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Monday, December 4, 2017

#Veterans Military

#Veterans Military


4 Common Questions About VA Benefits Answered By An Expert

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:53 AM PST

In 2014, a Vietnam veteran walked into my office and asked, "Can you help me? I've been trying for 10 years and talked to several service officers who just won't help." I told him I would try, but needed to review his paperwork first. Looking at his service records, I saw three Article 15s, a court-martial, and an other-than-honorable discharge. I thought there was no way I could help this veteran. Something didn't seem right, though, so I put on my first sergeant glasses and started digging deeper, coming to realize that this veteran had been screwed by his chain of command. Long story short, I filed his claim, got him enrolled in VA health care, a large lump-sum retroactive payment, and an upgrade to his discharge. This is why I chose the veteran service officer profession.

Numerous VA benefits for eligible veterans are available, but navigating the bureaucracy can be a real challenge, and many people miss out on benefits they have earned because they don't know where to start. Too often I hear, "I'm fine, save it for someone who really needs it." My response: These are benefits that you earned by serving your country! There is no saving them for someone else.

While every case is different, I get the same type of questions over and over from the veterans I serve. In no particular order, here are some of the most common requests that I receive and how veterans should tackle them.

1. How come the VA won't fix my teeth?

Department of Veterans Affairs photo


Ahh, the old VA dental issue. It might be surprising, but I get many questions about why the VA won't fix the veterans' teeth. It is a problem that still perplexes me. The VA has a dental office in the VA hospital with dentists, but they won't see you unless you meet certain requirements. As far as I'm concerned, if you are enrolled in the VA for health care you should be able to receive dental care. But I don't get to make those decisions.

The eligibility requirements for dental care are a bit convoluted. First, you must be enrolled in VA health care and either have a service-connected dental injury or a 100% (permanent and total or unemployable) disability rating, be participating in the VA Vocational Rehab program, or have not received dental care within the last 90 days of your service (one-time only). If you don't meet any of these requirements, there is a VA dental insurance program available.

You say you don't want to enroll in VA health care to get your VA dental benefit? I get it, VA health care has had a bad rap for decades, and, yes, some of the criticism is deserved. Some facilities are inadequate and employees have mistreated our veterans. The system overall, however, deserves a second look.

For instance, many elderly veterans simply cannot afford private health or dental care. The VA treats service-connected disabilities or diseases at no cost and offers lower copayments than a private provider for treatment and medications. Post-9/11 veterans can enroll upon discharge and receive up to five years of free health care. A yearly visit is all that is required to maintain enrollment, and you can still see a private provider if you wish. Find a veteran service officer to check your eligibility and submit the appropriate enrollment documents, if qualified.

2. I know a veteran who is getting 50% for his knees, can I make a claim for that, too?

I hear this one a lot: A veteran whose knees (or other body part) hurt just as much as another veteran receiving compensation, and they want in on the action. There's also the "bar lawyers" who sit around the bar at the local veteran organization club telling war stories and convincing others they deserve that disability money as well.

It does not work that way, people! Compensation is one benefit that veterans definitely need to see a veteran service officer about. The officer can let you know upfront if you have a claim or not. Too many veterans try to submit a claim on their own only to have it denied. Worse, unsubstantiated claims tie up the system and create a backlog for legitimate claims. What I tell vets is that it's much easier to submit an initial claim than to try to re-open a previously denied claim. Veteran service officers receive training to identify claimable disabilities and meet the VA's requirements for service-connection. Just remember, the longer a veteran waits to file a claim, the more difficult it becomes to service-connect any disabilities.

3. Can you send me my discharge papers right this second?

U.S. Air Force photo


I receive requests for copies of discharges almost daily and it always seems to be an emergency. "My mortgage company needs it now." "I'm trying to get a discount on my car purchase." You get the idea. Unless you registered a copy with my office, you are not getting it today. The first thing any veteran needs to do once discharged, or now if they haven't done it, is register a copy of their DD-214 with their respective county records office. Do not bring Member Copy 1. Copy 1 is worthless because it does not define the character of service and cannot be used to qualify the veteran for any VA benefits. Copy 4 is the gold standard; keep it safe!

Other options for getting a copy include the National Personnel Record Center or the state veterans' office where the veteran setup residence after discharge. The veteran service officer can assist with the request but know that these options can take months and are not guaranteed.

4. What do I need to get a VA home loan?

The home loan guaranty is a great benefit and the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is the confirmation of the veteran's qualification for the benefit. The VA does not actually issue the loan; they just "back" a home loan from a financial institution; you still have to meet the basic requirements to qualify for a loan, but the COE alleviates the need for a down payment and some processing fees. Make sure to get your COE before you see a loan officer. Some institutions will request it for you, but I have dealt with several that do not understand the benefit and try to sell the veteran on a different loan or some other instrument.

Dan Thorstad served 23 years active duty in the Army. He deployed twice and retired as a first sergeant. He now resides in North Dakota with his wife of 25 years. He has four grown children, one who is currently on active-duty with the Air Force, and is a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan.

The post 4 Common Questions About VA Benefits Answered By An Expert appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Parris Island Will Train Marine Recruits From This European Country

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:30 AM PST

It will be the Marine Corps' first recruiting substation outside the U.S. when it opens in a couple of months, and the trainees who come through it will eventually end up in the Lowcountry.

The substation will open Feb. 15 at Kleber Kaserne, in Germany, according to the Corps. A U.S. Army base in Kleber — in the Kaiserslautern region of the country — will host the substation.

The area is home to about 50,000 U.S. personnel and their families, according to Stars and Stripes. Only American citizens will be recruited.

"They will come to Parris Island," Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island spokesperson Capt. Adam Flores told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette on Friday, explaining all trainees recruited in Germany will earn the title "Marine" at the depot.

The substation belongs to the Corps' Eastern Recruiting Region and is attached to New Hampshire-based Recruiting Station Portsmouth, according to Capt. Gerard Farao, spokesperson for the 1st Marine District.

"It's been in the works for about two years now," Farao told the Packet and Gazette on Friday.

Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Nieves has been assigned to the station, according to the Marine Corps Times. He told that newspaper: "It's a market we're not really in. We're not really sure how it's going to go. They proposed it and figured it will save the individuals that are interested a lot of time and money."

Nieves is the only recruiter in Germany, according to the Times, and he's also working with prospective recruits in other European countries, such as Great Britain, Spain and Belgium.

———

©2017 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Parris Island Will Train Marine Recruits From This European Country appeared first on Task & Purpose.

4 Reasons Why Assassinating Kim Jong Un Could Become A Total Disaster

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:20 AM PST

North Korea's most recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test has once again captivated the international community. Much less attention has been paid to how South Korea is responding to its neighbor's military advances. Firstly, South Korea is acquiring the capabilities to conduct preemptive strikes against North Korea's nuclear and missile sites under the guise of its "Kill Chain" strategy. Relatedly, Seoul is seeking the capabilities and simulating decapitation strikes against North Korea's leadership—that is, South Korea wants the ability to assassinate Kim Jong-un and his inner circle.

Both capabilities pose enormous challenges that are not being acknowledged. For both scenarios, Seoul is failing to ask the simple question of whether the United States would back its actions. Washington itself does not appear to be contemplating this essential question, even though it would be directly implicated by South Korea's policies.

With regard to the decapitation strikes, the most important question not being asked is—what comes next? Although South Korea depicts its threats of decapitation strikes as a way to deter Kim Jong-un from launching an attack, the North Korean threat would not simply go away if Seoul had to execute this strategy. There are myriad different potential outcomes likely to result from a successful decapitation strike. It is worth considering the consequences of some of these.

1. General War

As one of the most closed societies in the world, there is much that we do not know about North Korea. This absolutely includes its military command structure, as well as the loyalties of its senior leadership. Thus, while it is impossible to know for sure, it seems likely that the military would still feel compelled to fight for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea even if Kim Jong-un were killed.

After all, the military elite benefits from the current political system and, given the heavy indoctrination since birth, may very well be loyal to the Kim family even if Kim Jong-un is dead. Moreover, if the country were under attack and the senior political leadership were taken out, it is reasonable to assume that a conservative military establishment would simply execute the existing war plans.

This would almost certainly include shelling Seoul and its nearly ten million inhabitants with the tens of thousand artillery pieces that are stationed just north of the demilitarized zone. It would also mean trying to attack U.S. military bases in the region with North Korea's growing arsenal of missiles. Some of these rockets could be armed with chemical or biological weapons. And, of course, North Korea's military could respond with nuclear attacks on South Korea and/or the United States, especially if the country were invaded following its initial retaliation for the decapitation strikes.

2. Civil War

Kim Jong-un is believed to rule North Korea with an iron fist. If he were suddenly dead, along with his inner circle, it would be difficult to know who was in charge of the country. Rather than the military turning its guns on the external enemy, there could be a jockeying for power among different factions in the military and the remaining civilian leadership.

While this outcome would be preferable to a general war with South Korea, it would hardly be a walk in the park. A civil war would send refugees flooding into China, and Beijing's response to this would be uncertain. A Chinese invasion to restore order couldn't be ruled out, and this would greatly undermine Seoul's ultimate goal of reunifying the peninsula under its leadership. Some chaos could also cross into South Korea.

The greatest concern for South Korea, China, the United States and the world, of course, would be the possession of North Korea's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There would be extreme pressure for these parties to intervene in order to secure the weapons of mass destruction, and this could produce the general war scenario outlined above.

