The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
A U.S. Army dog that attacked a machine-gun nest during World War II was posthumously awarded Britain’s highest honor for animal bravery on Jan. 14.
Chips, a German shepherd-husky cross, was awarded the Dickin Medal for actions during a 1943 beach landing in Sicily. According to the U.S. soldiers, Chips raced into an Italian machine-gun nest, attacking an enemy soldier by the throat and pulling the gun from its mount.
The medal was awarded by veterinary charity PDSA in a ceremony at the Churchill War Rooms in London. The honor was accepted by 76-year-old John Wren of Long Island, New York, whose father donated Chips to the war effort in 1942.
Lt. Col. Alan Throop, who attended on behalf of the U.S. Army, said that shortly after the battle Chips was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. The awards were later rescinded because army policy didn’t allow animals to receive medals.
Chips suffered scalp wounds and powder burns in the battle but survived the war, returning to his owners in Pleasantville, New York.
The medal was awarded on the 75th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference, at which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt plotted wartime strategy. Chips served as a sentry at the conference and met both leaders.
“It has taken over seven decades, but Chips can now finally take his place in the history books as one of the most heroic dogs to serve with the U.S. Army,” PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said.
Since 1943, the Dickin Medal has recognized gallantry by animals serving with the military, police, or rescue services. Recipients include 33 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, four horses, and a cat.
North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee in early 2018 as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un’s ability to precipitate a nuclear war.
Lord Howe, a British defense minister, told parliament’s Defense Committee that the Defense Ministry thought North Korea would be fully nuclear-capable within “six to 18 months.”
The statements, made at a Jan. 23 hearing, were published April 5, 2018, in a committee report on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The earliest possible date for a strike in Howe’s time frame is July 23, 2018; the far estimate is the same date in 2019.
The Defense Ministry on April 5, 2018, told Business Insider it stood by the dates.
“We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea — obviously — and adjoining territories,” Howe told MPs. “Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves.”
(Photo from KCNA)
North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. Based on the tests, experts said North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US mainland — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.
The Defense Ministry believes the country is now working on that technology; attaching a nuclear weapon to an ICBM would allow North Korea to carry out a nuclear strike in most of the world.
“A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress,” Howe said.
The Defense Ministry confirmed Howe’s assessment on April 5, 2018.
“We stand by our defense minister’s comments,” a spokesman told Business Insider.
Though there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the coming discussions with US President Donald Trump.
North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about disarmament by launching satellites in the past.
Although Hollyanne Milley is probably best known for being the spouse of the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, she’s so much more. On Veterans Day, she saved a veteran’s life. And, it probably wasn’t the first time.
Milley is a nurse with over 30 years of experience. She spent almost 20 years as a critical care nurse and has been a cardiac nurse for 15 years. Milley has maintained her career throughout her husband’s journey to becoming the top leader for the United States Armed Forces. Milley was attending a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery when she witnessed a veteran collapse behind her. Without hesitation, she quickly jumped in to assist.
Upon reaching him, Milley found the veteran unresponsive. She reportedly directed bystanders to call 911 and as she turned back to him, he’d stopped breathing. Milley began CPR, completing two cycles of chest compressions – which led to him finally taking a breath. She then turned him on his side and kept him calm while they waited for EMS. He was eventually taken away to receive medical care at a nearby hospital.
Although the veteran requested anonymity, he was reportedly very thankful for her immediate aid and encouraged other bystanders to learn CPR.
Milley voiced to multiple media outlets that it was a team effort, with others also running to aid the veteran in need. A VA physician and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman were among those who assisted. Milley encouraged the public to learn CPR so that they too could assist those in their community in the event of an emergency.
In a previous interview with Military Spouse Magazine, Milley shared that, “[My husband] has always supported my desire to have and maintain a career…I see spouse employment as a vital element of military retention. Military spouses are highly educated, resourceful and resilient.”
Thanks to her dedication to her nursing career despite numerous moves and license transfers, Milly was able to save the life of this veteran. She has maintained her nursing career even through her husband’s most recent role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System is seeking a contractor to offer on-site contracted residential services for approximately one hundred homeless veterans per day. The Contractor shall rapidly stabilize veterans of the program through treatment, addressing mental health, physical health, substance abuse and other psychosocial problems.
