VA is partnering with four technology organizations — CaringBridge, IBM, Objective Zero Foundation, and RallyPoint — that share VA’s commitment to preventing veteran suicide. These organizations are working with VA to promote social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources using mobile applications and online platforms.
“Partnerships are a vital component of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which we are implementing at the national, state, and local levels,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention, for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans nationwide and across the globe, reaching even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care. To do that, we are working closely with dozens of important partners across sectors to expand our reach beyond VA facility walls, to deliver care and support to at-risk veterans wherever they live, work, and thrive.”
As identified in the national strategy, engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. While each of our technology partners offers their own unique services, they all use technology to help service members and veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
CaringBridge is a global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during any health journey through the use of free personal websites. A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, veterans, their caregivers and families during any health journey including mental health and substance use. While enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge also allows its users to conduct personal fundraisers. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ to directly focus on the needs of Service members, veterans, caregivers and their families is now available.
IBM and VA launched a collaborative suicide prevention program to develop an innovative mobile application currently under development titled GRIT (Getting Results In Transition). GRIT demonstrates how the real-time and consistent collection of personalized data can help service members and veterans understand and strengthen their emotional well-being and resiliency — particularly during the transition from active duty to civilian life. GRIT allows users to create a digital self and gain personal insight into their personality baseline, provides access to a digital assistant powered by IBM Watson, helps to build a squad of social connection and offers employment matching and fulfillment capabilities using IBM Watson Employment Manager among other resources to support the transition out of the military.
Objective Zero Foundation
Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. The Objective Zero mobile application connects service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to peer support through videoconferencing, voice calls, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Volunteer ambassadors sign up for the application, receive training including VA’s own A.V.E. training “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite,”— course to then be on the receiving end of those in need of connecting. Objective Zero aims to be more upstream than the Veterans Crisis Line and allows service members, veterans their families and caregivers to both volunteer and connect to others when they need it most. You can download the free Objective Zero mobile application at https://www.objectivezero.org/app.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
RallyPoint is a social networking company designed to gather service members and veterans connect with each other, discuss military life, share information and exchange stories. The platform is now open for families, caregivers and federal employees of service members and veterans. Users can build out their own professional network, share resources, connect with other members of the military and veterans in a safe, secure social media environment. Career opportunities and resources, active community discussions and increasing social connectedness with over 1 million users is free, ready and available at www.rallypoint.com/.
“VA will not stop working to prevent veteran suicide, but we can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “VA’s partnerships in the technology sector enhance social connectedness and expand the reach of VA’s suicide prevention resources through these technology platforms. We are working with partners in the technology space and other sectors to ensure we reach all Veterans with lifesaving resources and support.”
The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that all veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it — regardless of their discharge status. To learn about the resources available for veterans and how you can #BeThere as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner, or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.
The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.
He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.
“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.
The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.
“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”
That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.
The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.
There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.
The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”
Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.
“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”
The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.
Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.
One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.
“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”
Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”
“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”
And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.
“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told domestic entrepreneurs that the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal would have “very dangerous consequences” for the country.
“We can talk the deal up, or talk it down. But we should know that a failure of the deal will have very dangerous consequences for us,” Zarif told a meeting of entrepreneurs at the Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran on June 24, 2018.
“This is certainly not the [Iranian political] system’s choice,” said Zarif, who helped write the landmark deal with six global powers.
Zarif did not specify what the damages would be, but he said a failure of the deal could leave Iran politically isolated.
U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled his country out of the landmark nuclear deal that provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Trump said he was unhappy with the terms of the deal and with Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles and its support for militants in the Middle East.
Iran has denied it backs insurgents in the region and said its nuclear program was only for civilian purposes.
Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia also signed the deal and have pledged to remain in the accord.
However, many companies have pulled out of Iran for fear of being hit by U.S. sanctions if they do business with Tehran.
Iran has been negotiating with European Union leaders and other officials in hopes of keeping the deal alive and of receiving economic assurances.
President Hassan Rohani is expected to visit Switzerland and Austria in July as part of Tehran’s efforts to ensure continued European support for the deal.
On Sunday, May 19, 2019, a rocket tore through the night skies across Baghdad near a museum by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It did no major damage, but the sound of the rocket explosion was almost heard around the world, amid increased tensions and a buildup of troops between the United States and Iran.
The Islamic Republic and all of its proxies want the world to know it had nothing to do with such an attack.