3. State Collapse

A related outcome is that, without the Kim family's leadership, the North Korean state could simply collapse into chaos. This would result in many of the same issues that would occur in the event of a civil war. For instance, in order to control the chaos and secure North Korea's weapons of mass destruction, both China on the one hand, and South Korea and the United States on the other, might invade the country.

The greatest danger here is not that these outside forces would fight the remnants of North Korea's military, though that certainly could happen. Instead, the biggest risk is that Chinese and U.S./South Korean forces would eventually meet up somewhere in North Korea. Amid the chaos of a failed state, this could quickly turn into a shooting war between two nuclear-armed countries.

That is not the only danger, however. Even if China, the United States and South Korea could coordinate their actions to avoid conflict—and reports this weeksuggest there are quiet talks taking place between Beijing and Washington about how to do that—it is still possible that they would have a violent insurgency on their hands. After all, Koreans are nationalistic and have a long history of Chinese imperialism. Moreover, North Koreans have been fed a steady diet of vehement anti-Americanism under the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for the last seventy years. America's recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest it is ill equipped to handle insurgencies, and there is no reason to think China or South Korea would be any better at quashing the rebellion.

4. Reunification

The best-case scenario is that the elimination of Kim Jong-un and his top leadership would lead to a relatively smooth reunification of the Korean Peninsula. This outcome, while strongly preferable to the others, would not be without its own complications. Estimates of the cost of reunification run anywhere from $1 trillion to $5 trillion.

The actual figure could fall on the higher end of this spectrum. The most similar recent precedent for this was the reunification of Germany following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. This required a transfer of wealth of around $2 trillion from West Germany to East Germany. And, in 1989, East Germany's population was a quarter the size of West Germany's, and the citizens in the East had a per capita income that was one-third of their West German counterparts'. By contrast, as Peter M. Beck has noted in the Wall Street Journal:

"North Korea's per capita income is less than 5% of the South's. Each year the dollar value of South Korea's GDP expansion equals the entire North Korean economy. The North’s population is half the South’s and rising thanks to a high birth rate. North and South also barely trade with each other. To catch up to the South, North Korea will need more resources than East Germany required if living standards on both sides of the peninsula are to be close to each other."

It is possible that the costs of reunifying Korea would not be as burdensome as some people fear. To begin with, Korea doesn't offer its citizens the same extensive safety nets that Germany does, which should lower the costs. Furthermore, South Korea could finance the costs of reunifying through foreign direct investment, especially given North Korea's rumored vast mineral wealth. And, as Sue Mi Terry has pointed out, reunification would provide South Korea with a younger population of able-bodied workers. Nonetheless, on balance, reunification is going to extremely costly, at least in the short term.

In sum, while the desire to conduct decapitation strikes is understandable, the question everyone needs to be asking is: what comes next?

More from The National Interest:

The post 4 Reasons Why Assassinating Kim Jong Un Could Become A Total Disaster appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Family Of Ranger Killed By Friendly Fire In Afghanistan ‘Completely At Peace’

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:05 AM PST

The father of Army Ranger Josh Rodgers said the family is “completely at peace” with the death of their son that the military has confirmed was the result of friendly fire.

"We are very heartbroken for his Ranger brothers," said Kevin Rodgers. “There is no animosity on our side. We are completely at peace with what has happened. The guys that he was fighting with are probably hurting a lot more than we are."

Josh Rodgers was killed during a raid on an Islamic State compound in eastern Afghanistan on April 27.

Tracy Bailey, deputy public affairs officer for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., said Friday that Josh Rodgers’ family has received a copy of the investigation report.

She confirmed the investigation concluded that Josh Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio, died as a result of friendly fire. Both were killed during a three-hour firefight with ISIS.

Thomas’ family also has been notified of the investigation’s findings, said Bailey.

The families were told after being notified of the soldiers’ deaths that a friendly-fire incident was likely, Kevin Rodgers said.

"It wasn't a surprise," he said. "Very early on, the military leaders told us that there was a high probability that it was a friendly-fire incident. It was a very thorough investigation and we are thankful for that. We read through the report and appreciate that they were very transparent about the situation."

The report detailed how his son had “applied his own tourniquet” for bullet wounds he suffered in both legs, said Kevin Rodgers.

“And then Josh was continuing on, and he got fatally shot in the head,” he said. “His initial wounds in the legs, I don’t know if anyone was sure those were friendly or not. But his fatal wound was friendly fire, they said.”

A copy of the report was not immediately available to the media.

The raid near the Afghan-Pakistan border targeted a compound used by Abdul Hasid, the emir of ISIS Khorasan, the terrorist group's Afghan branch. Hasid was killed in the attack, along with 34 other enemy fighters. One other Army Ranger suffered a head wound during the battle, but was able to stay with the assault fighters, according to a press release from the Pentagon.

“I think we had closure before (getting the report),” said Kevin Rodgers. “We  already kind of knew the outcome. We obviously miss him, but he lived and died doing what he loved to do. You can’t ask for much more.”

It was Josh Rodgers’ third deployment to Afghanistan.

After graduating from high school, Josh Rodgers enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 2013, and completed training at Fort Benning, Ga., as an infantryman.

He was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.

Josh Rodgers is buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington.

———

©2017 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Family Of Ranger Killed By Friendly Fire In Afghanistan 'Completely At Peace' appeared first on Task & Purpose.

US Army Lieutenant General Who Served With Mike Flynn Weighs In On His Downfall

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 07:27 AM PST

A retired US Army lieutenant general weighed in on Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the ongoing Russia investigation. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who served with Flynn in the US Army, said he believes the former national security adviser’s downfall was the result of an unexplained “hubris and vengeance” that overcame any sense of professionalism.

Hertling explained how he felt in a CNN interview Friday night, saying he is “embarrassed for the Army,” and highlighted the small circle of three-star generals who are given “a special trust and confidence by the government and the military, and the soldiers that he leads.”

“The second part of that is the emotion of being furious,” Hertling said, describing his reaction to Flynn’s missteps. “He went against the constitution of the United States. General officers, soldiers are held to a higher standard,” he said. “We are taught throughout our career to honor the values of things like duty, honor, country, integrity, respect, loyalty, selfless service.”

“America expects that of its general-officer ranks because they give us their sons and daughters to defend the country,” Hertling added.

“So when you have an individual who lies, who serves one individual as opposed to the constitution of the country, it just, truthfully, makes me a little bit furious.”

Hertling, at turns seeming both somber and dismayed, said Flynn’s political rhetoric and his increasingly fiery evangelism for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign was troubling — particularly for a three-star general.

“Mike Flynn went over the top, and that was the first indicator that something was desperately wrong with this guy,” Hertling said. “I think something went wrong toward the end of his career; that demons got ahold of him, and for one reason or another, hubris and vengeance took over where, in the past, there had been professionalism.”

Flynn is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in the broad investigation of Russia’s influence campaign during the 2016 US election, during which members of Trump’s inner circle may have worked together with the Kremlin. Some key players caught in Mueller’s crosshairs — including Trump, his son Donald Trump, Jr., and son-in-law Jared Kushner — have denied any wrongdoing.

Flynn’s cooperation with Mueller follows months of headlines that placed Flynn at the center of suspicions around Russia’s US-election meddling. His paid work on behalf of foreign governments is another point of scrutiny, which forced him to register with the US Justice Department as a foreign agent earlier this year.

More from Business Insider: 

The post US Army Lieutenant General Who Served With Mike Flynn Weighs In On His Downfall appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Medical Marijuana Users ‘Have 30 Days’ To Turn In Their Guns, Honolulu Police Say

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 07:09 AM PST

The Honolulu Police Department is ordering legal cannabis patients to "voluntarily surrender" any guns they own because pot is still considered an illegal drug under federal law.

The initiative continues three months after Hawaii's first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business.

"Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition," Honolulu police Chief Susan Ballard wrote in a Nov. 13 letter to one medical marijuana card holder. "If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department or otherwise transfer ownership."

In the letter, Ballard cites Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7 (a) as the reason for the move. That section reads, "No person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition."

Federal law prohibits an "unlawful user" of any controlled substance from possessing firearms, and under federal law, marijuana is a controlled substance.

Flickr photo

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a September 2011 letter, "Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes … is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition."

The federal government ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana card holders does not violate the Second Amendment, according to an August 2016 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said Congress reasonably concluded that marijuana and other drug use "raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated."

Thirty medical marijuana card holders have received such letters since Jan. 1, said department spokeswoman MIchelle Yu.

HPD began mailing letters to firearm registrants when the department gained access to the marijuana registry database run by the state Department of Health, Yu said. The state revised its permit application to acquire firearms earlier this month to include the use of medical marijuana as grounds for disqualification, she said.

HPD said patients would be required to provide a medical doctor's clearance for any future firearm applications or to have their guns returned by the police department. Marijuana patients must wait one year after the expiration of their medical cannabis cards to reapply for a gun permit.

"Checking the database is now part of the department's standard background verification for all gun applicants," Yu said. She didn't give a reason why HPD hasn't enforced the law since 2000 when the state first legalized medical marijuana.

Chinatown resident James Logue, 32, a gun owner and disabled veteran who supports the use of medical cannabis, said going after patients is "ridiculous."

"There's plenty of people on prescription pain medications who are a lot more dangerous," he said. "If you look at all the mass shootings and the shootings in Chinatown and Waikiki, it's illegal drug use, it's prescription medication. It's a waste of time and resources, especially because there are plenty people who've committed domestic violence and sexual assault, and they're still out there with their weapons and they're not being told to turn them in."

The stigmatization of marijuana patients is troubling, said Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

An employee places marijuana for sale into glass containers at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016.

