A total of 259 Veterans registered to compete, including 81 women Veterans. The Veterans represented 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 61 VA medical centers. Veterans received a total of 100 gold, 75 silver and 69 bronze medals across eight age categories
Veterans competed in gender, wheelchair, visually impaired and recumbent cycling categories.
VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.
Pictured above with her bicycle is OEF/OIF Veteran, Air Force Veteran and nurse Therese Kern. Kern represented the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner at VA.
Here’s a great video about the games including the opening and a terrific slide show of previous participants from all the states. (Montage photos and videos are from 2019: pre-COVID, pre-masks.)
Welcome to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 National Veterans Golden Age Games at HOME
Feedback from Veterans has been overwhelmingly positive and many expressed their gratitude. Here are some comments:
“Though we were all at home in 2020, I can truly say I had the time of my life and enjoyed every day of the fitness challenge and 20k cycling event. I would love to be able to participate in 2021 alongside all the other cyclists in the 20k cycling event,” said David Warren. He was a first-time participant who represented the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
“Thanks to the national staff for finding a way to allow us to compete this year. Can’t wait to see my medals in person, and to get my T-shirt. Congrats to all the athletes that medaled and to those who competed! I had a blast. On top of getting in better shape after having to walk or ride bike every day for 30 days!! I also lost some weight,” said Coast Guard Veteran Nadine Lewis. She represented the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System.
“I wanted to say thanks for putting the at-home competition together and for giving us an opportunity to compete in the virtual challenge,” said Lenny McNair. He is an Army Veteran who represented the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Competition and reflection
Korean War and Army Veteran Phillip Joseph Dimenno, 88, served as a rifleman with the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Regiment. Joseph represented the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He took gold in the powerwalk and wastebasket basketball and silver in javelin, discus and shot put.
Here’s a video interview of Joseph from several years ago as he returned to Korea.
In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits.
But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US’ nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.
According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.
Mattis, whom the Times said “listened politely,” ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.
Prince’s proposal reportedly adhered to what he outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year. In that editorial, he said the war in Afghanistan was “an expensive disaster” and called for “an American viceroy” in whom authority for the war would be consolidated. He also said the effort should take an “East India Company approach” using private military units working with local partners.
Prince and Feinberg’s inclusion in the administration’s Afghanistan policy-proposal process is of a piece with Trump’s advisers’ efforts to bring a wider array of options to the president’s attention. While their proposal looks unlikely to be included in the final plan, their inclusion by Trump aides raised alarm among observers — and not only because of Blackwater’s sordid record in Iraq.
Deborah Avant, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, pointed out a number of shortcomings in the plan Prince outlined in The Journal.
Contractors would still be required to work with the Afghan government, just like US and NATO forces, she writes, who may not be receptive to their expanded presence.
Contractors also don’t integrate well with local political goals and forces, which is essential in counterinsurgency operations.
Avant also noted that empowering local partners in environments like Afghanistan had been shown to facilitate the rise of warlords — as generally happened under the East India Company when it worked in there in the 19th century.
Privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan would likely reduce some of the costs, however — a point that White House assistant Sebastian Gorka emphasized when he defended consultations with Prince in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.
“If you look at Erik Prince’s track record, it’s not about bilking the government. It’s about the opposite,” Gorka said. “It’s about saving the US taxpayer money. It’s about creating indigenous capacity … This is a cost-cutting venture.”
Despite that fact that Prince and Blackwater secured extensive and lucrative contracts under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama, Gorka described consultations with the Blackwater founder as a break with the tired, uninformed thinking inculcated by Beltway insularity.
“We open the door here at the White House to outside ideas. Why?” Gorka said, adding, “Because the last eight years, in fact the last 16 years, Jake, to be honest, disastrous. The policies that were born in the beltway by people who’ve never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS today. So we are open to new ideas, because the last 16 years have failed American national interest and the American taxpayer.”
When Tapper defended the qualifications of the people advising Obama, Gorka objected, calling Rhodes’ master’s degree in creative writing — “fictional writing,” he said — “disastrous.”
“I think Gorka spends more time following Twitter and prepping his media appearances than he does thinking seriously about critical national-security issues,” Kahl, who was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president from October 2014 to January 2017, told Business Insider.
“No US administration has had all the answers to the Middle East,” continued Kahl, who is now a professor in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.
“But the two biggest sources of the ‘firestorm’ Gorka refers to were the invasion of Iraq, which gave birth to the forerunner of ISIS and created a vacuum filled by Iran, and the 2011 Arab Spring that upended the state system across the Middle East and set in motion a series of bloody proxy wars,” he added. “Neither of these key events were a consequence of Obama’s policies.”
Kahl also cited specific accomplishments of the Obama administration, among them eroding Al Qaeda leadership, securing the Iran nuclear deal, and setting the stage for the destruction of ISIS.
Blaming Obama for the rise of ISIS has become prominent Republican talking point since the US withdrew from Iraq at the end 2011.
