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 SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Serbs jailed for breaking quarantine; Member of Putin’s staff infected

The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Ukraine

Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.

The Health Ministry’s Center for Public Health said that with the new infections, there were 310 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness as of the end of March 27.

Since the crisis began, five deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, with patients’ ages ranging from 33 to 71 years.

The jump in new cases comes on the eve of new measures ordered by the government.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an online video address to the nation explained the country’s decision to shut cross-border travel after March 27, including for Ukrainian nationals.

Previously, the cabinet had issued a nationwide directive limiting passengers in all public transportation. All above-ground transportation such as, minibuses, buses, trolleybuses, and trams should only ride up to half capacity.

Russia

The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.

The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.

As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.

According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.

“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.

He gave no further details.

As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.

Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.

In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.

The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.

In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.

The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.

The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.

Roskomnadzor said it filed a request with the U.S. company on March 26, asking for the post to be taken down.

According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.

Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.

Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.

Iran

Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.

The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.

Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.

“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.

State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.

President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.

Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.

Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.

“Release our men,” Zarif said on Twitter.

The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.

The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.

Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of foreigners and dual citizens over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.

Serbia

Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.

One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.

Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.

“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.

“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.

“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.

The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.

The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.

Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.

Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.

“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.

The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.

Georgia

Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.

The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.

Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.

Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.

In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.

Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.

She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.

“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”

Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.

Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.

Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.

Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.

The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.

In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.

On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.

Hungary

Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.

In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.

He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.

Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

Ten infected people have died.

Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.

The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.

Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.

Uzbekistan

In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.

As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.

Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.

All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.

Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.

Kyrgyzstan

Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.

Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.

Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Google drops out of $10-billion DoD contract competition

Google dropped out of the competition for a crucial Pentagon cloud computing contract valued at over $10 billion, the company confirms with Business Insider.

The news, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, comes on the same day that the search giant announced the shutdown of the Google+ social network, in the wake of reports of a major security lapse. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company’s work with the United States military.

This $10 billion cloud contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), will be awarded to one company to build cloud services for the Department of Defense. Google says it will not to compete for the contract because it believes that it would conflict with its corporate principles, and because it believes it may not hold all of the necessary certifications.


“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications,” a Google spokesperson said.

Companies competing for the contract must submit their bids by Oct. 12, 2018. As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner. Several companies, including Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach, rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors. Google, in particular, believes it would be in the Pentagon’s best interest to allow multiple clouds.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

The Pentagon building.

“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

In early 2018, controversy emerged within Google over the company’s participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.

In April 2018, more than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding that the company discontinue Project Maven and promise to never “build warfare technology.” Some employees even resigned in protest.

In June 2018, Google said it would not renew the contract once it expired, and that same month, it released a set of principles for its work in AI. According to those principles, Google will not design or deploy AI that can cause harm or injury to people, that can gather information for surveillance that “violates internationally accepted norms,” or that violates international law and human rights principles.

“We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local, and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently took meetings in Washington to try to rebuild the company’s relationship with the military amid all the employee unrest. The company faces allegations from President Donald Trump and his allies that it biases search results against politically conservative sources.

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

Articles

Female midshipmen will wear pants instead of skirts at graduation this year

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Peter Lawlor)


In keeping with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ recent initiatives aimed at pushing gender integration as far as possible across the entire fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Commandant of Midshipmen announced a few nights ago that this year’s female graduates will wear trousers to the graduation ceremony instead of the traditional skirts.

This decision comes on the heels of Mabus ordering a review of job titles across the Navy with an eye on eliminating those that use the word “man” in them. He has also told the Navy SEALs to prepare to accept female candidates into the rigorous training program.

USNA spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told The Baltimore Sun that the new dress policy will reinforce the idea of “shipmate before self.”

“The graduation and commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy is not about individuals,” he said. “It’s about the academy writ large. It’s about the brigade writ large.”

Mabus introduced his gender-neutral uniform initiative during an address at Annapolis last year.

“Rather than highlighting differences in our ranks, we will incorporate everyone as full participants,” he told the Brigade of Midshipmen. “In the Navy and in the Marine Corps, we are trending towards uniforms that don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”

Female cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt to graduation, and the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point has worn trousers to the ceremony for years.

Articles

This soldier risked everything to save his friend in Tal Afar

Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.


“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
Villalobos in Iraq.
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)

Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.

So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
(AARP Studios)

Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.

The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .

Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.

The enemy melted away.

Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe.

Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.

“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”

Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.

“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

After years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force has taken the initial steps to buy commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft for its light attack aircraft fleet.

The service is alerting defense firms hoping to compete for the Light Attack Aircraft program that it intends to begin soliciting bids in December, according to a presolicitation announcement posted on FedBizOpps on Aug. 3, 2018.


“LAA 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 post said. “A contract will be awarded in fourth quarter of [fiscal 2019].”

While the program would remain a full and open competition, Air Force officials said the most viable aircraft are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the FedBizOpps post said.

The two single-engine turboprop aircraft were most recently part of the service’s light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.

