This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine achieves childhood dream of becoming an astronaut

An active-duty Marine is among the newest class of astronauts eligible for NASA missions to the moon and beyond.

Marine Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli said she became enamored with space as a child, with a series of experiences amplifying her interest as she got older.


“The first time I remember saying I wanted to become an astronaut was in sixth grade. We had to do a book report and I had chosen to do mine on Valentina Tereshkova — the first woman in space, a Russian cosmonaut. And it’s kind of stemmed from there. We had to dress up like the person in school for the day, so I made a little astronaut costume with my mom,” Moghbeli said.

By the time she reached high school, her parents had enrolled her in space camp and she witnessed a shuttle launch. The seed was planted from there.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Pictured (front row, left to right, Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Robb Kulin, Jessica Watkins, Loral O’Hara; back row, left to right, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, and Raja Chari. Image Credit: NASA.

Earlier this year, Moghbeli and 10 classmates completed two years of training to become the first class of astronauts to graduate under the Artemis program, making them eligible for assignments to the International Space Station, Artemis missions to the moon, and eventually, Mars, according to a NASA press release.

The New York-native was commissioned into the Marine Corps in 2005 after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, her sights were initially set on being a Naval aviator.

“I don’t think I knew what the Marine Corps was, to be entirely honest. My parents came from Iran and my grandfather was an admiral in the Iranian navy, and so he told me lots of cool stories when I was younger. So, I initially was looking into going into the Navy and becoming a Naval aviator that way,” she said.

During a summer seminar program for the Naval Academy Moghbeli learned about the Marines and by her junior year of college she connected with a recruiter who told her she could get a guaranteed air contract.

Throughout her time as a Marine pilot, Moghbeli completed 150 combat missions and 2,000 hours of flight time in more than 25 different aircraft. At the time of her selection for the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class, she was testing H-1 helicopters at MCAS Yuma, Arizona.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli, a pilot assigned to Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, conducts her final flight in an AH-1 “Cobra” at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, in 2017. Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Cachola.

Moghbeli said many crossovers between the culture of the Marines and that of NASA prepared her for success in the program.

“I think the Marine Corps set me up very well for training here and for the job we have to do here. The teamwork and camaraderie — teamwork is obviously a big part of what we do here at NASA — and especially when you talk about being on a crew of a handful of people for months, potentially years at a time. I think we learn a lot of good teamwork skills in the Marine Corps,” she said. “My operational background from being a test pilot, being a Cobra pilot have been huge. Even while I was on the initial training, I was able to contribute to evaluating the displays on the Orion capsule and new things on the different vehicles, because of that background.”

Moghbeli added the public speaking required during frequent flight briefs quelled her stage fright and “learning the space station systems was not that different from learning aircraft systems.”

There are currently 17 active-duty astronauts working for NASA, according to Jennifer Hernandez, a NASA communications specialist. For service members interested in pursuing a similar path to Moghbeli, she offers the following advice:

“Achieving anything that is challenging, and most Marines probably know this but, there’s going to be stumbles and failures along the way, and I’ve had plenty in my path here. If you talk to my first onwing [instructor] in flight school, he’s shocked I even made it to my solo. … But always getting back up, finding those mentors … finding people that will help you when you are struggling, and then also something I think it is very important … to surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you and push,” she said.

Follow https://twitter.com/AstroJaws to keep up with Maj. Moghbeli’s training at NASA — including future missions.

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


Articles

This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans


Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board.  Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.

Also Read: 5 Times When Jon Stewart Made A Difference For America’s Veterans 

And with that the Veteran Vision Project was born.

The idea is at once simple and complex.  Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror.  The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.

“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said.  “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”

Mitchell’s process is simple.  “I don’t know any of these people,” he said.  “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total.  They reach out to me online.  I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit.  And I show up at their house.  I don’t usually ask questions.”

The subjects decide on the composition of the essay.  “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said.  “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.

“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”

The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror.  In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.

“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said.  “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better.  Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.

“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said.  “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.

“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said.  “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it.  He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want.  You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”

And how did the result impact Dowling?  “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said.  “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”

Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.”  “But I’m a student,” he added.  “I like to learn.”

After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.

“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said.  “Just like any community.  The military is no different.  That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this.  Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community.  They’re still people.”

For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.

To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.