The only thing damaged by the attack was the security guard shack near the museum. If it hadn’t exploded, it might have gone entirely unnoticed. But it did explode, and it was fired near the U.S. Embassy in a country known to be controlled by Iran. No group claimed responsibility, but a mobile rocket launcher was found in the area. Now militias aligned with Iran in and around Baghdad are publicly denouncing the attack, an unusual move for the Islamic Republic, who usually doesn’t seem to care who thinks they did anything.
Iran’s military projects power to maintain Iran’s regional military power by keeping the instability and the fighting outside of Iran. Like the United States Army Special Forces, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force will go into a nearby country, mobilize sentiment against a common foe, then teach people to fight their enemy. Iran-backed militias were on the front lines against ISIS, and many Shia insurgents fighting U.S. troops in the Iraq War had Iranian backing.
Not this time.
Iran-backed Shia militias were even incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces. How do you like those Humvees?
As the United States evacuated diplomatic personnel and President Trump warned Iran about its forthcoming total destruction, Iran was quick to backpedal away from the tense talk of recent days. Even its supporters in Iraq were quick to distance themselves.
“If war is ignited, everyone will be burned,” said Hadi al-Ameri, a militia commander and politician who represents militias, including Iran-backed factions, from across the spectrum. Even the most hardline, pro-Iran political parties denounced the attack.
But even if Iran or a pro-Iranian militia did not fire the rocket attack, it still leaves the question of who did fire the rocket and why.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Coronavirus pandemic that’s happening around the world. The effects of the virus have left military families scrambling, and not for reasons you think. With military moves being stopped, schools shut down, and redeployments halted, families are struggling to figure out a plan to prevail through yet another disaster.
Do you have an emergency financial plan in place for your family?
Having emergency funds for your family in times like this is crucial. Going forward, use these financial tips to help your family thrive during hard times.
Have three months worth of expenses saved if possible.
Have adequate insurance (travel, personal property, auto, renters, and home).
Save a small amount of cash every month (Separate from your normal savings).
Do you have an emergency childcare plan?
With the rising number of schools and daycare centers shutting down, having an emergency plan for your children is essential. After reading that most military families don’t have someone they can ask a favor, finding your village is now more important than ever. Because we assume our school-aged children would spend most of their days at school, we don’t really prepare for this not to be the case. Now, we have to prepare. Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe and entertained.
Have a list of drop-in childcare facilities or babysitters near your home.
Have written childcare instructions in your home for an emergency babysitter.
Sign up for a free online school subscription. Cato.org has an extensive list of online schooling options.
Do you have enough household products in case of emergency?
Many military families live paycheck to paycheck. Having a surplus of food and household items may not be an option. However, there are things you should always keep in your home in case of emergency, or in this case, quarantine.
Always keep one weeks worth of basic living essentials in your home.
Have a small supply of ready to eat foods on hand.
Don’t forget baby formula pet food. Many people overlook these items when preparing for a disaster.
Does your family have exceptional medical needs?
If you have an exceptional family member or members that requires medication, having necessary medical supplies can mean the difference between life or death.
Have a pre-written medical emergency sheet easily accessible
Contact your doctor for medication refills, if you are close to running out.
Have basic medical supplies on hand (cold medicine, bandages, pain relievers).
Being prepared eases the stress of any emergency, especially one that doesn’t have an immediate end in sight. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about how you can prepare your family for an unexpected emergency. Better to be safe, than sorry.
Also, check CDC.com for the most accurate up-to-date information.
As part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. to launch offensive cyber attacks in retaliation against Russia or any other country that tries to “significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government.”
The language appeared in the committee’s newly released conference report of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” a week after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized President Donald Trump for not taking a hard stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The NDAA “authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in cyberspace.”
“Defense committees have long expressed concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyberspace and electronic warfare,” the document states.
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
To assist the Defense Department in this challenge, the NDAA “establishes a policy that the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” the document states.
Lawmakers became increasingly vocal in their concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections after Trump appeared to question his own intelligence agencies’ findings on the issue and take Putin’s word at the Helsinki summit that Russia had no part in interfering with the 2016 election.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.
“He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be,’ ” Trump said.
He later clarified his comments, saying he told Putin the U.S. won’t tolerate any election interference in the future.
“I let him know we can’t have this,” Trump said, according to an AP report. “We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
In addition to the new language, Senate lawmakers increased research and development spending on cyber, and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy, by more than 0 million, the document states.