Navy Lt. Christopher Carey Short, of Canandaigua, New York, was piloting an A-29 when it crashed over the Red Rio Bombing Range within White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on June 22. The Air Force temporarily suspended exercises with the two aircraft before announcing the remainder of the live-fly exercises and combat maneuvers were canceled.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

A-29 Super Tucano

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

A Light Attack Distinguished Visitors Day, originally set for July and canceled after the fatal crash, has been rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, top acquisition official for the Air Force, told reporters at the time that the service would continue to work with defense industry partners to complete remaining test requirements, which mostly consist of maintenance and sustainment data.

He said then that a potential request for proposal for light attack, also known as OA-X, could be issued by December.

“If we decide that we’re going to go forward with the acquisition … if that’s the direction we’re going to go, we want to get an RFP out on the street by December,” he said last month. “If we go down that path … what we then want to do is make a downselect decision within the next fiscal year.”

The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, inexpensive and off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable in ongoing wars such as Afghanistan.

As part of Phase I, four aircraft — the A-T6 and A-29, as well as AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion — conducted demonstrations and weapons drops during the experiment at Holloman in August 2017. After Phase I was completed, the Air Force selected the Wolverine and Super Tucano to undergo more demonstration fly-off scenarios between May and July of this year.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

In November, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force with 0 million to continue experimenting with the planes. Additionally, lawmakers recently passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes 0 million “to procure Air Force light attack aircraft and associated long lead material,” according to the bill’s summary.

If the planes can be interoperable with other militaries’ planes, the result would be a diverse fleet of aircraft with partners across the world, officials have said.

“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement released Aug. 3, 2018. “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.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com in September that the light attack initiative should be viewed as a new way of doing business — not just a plane, but part of a larger communications system.

OA-X “is actually not about the hardware — it’s about the network,” he said, adding he wants the service to train more often with coalition partners who may not have high-end fighter aircraft.

“At the same that we’re looking at a relatively inexpensive aircraft and sensor package, can I connect that into a network of shareable information that allows us to better accomplish the strategy as it’s been laid out?” Goldfein asked.

Bunch last month added, “We’re still going to experiment and try out the network in other areas over time. The goal of this network is to get it to the point where we can utilize it in other platforms beyond light attack.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a US Navy blimp turned into a flying ghost ship

For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.


Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.

But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.

(National Archives)

Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.

On the morning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.

A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailors radioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.

“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”

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This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.

(National Archive)

In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.

A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.

The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.

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The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.

(National Archives)

The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.

Another theory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.

So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.

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Two Marines punished for cyber bullying fellow Leathernecks

The military has punished the first two people linked to the Marines United cyber-bullying and sexual-denigration scandal — a pair of service members from Camp Pendleton.


A non-commissioned officer and a lower-ranking enlisted member of the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment at that base pleaded guilty to nonjudicial punishment, instead of going to trial in military court, for comments they made on United States Grunt Corps.

That’s an online community created after Facebook shuttered the Marines United private page following allegations that some members swapped salacious images of female service members — often without the women’s knowledge or consent — and openly derided them.

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(Photo: USMC)

On April 5, Camp Pendleton officials were alerted that the two Marines in question had used the Grunt Corps site to make contemptuous remarks against a person in their chain of command. The two Marines’ battalion commander, Lt. Col. Warren Cook, initiated an investigation and the pair admitted their guilt.

Both Marines were demoted by one pay grade, sentenced to 45 days of restriction to their barracks and given 45 days of punitive duties concurrent to the other punishments. No other details about the case, such as the two Marines’ names and what they wrote in the online forum, were disclosed.

In a statement released by the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Cook said the case proved that his unit refuses “to tolerate personal attacks on their Marines, online or elsewhere.”

“This kind of behavior flies in the face of our service’s core values and this organization refuses to condone it. Each member of this battalion is a valued part of a storied and effective combat unit, and our success is based on trust, mutual respect, and teamwork,” Cook said.

The case was first reported on April 7 by the Washington Post.

Since March 22, service members in Marine units worldwide have signed counseling statements — called “Page 11s” — that are then added to their permanent records indicating that they understand and will follow the Corps’ revamped guidelines on cyber bullying.

Those tougher standards were created in the wake of the Marines United scandal.

At its peak in February, Marines United counted nearly 30,000 members — active-duty or reserve Marines and sailors, along with veterans who served in those military branches.

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As female roles within the military expand, the service members must evolve. (Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe)

Most of those members didn’t share inappropriate images or cast slurs against female service members; the ongoing criminal investigation has focused on an estimated 500 men who did.

The probe involves the Marine Corps, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and law-enforcement agencies in various states.

During a Pentagon roundtable with reporters on April 7, Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, vowed to continue going after online wrongdoing by Marines while enacting deeper reforms to root out an often toxic culture in the military that vilifies women.

“Our Marines and the American people deserve nothing less. Marines don’t fail. The vast majority of Marines live our ethos, and a part of that ethos is to correct or hold appropriately accountable those Marines who don’t,” Glenn said.