NOW: One Of America’s Most Elite Universities Is Helping Veterans In A Unique Way 

OR: The Navy Carrier Called The ‘Top Gun Of The Pacific’ Is Headed To The Scrapyard 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The amazing way France just honored this WW2 vet

Hundreds of people gathered in a South Georgia Medical Center lobby to honor a 93-year-old World War II hero.

George Aigen was bestowed the highest honor in France: induction into the French Legion of Honor as a knight, or chevalier, April 11, 2019, in Valdosta, Ga.

“More than 70 years ago, George Aigen risked his young life for the freedom of France and Europe,” said Louis de Corail, Consul General of France in Atlanta, who presented Aigen with the medal.


This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

George Aigen enters his pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“France is what it is today, a free and sovereign country, thanks to the bravery of such veterans and thanks to the [United States]. We are now decades away from World War II and yet we still pay homage to veterans, the legacy of their courage and the fight for freedom in a time darkness and despicable ideologies came to power in Europe.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Matt Flumerfelt plays the French and United States national anthem and during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In recent years, France made a special provision to honor all American veterans who risked their lives on French soil from June 6, 1944 to May 8, 1945, Aigen being one of them.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans stand for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In April 1945, as a 19-year-old Army corporal, Aigen fought alongside other soldiers in 1269th Combat Engineers Company B and was part of the group who liberated Dachau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazis in 1933.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Judy Hathcock, left, stands for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In a previously recorded video interview, Aigen recounted what happened as they approached Dachau, “As I approached the gate, I was a 19-year-old corporal with a rifle in my hand. When we went up to the gate there was hellish chaos.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Joyce Aigen, left, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, stand for the national anthem, during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“Everybody was looking for help, they were starving and in very bad shape. We brought in medical help, food and water, and helped as many as we could. Coming face-to-face with it, seeing it eye-to-eye … it was hell on earth. I always said the war was hell, but this is one step further.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

George Aigen listens to remarks during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

During the ceremony, the crowd reflected on the heroic and selfless actions of Aigen and all of the veterans who fought in the war and had a hand in the liberation of France.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

George Aigen salutes everyone in attendance at his pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

There are approximately 93,000 current Legion of Honor recipients, and for American veterans to qualify, they must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France in Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Joyce Aigen, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

Although Aigen’s actions qualified for the Legion of Honor, the process was not automatic. At an after-hours work event in 2016, Aigen and his wife Joyce met Dr. Christine LeClerc-Sherling, a local college professor, who submitted the application.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Joyce Aigen gives remakrs during a pinning ceremony honoring her husband George Aigen.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

Within five days, the application was sent to the local consulate. From there, the two year journey began with the application traveling to the embassy in Washington D.C. then to Paris to be vetted. Ultimately, the official decree was signed by the President of the Republic of France, March 15, 2019.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

George Aigen, and his daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“At the time we thought it would be a four to 10-month process, but I can tell you that after these years, me and family are the most blessed from that wait,” LeClerc-Sherling said. “Being around George and Joyce has influenced my family so much. It made me a better citizen, a more committed family member and definitely a more loyal friend.

“George and Joyce are absolutely everything that is right with this world.”

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

Articles

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Lockheed Martin photo


For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.

But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.

Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.

The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.

Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
SIPRI chart

Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.

Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.

In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.

Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Iraqi M-1 tanks on parade | Wikimedia photo

This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.

Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.

But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.

This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Russian Su-30 fighter | Wikimedia photo

China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.

But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.

Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
A Saudi F-15 during a Red Flag exercise in the United States | U.S. Defense Department photo

SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.

In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreased by 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.

Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.

Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat Flip-Flops’ latest is a beautiful, uniquely Afghan gift

There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.

Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.

Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.


This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

(Combat Flip-Flops)

Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.

This stone is, truly, timeless.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.

(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)

Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.

The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.

For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.

Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..

Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.

If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.

Buy your “Perfect Circle” lapis lazuli bead bracelet at Combat Flip-Flops and get 20 percent off with the coupon code: PERFECTWATM

MIGHTY HISTORY

This astronaut was the only American not on Earth on 9/11

If you were old enough, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001 when you heard about the towers falling. Personally, I was on my way home from school after being let out early as a result of the attacks, when my mother told me what had happened. We had visited Washington, D.C., just a few months before, so while I wasn’t entirely familiar with the World Trade Center, I knew exactly what the Pentagon was; the fact it had been attacked shocked me. For NASA astronaut Capt. Frank L. Culbertson, Jr., who was in space aboard the International Space Station, the attacks on 9/11 were personal.

