SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Art and Other Tactics

We Are The Mighty’s August Dannehl showcases the “Art and Other Tactics” exhibit at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in Los Angeles, California. Generations of veteran artists showcase and discuss their work.

Military Life

Why May 2nd, 2011, was one of the greatest days in the military

Shortly after 1 a.m. PKT on May 2nd, 2011, Operation Neptune Spear was a go and the founder of al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden, was killed by SEAL Team Six in a CIA-led and 160th Special Operations Airborne Regiment-assisted mission.


President Obama announced the success to the world at 11:35 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 1st. The world cheered and the expression “tears of joy” doesn’t even come close to conveying the magnitude of emotions felt by the entire military community. To post-9/11 troops, this was our equivalent of V-J Day.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
No tickertape parades. No randomly grabbing nurses and kissing them. But we did party a lot.
(Photo by Lt. Victor Jorgensen)

I was still in the Army at this point and this is my story.

It was 10:35 p.m. CST when we got the news at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My unit had just returned from Afghanistan two months prior and I was still living off-post in an apartment I shared with my ex-wife. I get a text from my NCO that read, simply, “turn on the news.”

Out of context, you always assume the worst. I was wrong. I caught the last part of President Obama’s speech but the ticker that ran across the bottom of the screen read, “Osama bin Laden Killed” and I couldn’t focus on anything else.

My phone started blowing up saying everyone was basically throwing a party — despite the fact that it was a Sunday night before a 12-mile ruck march. Not a single soldier in that barracks was sober that night. Music was blasting, horns were being honked, everyone was screaming, and the MPs joined in instead of crashing the party.

A few hours later, at PT, the formation reeked of alcohol. Our normally salty first sergeant didn’t complain and broke the news to us (as if any of us hadn’t yet heard) with a big ol’ grin. He was one of the first conventional soldiers to step foot in Afghanistan back in 2001. Almost ten years later and he’s barely standing on his feet. Ruck march was cancelled and we were released until work call at 0900.

At the motor pool, no one was actually servicing their vehicles. This was the one day the E-4 Mafia got its way. Everyone just kicked the tires and checked off that it was good to go. No one cared enough to work… except the motor sergeant who, understandably, lost his sh*t (but took it in stride).

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
I was commo. It’s not like we did motor pool maintenance anyways.
(Weapons of Meme Destruction)

No one was training back in the company area. We just shared war stories to the new guys that didn’t deploy with us, stories we hadn’t heard on deployment, and stories we’ve all heard a million times.

Keeping in line with how we spent our day, joyfully sharing stories with one another, let us know in the comment section about what you were doing on May 2nd, 2011.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army officer is in hot water for anti-war protests on Twitter

Brittany DeBarros is waging the kind of vehement public protest via Twitter against the Defense Department and US government that’s commonplace in the Trump-era — except that DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve assigned to the Army’s Psychological Operations Command.


According to DeBarros’ Twitter account, she has been called up on two-week assignment since July 14, 2018, but each day since then DeBarros has posted tweets criticizing “the horror being carried out by our war machine for profit,” with the Army moving to investigate the officer’s remarks.

The “Dept. of ‘Defense’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide,” DeBarros notes in one tweet. “The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.”

“Defense corporations made contributions to 496 of 525 Congress members in 2018,” DeBarros said in her most recent tweet, posted on July 20, 2018, the seventh day of her assignment. Defense contractors are prolific political donors, though many of their contributions come from their political-action committees, owners, employees, or employees’ immediate families.

DeBarros, however, has stopped short of directly criticizing President Trump during her July 2018 protest; using “contemptuous words” against the president is a violation of military law.

DeBarros detailed her criticism of US foreign policy and its impact at home in a June 23, 2018 speech in Washington, DC, at a Poor People’s Campaign rally.

During the speech, DeBarros said she was a combat veteran who identified as a woman, Latina, white, black, and queer, and that as a person “existing at the intersection of these identities, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.”

“For decades, we have been lulled into complacency and inattention as our drones have obliterated weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, ordinary homes, and ordinary people,” DeBarros said.

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“We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly 0 billion annually we spend on defense. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponized,” DeBarros added. “From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percent of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace, is it any wonder that our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones, and our neighbors treated like combatants?”