If signed by Trump, “the FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world,” according to a recent Senate Armed Services Committee press release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Corps also uses the M9, but Marine officials have remained tight-lipped on whether the service will commit to choosing the MHS as its new service pistol.
The Marine Corps did, however, include the MHS in the Family of Infantry Weapons Systems section of the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Estimates Justification Book.
“The Modular Handgun System will be purchased to replace the legacy M9, M9A1, M45A1, and M007 pistols with a more affordable and efficient pistol for maintenance,” the document states. “The MHS also provides modularity and greater shooter ergonomics over the current models, which will allow for more accurate fire for military personnel of different sizes.”
Marine Corps Systems Command officials declined to comment on the budget submission.
Military.com also reached out to Sig Sauer for comment but did not receive a response by press time.
The $28.3 million earmarked for the Family of Infantry Weapons Systems “supports the first year of procurement and fielding of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IAR), Modular Handgun Systems (MHS), Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), M320 Grenade Launchers, and Tow Objective Gunner Protection Kit 2.0 (TOGPK 2.0),” the document states.
The budget document does not provide a total dollar amount for the MHS, but lists the unit cost of 35,000 Sig Sauer MHS pistols at $180 each. Army weapons officials have so far declined to give a unit cost for MHS.
The Army’s 10-year MHS agreement calls for Sig Sauer to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The striker-fired pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines. There is also an accessory rail for mounting accessories such as weapon lights.
The Army intends to purchase 195,000 MHS pistols, mostly in the full-size XM17 version.
The Marine Corps may be leaning more toward the smaller XM18 model, according to a “sources sought” solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov on Feb. 13, 2018.
“The Program Manager Individual Combat and Equipment (PM ICE), Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM), is seeking industry input that identifies potential sources for holster sleeve for the Modular Handgun System (MHS) (P320 Sig Sauer handgun) Compact ([XM18]) version,” the solicitation states.
Companies have a deadline of March 30, 2018, to submit concept proposals, the solicitation states.
Army weapons officials first announced that the Marine Corps was considering purchasing 35,000 Modular Handgun Systems at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum May 2017.
Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America, and Beretta in the MHS competition, an effort the Army launched in late August 2015.
Sig’s victory formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.
With the news that the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), under the command of United States Navy Capt. James A. Kirk (we won’t know for another two centuries if he is related to James T. Kirk), is potentially deploying off the North Korean coast.
The question many will ask is: “What can the Zumwalt do against the North Korean Navy?”
The short answer is: “A lot.”
Let’s take a look at the firepower the Zumwalt carries. According to a US Navy fact sheet, the USS Zumwalt packs two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, two 30mm “Close-In Guns,” 80 Advanced Vertical-Launch System cells, and two M-60R helicopters capable of carrying torpedoes and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The 80 missile cells can carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missiles.
This is a very powerful weapons suite.
To compare, let’s look at the North Korean navy’s most powerful ship, which is known as 823 — the only Soho-class frigate in service. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” that ship has four single SS-N-2 launchers; a single 100mm gun; two twin 37mm guns; two twin 30mm guns; and two twin 25mm guns.
“Combat Fleets” notes that the North Korean Navy also has at least one Najin-class light frigate, and 15 missile boats, all armed with at least two SS-N-2A missiles.
How does the Zumwalt fare against this swarm? The good news is that the helicopters on board will likely be able to pick off a number of the missile boats before they can launch their missiles.
Since each MH-60 carries four Hellfires, we can assume that the fifteen missile boats will be cut down some. Zumwalt will probably empty her Tomahawks at North Korean targets as well.
Lil’ Kim ain’t gonna like how that ends up.
The survivors may launch their missiles at the Zumwalt but the SS-N-2A is a much less advanced missile than the Noor anti-ship missiles launched at USS Mason (DDG 87) on multipleoccasions of the coast of Yemen in October. Zumwalt, with the ability to use the same missiles as the Mason did, will likely be able to shoot them down or decoy them using chaff.
At this point, the Zumwalt will use her 155mm guns to take out any North Korean surface vessels that try to approach. What rounds they will fire is up in the air due to the cancellation of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectiles, but there are a number of options that she can use aside from spitballs.
Once she dispatches the surface force, the Zumwalt will then make sail away from the coast to evade North Korea’s sizable force of old electric (and quiet) submarines. Any that are close will likely get a torpedo from a MH-60.
