VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

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.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

CaringBridge

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

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.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RallyPoint

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 3rd

Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.

Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.

Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.


And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via 1st Civ Div)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?

That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Call for Fire)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Not CID)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.” 

Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY CULTURE

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

At the beginning of 2017, after Dutch fighter pilots deployed to Lithuania on a Baltic Air Policing rotation called home using their own phones, their families started getting sinister phone calls.

The men on the calls, made with pre-paid sim cards, spoke English with Russian accents, according to reports in Dutch media, and would ask the recipients questions like “Do you know what your partner is doing there?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if he left?”

Later that summer, after US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux took command of a NATO base in Poland, he returned to his truck after a drill to find someone had breached his personal iPhone, turning on lost mode and trying to get around a second password using Russian IP address.


“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” L’Heureux, who was stationed not far from a major Russian military base, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone.'”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

US Army armored units in Poland.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy)

Those incidents and others like them reflect ongoing efforts by Russians to misinform and intimidate civilians and troops in Europe and abroad.

“Malign influence is of great concern, specifically in the information domain,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told reports at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

“A comprehensive defense involves air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, which are the five domains that we recognize in NATO,” Wolters added.

But on the fringes of those domains, he said, is hybrid activity, “and part of hybrid activity happens to be information operations … and from a malign influence standpoint we see that often from Russia.”

Learning and building resistance

Several soldiers under L’Heureux’s command had their phones or social-media accounts hacked, according to The Journal.

Wolters, who took over European Command in May 2019, said US personnel and families under his command hadn’t been targeted with that kind of harassment — spokesmen for British and French contingents deployed to the Baltics have recently said the same of their troops — but they have encountered “misinformation” put out by Russia media, including state-backed television channel RT TV.

“If … they’re part of US EUCOM, and they’re in Europe, and they happen to see RT TV, this is a classic example of misinformation,” Wolters said.

“Probably not to the severity” of those 2017 incidents, he added, “but it is another example of exposure of misinformation and from a malign influence perspective on behalf of Russia in the info ops sphere against citizens” in Europe.

Misinformation campaigns are central to Russia’s strategy on and off the battlefield as the 2016 US election interference showed, and not limited to whoever happens to be watching RT.

In Lithuania in 2017, officials warned of propaganda efforts seeking to undermine Lithuanian territorial claims and set the stage for “kinetic operations” by Moscow, a persistent concern among Russia’s smaller Baltic neighbors. Russia is also suspected of orchestrating a broader disinformation campaign to smear NATO’s reputation in Lithuania.

Farther north, Finland has dealt with Russian misinformation throughout the century since it declared independence from its larger neighbor, with which it shares a long border and a contentious history.

Helsinki launched an initiative to build media literacy and counter fake news among its citizens in 2014. The Finnish capital is also home to the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, set up in 2017 by a dozen members of the EU and NATO.

Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised the Hybrid CoE, as it’s known, for allowing democracies involved to research shared concerns and threats — “each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters speaks with airmen during a visit to RAF Mildenhall in England, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

‘Willing to deter in all domains’

While Wolters said personnel under his command haven’t experienced the kind of electronic interference seen in 2017, it’s something they should expect and prepare for, according to Ken Giles, senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the British think tank Chatham House, who called those 2017 incidents “unprecedented in recent times.”

“NATO forces should by now be training and exercising with the assumption that they will be under not only electronic and cyberattack, but also individual and personalized information attack, including exploitation of personal data harvested from any connected device brought into an operational area,” Giles wrote in August.

Wolters said his command and its European partners are working together to prepare troops to face and thwart that kind of assault.

“To have a good, comprehensive defense you have to be willing to deter in all domains, to include the information domain, so we have ongoing activities … that involve what we do in US EUCOM with the NATO nations and what we do in US EUCOM with all the partner nations,” Wolters said Tuesday.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

Polish soldiers use an anti-aircraft cannon’s sights to simulate engaging enemy aircraft during exercise Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area in Poland, June 14, 2018.

(Michigan Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Prince)

At the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE, Wolters said, “we have information operations, deterrence activities that take place with the 29 [NATO members]” and with NATO partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Most reports of harassment and intimidation of NATO personnel date to the years immediately after the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, when NATO increased activity along its eastern flank, Giles noted in an interview with Military.com in September.