"The labeling of medical cannabis patients as a danger lumped under the category of 'mental incompetence/impairment,' with the assumption that all patients are impaired, is one that is not based on reality," he said.

Chris Garth, executive director of the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance, added that HPD's interpretation of the federal law is misguided.

"Medical cannabis is not a public safety issue, it's a public health issue," Garth said. "And to continue to criminalize medical cannabis patients is archaic and wildly inappropriate."

Marijuana patient Randy Gonce, an Air Force veteran who lives in Kaneohe, said that he previously owned firearms in Hawaii.

"I currently do not anymore. A lot of the reason I do not is because I was afraid of something like this, especially with the new administration," he said. "There should be realistic regulations around weapons, absolutely. (But) it's kind of criminalizing patients who are receiving medical care. It's almost making us feel like we're doing something wrong. As someone who takes gun ownership and laws very seriously, it's upsetting that this is now the tone of the HPD. It's unfortunate it's happening now that our medical marijuana program is up and running. It's unfortunate that we have to be cautious when we're trying to better ourselves."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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©2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Medical Marijuana Users 'Have 30 Days' To Turn In Their Guns, Honolulu Police Say appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Defense Contractor Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison For Stealing $15 Million From The Government

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 06:56 AM PST

Federal prosecutors claimed the now-former president of a North Carolina-based defense contractor bilked the government out of more than $15.4 million. Accordingly, they wanted him locked up for 5 years in prison – the maximum allowed under a plea agreement.

Defense attorneys for Philip A. Mearing viewed the evidence a little differently, putting the loss at only about $870,000. They argued he deserved only 2½ years in prison.

In the end, however, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen sided with the government. She told the former head of Global Services Corp. in Fayetteville, N.C., he was lucky the government let him enter into the plea agreement.

"I think you have been given a huge gift by the government," the judge said as Mearing's wife and children cried behind him. She said she would have sentenced him to more time if she could.

Mearing, 48, pleaded guilty last June to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The charge stems from two fraud schemes Mearing led. The primary scheme, prosecutors said, involved the theft of $13.6 million from about 2004 to about 2014.

According to court documents, Mearing worked with Kenneth Deines, a former Global Services executive, and Kenneth Bricker, who owned two firms in Newport News, to charge the government for work that was never performed.

Bricker's companies submitted false bills to Global Services, which Deines and Mearing then passed on to the company that held the prime contract, court documents said.

Neither of Bricker's companies, identified as Tempo Consulting Services and Bricker Property Management, performed any work or services, court documents said. They didn't employ anyone either.

Bricker received more than $13.6 million in fraudulent payments but kept only about $558,0000, documents said. He transferred 95 percent of the money – more than $13 million – to Mearing or a company owned by Mearing.

Deines and Bricker pleaded guilty last year to federal crimes. Deines, 47, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Bricker, 59, got four years.

In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Salsbury noted that the underlying conspiracy stretched on for about a decade. He said it appeared the defendant viewed such fraud as business as usual.

"It was not aberrant behavior," he said, arguing there was no reason for the court to give Mearing anything less than the maximum sentence. "It was how he conducted business."

Mearing's defense team disagreed. In court documents, they described Mearing as a "humble, decent, non-materialistic man who genuinely cares for his family and everyone around him." They said Mearing was a selfmade person who helped turn around several businesses before joining Global Services in 2002.

The company, which was started five years earlier by his uncle, was on the brink of failure when Mearing was hired, the defense said. They claimed Mearing helped turn it into a well-respected business that handled more than $450 million in government contracts before his client's eventual resignation earlier this year.

In court, attorneys Henry Asbill and Chuck James argued their client should not be penalized for the full $15.4 million. Looking at the primary $13.6 million fraud, they claimed Global Services only billed the U.S. government for $4.4 million of it. They accept that Mearing also double billed the government for an additional $1.8 million as part of a second fraud, bringing the total to $6.2 million.

But, they said, Mearing should receive credit for signed contracts that effectively locked Global Services into providing the government the equivalent of $5.4 million in office space – even if no lease was ever signed. They said that trimmed the actual loss to only $870,000.

Salsbury dismissed the argument as "voodoo economics." He described the case as a "simple direct theft" and argued Mearing should be held accountable for it all.

The judge agreed, but ordered a second hearing for Dec. 12 for the two sides to argue more about how the money should be paid.

It is unclear how much Mearing still has in the bank to pay toward his restitution. The defense said Global Services has lost many of its contracts, and that as such his client lost tens of millions of dollars in equity.

During the sentencing, however, Asbill presented a signed check to the court for $870,304.20.

He hoped it would pay off the full amount. In light of the judge's ruling, it is just a down payment.

———

©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Defense Contractor Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison For Stealing $15 Million From The Government appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Marines Crack Down On ‘Cruel, Abusive’ Hazing At Camp Pendleton

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 01:41 PM PST

The Marine Corps crackdown on an epidemic of hazing at Camp Pendleton now includes at least one court-martial decision.

Cpl. K.D. Lee of Camp Pendleton's 7th Engineer Support Battalion of the 1st Marine Logistic Group pleaded guilty recently at summary court-martial to belittling and berating a subordinate, according to Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Adam B. Miller.

"Hazing is contradictory to our core values of honor, courage and commitment and is prejudicial to good order and discipline," Miller said by email. "Hazing violates our institutional character and disrespects our most precious asset — our Marines and sailors. Hazing is absolutely not tolerated in the Marine Corps."

Lee had been accused of inflicting "cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful" treatment on a junior enlisted Marine on April 6, according to a charge sheet obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

She was charged on Aug. 4 with three counts of violating a lawful order designed to prevent hazing and pleaded innocent at an initial hearing on Oct. 13, according to the military court docket.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego in 2012 learn about the military’s zero-tolerance policy on hazing.

There are three levels of court-martial proceedings — general, special and summary. General and special court-martial cases threaten harsher punishments and the stigma of federal felony or misdemeanor convictions.

Lee at first faced a special court-martial trial, but her plea agreement shifted her into a summary hearing, which acts as a kind of legal bridge between the harsh penalties of court-martial convictions and the more lax non-judicial punishment.

Her military-appointed attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.

Miller said that six other non-commissioned officers were administratively disciplined for their actions through non-judicial punishment.

The corps redacted both Lee's first name and the identity of her victim, except to note that he was a male Marine who held the rank of private first class during the April incident.

Lee, a three-year veteran of the corps who has yet to deploy overseas, threatened to toss the subordinate off a rooftop, questioned his gender, derided him with salty language and told other Marines that she was "not (expletive) done with him" and "we'll get him, don't worry," or similar phrases, her charge sheet indicated.

Promulgated throughout the Marine Corps on May 20, 2013, and signed by former Marine commandant Gen. James Amos, the anti-hazing order Lee violated was designed to track and eradicate abuse inside the service.

Two years earlier, a lance corporal committed suicide after fellow Marines beat him for falling asleep on watch, an incident authorities concluded was a form of hazing.

On Nov. 11, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, a Parris Island drill instructor, was convicted of abusing recruits, especially Muslim volunteers. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and will exit the service as a private with a dishonorable discharge.

While the Marines in recent years have rushed to investigate allegations of hazing and prosecute offenders, an early 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office found that Marine efforts "do not necessarily cover all aspects of hazing policy implementation," among other problems.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Recruits from Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, remove their M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask to expose themselves to CS gas, a non-lethal, riot control agent, at the Confidence Chamber aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 29, 2012.

For example, the Marine data tracking system used to monitor hazing in the ranks counted too many cases because of duplicated entries, the federal watchdog agency concluded.

Analyzing command climate surveys filled out by 8,750 Marines in 2014, GAO determined that 11 percent of the troops believed that they were pressured to engage in potentially harmful activities that were not part of the mission and newcomers were humiliated or forced to do potentially dangerous activities before being accepted into a unit.

Analyzing an additional 11,835 surveys found that 15 percent of Marines also reported serving in toxic units that excessively teased troops to the point where they were unable to defend themselves; frequently belittled others for slight errors and excluded fellow Marines from social work group activities.

The Marines led all the other services in rates of perceived hazing, with the results skewed toward the junior ranks most likely to be violated.

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©2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This Is How The Navy Responds When A Submarine Disappears

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 11:15 AM PST

The loss of the ARA San Juan stunned the international submarine community. It was the first sub lost since Russia's nuclear-powered Kursk went down in 2000, and it demonstrated the rare international unity and cooperation that occurs when a boat is in distress. At least 13 countries participated in the search for the diesel-electric San Juan — helping the Argentines look for what is now a tomb for 44 submariners who'd gone out for a routine peacetime patrol. Every accident is tragic, and every one offers lessons — lessons that can help captains and crews and engineers avoid the next one, or survive it. The U.S. Navy places great emphasis on submarine rescue, and though their services are rarely utilized, the men and women of the Undersea Rescue Command, based in San Diego, stand ready 24 hours a day to respond to crises.

RELATED: How The US Snatched A Sunken Soviet Submarine From The Depths Of The North Pacific »

Until a few weeks ago, Cmdr. Mark Hazenberg, was commander of that unit. He spoke to us about the Navy's rescue capabilities.

We tend to think about submarine accidents as being catastrophic and unsurvivable. Is that overly pessimistic?

It's hard to speculate whether or not they're survivable. Every one is different. What we have in U.S. history is the USS Squalus, which sank off the coast of New England in May of 1939. The U.S. Navy submarine rescue force rescued 33 people off that submarine — way back in 1939. Since then we have continued to develop and have a submarine rescue program that can handle any and all calls for rescue.