A South Carolina native, Culbertson attended the United States Naval Academy where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. While at Annapolis, he was also a member of the Academy’s varsity rowing and wrestling teams. Following his graduation and commissioning in 1971, Ens. Culbertson served aboard the USS Fox in the Gulf of Tonkin before he reported to NAS Pensacola for flight training.


Culbertson earned his designation as a Naval Aviator in May 1973. Flying the F-4 Phantom, he served with VF-121 at NAS Miramar, VF-151 aboard the USS Midway out of Yokosuka, and with the Air Force 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB where he served as a Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Culbertson then served as the Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer aboard the USS John F. Kennedy until May 1981 when he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River.
This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

A VF-151 ‘Vigilantes’ F-4 takes off (U.S. Navy)

Culbertson graduated from Test Pilot School with distinction in June 1982 and was assigned to the Carrier Systems Branch of the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate. He served as the Program Manager for all F-4 testing and as a test pilot for automatic carrier landing system tests and carrier suitability. Culbertson took part in fleet replacement training in the F-14 Tomcat with VF-101 at NAS Oceana from January 1984 until his selection for the astronaut training program.

Following his selection as a NASA astronaut candidate in May 1984, Culbertson completed basic astronaut training in June 1985. Since then, he worked on redesigning and testing Space Shuttle components, served as a launch support team member on four Shuttle flights, and assisted with the Challenger accident investigations.
This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Culbertson’s official astronaut portrait (NASA)

Culbertson’s first space flight was a five-day mission from November 15-20, 1990 aboard STS-38 Atlantis. His second space flight was a 10 day mission from September 12-22, 1993 aboard STS-51 Discovery. On August 10, 2001, Culbertson made his third space flight as the only American crew member of Expedition 3 to the ISS. He lived and worked aboard the ISS for 129 days, and was in command of the station for 117 days. On 9/11, as the ISS passed over the New York City area, Culbertson took photographs of the smoke rising from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.


He later learned that American Airlines Flight 77, the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon, had been captained by a friend of his from the Navy. Charles “Chic” Burlingame III was the pilot of Flight 77 before it was hijacked following its takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. Culbertson and Burlingame had both been Midshipmen, Aeronautical Engineering students, and members of the Academy’s Drum Bugle Corps together at Annapolis. Both men also went on to attend flight school and become F-4 fighter pilots. With his trumpet aboard the ISS, Culbertson played taps in honor of his friend and all the other victims of the attacks that day. The Expedition 3 crew left the ISS aboard STS-108 Endeavour and landed at Kennedy Space Center on December 17, 2001.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Culbertson’s official mission photograph for Expedition 3 (NASA)

Culbertson retired the next year on August 24. Over his long career in the Navy and with NASA, he logged over 8,900 flight hours in 55 different types of aircraft, and made 450 carrier landings, including over 350 arrested landings. His awards and honors include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal. In 2010, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Of all his many achievements, Culbertson is still best known for being the only American not on Earth on 9/11.


MIGHTY TRENDING

See the newest American aircraft carrier under construction

The USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, reached 70% completion in late February 2018, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.


Like the first-in-class Gerald R. Ford, the Kennedy’s construction is being done with a modular technique, in which smaller parts of the ship are welded together to form larger chunks, called superlifts, that are then hoisted together.

Also read: This is why bigger is better when it comes to aircraft carriers

The latest construction milestone came when crews at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding dropped an 888-ton superlift — a 171-foot long, 92-foot wide section composed of berthing areas, electrical-equipment rooms, and workshops — into place between the carrier’s bow and midship.

Below, you can see footage of the superlift being moved into place by the company’s 1,157-ton gantry crane at Dry Dock 12.

(marinelogcom | YouTube)

 

The latest superlift took 18 months to construct and it “represents one of the key build-strategy changes for Kennedy: building superlifts that are larger and more complete before they are erected on the ship,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy, said in a Huntington Ingalls press release.

Construction on the Kennedy started in February 2011, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony at Newport News. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and it hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017, when crews moved the 1,027-ton lower-stern section — containing rudders, tanks, steering-gear rooms, and electrical-power-distribution rooms — into place.

