Posts filed under ‘International Crime’

VETERANS: VA Exploring New Ways to Ease Veterans’ Pain, Trauma

Mannequins to Marijuana.

Starting off 2017 with new leadership and a promise of additional funding from the Trump administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is exploring new techniques and new technologies to enhance patient treatment and caregiver training — amid increasing demands from a mushrooming veteran population.

TSIS image-Sim Mannequin

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Simulation Center in Florida provides a high-fidelity training environment by replicating actual patient treatment areas with video recording for classroom debriefing and review. (VHA photo).

In addition to meeting the needs of aging 20th century vets, the VA health care system is trying to cope with a surge of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The number of veteran enrollees in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) grew from 7.9 million in 2006 to nearly 9 million a decade later, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is the most prevalent mental health challenge facing veterans, according to the VA’s National Center for PTSD. VA research indicates between 11 percent and 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD in any given year. For Vietnam vets, it estimates 30 percent have had PTSD in their lifetime. More than 330,000 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury between 2000 and 2015, according to the Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Dr. David Shulkin, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has pledged to improve veterans healthcare services, including providing timely access, especially cutting the first appointment wait time for vets in crisis, and to do more to address the veteran suicide rate of 20 deaths a day. Veterans Affairs was one of only three federal departments to get a funding increase in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. The White House is seeking  to increase VA’s funding by 6 percent to $78.9 billion.

Meanwhile, veterans’ groups are calling on Congress to increase funding for complementary and alternative therapies for the “invisible wounds of war,” PSTD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). VA is studying non-mainstream medical practices ranging from natural products like vitamins, minerals and herbs to mind and body practices like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage therapy and chiropractic and osteopathic spinal manipulation.

The American Legion has suggested studying medical marijuana as a therapy for chronic pain. Chronic pain is the most common problem afflicting veterans. Almost two-thirds of veterans say they are in pain, and 9.1 percent say their pain is severe.

VHA has turned to advanced medical simulation and other high tech systems to standardize training procedures and education policies across its 1,233 healthcare facilities, including 168 medical centers.

VHA opened its new national simulation training center near Orlando, Florida last fall. Using computerized mannequins and other high tech equipment, students can replicate actual patient treatment situations that can be repeated as often as necessary. The training can be shared with other VA facilities through on-line video and other digital methods.

These and related topics will be discussed by government, medical and industry experts at the VA Healthcare 2017 conference May 15-18 in Arlington, Virginia. To read more, click here.

March 30, 2017 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SO/LIC Conference, Yemen Raid,SOF Risks

Special Ops Conference.

Riverine command boats GUNEX

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michelle L. Turner)

The annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium opens Monday in Bethesda, Maryland, tackling issues ranging from the acquisition and training needs of special operations forces (SOF) to budget challenges and the demand for cooperation and  information sharing with partner nations.

The four-day conference — sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) — will also address the widening challenge of creating a networked, connected and unified force of SOF, as well as U.S. and international law enforcement and intelligence organizations.

Speakers will include Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and James Geurts, the civilian head of acquisition at SOCOM. [More on the conference at the bottom of this post.]

Yemen Raid.

A Navy SEAL was killed in a raid on an al Qaeda base in Yemen late last month. The Defense Department identified the slain sailor as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. He died January 29 from wounds sustained in the raid. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit, which most news organizations have identified as SEAL Team 6. map-yemen

The raid sparked controversy in both the United States and the Middle East.

A “chain of mishaps and misjudgments,” according to the New York Times, plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three other servicemen  wounded and forced the raiders to destroy a U.S. V-22 Osprey, when the $75 million tilt-rotor aircraft was unable to take off after making a hard landing during the fire fight. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on February 1 as most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children, the Times reported.

Yemeni officials were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions. But they made clear their “reservations” about the latest operation, according to the Voice of America website. A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, VoA added, said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programs with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government.”

The White House called the raid, the first authorized by the Trump administration, a success. But Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged that conclusion, telling NBC:  “When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost, I don’t believe you can call it a success.”

But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation, calling it “absolutely a success,” VoA reported. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.