That may just mean the campaign has changed form rather than stopped, Giles said, adding that such incidents could be reduced, though not prevented, by speaking more openly about the threat and by strengthening information security among NATO personnel.

Wolters said his command does have ongoing information-operations training.

“For an infantry soldier that’s part of the battalion-size battle group that’s currently operating in Poland, they receive information-ops training, and they know that that info-ops training is just as important as the training to shoot a 9 mm pistol,” he said Tuesday. “From that standpoint we ensure that we counter with the facts, and we don’t hesitate to call out when truths are not being told in public with respect to the activities that are taking place in NATO and … in Europe.”

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

Articles

This is how the military is integrating women

Gender integration is vital for the success of women in the military, the commander of US Southern Command said July 13 at the closing ceremony of the second Women in Military and Security Conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala.


Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd made opening and closing remarks at WIMCON 17, a two-day conference on gender perspectives in force development and military operations co-hosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Photo courtesy of Southcom

In attendance were US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd D. Robinson, Guatemala Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Juan Perez, and regional leaders.

The first WIMCOM was held last year in Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the past two days, Tidd said, “we’ve shared insights and observations and learned from one another’s experiences. We’ve celebrated our progress and identified the obstacles that still remain in our paths. And we’ve reinforced … a commitment to equality, a commitment to equity, a commitment to opportunity.”

The admiral said the Western Hemisphere offers a potential model for regional cooperation on gender integration and advancing gender perspectives.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
U.S. Marines PFC. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro (Center Left) and PFC. Julia R. Carroll (Center Right) of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East (SOI-E), stand at parade rest during their graduation ceremony from SOI-E aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 21, 2013. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E/Released)

“This week we’ve seen how much we have to share with one another, and I know this is only the beginning of setting the standard for the rest of the world,” Tidd added.

Community of Interest

The Southcom commander proposed two ideas for the group going forward, the first being to commit to establishing a formal community of interest to further the topic.

“Southcom will happily take on the task to find the best tool for continuing this vitally important conversation,” he said, “and we will use the contact information you provide today to share this forum once we create it.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Logo for the Women in Military and Security Conference held July 10-13 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Gender advisors — subject matter experts attending the conference — are ideal members, Tidd added, but other personnel also will add value and over the next year the community can work on issues identified at WIMCOM 2017 as focus areas for improvement.

Second, the admiral said, is a need to collect better data to document progress.

“We have a term in English called baselining — determining a minimum starting point to use for comparisons,” he explained. “There’s clearly a lot more work to be done on [the kinds of] data we need to gather and share, but we’ve all heard this week about the importance of using data to further this message.”

Regional Observatory

Southcom, he said, offered to serve as a regional observatory to help keep track of integration progress by country, regional advances and obstacles to advancement.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Female soldiers negotiate obstacles during the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program which prepares all-female Soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Tidd added, “If you will get us the data and research, we’ll help collate it and make it available for our collective use.”

Other highlights from the meeting included the idea that equality for women in the military requires male acceptance and collaboration; that qualification and advancement for everyone should be based on capability, competency and character; and that fair standards should be set and all should be required to meet them.

The admiral also asked for ideas or recommendations for the focus of WIMCOM 2018.

“I sincerely hope that you’ll seek to replicate the face-to-face, candid conversations we sought to foster in this conference,” the admiral said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning, not the end, of those types of conversations.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Annual event encourages healing and support for veterans

The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.

The event honored those who served and gave veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about veteran-related resources and programs.

Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.


“It starts with vets helping vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

Veterans of all eras were recognized and honored for their service to the nation during the opening ceremony on July 11, 2019.

Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.

VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.

Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations held July 11-12, 2019 brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.

“It’s a great honor to connect with veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.

“This event is about helping our veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force moving ahead with 2 new light attack options

The Air Force has entered the next phase in its development of a new, combat-ready Light Attack aircraft designed to maneuver close to terrain, support ground combat operations, and operate closely with US allies in an irregular warfare scenario.

The service is now entering a proposal phase for its new aircraft, designed to lead to a production contract by 2019.