Related: Navy’s new USS Ford carrier likely to deploy to Middle East or Pacific in 2020s

“We are pleased with how construction on the Kennedy is progressing, and we look forward to additional milestones as we inch closer to christening of the ship,” Butler said in the February 2018 release. The Kennedy is set to launch in 2020.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
USS Gerald R. Ford. (U.S. Navy photo)

Like the Ford, the Kennedy contains an array of advanced features, including the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and landing aircraft. (The Ford lacked one notable feature: urinals.)

The Ford, however, was delivered to the Navy two years later than planned and cost about $12.9 billion — 23% more than originally estimated.

The Government Accountability Office warned in summer 2017 that the $11.4 billion budget set for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t address lessons learned during the building of the Ford. The Pentagon partially agreed with those conclusions.

In August 2017, Huntington Ingalls completed the first-cut-of-steel ceremony for the third Ford-class carrier, the USS Enterprise.

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The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

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USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

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These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.


And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.

Related video:

These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.

Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.

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The F-22 Raptor. Photo by: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.

As USEUCOM began coordinating the other military branches, the Air Force in Europe would defend itself and allied air forces. The six F-16s temporarily based in Turkey would likely be the first to fire. As they begin intercepting Russian jets, the Air Force would likely send in some of the other F-16s stationed around Europe and the four F-22s deployed there in order to achieve air superiority over Turkey.

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F-16s. Photo: US Air force Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.

And of course, the Air Force would support necessary ground operations. In Jul., A-10 pilots practiced operating from an abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland and proved they could fly from nearly anywhere.

2. The Navy moves to protect major ships from submarine attack and push Russian assets back in the Mediterranean.

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Photo: US Navy Patty Officer 2nd Class Evan Kenny

The U.S. Navy 6th Fleet covers the Mediterranean and Black Seas and would find itself in a fierce fight if it suddenly had to secure itself from a full spectrum attack by Russia.

Putin commands an impressive fleet of extremely quiet submarines and the surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet are also impressive.

But the 6th Fleet has been preparing for these possibilities, training with allied navies with a focus on anti-submarine warfare. The destroyers of 6th Fleet have been conducting patrols through the Mediterranean and training to operate in the Black Sea.

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Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Currently, the 6th Fleet has no aircraft carrier or Marine expeditionary unit, but the USS Harry S. Truman is on its way to 5th Fleet and could be sent through the Suez Canal to 6th Fleet if necessary. Until the actual carrier arrived, the planes could fly missions supporting 6th Fleet by launching from the Truman and grabbing gas from a tanker over the Middle East on their way to the Mediterranean.

Also, other ships could surge from the U.S. into the fight if required. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently left the Arabian Sea and could be sent back if necessary. The USS H. W. Bush (CVN 77) is in Norfolk going through training exercises.

3. Marines quickly secure U.S. nationals and evacuate embassies while preparing for a massive fight.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines stationed at vulnerable embassies throughout eastern Europe would quickly evacuate embassy personnel and destroy classified information. Obviously, the Moscow embassy would face the shortest timeline.

Deploying to back these Marines up, recover downed aircrews, and evacuate civilians as required is the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa. SPMAGTFCR-AF recently trained on how to work with regional allies and quickly deploy their 500 troops, six Mv-22s, and two KC-130Js.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.

4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.

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Photo: US Army

U.S. Army Europe has units across the continent, but most of the major unit headquarters are in Germany. USAREUR soldiers would rapidly deploy from there to plus up smaller garrisons. This deployment would include the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the Strykers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the helicopters of the rotational aviation task force in Europe.

They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Travis Jones

Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.

Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the fight progressed past the opening salvos, the branches and their subordinate units would slip into the NATO command structure with many U.S. troops deploying as part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

The U.S. has been quietly amassing firepower in the Pacific during a lull in tensions with North Korea, but recent developments on an under-the-radar nuclear weapon suggest preparation for a potential tactical nuclear strike.


The U.S. recently sent B-2 stealth bombers to Guam, where they joined B-1 and B-52s, the other bombers in the U.S.’s fleet.

While the B-2 and B-52 are known as the air leg of the U.S.’s nuclear triad, as they carry nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, a smaller nuclear weapon that has undergone some upgrades may lend itself to a strike on North Korea.

Newly modified tactical nukes — a game changer?

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A front view of four nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The B-61, a tactical nuclear gravity bomb that the B-2 can carry 16 of, has been modified in recent years to increase its accuracy and ability to hit underground targets, though that version has not yet been deployed.