Wikimedia Commons

USS Sailfish (SS-192) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, April 13, 1943

Ed note: The Squalus sank during a test dive with 59 men aboard after a valve failure caused water to flood into several chambers, resulting in the drowning deaths of 26 men. Rapid response by the crew enabled the remaining men to survive aboard the crippled vessel, which came to a rest on the seafloor, 243 feet down. The sub was quickly located and, 40 hours later, the last of the 33 survivors was carried to the surface inside a diving bell known as the McCann Rescue Chamber, designed specifically for this purpose. Four Navy divers received a Medal of Honor for their roles in the rescue and the sub itself was later salvaged, refit, and put back into service as the USS Sailfish.

There hasn't been a submarine lost anywhere in the world since the Kursk, in 2000. And historically, most accidents have not been survivable, but you have to prepare as if they are, right?

Accidents don't happen that often; however, there is always a risk that they can occur, and they can occur in water where the people onboard can survive and need rescue. That's why we actively train to make sure our rescue operators and equipment are proficient and ready at all times.

I know that any submarine that exceeds its crush depth is a catastrophic loss, but how much time does a sub that's merely crippled have? How long could a crew survive sitting in, say, 500 feet of water?

A U.S. submarine has the ability, under normal circumstances, to replenish the air and water supplies indefinitely. They carry weeks of extra provisions to support extended at sea operations. But any equipment problem that would prevent the submarine from being able to surface would be a very serious matter and we base our search and rescue plans on conservative estimates regarding the submarine's life support systems. The life support assumptions take into consideration having little or no electrical power, and the inability to replenish the atmosphere. Emergency stores onboard do provide material to support atmospheres but for a limited time. I can't provide an exact number, but I can say that our plans are based on the need to mobilize and respond rapidly to the affected submarine's last known location.

Where is the U.S. Navy Undersea Rescue Command based?

We are located on Naval Air Station North Island, in San Diego. This is the U.S. Navy's only submarine rescue organization; however, we are very mobile and strategically located near an airport, so that we can have a global response regardless of where the accident occurs.

The unit is currently deployed in South America, assisting in the search for the ARA San Juan. How quickly did you respond?

When we received notification and a request from the Argentine government, we were immediately mobilizing and moving to load all of our equipment on planes. Twenty-four hours later, we were in the air. [Ed note: Argentina announced that the sub was lost on Friday, Nov. 17; the URC was called upon the next day.]

U.S. Navy photo

Sailors assigned to Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1 (UUVRON 1), mobilized with Undersea Rescue Command (URC), perform maintenance on a Bluefin-12D, an unmanned underwater vehicle, on board the Norwegian construction support vessel Skandi Patagonia near URC’s submarine rescue chamber.

We always train to be able to disassemble and pack equipment as soon as possible, and to be able to load in as soon as the first plane arrives. The moment that happens, our foot is on the accelerator. Also we engage with the international community and other countries' rescue organizations, such that we can foster relationships to gain experience and share lessons learned, and such that if for whatever reason we might not be able to respond right away, someone closer might be able to get there faster.

What does the URC response entail?

Our submarine rescue consists of three separate systems. We have a deep water rescue system, which is our diving recompression system. It's called the Pressurized Rescue Module, or PRM. We also have a shallow water rescue system, called the Submarine Rescue Chamber, or SRC. And there's an intervention system, a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV. It's used to pave the way for the rescue systems. The ROV is employed at the sub site and it would go down, conduct a detailed survey and inspection of that submarine, clear away any debris that might be on the sub's rescue hatch, and also in some cases connect up some supporting gear to allow us to start our rescue.

Can you break each system down in a little more detail?

The shallow water system, the SRC, can operate to 850 feet. It looks like a diving bell. It can hold eight people — two operators and six rescuees. You lower it to the submarine on a cable from a surface vessel, mate with the sub's hatch, open the hatch, and get people out. It's an older design based on the original McCann Rescue Chamber used back in 1939 to rescue those men on the Squalus. It's a very robust design, easily deployed, and very reliable.

The deep water rescue system — the pressurized rescue module — is basically an ROV operated by control systems on the surface vessel, with a large compartment to hold up to 18 personnel — two internal attendants and 16 rescuees. The PRM can reach all the way down to 2,000 feet, and it has a unique feature associated with how it connects. There's a transfer skirt that can rotate and mate with a submarine that might be lying at an angle up to 45 degrees. The skirt mates with the sub while keeping the PRM upright, allowing for easy access.

So in both cases, you have to make several trips down and back to rescue an entire crew?

Yes. You go through a cycle where both vehicles would go down, mate with the submarine, fill up the vehicle with rescuees, bring it back up, get them off, and dive back down. Depending on the depth of the submarine, it could take up to a couple hours of cycle time, from diving the vehicle to returning to the surface.

If both the submarine and the rescue chamber are pressurized, are you still worried about decompression?

The PRM is designed such that if they are in pressurized environment, they can transfer into the pressure module and safely be brought up and transferred into one of two decompression chambers on the surface vessel. Each one of those can hold up to 33 people, 31 of whom are rescuees.

Whether or not decompression is a risk depends on the situation of the sub, on whether or not those people on the submarine were exposed to a pressure equal or close to equal the sea pressure at that depth, and how long they've been there. Many factors are involved.

We have navy divers on the unit who are skilled in operating our equipment, and as a standard discipline U.S. Navy divers are educated in the effects of decompression sickness and methods and actions to take to reduce the risk.

Can you use basically any available surface vessel to deploy to a site?

Our equipment is designed to work on a majority of commercial vessels that could be found in the maritime shipping industry. We've done that to open the aperture to allow us to get a vessel as quickly as possible that would be closest to the airport that we would fly into — the one closest to the seaport near the site. The whole point is mobility and rapid response. That is one of the things that our equipment is designed for.

Ed Note: In the case of the ARA San Juan search, the URC deployed on the Norwegian oil and gas support ship Skandi Patagonia, based in Brazil.

The international cooperation assisting Argentina is really impressive.

The international community for submarine rescue is a close community. We get together at least twice a year to interact and share lessons to develop our knowledge base through an organization known as the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), which is based in the United Kingdom.

That office was formed shortly after the loss of the Kursk. What did we learn from that tragedy?

Since the Kursk event precedes when I got into this job I can't speak to what was gained. But it does reinforce the importance of getting together as an international community to share lessons learned.

Ed Note: Debate continues over the Kursk story, and whether or not some of the Russian submariners could have been saved had the Russians asked for help sooner. Both the English and Norwegian navies offered immediate assistance and were turned down. An inquiry found that the majority of the 118-man crew was likely killed in the immediate aftermath of an explosion that caused the sinking, but 24 bodies were later found in a sealed compartment, along with a note from an officer listing the names of 23 men who, along with himself, survived the initial disaster.

There are currently 41 countries operating submarines, and 15 that have "global rescue systems," according to ISMERLO. To learn more about the U.S. Navy Undersea Rescue Command, visit their website.

Josh Dean is a journalist and author based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He contributes regularly to many national magazines, including Popular Science, GQ, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and Outside, where he is currently a Correspondent. His latest book is “The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History.”

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Flynn Pleads Guilty On Russia Charge, This Shit Is Real, So Get A Helmet

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 10:45 AM PST

Retired three-star Army general Michael Flynn, who for 33 years in uniform swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, pled guilty Friday morning to lying to the FBI about his attempts at secret policy coordination with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016. The move could trigger a major unraveling of the United States' Donald Trump revolution.

Related: Intel Officials Knew Flynn Vulnerable To Blackmail But Still Shared Sensitive Info With Him »

Flynn's federal guilty plea appears to be part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to tell investigators all he knows about Russian coordination, and possibly more, by members of the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, and perhaps even President Donald Trump himself.

"The actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right," Flynn said in a statement released through his attorney after the court appearance. "My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and country." Flynn previously gained fame for popularizing the anti-Hillary Clinton catchphrase "Lock her up!" over what he called her poor handling of classified information.

Related: Lt Gen Flynn Confirms He Was A Foreign Agent During The 2016 Campaign »

In a few short years, Flynn went from being the Pentagon's chief intelligence, to a member of Trump's inner campaign circle and a purveyor of laughable anti-Democrat conspiracy theories like a (nonexistent) sex-trafficking ring run out of a Washington pizza parlor. After Trump's inauguration, Flynn was named national security advisor.

Related: Flynn Stopped Military Plan Turkey Opposed — After Being Paid As Its Agent »

In the meantime, however, he'd secretly done lobbying for Turkey's repressive president, taken massive payments for cooperating with Russian state media, and had multiple contacts with Russian officials even before his abortive, 24-day stint on the White House payroll.

Related: Mike Flynn Made A Lot More Money In Russia Than He Disclosed Before »

It was those contacts that boxed Flynn into his quick court appearance Friday. Threatened with a host of serious charges that could take down him along with his cantankerous son and personal aide, Michael Flynn Jr., the elder Flynn agreed to plead guilty to concealing what he'd asked Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak for in December 2016, before Trump had even taken office.

Related: Maybe We All Talked With The Russian Ambassador And Forgot About It »

Specifically, Flynn asked Kislyak to ensure that Russia wouldn't retaliate against the U.S. after the outgoing Obama administration imposed tough sanctions on the former Cold War foe over its interference in Trump's presidential election. Kislyak said the Russian government would abide by Flynn's request.

Related: Even Republicans Are Saying Retired Lt Gen Mike Flynn Broke The Law Now »

Flynn concealed that conversation from FBI investigators, along with another request Kislyak had fulfilled for him — probably because he recognized they constituted illegal conduct of foreign policy by someone who wasn't even in the U.S. government yet. And now he admits he did it.