The Light Attack planes are optimized for counterinsurgency and other types of warfare wherein the US Air Force largely has aerial dominance. Given this mission scope, the planes are not intended to mirror the speed, weaponry or stealth attributes of a 5th generation fighter, but rather offer the service an effective attack option against ground enemies such as insurgents who do not present an air threat.


“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an Air Force report. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”

The combat concept here, should the Air Force engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers and potentially fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School drops an AGM-65 Maverick during a close air support training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range on Sept. 23, 2011, as part of a six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base.

Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft experiment in 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force streamlined its approach and entered a 2nd phase of the program. The second phase included “live-fly” assessments of the aircraft in a wide range of combat scenarios. The service chose to continue testing two of the previous competitors from its first phase — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

A formal Air Force solicitation specifies that both Textron and Sierra Nevada will now help draft proposal documents for the aircraft.

“The Light Attack Aircraft will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the Air Force solicitation says.

The emerging aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.

The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions – such as recent attacks on ISIS.

Air Force officials provided these Light Attack assessment parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following last summer’s experiment:

  • Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets
  • Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
  • Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates
  • Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions
  • Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets
VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

A U.S. Super Tucano flying over Moody Air Force Base as part of training program for the Afghan pilots.

A-29 Super Tucano

US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.

A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

AT-6 Light Attack

The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has dismissed Russia’s presidential election in March as nothing more than the “reappointment” of Vladimir Putin.


Navalny has urged Russians to boycott the vote, arguing that it is rigged, and is now noting even the most inconspicuous signs of possible electioneering.

For example, the layout of the ballot papers.

The Central Election Commission announced the ballot on February 8, the same day it announced that eight candidates had been officially registered to run in the March 18 election.

Navalny posted an image of the ballot on his Twitter account that shows the eight candidates listed alphabetically, as the independent TV channel Dozhd and other media note.

However, Putin’s slot appears to be smack dab in the center. Furthermore, his bio is by far the briefest of all the candidates, appearing to set him apart, optically at least, from all the others.

Even just the appearance of the ballot and its layout is one more reason not to go to the polls. It’s just a disgrace. Putin’s reelection. Do not participate in this. Boycott. Voters strike,” Navalny writes.

Ella Pamfilova, the chief of the election commission, shrugged off suggestions the ballot had been tinkered with to favor Putin.

“Everything was done exactly according to the law. He simply has a shorter title than the others. So, there’s nothing more to write,” Pamfilova said, according to TASS.

Russians and others have taken to social media to poke fun at the ballot.

Roman Fedoseev, an editor at the muckraking Russian news site Slon.ru, writes on Twitter: “Boy, where is Putin, I don’t see anything at all, it’s not very clear. Such a complicated ballot.”

Someone calling himself Genocide of the Eclairs notes on Twitter that “all the other candidates have full biographies and only Putin’s is so modest: the czar, simply the czar.”

Artem Deryagin said he was expecting something else altogether.

“I thought Putin’s last name would at least be highlighted with a bright-colored frame encircling it, or a little arrow pointing to it. I don’t know.”

Viktor Kozhuhar says “Putin even outplayed all the fools here.”

In reporting news of the ballot, the Meduza news portal said in its headline that “someone on it stands out,” adding a winking emoticon at the end.

Also Read: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

It notes the ballot conforms with Russian law, with the candidates listed alphabetically, including biographical data, although Meduza points out that Putin’s bio is much briefer than the others.

Arguably Putin’s most serious challenger, Navalny, was barred from running due to a fraud conviction that he says was retribution for his political agitation and exposure of corruption in high places.

He has dismissed the vote as the “reappointment” of Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, it is virtually certain that the election will hand Putin a new six-year term.

Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to participate in Giving Tuesday Military

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is widely known as “Giving Tuesday.” Nonprofits compete for your donations and your social media feeds are filled with fundraisers. But this year, three military spouses are asking you to give only one thing: kindness.


Started by three Armed Forces Insurance Spouses of the Year, the Giving Tuesday Military movement hopes to showcase one million acts of kindness on Dec. 3, 2019. With 56 “Chapter Ambassadors” around the world, the three founders — Army Spouse Maria Reed, National Guard Spouse Samantha Gomolka and Coast Guard Spouse Jessica Manfre — are hoping to change the world through simple acts of kindness.