Vets Advocacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Campus, is helping to amplify the search for a contractor to help provide services.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there are 3,878 veterans who lack a “fixed, regular, or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in Los Angeles County. While the number of homeless people in L.A. has been on the rise in the past year, the good news is that the number of homeless veterans “stayed essentially flat” (and even declined in the year before.
The reason for this trend is credited largely to financial assistance from the government.
“In the past, homelessness was largely viewed as an economic problem,” Dr. Jack Tsai, an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at Yale University, told The Defense Post. “But due to deinstitutionalization of those with severe mental illness and the increasing visibility of homelessness in large cities, homelessness really has become a public health problem and one closely related to mental illness.”
The Defense Post goes on to say, “Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness due to combat-related injury or illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or sexual trauma while in service, according to the National Coalition to End Homelessness. These traumas, if untreated, can result in substance abuse which affects a person’s ability to earn a stable income and increases the risk of homelessness.”
This contract will provide services to 100 veterans who may be of the following eligible homeless veteran populations: males, over the age of 55, or high priority veterans with acutely elevated suicide risk factors.
Offers are due Dec. 23, 2019. The contract will be for a base and three one-year option periods beginning on or about March 1, 2020. Anyone interested can view the complete solicitation here.
The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”
U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.
“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”
Started in August 2013, as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.
“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”
It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.
Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.
The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.
So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.
The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.
“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”
Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.
The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.
More than 90 percent of those who attempt to become an Army diver fail in the first 14 days of training.
The hopefuls are often overcome, physically and mentally, by rigorous drills meant to winnow down recruits to the elite few.
The journey to become an Army diver begins (and often ends) at the Phase I course of the U.S. Army Engineer Dive School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In fiscal year 2018, only six enlisted soldiers attained the 12D (Engineer Diver) military occupational specialty. Although nine graduated Phase I of their Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, only the six went on to graduate from Phases II and III held at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Sgt. 1st Class Eric T. Bailey, noncommissioned officer in charge and master diver for the 12D Phase I course, said a lot of the recruits arrive for training ill-prepared for what awaits them. The recruits have to pass a Diver Physical Fitness Test that, besides curl-ups and pushups, includes a timed 500-yard swim using the breast or side stroke, six pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes and 30 seconds or less. They also need to pass the Class I Advanced Survival Swimmer Test. The ASST has five events including an underwater breath hold in which the trainees, in their full uniform, descend to the bottom of a 14-foot pool and swim the entire width of the pool on a single breath, touching the first and last of seven lane lines, before ascending. And that’s just Day 1.
Soldiers going through Phase I of Army Engineer Dive School honed their performance skills with the assistance of Performance Experts, or PEs, from the Fort Leonard Wood R2 Performance Center.
(US Army photo)
Throughout Phase I, students have to do increasingly arduous breath-holding drills, including “ditch and dons” which involve ditching their gear at the bottom of the pool then donning it again, making sure to clear their mask and snorkel. Bailey said the hardest part of the drill is for students to remain calm enough to don their gear even as their body urges them to breathe.
“They give up on themselves mentally, before they physically can’t do any more,” said Bailey.
As a result of the insanely high attrition rates, Bailey set out to find a way to “make soldiers better, faster.” And he thinks he has found it in the Fort Leonard Wood Ready and Resilient Performance Center or R2PC.
The R2PC is staffed with master resilience trainers-performance experts, or MRT-PEs, who are not only trained to increase soldier’s mental resilience but also have degrees in sports and performance psychology which they use to enhance soldier’s physical performance.
Dr. Kelly Dantin and Deanna Morrison, the performance experts on contract at the Fort Leonard Wood R2PC, observed the diver training and talked to the cadre and graduates of Phase I to get their input and develop a customized block of instruction for the 12D trainees. They found that if the students were physically prepared for the Phase I course, their next biggest challenge to graduating was their mindset. So they set about instilling in the students the mentality that quitting was “off the table” and simply not an option, Dantin said.
The performance experts started working with the 12D trainees in October 2018. The week prior to the students starting Phase I, Dantin and Morrison gave them training on techniques such as deliberate (or tactical) breathing, labeling (which includes the act of reframing a situation as a challenge instead of a threat) and Activating Events, Thoughts, and Consequences , or ATC.