Related: Mike Flynn Offers To Be interviewed By FBI In Exchange For Immunity »

What does that mean for President Trump? Potentially a lot. It's not clear what Flynn knows. He has regularly proven not quite the intellectual powerhouse he considers himself to be. But plenty of observers note that the day after that 2016 Flynn-Kislyak chat about sanctions — which, again, Flynn concealed from FBI investigators, and supposedly lied to Mike Pence about — President-Elect Trump was jubilantly tweeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was doing the right thing in response:

So it all comes back, again, to what the president knew and when he knew it. Plus all the other people around the president. Who, evidently, did not take the Flynn news well:

But soon enough, White House officials were back in true form with the kind of talking point that seems like a self-own:

Meanwhile, uniformed personnel at the Pentagon, Flynn's old haunt, looked at his plea very differently from the political players at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

 

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Artillery Marines Headed Home After ‘Raining’ Fire On ISIS In Syria

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 10:21 AM PST

A contingent of roughly 400 Marines are headed home from Syria after three months of providing fire support to U.S.-backed Kurdish and Syrian Arab Forces who battled Islamic State fighters in the militant group's former capital.

The Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based Marines and sailors were part of an artillery detachment with 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, and arrived in Syria in September, where they proceeded to shell ISIS with such intensity that they burned out not one but two M777 155mm howitzer barrels, according to Marine Corps Times.

The Nov. 30 announcement that the recently arrived artillery detachment is on its way home was cited as a sign of success following the Oct. 20 ouster of ISIS from Raqqa.

"The departure of these outstanding Marines is a sign of real progress in the region," Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, director of operations in Iraq and Syria, said. "We're drawing down combat forces where it makes sense, but still continuing our efforts to help Syrian and Iraqi partners maintain security."

Marine Corps artillery units, especially those deployed from a Marine Expeditionary Unit — an all-in-one Marine Corps task force able to bring troops, indirect fire, and air support to bear — provide U.S. allies a long and devastating reach.

“With a 155mm artillery battery in the fight, their mission was to deny and disrupt ISIS from gaining ground or moving from their defensive positions,” Lt. Col. Jon O'Gorman, chief of fires for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said of the Marines from 1/10. “These Marines rained relentless and highly accurate firepower on the enemy.”

The employment of Marine artillery batteries in the fight against ISIS over the last year-and-a-half is one of the few instances where conventional ground-combat personnel — rather than special operations forces in Syria or Iraq — have engaged the militants.

Photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

A U.S. Marine fires an M777-A2 Howitzer in the early morning in Syria, June 3, 2017.

Conventional forces or not, information surrounding the employment of these artillery batteries, their time on the ground, and specifics on their mission there, are often vague.

The Marines and sailors with 1/10 replaced an artillery battery reportedly attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Prior to the all-weather fire mission conducted by the 24th MEU's artillery Marines in June, troops with the 11th MEU fired upwards of 4,500 rounds at Islamic State targets in and around Raqqa, Task & Purpose previously reported.

Related: 7 Badass Photos Of Marines Shelling The Crap Out Of ISIS In Syria »

For two and a half months in 2016, artillerymen with Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines provided fire support to Iraqi security forces as they advanced on Mosul, which was liberated from ISIS in July. The first conventional American ground troops to set up a semi-permanent fire base, the Marines stood up a small outpost March 16 and were rocketed by Islamic State militants on numerous occasions. The news that Marines were manning a fixed position and engaged in fire missions against ISIS only came to light following a rocket attack that resulted in the death of Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, the Washington Post reported March 22, 2016.

Much of what is known about the challenges facing these Marine gun crews is still unclear, and often remains so until the information is released following a tragedy, or an award ceremony. As for what we know for sure: The Marines with 1/10 are expected to head back home, and with Raqqa no longer under ISIS control, the arty unit’s replacements have been “called off,” according to the Operation Inherent Resolve statement.

WATCH NEXT:

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Navy Hands Down Ballsy Punishment To Cocksure Aviators Behind Giant Sky Penis

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 08:29 AM PST

The two Navy aviators responsible for scrawling a massive sky penis above Okanogan County, Washington, on Nov. 16 have officially been punished by naval aviation chief Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, according to documents obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. And it appears they were spared a career-ending administrative punishment and instead instructed to educate their fellow aviators on the "ramifications and embarrassment" that result from scrawling massive penises in the skies despite the Navy's long-standing embrace of cocky humor.

The pilot and backseat aviator of the EA-18G Growler, assigned to the Electronic Attack Squadron 130 "Zappers" out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, were reportedly "forthright and remorseful" during a Nov. 22 hearing before Shoemaker and the Field Naval Aviator Evaluation Board regarding the sky penis incident. Although the review board could have easily ended the drivers' flying careers, the officials reportedly ended up placing the aviators on a six-month probationary period, with a few conditions that amount to writing "I will not draw dicks in the sky" on a classroom chalkboard.

From the Union-Tribune:

A career aviator, Shoemaker ordered them to address their fellow crews on Whidbey Island in a series of "Change the Culture" briefs describing the "ramifications and the embarrassment it caused" while "contrasting their actions with the excellence and discipline" of other sailors worldwide. He also wanted them to explore the potential "strategic effects" their conduct might have.

The pilot, who has pending instructor orders to the training squadron at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, will conduct a similar presentation to both fellow instructors and students.

"When they came down, the aviators were apologetic," Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders told the Union-Tribune. "The aviators admitted that they had done it after it occurred. When they appeared before the [Field Naval Aviator Evaluation Board] they were contrite. They realized that this was an embarrassment to naval aviation and the entire Navy."

The ordeal of these two cocksure aviators is far from over: The two are reportedly facing a JAGMAN (lol) investigation under Carrier Air Wing 3 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia — an administrative inquiry designed to "help improve a command's leadership, promulgate lessons for the rest of the fleet to avoid similar incidents and aid superiors making determinations about the future flight status of an aviator," per the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The last dong-related incident to warrant a formal investigation by the Navy involved a group of Blue Angels who painted a "large blue and gold penis" that "was visible from satellite imagery (e.g. Google Maps)… through the end of the 2012 airshow season" on the roof of a trailer at the group's winter training facilities in El Centro, California, according to a 2014 report on the incident.

Related: A (Very) Short History Of Military Personnel Drawing Dicks In The Sky »

Sure, a "stand and deliver" on the ethical troubles of drawing a sky penis may help stamp out the vile culture of rampant dick-drawing that's undermining the armed forces. But here at Task & Purpose, we can read between the lines: The Blue Angels commander fired as a result of the 2012 incident was Capt. Gregory "Stiffy" McWherter, per the San Diego Union-Tribune; according to a Dec. 6 Navy press release, Zappers Cmdr. Eric "Skid" Sinibaldi was relieved by Cmdr. Brenden "Tess" Stickles — a call sign the Navy scrubbed from its digital press release in the last week.

The Navy's had problems with crude callsigns for years: In 2010, a (now deleted) Navy Times article detailed a workplace harassment complaint filed by Ensign Steve Crowston over the uber-macho and often homophobic callsigns used by naval aviators — a trend that the branch had embraced:

Crowston's complaint underscores concerns in the aviation community that call signs—a deeply entrenched but unofficial custom—are often inappropriate, bawdy or outright offensive.

The Naval Safety Center's websites lists the "best all-time call signs," including Lt. Chuck "Dingle" Berry and Lt. Tom "Butts" Tench. The Navy recently posted a photo of Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Myers with his call sign "Taint" painted on his F/A-18E Super Hornet on the carrier George H.W. Bush.

sky penis navy aviatorPhoto via DoD

Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Myers, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 31, gives a thumbs up after making an arrested landing in his F/A-18E Super Hornet aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. George H.W. Bush is underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

If the Navy wants to shame these aviators from drawing dicks in the sky as "contrary to the core values of the Navy," as Flanders put it, then maybe it should reconsider gifting its jet jockeys with phallic call signs? Just a thought.

Hear more on Task & Purpose Radio’s ‘The Warzone’: 

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Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn Charged With Making False Statements To FBI Over Communication With Russian Ambassador

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 06:45 AM PST

A plea hearing has been scheduled for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with making false statements to federal investigators about his conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December.

The hearing has been scheduled for 10:30 on Dec. 1.

According to the indictment filed by Mueller’s office, Flynn “falsely stated” on Dec. 29, 2016, that he did not ask the Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day,” and that he did not recall Kislyak subsequently telling him that Russia “had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”

Flynn also told Mueller’s team that he did not ask Kislyak to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending UN Security Council resolution; and that the Russian ambassador subsequently never described to FLynn Russia’s response to his request.”

Read the indictment below:

Michael Flynn charging document by Brett LoGiurato on Scribd

Read more from Business Insider:

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VA To Offer Unproven Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy To Vets With PTSD

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 04:43 AM PST

 The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it would begin offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy to some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, despite a lack of evidence that it works or being approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for PTSD.

The VA conceded it was an "off-label" use of the treatment, which uses pressurized hyperbaric chambers to send higher oxygen levels to patients. All therapies will be supervised by a physician, and the VA and Defense Department are planning more research to study its effectiveness, the agency said.

VA Secretary David Shulkin has cited suicide prevention as his No. 1 clinical priority and promised lawmakers "big, bold steps" in that end. In a statement Wednesday, Shulkin said the VA must "explore every avenue" and "be open to new ideas."

"There is nothing more important to us than caring for our nation's veterans, and that care must include finding different approaches that work best for them," he said.