Here are 5 reasons to participate in this year’s Giving Tuesday Military:

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Volunteers beautify Fort Carson.

DVIDS

Science says it’s good for everyone — you included

We’re going to give you the super obvious reasons like “it’s the right thing to do” and “kindness is fun!” in a hot minute. First, we’ll start with science. “Studies have proven that not only will you change lives by being kind,” Manfre said, “but that brain scans reveal the person doing the giving is flooded with happy hormones. Moral of the story, kindness lifts you too!”

Don’t believe Manfre? How about Dartmouth? “Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re anxious or shy in a social situation.”

Kindness is the great uniter

Can’t get through a phone call with your mom without getting into it about politics? Ready to light your neighbor’s yard signs on fire? Somehow find yourself debating the 2nd Amendment in line at the Commissary? Here’s one thing we can finally all agree on: Kindness.

Gomolka said, “Kindness breaks down the walls that appear to divide us as a nation. It heals wounds and forges relationships. Kindness does not favor a race, religion, political party or economic status. It is literally a language of love that connects us at the core of everything that is human.”

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The Single Marine Program at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point encourages service members to volunteer in the surrounding communities.

DVIDS

You set an example

Those little people that seemingly follow you everywhere and are always wanting snacks and typically refer to you as “mom” or “dad” take their cues from you. Teaching them about kindness is one thing. Showing them an act of it, or better yet, involving them is another. Raise a generation of kids who are tolerant and kind, you know, just like their badass parents.

Can you say FOMO?

A million acts is a lot. Which also means you’ll be on the wrong side of history if you don’t participate. Whether you do it for the Facebook post (for real: be sure to tag #GivingTuesdayMilitary) or all the right reasons (serving others, being a role model, because you have a soul, etc.), don’t miss out on the movement.

Reed said, “Many military spouses in remote locations have reached out sharing that this movement is giving them an opportunity to be a part of community and have a sense of belonging. Giving Tuesday works both ways, for the recipient and the giver.”

Be the change!

Not sure that Dr. Seuss knew what he was doing with the whole green eggs and ham thing, but he was definitely right about this: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Never underestimate the power of one small act of kindness. It might change a life… or even save one. We’ll throw another quote at you (thanks, Gandhi): “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

No matter what reason you have for joining the movement, we know you don’t have a good one not to do it. We’ll see you on Giving Tuesday.
MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Air Force Secretary is a trained astronaut – and so much more

It’s time to put your politics away for a moment and prepare yourselves for the most badass service secretary since Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. President Trump nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the Air Force’s new civilian leader. She already has close ties to the Air Force as a former administrator at the FAA and board member of the Aerospace Corporation.

Even though outgoing SecAF Heather Wilson was an Air Force officer and Barrett has never served in the Air Force, Barrett is still an accomplished aviator, scholar, and astronaut.


I wanted to make a joke about how much more accomplished and awesome she is than every previous SecAF, but have you seen the resumes of these people? Air Force Secretaries are the real Illuminati.

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Except I guarantee Barbara Barrett can take all four of these guys in a fistfight.

Time will tell if Barrett will take the job. The lawyer turned Harvard-educated diplomat is probably busy heading the boards of some of the most influential and brilliant institutions of our time, including the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Smithsonian Institution, and the RAND Corporation. But the former Ambassador to Finland founded the Valley Bank of Arizona, partnered at a large law firm in her native Arizona, and worked at the top levels for Fortune 500 companies before age 30 – at a time when many women were relegated to getting coffee for middle management.

But let’s talk about feats of strength and athleticism that will win her the respect of all the troops, not just the ones under her command. An accomplished aviator, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, she’s an inductee in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and even trained with the Russians in Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a 2009 international spaces station mission.

Back on Earth, she’s just as impressive. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Barrett didn’t stop there. As Ambassador to Finland, she biked hundreds of kilometers all around the country.

That’s a service secretary you can get behind… which you’ll have to because most of us would have trouble keeping up.

Articles

5 crew are still missing after Black Hawk crashes off Hawaii coast

Five people are missing after a US Army helicopter  into the sea close to Hawaii.


Officials lost contact with the UH-60  helicopter at around 10pm, during a night-time training exercise off the coast of Oahu island.

The search began immediately, and rescuers later spotted debris in the ocean two miles from the island’s westernmost Kaena Point.