Not only will the B-61’s new modification make it ideal for destroying dug-in bunkers, the kind in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might hide during a conflict, but it has an adjustable nuclear yield that could limit harmful radioactive fallout after a nuclear attack.

Though the U.S. has plenty of nuclear weapons that can easily hit North Korea from land, air, or sea, they’re predominantly large ones meant to deter countries like Russia or China.

2017 paper in MIT’s International Security journal suggested that recent advances in guidance systems and nuclear weapons could allow the U.S. to destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure while causing 100 or so deaths, versus 2 million to 3 million deaths on both sides of the 38th parallel without them.

But Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, suggested the paper was flawed.

 

Hanham told Business Insider that the paper’s supposition that only five sites would constitute the bulk or entirety of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure stood without merit.

North Korea has gone to great lengths to deter nuclear or conventional strikes by spreading its nuclear infrastructure across the country. The sites are shrouded in secrecy, and the U.S. intelligence community, despite its best, concerted efforts, has been wrong about their locations before, a former State Department official told Business Insider.

Trump seems to like the idea of tactical nuke strikes and striking North Korea

Despite evidence that tactical nuclear weapons won’t solve the North Korean military quagmire, President Donald Trump’s administration has looked favorably on smaller nuclear weapons.

Trump’s recent nuclear posture review recommended building more small nuclear weapons, as their size would make them easier to use in a conflict — something the International Security paper supports.

Also Read: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

The B-61 bombs live in military bases spread across Europe and are much less visible than big bombers, whose movements are often publicized. For example, The Aviationist reported in October that a civilian with a handheld radio scanner intercepted B-2 and B-52 pilots over Kansas training to pull off a strike on North Korean VIP targets.

Recent reports have suggested Trump is considering a “bloody nose” strike on North Korea, or a move designed to embarrass Kim by responding to a missile launch or nuclear test with the limited use of force.

But experts and politicians have characterized the idea of a nuclear strike as destabilizing and frankly crazy. Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, questioned the wisdom of it in an interview with Business Insider.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
B61 nuclear bomb casing, MAPS Air Museum, North Canton, Ohio. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“Certainly, North Korea understands that the U.S. is pretty tough,” Garamendi said. “The U.S. is prepared and willing to respond to aggression by North Korea.”

He added: “But we must assume that if we were to do a bloody-nose attack, that North Korea would respond in some way. Then what?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin’s old ID card found in Soviet-era stash

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s old secret service ID card from the 1980s was found in an East German secret police archive on Dec. 11, 2018, and it shows the young man pouting and staring proudly into the distance.

Putin, who worked for the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency at the time, worked alongside the Stasi — East Germany’s Ministry for State Security — from 1985 to 1990. East Germany was under Soviet Union’s control at the time.

The ID was issued in 1986, when Putin was 33, The Stasi Documentation Archive said on Dec. 11, 2018.


He was a “subordinate officer to a KGB liaison officer” at the time, the archive said.

The front of the card showed Putin’s photo, the location of his service — Dresden — and the ID’s issue number — B 217590.

There are several stamps on the back of the card, which were stamped every three months and ended in late 1989. It’s not immediately clear what they represent.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Stamps on Vladimir Putin’s old Stasi ID card.

(BSTU)

A spokesman for the Stasi Documentation Archive said it was normal for KGB agents stationed in East Germany to be issued passes giving them entry to the German Stasi offices, Reuters reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the news agency: “As is well known at the time when the Soviet Union existed, the KGB and the Stasi were partner intelligence agencies so you probably can’t rule out an exchange of such identity cards.”

After leaving the Stasi and the KGB, Putin went on to work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.

He served as director there from 1998 to 1999, before becoming president in 2000.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

So long to smocks? Army considers changes to 40-year-old maternity uniform

The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.

The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Army uniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.

The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.

“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.

The Marine Corps announced late last year that it is considering new long- and short-sleeve maternity shirts after the Air Force unveiled a new design of its own that offers more stretch and stain resistance.

Pregnant airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tested the new maternity shirts in 2018 to gather feedback from women at different stages of pregnancy to improve fit options.

Improved fit and function of maternity clothing items are overdue, said then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who explained that female service members have been forced to spend more money than men altering uniforms so they fit properly.

The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.

The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.

The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.

The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.

The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.

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