ATC is a model that conveys that it’s thinking that determines what people do and how they feel, not the events that happen.”
Deanna Morrison (left) and Dr. Kelly Dantin make a list of what a person physically feels when they are calm during a block of instruction for students of the Army Engineer Diver Phase I course.
(US Army photo)
Students who fail from the Phase I course do so because they feel overwhelmed by the physical demands and don’t believe they can continue to perform over the entire course, Bailey said. To address this mental obstacle, the R2 performance experts teach the students a technique called segmenting. They teach them to break down the course into small chunks, and instead of thinking about the entirety of the course, just to think about making it until lunch. And then making it until dinner. And then making it until bedtime.
“Evolution by evolution, lap by lap, you can segment anything, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces,” that are manageable, Bailey said.
“We teach them how to perform better under pressure,” using both mental resilience and sports psychology, Morrison said.
In the four months since they started the R2 training, the course has achieved what previously took an entire year: graduating nine students out of Phase I. Bailey said that if the numbers bear out, he is looking at doubling the graduation rate in FY2019 from the previous year.
Bailey said he knows that the R2 training is working and has been a contributing factor with helping to reduce the attrition rates.
“Every time that we have done a debrief with a soldier that graduated, they said that training helped,” Bailey said. The students even start talking about the specific techniques, repeating what they learned from the R2 training. That success led to Bailey asking the MRT-PEs to continue to give the block of instruction in all future Phase I courses.
“Because of the R2 performance training we are sending to Florida soldiers that are better prepared, not only physically, tactically and technically, but also mentally,” Bailey said.
Most of the time, people have the best intentions when they’re talking to a veteran.
“By and large, at this stage in history, the American people are very, very supportive of veterans,” Brandon Trama, a former US Army Special Operations Detachment Commander, CivCom grad, and associate at Castleton Commodities International, told Business Insider.
Indeed, according to Gallup, the majority of civilians view each of the five branches either very or somewhat favorably.
“I’ve encountered numerous people when I transitioned who were willing to help me out, whether it was buy me a cup of coffee, give me thoughts on their career path, or put me in front of other people who may be able to point me in the direction of other opportunities,” Trama said.
And despite the good intentions of many civilians, there’s still a growing gap between the military and civilian worlds. So it’s important for civilians to remember that there’s a difference between reverence and understanding.
Business Insider spoke with veterans from several different branches of the military about transitioning back to civilian careers.
Here’s what they said they wished civilians would understand — and, in some cases, refrain from saying:
1. ‘We all owe you’
The military is widely held in esteem in the U.S. A whopping 72% of Americans have confidence in the institution, according to Gallup — compare that with the 16% of folks who have confidence in Congress.
But quite a few of the veterans Business Insider spoke with asserted that well-intentioned adulation can go too far.
Some advised civilians against overdoing it when thanking veterans for their service. These veterans also warned fellow ex-service members from letting any praise go to their heads.
“Stop thinking people owe you something,” Omari Broussard, who spent 20 years in the Navy, told Business Insider. “Nobody owes you anything.”
The New York Times reported that some veterans view being thanked for their service as “shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go.”
According to Broussard, it’s best for veterans — especially those who recently left the service — to not take the praise to heart, especially at work.
“When you get out, you’ve got to compete with the best,” the founder of counter-ambush training class 10X Defense and author of “Immediate Action Marketing” said. “Go get it. That may require you doing a lot more work than you think you need to do.”
2. ‘Do you have any friends that died?’
Probing and ill-advised questions from civilians can make many veterans feel dehumanized and othered.
“People will ask me plainly, ‘Do you have any friends that died?'” Garrett Unclebach, who served as a Navy SEAL for six years, told Business Insider. “And then the second question they’ll ask me is, ‘You ever kill anybody?’ Two super inappropriate questions to ask people.”
Unclebach said people should remember they don’t necessarily have a full grasp on the issues an individual veteran is facing.
“People talk about PTSD and they don’t really understand it so I would tell you that some guys who have it are embarrassed by it,” the VP of business development at construction firm Bellator Construction said. “Everyone needs an opportunity to be human and be vulnerable.”
3. ‘I don’t really understand how your ability to go fight is going to add value to my organization’
Edelman Intelligence’s study of 1,000 employers found that 76% want to hire more veterans — but only 38% said veterans obtain skills in the military that “are easily transferable to the private or public sector.”