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Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment (1-207th Aviation) conducts an air assault mission out of Wheeler Army Air Field (WAAF) in Wahiawa, Hawaii. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Lisa K. Lariscy/Released)

A plane, two helicopters and several boats are now being used in the search. No unusual weather conditions were reported.

Night-time training of this kind is commonplace for helicopter crews, according to Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Kellogg, public affairs officer for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

The loss of the helicopter was reported from the Wheeler Army Airfield near Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest city, also on Oahu.

Another helicopter, also a part of the Army’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, was also taking part in the exercise.

The UH-60  is a four-bladed twin engine utility helicopter, manufactured for the Army since the 1970s, by Silorsky Aircraft.

Articles

These kids volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI

In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.


But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.

After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.

The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.

Related: Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

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These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.

Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.

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This young boy mans his post. (Source: The Great War /YouTube /Screenshot)

Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Also Read: Here’s proof that every group of military buddies mirrors the kids from the movie ‘The Sandlot’

Typically, when a soldier was “confirmed” killed in the war, his family would receive word by telegram of the passing — if the proper forms were filled out, which in too many cases they weren’t.

The military has improved in this aspect. Today, an officer and a chaplain would show up on the families’ doorstep to deliver the dreadful news.

Fun fact: The word infantry derives from Italian word “infanteria” which means “youth, foot soldier.” That is all.

Articles

Music fans prove terror won’t win at One Love concert

More than 60,000 defiant music fans joined Ariana Grande at her One Love concert at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester June 4, as they stood together in the face of extremism and pay tribute to those killed in terror attacks.

The American singer’s manager Scooter Braun said the Manchester gig now has a “greater purpose” than ever after the country’s second terror attack in two weeks.


Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Take That, Robbie Williams, Mumford Sons and Little Mixtook to the stage and performed for free to raise at least £2m towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

Bono and his U2 bandmates sent an emotional video message to the huge audience at the One Love Manchester gig.

Currently in America on their Joshua Tree tour, which played Chicago June 4, he paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack and sent a message of support to those affected.

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U2 at the United Center in Chicago, IL, June 25, 2015 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

“All our hearts are with you. All our hearts are with Manchester and with the UK and so many of our friends in this great city.

“We’re broken-hearted for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children from this senseless, senseless horror,” he said.

“There is no end to grief, that’s how we know, there’s no end to love, a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.”

On June 3 seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured after three men drove a van into a crowd on London Bridge and set upon people in a crazed knife rampage.

Despite the atrocities, fans including those injured in the Manchester Arena on May 22, headed to the venue in their droves, proudly wearing clothes emblazoned with the slogan, “We stand together”.

Mumford Sons’ Marcus Mumford was the first to take to the stage, asking for a minute’s silence in tribute to those who have lost their lives in the two weeks prior, including the 22 killed in the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

In between renditions of Giants and Rule The World, Gary Barlow told the crowd: “Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, thank you for everybody watching at home, thanks to Ariana for inviting us tonight.

“Our thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected by this.

“We want to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud.”

Barlow then introduced his former band mate, Robbie Williams. Williams serenaded the crowd with his song Strong, changing the words to, “Manchester we’re strong”.

Concert-goers began queueing outside Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground from 8.30am ahead of the One Love Manchester gig.

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Ariana Grande at a 2015 Jakarta concert. (Photo by: Berisik Radio)

The event marked Ariana Grande’s first return to the stage since suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device.

All Grande fans who attended the gig on May 22 were offered free passes to the benefit concert.

Grande’s manager Mr Braun said all the acts involved had shown “unwavering” support.

Questions were raised by fans about whether the One Love benefit gig would still go ahead in the wake of the latest terror attack in London.

However in a statement Mr Braun said: “After the events in London, and those in Manchester just two weeks ago, we feel a sense of responsibility to honor those lost, injured, and affected.

“We plan to honor them with courage, bravery, and defiance in the face of fear.

“Today’s One Love Manchester benefit concert will not only continue but will do so with greater purpose.

“We must not be afraid and in tribute to all those affected here and around the world, we will bring our voices together and sing loudly.

“All artists involved have been unwavering in their support this morning and today we stand together. Thank you,” he added.

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