DeBarros’ protest has gained the attention of the Army, which confirmed her assignment to Army Times and said it was looking into her statements.

Officials at US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command “are aware of the situation surrounding Cpt. Brittany DeBarros,” Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Crofoot told Army Times. “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are permitted to make political statements in public while they have civilian status but doing so is not allowed while they are on active orders. DeBarros did not reply to Facebook messages sent by Army Times, nor did she respond to a Twitter message sent by Business Insider on July 23, 2018.

DeBarros’ June 2018 speech came just a few days after the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone.

Rapone — an Afghanistan combat veteran and a 2016 West Point graduate — posted pictures of himself at his West Point graduation in a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face and with a sign reading, “Communism will win,” inside his hat.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Rapone, who says he retains an honorable discharge from his enlisted service, posted the photos in September 2017, telling the Associated Press he did so in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

The photos provoked backlash, including a call for an investigation by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, which prompted West Point to say Rapone’s actions “in no way reflect the values” of West Point or the Army.

Rapone enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a Ranger in Afghanistan but became disillusioned with the military soon after joining, he said in June 2018 on an episode of What a Hell of a Way to Die, a left-wing podcast hosted by two combat veterans.

“By the time I deployed, I encountered most people who had no real interest in why we were fighting and [were] more so interested in just the next time they could go out and kill brown people and just [terrorize] the Afghan population,” Rapone said.

“To this day, we had this nebulous idea of going after the Haqqani network, and I’m sure they’re not great dudes, but it’s like, are they really threatening the United States of America?” Rapone said. “And isn’t it the United States that caused Afghanistan to turn into [a] hellscape?”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

After lost court battle, U.S. ends friendship treaty with Iran

The United States says it is canceling a decades-old friendship treaty with Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court case against Washington’s sanctions policy.

“I’m announcing that the US is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Oct. 3, 2018, referring to the year of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the announcement, Tehran slammed the United States as an “outlaw regime.”


The U.S. move came after the top UN court ordered the United States to ease sanctions it reimposed on Iran following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in early 2018.

The 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights called for “friendly relations” between Iran and the United States, encouraged mutual trade and investment, regulated diplomatic ties, and granted the International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction over disputes.

It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, long before the 1979 revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.

In August 2018, Washington slapped a first round of punitive measures on Iran after President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The U.S. moves sent Iran’s economy into a downward spiral with the national currency, the rial, hitting record lows.

Iran challenged the reinstatement of sanctions in a case filed in July 2018 at the ICJ in The Hague, arguing that it breaches the friendship treaty between the two countries and accusing the United States of “economic aggression.”

U.S. lawyers responded by saying the reimposition of the sanctions was legal and a national security measure that cannot be challenged at the UN court.

In a preliminary ruling in the case, the ICJ said earlier on Oct. 3, 2018, that exports of “humanitarian” goods such as medicines and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities” should be allowed, as well as aviation safety equipment.

It said the U.S. sanctions on such goods breached the 1955 treaty between Iran and the United States.

Announcing the decision, the court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

Sanctions on aircraft spare parts, equipment, and associated services have the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users,” he also said.

The ruling is a decision on so-called provisional measures ahead of a final decision on the matter, which may take several years, according to experts.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said the ruling “marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

He also said the United States was “disappointed” that the ICJ “failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests.”

The secretary of state said that Iran’s claims under the treaty were “absurd,” citing Iran’s “history of terrorism, ballistic-missile activity, and other malign behaviors,” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.”

Pompeo added that the United States will work to ensure it is providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.

“Today US withdrew from an actual US-Iran treaty after the ICJ ordered it to stop violating that treaty in sanctioning Iranian people. Outlaw regime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later tweeted.

Earlier, Zarif called the court decision “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. government and “victory for rule of law.”

And the Foreign Ministry said the ruling “proved once again the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel.”

The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, said it was “a meritless case over which the court has no jurisdiction.”

He added that the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested, saying the court “issued a narrow decision on a very limited range of sectors.”

The ICJ rules on disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no mechanism to enforce them.

Both Washington and Tehran have ignored ICJ decisions in the past.

Later in the day, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the administration was pulling out of an amendment to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that gives the ICJ jurisdiction to hear disputes between states.

Bolton also told a White House briefing that Washington will review all international agreements that “may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction, dispute resolution” in the ICJ.