The treatment has been federally approved for illnesses such as decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning and to treat wounds that won't heal because patients are undergoing radiation or have diabetes. Though it's been studied, it hasn't officially been proven to work for traumatic brain injury or PTSD.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on TBI and PTSD had been studied 32 times between 2005 and 2015. Results varied, and most were inconclusive.

Three of the studies were funded by the VA and Defense Department. One of their studies from 2015 found the treatment didn't have therapeutic benefit. In a VA article published after the study, Col. Scott Miller, the lead study author and an infectious disease specialist, said there was a "lack of evidence" it helped and that he didn't see any value in moving forward with more studies.

For now, the VA is making the therapy available to a small number of veterans in the eastern Oklahoma and northern California VA health care systems. Only veterans who haven't noticed a decrease in PTSD symptoms from two other, evidence-based treatments will be eligible.

The VA intends to use its new research to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be made available to more veterans with PTSD, the agency said.

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©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Marine 3-Star Admonished In Fallout From Colonel’s Child-Abuse Case

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 04:38 AM PST

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

Marine Col. Daniel Hunter Wilson is now preparing to serve a five-and-a-half year sentence for sexually abusing a six-year-old girl at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in summer 2016.

But months before that crime was committed, Wilson had been rapidly removed from a key leadership posting in Darwin, Australia after just ten days amid reports of drunken misbehavior and inappropriate comments.

A report from the Inspector General of the Marine Corps, newly obtained by Military.com, faults the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, Lt. Gen. Larry Nicholson, for neglecting to investigate Wilson’s actions in Australia more thoroughly, substantiating that he failed to report the officer’s misconduct to senior Marine Corps leadership and the military justice branch.

It’s a finding likely to have profound career implications for one of the service’s most combat-seasoned and widely admired generals.

In a statement to Military.com, Nicholson acknowledged the findings of the oversight agency and owned his role in the Australia proceedings.

“Upon learning of this officer’s actions in Australia, he was fired and promptly recalled to Okinawa,” he said. “I accept responsibility for not taking follow-on administrative actions, and for not placing this officer on the Officer Disciplinary Notebook.”

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Col. Daniel H. Wilson.

Wilson’s brief and ill-favored tenure in Australian might never had been made public if not for his later crimes. His general court-martial aboard Camp Lejeune in September featured prosecution witnesses who had served with him in Darwin and testified to a range of boorish behavior charged as conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Losing a Post in 10 Days

Assigned as a liaison officer for Marine Rotational Force-Darwin for a six-month posting, Wilson managed in the space of days to offend both American and Australian colleagues, often in the context of heavy drinking.

According to court testimony, Wilson told the wife of the outgoing Darwin liaison, another colonel, that he bet her “thighs were sore from having sex with her husband,” after she mentioned being sore from exercise.

Wilson also spent time chatting with a Marine captain he had known from a previous posting, asking the captain to send him a racy photo of the captain’s wife. When the captain complied, Wilson asked for a pair of his wife’s underwear as well.

Later, according to testimony, Wilson showed the photo to his Australian counterpart, Cmdr. Greg Mapson, and made crude comments about it.

At Wilson’s Darwin office, his behavior was similarly unprofessional.

He sent unduly personal and coarse texts to one female officer, and made a female civilian employee distraught by logging on to her unattended computer to send an email to Mapson, asking him on a date.

While these events were relayed in detail at Wilson’s trial, the report indicates the generals with authority over the colonel at the time never learned the specifics of his misconduct.

The report includes interviews with Lt. Gen. John Toolan, then-commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, who also had oversight of Wilson while he was in Australia. IG officials note in the report that they considered calling Toolan back to active duty out of retirement for the investigation, but determined such an action “was not supportable.”

Wilson arrived in Australia from a previous posting in Okinawa on Feb. 16, 2016, to take over the liaison position.

Nicholson and Toolan were not made aware of his bad behavior unit Feb. 24, after he had sent the “joke” email and sent inappropriate texts to the female officer. Toolan was informed first, and he called Nicholson, who was elsewhere in the Pacific, to tell him of the problem. Toolan told investigators he had been informed about Wilson’s drinking and the text messages, but not the exchange of the risque photograph or other inappropriate comments.

“I had the conversation between MEF, I mean, I was most concerned, to be honest, about

the drinking and the behavior and the, image that Wilson was projecting to the Australians,” he said, according to the report. “But then on top of that when I heard about, uh, inappropriate emails to an Australian soldier, I said, ‘this is the straw that broke the camel’s back … that’s the reason why we should send him home.'”

Nicholson maintained to investigators that some of the allegations against Wilson were vague, and others lacked credibility.

“Col. Wilson told Lt. Gen. Nicholson that he was the victim of personality conflicts and

individuals who did not understand his sense of humor,” the report states. “Lt. Gen. Nicholson viewed this narrative as credible and told IGMC he viewed the allegations that emerged in Darwin as ‘he said, she said,’ and that he believes Col Wilson did “nothing criminal … nothing illegal. He hadn’t broken the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]; he had just been stupid.”

Between Toolan and Nicholson, there was a consensus: Wilson needed to leave Australia fast, but further investigation was not required. He was en route back to Okinawa on Feb. 27.

An unidentified officer interviewed in the investigation highlighted the political backdrop against which all these decisions unfolded.

“Contextually, our relationship in Darwin, l don’t want to say it’s tense, but it’s always been somewhat politically charged,” the officer said. “We’re there as guests.”

‘Heinous Crimes’

Wilson would stay in Okinawa for another month, then be transferred to his next duty post in April: a staff job as operations officer for II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

According to a senior official close to the events in Darwin who spoke with Military.com, Wilson had already been slated to move to II MEF in North Carolina after completing his tour in the Pacific.

His wife had been living in Beaufort, South Carolina, and II MEF was short on colonels, so the job seemed a good fit. Little was communicated to Wilson’s new command about the ignominious circumstances under which he had left Darwin, in part because little was known about the specifics even at his original command.

“They were apprised of [Wilson] being moved out of Australia early,” the official said. “There were [accusations] we had no clue about, other than hearsay.”

The official added that Wilson’s command structure had no aversion to putting officers in the Officer Disciplinary Notebook, a database that flagged cases of officer misconduct to the highest levels of command. In fact, the official said, III MEF in the Pacific had one of the highest rates of assigning officers to the ODN in the entire Marine Corps.

But in this case, the two generals assessed the move was simply not warranted.

During a two-week period in July, Wilson would befriend the family of a major in his command. A military jury determined he had used his closeness to the family to molest the major’s six-year-old daughter. The allegations of these crimes sent shock waves through the military community, particularly among those who had known Wilson.

It wasn’t until September 2016, shortly before Wilson was formally charged with child sexual abuse, that the issue of Wilson’s behavior in Darwin was revisited.

On Sept. 9, the commanding general of II MEF, Maj. Gen Walter Lee Miller Jr., directed the legal branch of 2nd Marine Air Wing to investigate allegations of misconduct that had come to light over the court of Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s investigation into Wilson over the summer. Two weeks later, the Marine Corps Inspector General took over the new probe.

While Wilson’s behavior in Australia was completely separate from his actions in North Carolina and his conduct of a different nature, it was perceived that the new scrutiny was directly related to what would quickly become a high-profile criminal case.

Nicholson told IG officials that the office was motivated to pursue the new probe into Wilson’s handling in Darwin only because of “the optics of the heinous crimes that Col. Wilson is now accused of in matters totally unrelated to this investigation,” according to the report.

The Fallout

As a result of the IG finding, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn Walters, counseled Nicholson directly.

“Having personally spoken with Lt. Gen. Nicholson, I am satisfied that he is now fully cognizant of the regulations and his responsibilities as a senior officer and commander regarding the reporting of officer misconduct,” Walters wrote in a Sept. 2017 letter concluding the investigation. “I find this matter appropriately resolved and now closed.”

Though the action was administrative rather than punitive, multiple sources told Military.com it likely spelled the end of Nicholson’s career.

“It’s unlikely that he is going to receive an advancement or a subsequent nominative assignment,” a senior defense official with knowledge of planning told Military.com.

Nicholson, a 38-year infantry officer officer, served in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004 and commanded 5th Marine Regiment in Fallujah in 2005, then went on to served as commanding general of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand Province. During the two eventful years he has served as commanding general of III MEF, he has worked to maintain peace and strengthen partnerships amid aviation mishaps and heightening tensions in the Pacific.

Nicholson declined to comment publicly on his own career.

“I am honored to lead the great Marines and Sailors of III MEF every day,” he said in a statement. “We are decisively engaged here in Asia every day with a challenging mission profile that keeps all of us busy and focused on warfighting. Just today North Korea launched another missile into the waters near Japan. III MEF forces remain alert and engaged in the region every day working closely with our allies and partners. We are and will remain ready if called to fight tonight.”

As for Wilson, it’s difficult to speculate about what might have been different had he been designated for further discipline following the episode in Australia.

Adrian Perry, the mother of the girl Wilson was convicted of abusing who has since come forward publicly to advocate for military sexual assault victims, told Military.com she saw a command coverup in what had transpired in Australia.

“Wilson’s misconduct in Australia warranted serious punitive action. How he was able to do what he did in Australia and then be given the position as the II MEF [operations officer] is beyond me,” she told Military.com.

As for how events mind have unfolded differently if Wilson had been marked for discipline in Australia, there’s little doubt in Perry’s mind.

“Their failure to punish Wilson cost one of our daughters her innocence, and to me, that’s unforgivable,” she said. “… We believe that if the III MEF Command had properly punished Wilson for his misconduct in Australia, he would never have been able to harm our daughters.”