Earlier, Spicer said it was “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have the loss of life, or people injured.  But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions, and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.”

SOF Deaths.

The  casualty rate for highly skilled and experienced special operators, like Chief Owens, has been on the rise as the United States relies more and more on elite forces.

In the past year — for the first time — according to a New York Times report (via the Seattle Times), special-operations troops have died in greater numbers than conventional troops. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan SOF made up only a fraction of the dead. That they now fill nearly the whole casualty list, the report continues, shows how the Pentagon, hesitant to put conventional troops on the ground, has come to depend almost entirely on small groups of elite warriors.

Meanwhile, Navy SEALS and other elite units are quietly battling a frightening rise in parachute deaths, according to a Military Times investigation.

Between 2011 and 2016, 11 special operators have died in high altitude, free fall training jumps. That is a 60 percent increase over the previous five-year period, according to 13 years’ worth or records analyzed by Military Times.

Southern Strike 17

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride.)

More SO/LIC

The four-day conference is being held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. All the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands will take part in a panel discussion on the strategic and operational implications caused by the necessity to conduct coalition and inter-agency operations.

Another panel discussion on law enforcement special mission units will include representatives from several Department of Homeland Security units, including Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.

February 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA/HOMELAND SECURITY: Trump Taps Ex-SOUTHCOM Chief to head DHS.

Trump Picks Retired Marine General.

President-elect Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Corps General John Kelly to be the next head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to several news outlets.

ltgen-kelly

Kelly in 2012 before he took over SOUTHCOM and got his fourth star. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

General Kelly, 66, who until recently led United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), had a 40-year career in the Marine Corps, and led troops in intense combat in western Iraq, according to the New York Times. Kelly has not yet formally offered the job to General Kelly, in part because the general is out of the country this week, a person briefed on the decision told the Times. The president-elect plans to roll out the Homeland Security Department appointment next week, along with his remaining national security positions — including secretary of state.

Kelly is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Trump’s team was drawn to him because of his Southwest border expertise, people familiar with the transition told the Washington Post. Like the president-elect, Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats that he sees as emanating from Mexico and Central and South America.

Based in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM has military responsibilities for Latin America and the Caribbean Basin — 32 countries in all. Those responsibilities include organizing training exercises with local militaries in the region as well as good will/humanitarian aid missions. One of SOUTHCOM’s most demanding missions is counter narcotics.

Before taking over at SOUTHCOM in 2012, Kelly served as senior military adviser to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta starting in 2011. Trump’s selection of Kelly for DHS was first reported by CBS News.

Kelly, who retired from the SOUTHCOM post earlier this year, publicly clashed with the Obama administration on its plans – which were never executed – to close Guantanamo Bay and dismissed as “foolishness” concerns that the military’s treatment of detainees at the facility had cost the U.S. the moral high ground in the War on Terror, POLITICO reported.

Kelly is the latest in a string of former military figures to be nominated for positions in the incoming Trump administration. Trump has also nominated retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary. Retired Army general and former Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus is said to be among those under consideration for secretary of state, the Voice of America website reported.

 

December 7, 2016 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.

160330-F-YT673-465

Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.

At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

TERRORISM: Add Brussels to the Growing List

The Global War on Terror continues …

New York office towers, four airliners, the Pentagon (2001), Madrid commuter trains (2004), London bus and subway (2005), Mumbai hotels and train station (2008), Moscow airport (2011),  Nairobi shopping mall (2013), Boston Marathon finish line (2015), Paris concert hall, cafes, football stadium, grocery store and magazine office (2015, twice) … and now Brussels. The list of major world cities wracked by terrorist attacks seems to grow ever longer.

160322153424-brussels-attack-suspects-large-169

Security photo of Brussels airport bombing suspects from Belgian Police.

Thirty-one people were killed and 300 wounded in suicide bomber attacks on the airport and a busy metro station in Belgium’s capital on Tuesday (March 22).