Trump himself has attributed the group’s emergence to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.
The withdrawal date had been set by the Bush administration, but conservatives have criticized Obama for not making a deal with Baghdad to keep US troops on the ground there, which they say could’ve kept ISIS from gaining traction with Iraq’s Sunni minority.
Defenders have pointed to the US’ inability to quell insurgency in the country prior to its withdrawal, as well as Iraqi officials’ refusal to let US troops stay, as evidence that a protracted deployment was impossible and would have changed little. (Others attribute ISIS’ appearance to Bush’s dissolution of the Iraqi military.)
Since taking office, Trump appears to have embraced a more aggressive policy in the Middle East, underscored by several military engagements with pro-Syrian government forces in that country and by his hearty embrace of Saudi Arabia to the apparent detriment of unity among Gulf countries.
Kahl invoked these developments as reason for concern going forward.
“It is difficult to see how Trump’s approach, which combines a shoot-first mentality and an instinct to give regional autocrats a blank check to drag us into their sectarian conflicts, will make the region more secure or America safer,” he told Business Insider in an email.
“And the fact that Gorka and others in the White House are seriously contemplating turning America’s longest war in Afghanistan over to private military contractors who prioritize profit over the national interest is very troubling.”
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.
You can help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
Service members from all ranks experience some crazy things during their time in uniform. From taking on the bad guys in a firefight to surviving some crazy accidents that most civilians couldn’t stomach — it’s all just part of the job.
We embrace the suck and, in the process, develop a unique sense of humor that’s not for everyone. For us, laughing at the crazy events of our daily life in service makes us stronger and helps us to push through the next dangerous mission with smiles on our faces.
When we tell people the true stories of what we’ve seen and done, the average man or woman lets out an exasperated “wow.”
In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.
At least, that’s what Navy recruits tell each other during basic training — but that wasn’t the real intention.
In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.
Reportedly years later, the broadfall was enlarged for various reasons including that many sailors didn’t have enough room down there, so the Navy listened and added the extra material and six buttons.
Pro tip: Many sailors have their trousers tailored to remove all the buttons and replace them with Velcro strips to grant easier access to the goods. They then resew the buttons to the outside flap, with uniform inspectors being none-the-wiser.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.
David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.
In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.
“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.
“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.
When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”
Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”
His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.
U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.
Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.
One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).
Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.
According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.
“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.
Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.
For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.
Today, the Wounded Warrior ProjectBoard of Directors announced the appointment of Michael S. Linnington to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Wounded Warrior Project. Linnington is joining WWP from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where he was appointed Director by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015. His 35-year military career included three combat tours and a number of command positions.
Linnington’s appointment follows a CBS News report about WWP that resulted in the firings last March of the previous CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano for misusing funds for extravagant parties and other perks that ate up nearly 50 percent of donated money. (The average overhead for veteran charities is approximately 10-15 percent.)
WWP’s interim CEO, retired Major General Charlie Fletcher, will remain in place until Linnington takes over on July 18. The WWP Board has also announced they planned to add another four members before the end of the year.
“Mike’s extensive military experience and proven leadership credentials make him the perfect candidate to lead WWP,” Anthony Odierno, Chairman of the WWP Board of Directors, said. “Mike understands the unique needs of our nation’s veteran community, is a collaborative team-builder, and is deeply committed to fulfilling our mission of honoring and empowering Wounded Warriors. I am excited for WWP’s path forward under his leadership.”
“I had the privilege of working with General Linnington in his role as Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and know him to be a man of honor and integrity,” Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, said. “The veteran and military family communities — and our entire nation — will benefit from his demonstrated leadership and dedication.”
Linnington’s active duty tours included command of the Third Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is an Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder and Ranger qualified officer, and earned the Expert Infantryman’s Badge and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He is a West Point graduate.
According to their website, “WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.”
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
The Syrian army announced on Nov. 3 that it has liberated the long-contested eastern city of Deir ez-Zor from the Islamic State group — a largely symbolic victory in the military’s fight to capture remaining IS strongholds in the oil-rich province along the border with Iraq.
In a statement, the military said it was now in full control of the city, after a weeks-long campaign carried out with allied forces. It said army units were now removing booby traps and mines left behind by the extremist group in the city.
Deir ez-Zor had been divided into a government-held and an IS-held part for nearly three years.
Syrian government forces and their pro-government allies first broke the militant group’s siege of their part of the city in September in a Russian-backed offensive, and have been advancing against IS positions since then.
The development is the latest significant defeat for IS as the militant group sees its self-proclaimed “caliphate” crumble and lose almost all urban strongholds.
The Syrian army, backed by Russia and Iran, and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by the United States, are now racing to take the rest of the oil-rich eastern province, including the key town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border. Deir ez-Zor is the provincial capital of the province with the same name.
America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?
The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?
Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”
The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical factthat the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.
Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.
Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.
Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.
Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.