For the senior official close to events in Darwin who spoke to Military.com, the question continues to be troubling. He wonders, he said, if the chain of events that ended with Wilson’s crimes in North Carolina could have been stopped.

“Service discrediting is not strong enough [to describe Wilson’s actions],” he said. “It eats at me because it goes against everything the Marine Corps stands for.”

More from Military.com 

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Army Investigating Anonymous 6,300-Word Screed Claiming Corruption Undermined Green Beret Training Standards

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 04:06 PM PST

The Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is melting down over a single email. According to the Associated Press, the command is currently investigating who authored an anonymous mass-emailing that accused its leaders of "moral cowardice" — and of turning the prized command into an ineffective rubber-stamp for subpar candidates to join its elite Green Beret Special Forces groups.

The 6,300-word, heavily bulleted, and richly detailed screed — reportedly mass emailed to both active-duty and veteran members of the U.S. special operations community on Nov. 26 and first published by SOFREP, declared that SWCS "has devolved into a cesspool of toxic, exploitive, biased and self-serving senior Officers who are bolstered by submissive, sycophantic, and just-as-culpable enlisted leaders."

For half a century, the school has reinforced the training standards that make Green Berets among the most fearsome warfighters in the U.S. military. But under the command of Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, the letter alleges, the officers who set those standards are primarily focused on "ensuring that yearly graduation quotas are met and that political agendas are enforced.

"They have doggedly succeeded in two things; furthering their careers, and ensuring that Special Forces [is] more prolific, but dangerously less capable than ever before," the letter reads. "Shameless and immodest careerism has, in no uncertain terms, effectively destroyed our ability to assess, train, and prepare students, or to identify those students that pose very real risk to Operational Detachments."

The letter is, well, extremely long, incredibly thorough, and full of withering criticisms of everything from the Special Forces Qualification Course to the first female Green Beret candidates. Here are the meatiest bits:

SWCS is lowering standards for female Special Forces candidates:

“No one has said "If they want to join, give them a lower standard so they can join." Yet this is exactly where the current leadership has taken it upon themselves to inject an end state no one wants, to achieve personal endeavors that benefit no one. They have stated through continuous action and policy implementation that they do not want women to meet the standard. What they want, is to markedly lower the standards enough to ensure that any woman attempting this path will have absolutely no issue achieving it. They have said time and again that they want to maintain the standards, but have continuously lowered, and now eliminated them.”

SWCS no longer enforces physical standards for Special Forces candidates:

“Students do not need to be able to pass a 2-mile run at an 80% standard. They do not need to pass a 5-mile run in under 40 minutes. They do not need to be able to pass a 12-mile ruck march in under 3 hours. They are not required to find ANY points during their land nav training and assessment. They do not need to be able to perform 8 pull-ups. They do not need to be able to perform 57 push-ups, or 66 sit-ups. They no longer need to be able to climb a 15 foot rope with weight on. Students are no longer administered any form of physical or administrative punishment.”

“After passing a 19-ish day selection process, there are no physical barriers to earning the coveted Green Beret These all were standards for EVERY Green Beret in modern history prior to this month. To say that standards have not been eliminated would be laughable, were it not so tragic.”

SWCS leaders allowed the relaxation of training standards to meet graduation quotas:

“The moment they took command, their primary motivation for making changes to the SFQC was to acquire 'Multi-star Potential' on their OERs, They pursued this by, first, ensuring that the Q-course graduation rate was raised so they could lay claim to making the Q course more efficient and, second, ensuring that the standards were lowered so as to make certain that the first women able to pass selection would have the best possible chance of making it through the grueling 14 month (at it's quickest) pipeline practically unimpeded. Being able to say they graduated the first female Green Beret is a milestone no officer (devoid of principles, that is) can possibly pass up. SFOC had the strictest requirements and the highest attrition rate, almost entirely physical in nature. They practically did away with it.”

army special forces green beret letterPhoto via DoD

U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan participate in a stress shoot to mimic combat conditions during combat marksman skills training at a range in Kabul province, Afghanistan, Feb. 24, 2014.

There are serious allegations of negligence and malfeasance against the leadership of an elite force that's already been endured a rise in operational tempo this year — and a rise in scrutiny. While it's not mentioned in the letter, the deaths of four 3rd Special Forces Group personnel in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger put the Pentagon's ever-expanding Global War on Terror, and its reliance on special operators, under a microscope.

How SWCS will actually address the allegations remains unclear. In a Nov. 30 statement, Sontag, the school's three-star commander, said the allegations of institutional corruption "warrant further evaluation." But he also told the Associated Press that “no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks."

But the anonymous letter-writer's (or writers') broadside suggests that Green Beret culture is in deep peril, and not the sort old-timers always complain is imminent. "We are also acutely aware that senior generations derisively judging their juniors is a tradition as old as humanity," the letter stated. "So this address is not being written because 'cherries are so much more cherry than we were when we were cherries.'"

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The VA’s New Vet ID System Had A Rough Debut

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 03:50 PM PST

People are usually surprised when I tell them I'm a veteran. They say things like, "you were in the military?" And, "wow, I would've never guessed!" This is very frustrating, because I know that what they're actually saying is, "You don't look like you've ever done a push-up in your life."(I haven't). But it's especially frustrating when the person casting doubt on my military credentials is a waitress at Applebee's on Veterans Day and I end up having to pay for that bowl of Sirloin Stir Fry I earned on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those days were supposed to be over. In early October, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that beginning in November it would start issuing Veteran Identification Cards to provide vets like me a quick and easy way to prove that we served in the military. To apply, all you have to do is log in to Vets.gov, enter some basic personal information, upload a recent picture of yourself and a government-issued ID, and hit the submit button. Then, kick back, relax, and wait for your brand new vet card to arrive in the mail within 60 days.

Easy, right? Well, in theory. Although the VA kept its word and started accepting applications for the cards on Nov. 29, Military.com immediately reported that "after multiple failed attempts and error messages, reporters … were able to fully test the new application system and request an ID card using their own VA log-ins and military service credentials."

Task & Purpose decided to take it for a spin. Seven T&P staff members, all honorably-discharged veterans, applied. Their efforts were rewarded with a series of error messages that said things like "Warning: We cannot proceed with your request" and "We're unable to verify you at this time." But that's it. After an hour of trying to submit applications, all came up empty handed.

"I followed the steps from the VA page, verified my identity with ID.me — including handing out my social, online, for the umpteenth time to some government-sourced website — only to have the VA site glitch and say I wasn't logged in," said one disheartened staff member, echoing complaints from his colleagues. "Stuck in the same loop," lamented another. "I think the digital signature is the snag, but they don't explain how to fix that all."   

Task & Purpose asked if the department knew veterans were having trouble applying for the card.

"We are aware some Veterans have experienced issues with the application process, but leaders of VA's Office of Information and Technology are actively engaged in fixing them," VA press secretary Curt Cashour told Task & Purpose when reached for comment on Nov. 30."Still, many Veterans have successfully registered for the card in the 24 hours since the program was announced, and we are excited finally to begin providing this resource to Veterans, fulfilling a promise that was made to them more than two years ago under the previous Administration."

While Cashour said that the department is releasing a patch tonight that "should address some of the challenges," the snafu underscores the slew of challenges that have plagued the VA since it unveiled the new ID cards in, many of which appear tied to the fact that Congress neglected to allocate any funds for the initiative.

Many veterans who tried to register with Vets.gov following the announcement encountered unexpected obstacles, sending the VA's IT department scrambling to plug loopholes and remove arbitrary barriers. Meanwhile, an early prototype of the card released in mid-October was emblazoned with the Office Depot logo. Concerns were raised. Was Office Depot sponsoring a card that the VA, a federal agency, was mandated by law to issue to veterans to make it easier for them to secure discounts from "private institutions" like Office Depot?

Cashour insisted the collaboration was not mutually beneficial, telling Task & Purpose in October that Office Depot was just "printing and providing" the cards so veterans wouldn't have to pay for them. "It's not a sponsorship," he said. Military.com reported on Nov. 29 that it was shown a preview of the new card after successfully submitting the application, and there was no Office Depot logo to be found.  

For those unfortunate veterans who — like the Task & Purpose staff — were unable to apply for the card, there's hope. Cashour said that the VA's Office of Information and Technology will be releasing a patch tonight that "should address some of the challenges." We're holding our breath.

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Jim Nabors, Who Played TV’s Lovable Marine Gomer Pyle, Dies At 87

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 01:18 PM PST

Jim Nabors, who starred as the bumbling gas-station-attendant-turned-Marine Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show" and his own subsequent spinoff, died Thursday morning in Hawaii. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by his husband, Stan Cadwallader.

While best known for his role as Pyle, Nabors also had a successful singing career, briefly hosted a variety show and held several stints on stage in Las Vegas.

Nabors was born in June 1930 in Alabama, and after graduating from the state's university, he moved to New York and briefly worked as a typist.

A bad case of asthma forced him to pack up and move to the West Coast, where he worked as a film cutter for NBC and performed at nightclubs like the Horn in Santa Monica.

It was there in 1962 that Andy Griffith, then the star of his own self-titled show on CBS, spotted Nabors and gave him his big break.

"I'd sing like this (in a baritone voice) and talk like this (in a Pyle twang). It made no sense to anybody. Even Andy commented: 'I don't know what you do, but you do it very well,'" Nabors told The Deseret News in 1984 of his hiring.

Griffith cast Nabors that year as Pyle, a bumbling gas station attendant who quickly won the hearts of fans with his good-natured naivety.