On Thursday (March 24) top Belgian officials acknowledged miscommunications and other errors in the prelude to the attacks, the New York Times reported. Growing evidence of links to last November’s attacks in Paris by the Islamic State suggest that a wide network of trained attackers leading back to Syria is now rooted in Europe, according to the Times  report, co-written by our friend and former AP colleague, Rick Gladstone.

Here is a list of some of the most recent attacks …

Paris, November 2015

As many as eight terrorists launched a series of shootings and bombings across Paris Friday (November 13) — from an international soccer match that the French president was attending to restaurants and neighborhood cafes, killing more than 100 people and wounding hundreds more, French officials said.

Bangkok, August 2015

Twenty people died and more than 120 were injured in the horrific bombing on 17 August in central Bangkok at the Erawan shrine.

Tunis, March 2015

Gunmen tried to storm the country’s national assembly Wednesday (March 18) while lawmakers were debating an anti-terrorism bill. When that attack was thwarted, the gunmen — some wearing military-style uniforms — attacked tourist buses outside the National Bardo Museum across from the government building.

Paris, January 2015

More than 10,000 troops are guarding “sensitive sites” around France including synagogues, railway stations, airports and tourist attractions in the wake of last week’s terrorism incidents in Paris that left 17 people dead — including three alleged attackers.

March 24, 2016 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Mexican Punitive Expedition 1916

Pancho Villa’s Raid.

Pancho_villa_horseback

General Francisco “Pancho” Villa. (Photo from Library of Congress via Wikipedia

A hundred years ago today the tiny border town of Columbus, New Mexico was reeling and the rest of the country was howling for revenge following a bloody cross border raid by hundreds of Mexican irregulars commanded by bandit-turned general and Mexican Revolution hero “Pancho” Villa.

In the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, about 500 mounted gunmen loyal to Villa attacked Columbus — three miles north of the border — and the adjoining U.S. Army base, Camp Furlong.

Part of the town was looted and burned and at least 17 Americans — both civilians and soldiers — were killed in the three-hour attack. More than 100 Villistas were also killed, wounded or captured on the streets of Columbus and on their retreat back to Mexico by pursuing U.S. cavalry troopers.

The Columbus raid prompted President Woodrow Wilson to send a punitive force of cavalry, infantry and artillery — eventually numbering more than 10,000 men — plus trucks and airplanes (deployed by the Army for the first time in a conflict zone) to catch and punish Villa’s irregular forces.

Pershing-River-Crossing

Brigadier General John J. Pershing and some of his staff crossing a river in Mexico 1916.

Crossing into Mexico on March 15, under the command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, the U.S. troops — including the celebrated Buffalo Soldiers of the black 10th Cavalry regiment — pushed hundreds of miles over rugged terrain deep into the Mexican state of Chihuahua searching for Villa.

Within two months they killed or wounded scores of Villistas in several gun battles. But after two skirmishes with Mexican government troops nearly brought both nations to the brink of war, Pershing’s force returned to U.S. territory in February 1917. Just two months later the United States was at war with Germany.

We’ll be following the major events of this unusual U.S. military action over the next few months, and looking for parallels to the current border security crisis.

shakoSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

March 10, 2016 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 15, 2016)

Cockpit Reach.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Corey Hook

340th EARS refuels A10s and B1U.S Air Force Major Steve Briones (left) and 1st Lieutenant Andrew Kim fly a an aerial refueling KC-135 Stratotanker over Turkey on January 6. Looks easy, doesn’t it?

Coalition forces fly daily missions to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. led air campaign against the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

January 15, 2016 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

AIR FORCE: Report Says Pentagon Rethinking Attack Plane’s Retirement

Warthog Reprieve.

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint bArmy-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

A Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a 2014 joint Army-Air National Guard training exercise in Alaska in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Harrington)

According to a published report, the U.S. Air Force is halting immediate plans to retire the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet — which is playing a major role in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The website, Defense One, reports Pentagon officials are saying plans to retire the heavily armored Cold War era jet known as the Warthog, have been put on hold. This policy shift will be laid out next month when the Pentagon submits its 2017 budget request to Congress, Pentagon officials told Defense One, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the spending plan before its official release.