“We will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,” he said.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This free retreat gives military spouses a chance to interact with the Love Language expert

Deployments are a staple of military life. But often, military spouses and significant others are left to go-it-alone, especially if they do not live near a military installation. This year, two women are looking to change that with an online retreat headlined by huge names in the military community and outside of it, including keynote speakers Dr. Gary Chapman and Jacey Eckhart.

Joanna Guldin-Noll, a veteran’s spouse and writer behind popular military spouse lifestyle blog Jo, My Gosh!, and Becky Hoy, a military spouse and creator of deployment subscription box Brave Crate, believe that good can come from deployments when approached with intentionality.


“We want to create a place where military spouses and significant others can access resources, best practices, and camaraderie to help them prepare for deployment,” Hoy said.

Held November 8-10 and completely online, PILLAR gathers more than 20 military spouses and experts for a three-day event. Among the line-up of speakers and panelists is Dr. Gary Chapman, bestselling and world-renown author of The Five Love Languages series. Using an interview-style format, Chapman and Hoy will discuss relationships, the military and how to make the Five Love Languages work during deployment. Chapman will answer questions sourced directly from PILLAR attendees.

Including the needs and wants of attendees is important to the duo. “The idea of a wife pining over her husband for a year and doing nothing but waiting while he’s away just isn’t the lived reality of military spouses,” Guldin-Noll said. “Military spouses are finding opportunity in deployment. We are honoring that by incorporating a diversity of voices, military branches, backgrounds and experiences into the retreat.”

Sessions include actionable financial information provided by the retreat’s presenting sponsor, USAA, yoga instruction from Bernadette Soler, and how to ask for and accept help from therapist E.J. Smith. While the retreat will have a schedule, attendees will be able to view sessions and access resources whenever they are able. The flexibility is a nod to the very real demands of military families during deployment as well as the hope to make the retreat as accessible as possible, regardless of where attendees live.

“Military family life can be viewed as being so difficult, but when we reprogram our mindset, we can see there is so much joy to be found along the military life journey,” Jessica Bertsch said, a PILLAR speaker who has experienced multiple deployments. “PILLAR is taking a hard topic like deployment and bringing hope and solutions for military spouses.” The president of Powerhouse Planning and Coast Guard spouse will speak on finding joy in deployment.

PILLAR is free to military spouses and significant others. Registration is open at pillardeploymentretreat.com until November 8; however, if you want to submit a Five Love Languages question, you’ll need to sign-up before September 10 — the deadline for question submissions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why China is ready to become the new influencer in Pakistan

China may be looking to cozy up to its Middle East ally, Pakistan, now that the U.S. has vowed to cut security aid and other assistance to the country.


Historically, China and Pakistan have maintained close ties. Pakistan first recognized the People’s Republic of China fewer than two years after it was established. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has hailed China as his country’s “best and most trusted friend,” and the two nations remain close strategic trade partners.

But recent moves by China suggest the country may be looking to exploit Washington’s decision to slash Pakistani aid in order to gain geopolitical advantage over the U.S. in the region.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to defend Pakistan on January 2, just hours after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, first announced it would continue to hold back $255 million in aid to the country. “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifice for the fight against terrorism and has made very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism.”

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Nikki Haley. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners. We stand ready to promote and deepen our all-round cooperation so as to bring benefits to the two sides,” the spokesman added.

On Wednesday, the central bank of Pakistan announced it would begin using Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade and investment activities, saying that it “foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly going forward; and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.”

China’s Ambassador to Pakistan announced during his visit to the country on January 3rd that China will expedite its multibillion dollar infrastructure project in Pakistan, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative to expand its trade influence across the globe.

But China’s decision comes not out of humanitarian goodness, but political and economic strategy.

China sees its opening

According to Terry McCarthy, President CEO of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, China will be quick to exploit any potential openings with Pakistan.

“China has a rivalry with both the U.S. and India, and mainly China is using Pakistan as an anchor for its One Belt One Road policy,” McCarthy told Business Insider.

Also Read: This is why Pakistan drives its nukes around in delivery vans

McCarthy explained that Pakistan is strategic to China expanding its own power, and serves as a crucial entry-point for the southern end of China’s One Belt One Road development initiative, which cuts through Pakistan. Moreover, Chinese developments continue the flow of Chinese labor and supply into Pakistan, which provides China with an economic boost.