“Marines don’t degrade their fellow Marines. Marines don’t disrespect or discriminate based on gender, religious affiliation, sexuality or race. Semper Fidelis — always faithful — has a deep meaning that we are called to defend. The Marine Corps owns this problem and we are committed to addressing it for the long term.”

Glenn pointed to NCIS innovations that have increased information sharing and streamlined reporting of incidents to track online misconduct. NCIS agents can now ship investigative material on minor offenses or non-criminal actions to a “fusion cell” within the larger task force probing the Marines United scandal.

The info is then routed to local commanders to punish the online scofflaws, such as the two Marines at Camp Pendleton.

Part of the task force, which is led by Marine Col. Cheryl Blackstone, continues to study more than 150 potential changes to the way the Corps recruits, trains, and retains personnel to clean up an institution long deemed by critics to be corrosive to women.

Blackstone has commissioned studies exploring whether to increase the number of events where male and female Marines train together while looking at dozens of recently instituted changes to the training of Marine recruits, Glenn said.

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Future revamping could include a “Women in the Marine Corps Advisory Council” and the creation of a forum where current and former female Marines who were victimized in their careers can share their stories without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

Since the Marines United case became public, critics of the Corps’ gender policies have expressed a range of reactions.

Some have conveyed cautious optimism that top leaders of the service, including commandant Gen. Robert Neller, appear to be taking the scandal seriously.

Others had said they can’t trust the Corps to police its own because similar incidents in the past were ignored or minimized.

Still others have given support to the Corps’ current reform efforts but question whether it, NCIS, and other enforcement agencies are nimble enough to pursue violators in the rapidly shifting world of online forums.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 7 edition)

Up in the morning with the rising sun? Running all day ’til the day is done? Well, get to it then. Oh, wait. Hold up for a sec. Before you hit it check these link out:


  • Nothing saps morale like the fear of not getting paid. See what Obama said about your next paycheck in our bud Leo Shane’s report here.
  • The Philippines is ramping up military spending in the face of a growing threat from China. Check out why WESTPAC cruises will continue and more  in this Reuters report.
  • More on biker gangs recruiting military veterans — this time in Colorado — in this Denver Post story here.
  • Colombian generals serve at the pleasure of the president too . . . and he was displeased with the brass’ role in indiscriminately killing civilians. See how many got fired here.
  • Leo also has the lowdown on military retirement reform. How soon will your monthly check be affected? Read this.

And here’s the Killer Video of the Day, a new feature to TFBSATMRN (acronym for this post . . . duh) from the boys developing THE MIGHTY MUSIC channel, a forthcoming WATM vertical coming soon(ish) to your favorite military website. Dig this one from our favorite album so far this summer:

Now look at this: A 78-year-old German man was hiding a full-size tank in his basement 

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This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.


That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.

This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.

The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.

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During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.

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Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.

It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.

And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new ‘Snowflake’ recruitment ads for the British Army are actually ingenious

The British Army has had many iconic recruitment ad campaigns over the years. From Lord Kitchener’s, “Your Country Needs You” that became the basis of nearly every other recruitment poster to WWI’s famous, “Your chums are fighting. Why aren’t you?”

Today, the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom are at some of the lowest numbers in centuries. Now, they’re trying out a new recruitment strategy:


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(British Army)

On the surface, it might seem belittling to potential recruits and, to be fair, that’s how most people are interpreting it. But if you take a step back and read the full poster and evaluated the entire campaign as a whole, it’s actually brilliant.

The poster above is a part of the British Army’s “This is Belonging” campaign, which also includes TV ads that showcases young people who feel undervalued in their jobs. Other posters also call for “me me me millennials” and their self-belief, “binge gamers” and their drive, “selfie addicts” and their confidence, “class clowns” and their spirit, and “phone zombies” and their focus.

It’s a call to action to a younger generation that may not believe they’re right for anywhere. The TV ad for the binge gamer shows the person being scolded for playing too many games, but he keeps pushing himself after every “Game Over.” Next, the commercial cuts to this same gamer as a soldier, and he’s pushing himself further and further. At its core, that’s what this campaign is really about.

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I don’t want to be the guy to point it out, but… the oldest millennials are now 37 and the youngest are 25. Let’s not get them confused with Gen-Z, the 17 to 24 year olds that are more commonly associated with these stereotypes. Just sayin’…

(British Army)

British Army recruiters have long labelled service as a means to better one’s self. Sure, it’s patronizing to call a potential recruit a “me me me millennial,” but it’s also breaking conventional by attributing a positive quality, “self-belief,” to that same person — a quality desired by the military.

The reception has been, let’s say, highly polarizing. One side is complaining that it’s demeaning and desperate while the other is complaining that the British Army doesn’t need snowflakes. The bigger picture is that it’s a marketing strategy geared towards getting the attention of disenfranchised youth who just happen to be the perfect age for military service.

Since it was just released, only time will tell whether it’s effective in bringing in young Brits. But it has certainly gone viral and everyone is talking about it, which was definitely the objective.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why war with Iran might be a lot more difficult than the US thinks

If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.


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And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.

The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.

Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military

Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.

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That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.

In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.

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Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.

Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.

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