In short, the Zumwalt can trash the North Korean Navy’s surface fleet. Her Tomahawks will trash their bases. Then, she will reload and come back to hit land targets with her weapons.
Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.
To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.
The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.
“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”
After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.
Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.
“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”
Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted.
Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.
Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.
“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”
Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.
“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.
To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
The Russian military on Nov. 28, 2018, announced plans to deploy advanced antiaircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula amid rising tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
A division of S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missiles will be sent to Crimea for “combat duty,” the state-backed Tass news agency reported Wednesday, citing information provided by the Southern Military District’s press service. “In the near future, the new system will enter combat duty to defend Russia’s airspace, replacing the previous air defense system,” a representative told the official news agency.
Sputnik News, another Russian media outlet owned by the Russian government, indicated that this would be the fourth S-400 air-defense battalion the country deployed to Crimea. The S-400 surface-to-air missile system is one of the world’s most advanced air-defense systems, able to target aircraft, missiles, and even ground targets.
A column of what appeared to be anti-ship missile systems was spotted on a highway headed toward the Crimean city of Kerch on Nov. 27, 2018, the Russian state-funded television network RT reported.
An S-400 92N2 radar and 5P85T2.
News of missile deployments to Crimea come just a couple of days after a serious naval clash between Russia and Ukraine on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Sea of Azov, which is shared territorial waters under a 2003 treaty signed by the two countries.
During Nov. 28, 2018’s confrontation, Russian vessels rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and opened fire on two other ships before seizing the boats and taking their crew members into custody.
Russia asserts that the ships, which were traveling to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol from Odessa by way of the Kerch Strait, failed to request authorization and engaged in dangerous maneuvers. Moscow has yet to provide evidence to support these claims.
Ukraine argues that the incident was evidence of Russian aggression and released a video from aboard one of the Russian ships that Ukrainian authorities intercepted. In the video, the Russian sailors can be heard shouting “crush him” as the Russian vessel rams the Ukrainian tugboat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The telecom sector is rife with opportunities that align perfectly with the skills and experiences of veterans just like you. For starters, degrees aren’t required for many positions, which is a boon to the thousands of vets who choose to transition right into careers without first attending college. This industry also demands innovative leaders who are skilled at using technology and have excellent customer-service and relationship-management skills, requirements veterans often fit to a T.
“At T-Mobile, we’ve found veterans often make the strongest leaders and are high performers, and we are committed to helping give them access to the best job opportunities available. To show our commitment, we’ve pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses in the next five years, and we’re getting closer to this goal every day,” says Donna Wright, senior manager of Military and Diversity Sourcing for T-Mobile.
The telecom industry also boasts some of the country’s top Military Friendly® Employers, such as T-Mobile, Teleperformance and Verizon*. If you want to score a civilian career while you’re still in the military, many of these companies offer you the flexibility to do just that. And because most are nationwide, you can relocate and remain with the same company. What’s more, telecom organizations are, more and more, extending their Military Friendly® programs and perks not just to vets, but to their spouses and families, too.
“We recognize that being the spouse of a military person can be very challenging from an employment perspective,” explained Amber Brown, director of talent acquisition at Teleperformance. “To help address these challenges, we launched the Military Spouse Work at Home Project, which offers positions that allow military spouses to work from home, with flexible schedules based on the unique military lifestyle. In the event of a PCS move, we work with the spouse to transition the job to the next duty station.”
Verizon, our 2018 Military Friendly® Company of the Year, already employs more than 11,000 service members, veterans and reservists, and leverages special military and military-spouse hiring programs aimed at recruiting thousands more.
“We continue to see opportunities to place veterans across our business, especially in customer-facing roles and those related to technology such as cybersecurity and enterprise sales,” said Tommy Jones, leader of Verizon’s Military Recruitment Team.
You already know your skills and experience are a match for telecom. Now turn the page to learn more about the types of jobs available to you and find out which ones align with your career interests and aspirations!
You’ll plan, implement, upgrade or monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information. You may ensure appropriate security controls are in place that will safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure and respond to computer security breaches and viruses. Knowledge of computers, programming and/or telecommunications may be required.
15% or higher growth through 2026
Bachelor’s or equivalent experience
Communications Tower Equipment Technician
You will repair, install or maintain mobile or stationary radio transmitting, broadcasting and receiving equipment, and two-way radio communications systems used in cellular telecommunications, mobile broadband, ship-to-shore, aircraft-to-ground communications, and radio equipment in service and emergency vehicles. You may also test and analyze network coverage. You’ll need to know how to read blueprints and be comfortable climbing equipment or structures.