Pakistan also plans to reap the benefits from closer ties to China.

McCarthy said Pakistan uses its alliance with China as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. and its main foe, India. And while China doesn’t provide huge amounts of aid to Pakistan, it does provide “solid economic assistance” in the form of projects and infrastructure.

More importantly, China has Pakistan’s back, according to McCarthy: “Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t comment on human rights, and has no particular stance on Pakistan’s human rights issues.”

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. (Photo from U.S. State Department.)

The U.S. has strongly condemned Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are aligned with the Afghan Taliban.

Still, McCarthy believes that while Pakistan and China’s relationship will grow stronger as a byproduct of cuts in U.S. aid, the U.S. still plays an important role to Pakistan, despite major strains.

“There’s no doubt that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not that healthy at the moment. At the end of the day, Pakistan still needs some relationship with the U.S. because they’re not going to get everything they need from China.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is seeking wide authority to hunt down North Korean ships and board them

In the aftermath of Pyongyang’s ground-shaking hydrogen bomb test, the US has circulated a proposal around the UN Security Council that would grant its Navy unprecedented powers to use “all necessary measures” to hunt down North Korean ships at sea, the New York Times reports.


The resolution would let the US stop all shipments of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas to North Korea, according to The Times.

Such a step would cause many in North Korea to freeze over the winter, which can hit harshly in much of the country.

The US Navy would have to intercept and board North Korean ships and inspect them, a process that would require cooperation from the belligerent nation and make it extremely likely that violence would break out between the countries.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan. Photo from US Navy.

The US’s proposed resolution would allow all UN member nations to “designate vessels for non-consensual inspections” of North Korean ships and “to inspect on the high seas any vessel designated by the committee,” according to The Times.

While North Korea does have some anti-ship weaponry on its surface navy, it also fields as many as 70 submarines that could become a factor in any confrontations at sea.

Though the move stops short of a full-on blockade of North Korea, which would basically qualify as an act of war, it recalls the US’s 1941 oil embargo on Japan, a prelude to the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor that dragged the US into World War II.

The proposed resolution comes while the US, South Korea, and Japan jockey to get China, North Korea’s main trading partner, to crack down on Pyongyang.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Aerial port side view of a North Korean Navy T-Class patrol combatant. Photo from US Navy.

While China has agreed broadly to increased UN action, it’s unclear if Beijing would back a move that could cause the death of many ordinary North Koreans and possibly cause an influx of refugees. Historically, China has agreed to sanctions on North Korea in the wake of nuclear tests.

Russia, another member of the UN Secruity Council, has expressed unwillingness to engage in further sanctions. North Korea has preemptively said it would offer “powerful counter measures” if US-backed sanctions went through.

A resolution that seems destined to create violent encounters at sea could easily escalate into a large-scale confrontation, as North Korea has viciously attacked South Korean vessels in the past and the US has recently promised “massive” and “overwhelming” responses to aggression from Pyongyang.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 can save its pilot from deadly crashes

The Air Force will soon operate F-35s with fast-evolving collision-avoidance technology able to help fighter jets avoid ground collisions by using computer automation to redirect an aircraft in the event that a pilot is injured or incapacitated.

In late 2018, the Air Force will fly an F-35 equipped with an existing technology now in F-16s called Air-Ground Collision Avoidance System, or AGCAS.

The system is slated to be fully operational on an F-35A as early as summer, 2019, service officials said.


Preliminary AGCAS development work has been conducted as part of ongoing F-35 development.

“AGCAS development and integration efforts were completed previously on the F-16 post-block aircraft. Lessons learned from the F-16 AGCAS effort will be applied to the F-35,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin told Warrior Maven.

An initial flight test on an F-35A is scheduled to occur in late 2018, she added.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford Jr.)

AGCAS uses sensors to identify and avoid ground objects such as nearby buildings, mountains or dangerous terrain; AGCAS has already saved lives, senior Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven.

There can of course be a range of reasons why an aircraft might collide with the ground, one of which could simply be that a pilot winds up pulling so many “G’s” that they lose consciousness, a senior Air Force weapons developer said.

