilot with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, taxi a KC-135 to the runway at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen

However, a concern is how much longer they can sustain the pace and whether they will leave our Air Force.

The manning shortage extends beyond fighter pilots. What happens when we face a potential exodus of mobility skill and talent? Consider approximately 1,600 mobility pilots are eligible to leave the military in the next four-plus years. We are already more than 300 total force mobility pilots short of what we need today.

Commercial airlines are projected to be short 16,000 pilots by 2020. The math demonstrates the challenge is not looming, it is here. The time to find solutions is now.

A Pilot Shortage

This is a national problem with real security implications. As a result of new safety regulations, increased experience requirements, and attrition through commercial airline pilot retirement, experienced aviators are in high demand.

Mobility pilots are some of the best in the world and represent a lucrative talent pool for the civilian industry. As a natural feeder system for the airlines, we lose talent as civilian airlines’ needs increase.

This comes at a time when our airmen are feeling the strain. Consider aerial refueling tanker pilots as an example. These professionals flew nearly 31,000 tanker missions in support of operations in Iraq and Syria alone. We ask them to do this with a 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker or vintage KC-10 Extender aircraft, relying on the strong backs and tremendous pride and skill of our maintainers.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

Many yearn for newer equipment; consistent work schedules; family, personal time; and a homestead. Many believe that commercial pilot life offers the potential to achieve balance.

The need for skilled military and civilian pilots will put us in an unfortunate and natural competition with our industry partners — not a good position for either party.

Pilots departing is a problem, but if they don’t consider serving in the Reserves and Guard, that problem becomes a crisis. If our airmen don’t continue to serve with our total force partners, the active force will face additional strain.

Productive dialogue can help us find great opportunities amidst the challenges, but it requires industry, academia, and airman ingenuity.

Recently, I sat down with some of our airline partners to begin this discussion, and I am confident that this is a start toward better understanding and a collaborative approach to improving circumstances.

We are focused not only on the pilot shortage challenges, but also addressing aircraft maintainer shortages.

Air Mobility Command never fails to deliver rapid global mobility anywhere, anytime. The mobility mission is similar to an offensive line in football. When the capability isn’t there, everyone notices, and scoring — or, in our case, striking a target, delivering relief or helping to save a life — wouldn’t occur.

The value of mobility airmen to national defense is critical.

This issue calls for a national dialogue and understanding before strain becomes breakage, and national objectives and security are at risk.