2-4% growth through 2026
High school diploma or equivalent
Master Sergeant Janine “J9” Rodriguez
Project Home Ambassador, Teleperformance
Date of hire: July 2014
Master Sergeant (E-7),
Air Force (1994-2014)
AFSC: Personnel (3S071)
Associate degree, human resources, Community College of the Air Force, 2005
Bachelor’s degree, business management, Park University, 2010
Professional Manager Certification,
Community College of the Air Force, 2013
What do you do? I act as the champion to our military families, servicing them as they relocate due to PCS moves and providing service and assistance during military deployments. I also develop and manage a network of Teleperformance military families to ensure connectivity across sites.
What did you do in the military? I provided contingency support to 10,000+ staff, advised senior managers on HR issues and requirements, served as subject matter expert for management-level performance evaluations, and drove the process for hundreds of promotion recommendations for officers.
Why did you decide to retire from the military? I decided to retire because my mom was terminally ill and I wanted to help take care of her with the little time we had left.
Why did you choose this career path? I started with Teleperformance in the human resources department in an entry level position and then was presented with promotion opportunities within the HR department, including the opportunity to help broaden our military footprint in my current role. I just couldn’t resist.
What military skills do you apply to your job? Definitely my work ethic, integrity in all that I do, and the importance of following direction and supporting the mission.
Best advice? Attending TAP prior to my retirement was essential for me to be prepared. Ensure that your military experience is translated to civilian language, know your worth, and research your employment location.
Petty Officer Third Class, Kevin Battles
Solutions Manager, Verizon* Wireless
Date of Hire: March 2014
Military Service: Petty Officer Third Class (E-4), Navy (2004-2007)
Rating: Ships Serviceman
Education: Bachelor’s degree, mass communications, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2018
Why did you decide to separate from the military? Family is very important to me. I had two young daughters who needed their father in their lives, so I decided to pursue other career opportunities closer to home.
Why did you choose this career path? I knew my military experience in managing the ship’s store, laundry, barber shop and vending operations would help me transition into a career in retail sales. At first, it was attractive to be in a position that provided a good living, but over the last 10 years it has evolved into a fulfilling career and personal growth opportunity.
What worked best in your job search? Military-oriented hiring sites were the best source of job opportunities. I basically scoured these sites daily in my job search.
What skills learned in the military do you apply to your job today? Leadership, self-discipline, respect, and mentoring are all qualities I’ve taken into civilian life. These skills helped me in my current leadership role and prepped me to help support other veterans as the leader of our Verizon Veterans Advisory Board Employee Resource Group, which provides assistance, guidance and representation regarding veterans’ issues to Verizon leadership and serves as an advocate for veteran employees.
Best advice for transitioning service members? Build your resume before you leave the service, look for jobs that leverage your specific role in the military, and focus on companies that consistently rank high as being Military Friendly®.
Company is a paid advertiser in this issue.
Lieutenant Colonel, Tana Avellar
Manager, HR Project Delivery, T-Mobile
Date of hire: January 2016
Military Service: Lieutenant Colonel (O-5), Army National Guard (1998-Present)
MOS: Military Intelligence Officer (35D)
Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration (BBA), Gonzaga University, 2002
Why did you choose this career path? While I have not separated from the military completely, I decided I wanted to find a civilian career that would provide better work-life balance for my family as well as broaden my skillset and have career options if I ever left the military. I selected project management and people management as a career focus because they required a skillset that was a natural fit based on my military background. I’ve been leading people in the military for over 15 of my 20 years in the Guard. Project management is also a core skillset of most military officers.
What worked best in your job search? The best approach to my job search was networking. I landed my position as a contractor through a friend who referred me to her company. I also tailored my resume to be specific about what I was looking for in a position. While I have varying skills, being focused and specific generated far more success in my search and helped to open doors.
Did you use social media in your job search? If so, how?I used LinkedIn for my job search and to connect with people from companies I was interested in pursuing. The most effective approach was to seek out a recruiter or hiring manager directly for positions I was interested in. I worked to land informational interviews before applying, which helped me better determine which roles were a fit.
Companies hiring for telecommunication jobs
Verizon: Verizon Communications Inc. is a global leader in delivering the promise of the digital world. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 112.1 million retail connections nationwide.
Oracle: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.