Phil Gilreath, who served as a Marine officer for nearly 10 years, said this is a potential “stigma” veterans face in the business world.
“In reality, over 95% of what we do is kind of planning and operations and logistics,” he told Business Insider. “That absolutely translates to the corporate world, not to mention the things that aren’t necessarily quantitative, such as your leadership experience, your ability to operate in a dynamic, stressful environment that’s ever-changing.”
Gilreath is now director of operations at storage space startup Clutter and was previously a fellow at the Honor Foundation, a group that specifically helps Navy SEALs transition to civilian life.
He said veterans must enter the civilian world prepared to explain and demonstrate how exactly their skills cross over.
Evan Roth, an HBX CORe alum and former US Air Force captain who now works for GE Aviation, agrees.
“Not only does this involve creating a résumé that has readable — no strange acronyms — skill sets and experience, but also learning how to talk to companies in a way that demonstrates value,” Roth said. “Many members never practice how to give a 15-second ‘elevator pitch’ about how they can be valuable to a company, or in an interview they’ll tell a three minute ‘war story’ without tying it back to how this could be useful in the civilian world.”
4. ‘What the heck are you talking about?’
Many branches of the military rely upon specific jargon and acronyms to get things done.
Randy Kelley, who served as a Navy SEAL sniper for 11 years, said this means things can get lost in translation for recent veterans.
“Just like in any other cross-cultural situation, it’s going to create a little bit of animosity, and create the division that sometimes can actually hurt the military guy,” the founder of wellness startup Dasein Institute told Business Insider. “They have to stop speaking to civilians like they understand what a PRT is. All these different things that were important to them in their last career are no longer relevant.”
He said it’s best for veterans to drop such phraseology in a civilian setting, and for civilian employers to understand where veterans are coming from.
But, in the case of recent vets, it’s better to be understanding and ask for clarification, rather than just writing someone off because they’re still relying upon a military style of communications.
5. ‘You must want to go back into security-related work’
Not all veterans automatically want to work for a defense contractor.
James Byrne, who served as a US Navy SEAL officer for 26 years, said it’s important not to encourage veterans to “mentally lock themselves into the belief” that their skills only transfer to security-related industry.
When he first returned to civilian work, he said some well-intentioned civilians encouraged him to pursue a gig as a security guard at Walmart — simply because they couldn’t envision his abilities translating elsewhere. Today, he’s the director of sales and business development at solar tech company Envision Solar
“The sky’s the limit,” he told Business Insider. “You’re only stopped by your imagination of what you can do and what you can work with your network and yourself and your education and your soft skills and hard skills. There’s no limit to what you can do and how you can do it.”
6. ‘You must be glad to be back’
The process of leaving the military can be disorienting for some veterans. It’s patronizing to assume someone is in a better place just because they’re no longer in the service.
Former US Marine Corps rifleman and Victor App founder Greg Jumes told Business Insider he struggled with addiction and lived out of his car for a time after he left the military.
“When you get out, you’re surrounded by a group of people and you don’t know what the hell their deal is,” he said. “You just kind of feel all over the place and that kind of brings you back into a state of isolation.”
He said it’s crucial for military servicemembers interested in leaving to plan ahead.
“You have to plan,” he said. “You have to find where you should be moving to. You have to start networking before you get out.”
7. ‘You must have gone through so much’
Never assume you have an idea of what a veteran’s experience was like.
“The narrative that has been established for returning veterans has been unhelpful,” retired Green Beret Scott Mann, who served in the Army for 23 years, told Business Insider. “The narrative has been ‘the island of misfit toys.’ We’re broken.”
Today, Mann runs a leadership training organization MannUp and the Heroes Journey, a non-profit devoted to helping veterans transition. He said it’s harmful to have a perception of veterans as “damaged goods.”
“That could not be further from the truth, in most cases,” he said. “There are cases where some people need care for the rest of their lives. Most of the veteran population are high functioning and we actually need them in our communities and businesses leading in the front, putting those skills into play.”
Remember, there’s a ton of diversity when it comes to the experiences military servicemembers have across the five branches — and even within those branches.