The technology calculates where the aircraft is and where it would hit the ground based upon the way it is flying at the time, service officials said. If the fighter jet is flying toward a potential collision with the ground, the on-board computer system will override the flight path and pull the aircraft away from the ground.

Most of the algorithms, developed by Lockheed Martin, are continuously being refined and testing using simulation technologies.

Interestingly, results from a case study featuring test-pilot input on AGCAS details some of the ways pilots can learn to work with and “trust” the system’s computer automation. This question of how pilots would rely upon the system emerged as a substantial concern, according to the research, because the system takes control away from the pilot.

“Understanding pilot trust of Auto-GCAS is critical to its operational performance because pilots have the option to turn the system on or off during operations,” writes an essay about the case study called “Trust-Based Analysis of an Air Force Collision Avoidance System” in “Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications.”

The essay further explains that results from their study found that AGCAS was deemed far superior by test pilots to previous “warning systems” which are “prone to false alarms,” can “degrade trust.”

“Warning systems require the user to manually respond and thus are not effective when the pilot is incapacitated or spatially disoriented, and the pilot may not always correctly recognize a warning or correctly make the terrain collision evasion maneuver,” the essay writes.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

F-35A front profile in flight.

(Photo by MSgt John Nimmo Sr.)

Air-to-Air Collision Avoidance

In a concurrent but longer-term effort, the Air Force is now also working to develop algorithms to stop air-to-air collisions. This technology, developers explain, is much more difficult than thwarting air-to-ground collisions because is involves two fast-moving aircraft, rather one aircraft and the ground.

Envision a scenario where two or more supersonic fighter jets are conducting combat maneuvers in such close proximity, that they come less than 500-feet away from one another — when an automatic computer system engineered into the aircraft takes over and re-directs the fighters, saving lives and averting a catastrophic collision.

This is precisely the scenario scientists at the Air Force Research Lab are hoping to make possible by the early 2020s through an ongoing effort to deploy Air Automatic Collision Avoidance System, or ACAS.

Algorithms are being specifically developed to automatically give computers flight control of an F-16, once it flies to within 500-feet or less than another aircraft, Air Force Research Laboratory developers have told Warrior Maven. The computer systems are integrated with data links, sensors and other communications technologies to divert soon-to-crash aircraft.

There have been several successful tests of the ACAS technology at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., using F-16s.

So far, the Air Force has conducted 19 “two-ship” flights and one “three ship” flights using the system to prevent collisions, officials said.

The system is also engineered to identify and divert aircraft that are “non-cooperative,” meaning not from the US Air Force, AFRL developers said; sensors are designed to work quickly to detect a flight path or approaching trajectory with the hope of thwarting a possible collision.

While this effort has been underway for quite some time, an Air National Guard mid-air collision of two F-16s in South Carolina last year underscores the service’s interest in rapidly expanding promising collision avoidance technology to incorporate air-to-air crashes as well as air-to-ground incidents. Fortunately, in this instance both pilots ejected safely without injury, multiple reports and service statements said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and British soldiers practice handling POWs and bombs

Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force continued to build a strong relationship with British Army Reserve soldiers with 5th Military Intelligence (5MI) Battalion, during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey from Sept. 11-19, 2019.

The purpose behind the exercise originated in 2014 to improve interoperability by increasing cohesion between British and US military units so they are better prepared to work alongside one another. This year, the training was hosted on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

The weeklong training placed the two units inside the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) on MCB Camp Lejeune.

Inside the IIT, the military members conducted detaining operations, handling prisoners of war and finding improvised explosive devices.


SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

US Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Fiorucci, ground sensor operator, assigned to 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, reviews notes during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 10, 2019

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Austin Livingston)

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and a British soldier with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, clear a room at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

A US Marine with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, provide security at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

US Marines assigned with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, plan their next training operation at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, are debriefed at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion and British soldiers with 5 Military Intelligence Battalion conduct room-clearing operations while participating in a live-action simulation during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

“We train together to learn how to work with one another in the intelligence operations center so that in the event we have to deploy, it’s important we understand how to do the same processes,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tevis Lang, a master analyst with 2nd Intelligence Battalion. “If we understand each other, we can work together anywhere.”

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

Articles

US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese government rejects allegations that its face masks were defective, tells countries to ‘double check’ instructions

The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”


“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”

The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.

Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”

Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.

European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”

“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”

Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.

The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.

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

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