As a 1967 Time profile described, Pyle "wears a gee-whiz expression, spouts homilies out of a lopsided mouth and lopes around uncertainly like a plowboy stepping through a field of cow dung. He is a walking disaster area… Yet in the end, Gomer's goodness always wins out."

The character proved so popular that Nabors scored a spin-off, "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." in 1964, in which the character entered the Marines opposite Frank Sutton's Sergeant Vince Carter.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, right, and Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, left, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, present a framed promotion certificate to Jim Nabors at the Sheraton Hotel, Waikiki, Hawaii, Nov. 1, 2013.

Not Released (NR) For editorial use only. Any commercial or promotional use of CBS content requires CBS's prior written consent — contact your local office for assistance.

In memoriam: Remembering the famous figures we lost in 2017

The show was a success, though Nabors quit in 1969 after five seasons, citing a need to "reach for another rung on a ladder."

He hosted his own variety show, "The Jim Nabors Hour," from 1969 to 1971, and earned an Emmy nomination for the short-lived program.

After retiring Pyle, Nabors continued with small roles on both primetime and children's shows, like "The Lost Saucer" and "The Carol Burnett Show."

He briefly left Hollywood after becoming "burned out," but stepped back into the spotlight at the request of Burt Reynolds. In 1983, Nabors appeared alongside Reynolds in "Stroker Ace," and a year later, in "Cannonball Run II."

He also enjoyed a stint in Las Vegas in the '80s, starring in productions of "Moulin Rouge" and "The Music Man."

Nabors abandoned California for a more laid-back life in Hawaii in 1976, though he suffered health woes in 1994 after a case of hepatitis B caused his liver to fail.

Pal Carol Burnett helped secure him a liver transplant that ultimately saved his life.

From 1972 up until 2014, Nabors also regularly lent his baritone to "(Back Home Again in) Indiana," the tune used annually to kick off the Indianapolis 500.

The gig came as part of a successful singing career that included more than 20 albums, among them one platinum record.

Nabors wed Stan Cadwallader, his partner of 38 years, in 2013.

———

©2017 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The Marine Corps Uniform Board Just Unveiled A Few Changes

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 10:57 AM PST

Tired of donning a duty belt and cammie blouse only to have the bottom half of the shirt puff out like a MARPAT mini-skirt as you patrol the barracks? Well, you're in luck: The results of the Marine Corps's latest uniform board review are here, and now you can tuck in that blouse (sometimes), hold on to your issued gloves and beanie, and if you spend the workday behind a console controlling a UAV — you can let everyone know with a new badge.

Devil dogs are now authorized to tuck in their Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform blouses under certain conditions, according to to the results of a recent Marine Corps uniform board, published on Nov. 27. Commanders are now authorized to "direct the MCCUU blouse be tucked into the MCCUU trousers in a neat manner, when doing so will enable Marines to deploy and employ mission critical equipment" — like, say, a duty belt, or pistol belt.

“As for the tucked-in blouse decision, the Flame Resistant Organizational Gear (FROG) uniform was designed to have the blouse tucked in for a flame/fire threat environment,” Capt Christopher Harrison, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Task & Purpose. “The Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU) blouse was not authorized for such wear until the release of this uniform board.”

The wording of the Corps announcement makes it pretty clear that you can only get away with tucking in your blouse under those conditions if, and only if, the unit commander deems it appropriate. That said, Marines on the range or deployed overseas have been tucking in their tops for years, so this feels like less of a new rule and more of along the lines of: The commandant just approved this because we all know you're gonna do it anyway.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Steve H. Lopez

Marines with 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire their weapons on the flight deck aboard the USS Anchorage.

In addition to tucked-in cammies, enlisted and officer unmanned aircraft system operators will be getting a new breast insignia they can rock on their uniforms. Details on the badge, its placement, and arrival date, will be provided in a separate update, as the design is still under review. A Marine Corps official did confirm to Task & Purpose that of the proposed badges, one looks similar to the UAS insignia of other services, but with the gold flight wings of Marine aviators.

Related: 6 Marine Corps 'Rules' That Are Not Actually Regulations »

But wait, there's more! If you're getting close to getting out or transferring to a new duty station and are dreading the prospect of cleaning your soiled beanie and gloves — you don't have to now! Those moondust-covered gloves and dandruff-filled caps are now "personally owned and maintained items, vice organizationally issued items," the statement notes — just like your olive-green seabag. Because everybody wants a beanie that's so caked in sweat and dirt it can hold it's shape when you take it off.

Finally, the update contains additional guidance on the position and placement of rank for company grade officers up to full bird colonels, which amounts to: Get rank, grab a protractor, and try to remember the difference between "perpendicular" and "parallel."

U.S. Marine Corps image

Unsurprisingly, the rank guidance was restricted to butter bars on to full-bird colonels and warrant officers. I'll go out on a limb and say this was intentional: Even if you wanted to issue new rank guidance to general officers, who other than a general would even know those orders, or have enough clout, and guts, to correct a misplaced star on that constellation of a collar?

UPDATE: This article was updated after publication with additional information from Headquarters Marine Corps. (11/30/17; 2:20 p.m. EST)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Warrant Officers were not issued new guidance on rank placement. (12/1/2017; 8:53 a.m. EST)

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North Korea’s Latest ICBM Test Highlights America’s Flawed Strategy

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 10:38 AM PST

North Korea ended over two months of relative peace and quiet in grand fashion with it’s Nov. 28 test of its Hwasong 15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). More details of the test will come to light in the next few days and weeks, but initial data about the test indicate Pyongyang's steady progress on ballistic missile development despite increasingly stringent U.S. and international sanctions.

North Korea's latest ICBM test does not fundamentally change the strategic challenge posed by Pyongyang, but it throws the failure of the Trump administration's approach into stark relief. This would be a good time for Washington to critically reexamine its strategy rather than double down on a failing game plan.

The technical details of this missile test highlight the growing sophistication of North Korea's nuclear forces. The height and range of North Korea's two previous ICBM tests in July 2017 led some experts to conclude that the missile, dubbed the Hwasong 14, could range the west coast of the United States and strike major inland cities like Denver and Chicago. However, there was considerable debate within the expert community over the details of the Hwasong 14, including the missile's payload (a lighter testing payload could lead to an artificially high range) and the ability of the missile's reentry vehicle to successfully deliver a nuclear weapon.

The ICBM test on Nov. 28 should put some of the uncertainty regarding range to rest. The missile was lofted, flying very high up but not very far. Based on the record-setting apogee and flight time, David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists calculated that the missile would fly farther than 13,000 km if launched on a standard trajectory. This would place all of the United States comfortably in range. Wright cautions that the ICBM's test payload may not represent the weight of a nuclear weapon, but the nuclear weapon would have to be exceptionally heavy to significantly reduce the range of the missile.

Related: What We Know About North Korea's 'Most Powerful' ICBM Yet »

The ability to hold the entire United States at risk is an important milestone in the development of North Korea's nuclear forces, but it does not represent a fundamental change in the strategic challenge facing the United States. The ability to hold U.S. cities at risk with nuclear weapons was a major strategic development, but the North Koreans have had this capability since the July tests of the Hwasong-14. The ICBM tested on Nov 28 puts all U.S. cities at risk rather than some. The Trump administration's reaction to the missile test will carry more weight than the test itself.

Washington's pattern of response to North Korean provocations suggests Trump will likely double down on "maximum pressure" in response to the latest ICBM test. This would entail the use of economic and military tools to further isolate Pyongyang's economy and signal American resolve to keep tightening the screws despite North Korean missile testing. Chinese banks and entities that help North Korean companies evade sanctions could also be targeted for punishment.

More pressure will not change the current situation. Kim Jong-un views nuclear weapons as essential for his regime's survival. Short of a complete shut-down of North Korean–Chinese economic activity—a move China is unwilling to take—economic pain will be uncomfortable but not existential for Kim and he will hold onto his nuclear weapons. Sanctions may slow down the development of new ballistic missile and nuclear weapon technologies, but this would not considerably improve the strategic picture for the United States now that North Korea has conducted several successful ICBM tests. Moreover, a statement released after the latest ICBM test suggest that North Korea is capable of manufacturing important technologies indigenously, which further insulates the weapons program from sanctions. Applying "maximum pressure" in the pursuit of denuclearization is nothing more than a flawed strategy chasing a chimerical goal.

hwasong 15 north korea ICBM nuclear programPhoto via KCNA

North Korea launches the Hwason 15 ICBM on November 28, 2017

Washington needs to use the ICBM test as an opportunity to reevaluate its strategy, set new goals, and develop new plans of action. Denuclearization is a noble goal, but it is not achievable in the short term and it should not be used as a precondition for direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea. Militarily, the United States should work to reduce the risk of crisis instability and escalation. Freezing B-1B bomber flights out of Guam would have little negative impact on America's ability to deter North Korea and could be a useful opening point for negotiations. Militarily, the United States should eschew threats of trying to kill Kim Jong-un early in a war or disarming Kim of his nuclear weapons. Both of these threats place strong "use it or lose it" pressure on North Korea and increase the chances of a small incident spiraling out of control.

The latest test of an ICBM reinforces the cliché that there are no good options for North Korea. It is difficult to see how a military conflict to tear down the Kim regime wouldn't go nuclear quickly, and even if the conflict stayed conventional it would be a great catastrophe for all parties involved. Denuclearization is a chimera and war would be a nightmare. Trump needs to learn how to deter and live with a nuclear North Korea.

Eric Gomez is a policy analyst for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. This article originally appeared on The National Interest.

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