“What I did in the Navy is probably unlike with the other 99% of people did in the Navy,” Charles Mantranga, Navy veteran and implementation manager at tech firm Exitus Technologies, told Business Insider. “It’s pretty hard for people to understand it, really.”
Pvt. Carlos Mora, 21, and Spc. Juan Guajardo, 36, recently graduated Basic Combat Training May 14 at Fort Jackson, S.C. after overcoming the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Army/ Alexandra Shea)
Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.
Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”
Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.
“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”
Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.
So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.
Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.
It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.
“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”
Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.
“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”
After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.
Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.
On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.
“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”
Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.
There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last.
Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.
You’ll also wish you’dmarked your duffel bagextremely well…
Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice
Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.
When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.
The USO building may not have much, but it’s better than nothing.
(U.S. Air Force)
Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks
Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.
The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages.
Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.
This one shack has seen the face of every troop who’s gone into theatre.
(Photo by Shane Songbird)
Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while
As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back 12 months later.
Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.
It’s really fun to f*ck with the new guys, so don’t believe everything they say — except the parts about the camel spiders. Those things are hellspawns that deserve to be purged from this plane of existence.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going
The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.
Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.
For some f*cking reason… The one thing that everyone will always get are these cheapo lawn chairs.
(U.S. Army photo)
Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops
It doesn’t matter if it’s you firstdeployment or yourfourth,you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realizethat you forgot something seeminglyinsignificant,like a power adapter.
Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and isheaded back home is trying to pawn offall of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore. In fact, you couldprobably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.
Get your sleep in while you can!
Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment
This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.
So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit is just being at the right place at the right time.
President Donald Trump appealed to Turkey for the release of the American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is being held on accusations that he supported a failed military coup in 2016.
Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for 25 years, serving as leader of a Christian church in the town of Izmir, about 360 miles southwest of the capital Ankara.
He has remained in custody for the last 18 months, facing charges that he helped support Turkish soldiers who tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Brunson has denied any wrongdoing.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump said in a Twitter post on April 17, 2018.
“They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is,” the US president said. “Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”
Trump’s declaration that “I am more a spy” than Brunson is hits at the crux of Turkey’s argument about Brunson and the vast swath of the Turkish population arrested and accused of subverting Erdogan’s government.
Some people did a double-take on Trump calling himself a spy.
In an apparent gesture to coax Turkey into freeing Brunson, the US dropped charges against members of Erdogan’s security detail who were accused of brawling with protesters during the Turkish president’s visit to the US in 2017.
Of the more than 700,000 residents of the capital of the United States, 10,000 of those are actively working in the interests of a foreign power. The city is filled with federal employees, military personnel, contractors, and more who are actively working for the United States government, and some are working to betray its biggest secrets to the highest bidder.
It’s an estimate from the DC-based international spy museum – and it’s an estimate with which the FBI agrees.
If only it were this easy.
“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China on the economic espionage and the espionage front,” Brian Dugan, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Counterintelligence with the FBI’s Washington Field Office told DC-based WTOP news.
According to the FBI, spies are no longer the stuff of Cold War-era dead drops, foreign embassy personnel, and conversations in remote parks. For much of the modern era, a spy was an undercover diplomat or other embassy staffer. No more. Now you can believe they are students, colleagues, and even that friend of yours who joined your kickball team on the National Mall. Anyone can be a spy.
Ever watch “The Americans”? That sh*t was crazy.
There are 175 foreign embassies and other diplomatic buildings in the DC area. In those work tens of thousands of people with links to foreign powers. This doesn’t even cover the numbers of foreign exchange students, international business people, and visiting professors that come to the city every year – not to mention the number of Americans recruited by spies to act on their government’s behalf (whether they know it or not).
The worst part is that spies these days are so skilled at their craft, we may never realize what they’re doing at all, and if we do, it will be much too late to stop them.
It would be super helpful if they wore their foreign military uniforms all the time.
“Everybody in the espionage business is working undercover. So if they’re in Washington, they’re either in an embassy or they’re a businessman and you can’t tell them apart because they never acknowledge what they’re doing.” said Robert Baer, who was a covert CIA operative for decades. “And they’re good, so they leave no trace of their communications.”
He says the dark web, alone with advanced encryption algorithms means a disciplined, cautious spy may never get caught by the FBI for selling the secrets that come with their everyday work, be it in government, military, defense contractors, or otherwise.