The Air Force has been trying to eliminate the 40-year-old aircraft since 2014, because of budget constraints which threaten funding for newer aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the planned long range strike bomber. Officials say the A-10 — called the Warthog because of its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament — is obsolete and vulnerable to modern air defense missile systems and fifth generation fighter jets.

They also said multi-role fighters like the F-35 could handle the Warthog’s main mission: close air support of ground troops. That claim is strongly denied by Warthog advocates, who include former A-10 pilots, members of Congress and Army and Marine veterans who say they were saved from being overrun in Afghanistan by the A-10’s fearsome Gatling Gun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

Supporters say high speed fighter jets cannot linger over a battle zone and provide covering fire for an extended period of time like the low and slow-flying Warthog has. The photo above shows the A-10’s big gun (like a fat cigar clenched in its tiger shark teeth) the seven-barrel, rotating 30 milimeter GAU cannon. The gun, with a firing rate of over 4,000-rounds per minute, enables “hogs” to support ground troops by taking out enemy tanks and armored vehicles with its armor-piercing shells.

January 13, 2016 at 11:35 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 27, 2015)

Up Close and Very Personal.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle over the northern Mediterranean Sea.

As you might suspect from the logo on the refueling drogue, this Stratotanker is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the U.S. military’s only permanently assigned air refueling operation in the European theater. The Strike Eagle is assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing.

Both air wings while deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, will be supporting Operation Inherent Resolve , the U.S. led air campaign over Iraq and Syria to degrade and defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh.

November 27, 2015 at 2:10 am Leave a comment

TERRORISM: UPDATE 11-19-2015 — Paris Attack Ringleader Killed; ISIS Threatens New York and Washington; Hollande’s Promise; French Parliament Extends State of Emergency

Paris Attacks Update.

UPDATES WITH FRENCH AUTHORITIES CONFIRMING ATTACK RINGLEADER WAS KILLED IN WEDNESDAY RAID … French govt. calls for European plan to reinforce, consolidate borders. 

Paris shooting scene the day after. (Photo by Maya-Anais Yataghene via wikipedia)

Paris shooting scene the day after.
(Photo by Maya-Anais Yataghene via wikipedia)

French and European authorities today (November 19) confirmed that the suspected ringleader of last week’s terror attacks in Paris was killed in a gun battle with police and soldiers in a Paris suburb Wednesday, according to media reports including CNN, the Washington Post and BBC.

Meanwhile, as the search continues across Europe for any of the participants or planners of last Friday’s shooting and bombing attacks that killed 129 people, the French Parliament has extended the State of Emergency declared by President Francois Hollande, giving authorities extraordinary powers to search without warrants and detain suspects.

In announcing the death of the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said it was “urgent,” that Europe should come together to defend itself, according to the BBC. Also urgent, Cazeneuve said, was the need for “a European plan” to reinforce and consolidate borders.

The minister said the body of Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, was identified by fingerprints. He did not give many details — including how the suspect was killed during the seven-hour siege: in a shootout with police or by blowing himself up.

Early Wednesday (November 18),  police raided two apartments in a northern Parisian suburb. A suicide bomber blew herself up and a police sniper took out a second terror suspect after authorities stormed the apartments and a church in Saint-Denis, the suburb where one of last week’s deadly terrorist attacks occurred, according to CNN.

The raid in Saint-Denis, home to the Stade de France arena that was hit by three suicide bombers Friday (November 13), targeted a suspected mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, though authorities weren’t certain he was at any of the locations, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN.

Police sources say, however, the raid was well-timed because the suspects were “about to move on some kind of operation.”

*** *** ***

New York City Threatened.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Islamic State — which is taking credit for the attacks in Paris that killed 129 — has released a video warning that New York City is the extremist terror group’s next target.

But city officials say there is no “specific and credible threat,” Reuters reported. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said there was nothing new about the video, which he called “hastily produced.” Bratton and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio held a joint news conference Wednesday (November 18) in Times Square to calm fears in the largest U.S. city, where more than 2,000 people were killed in the 9/11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center.

“There is no credible and specific threat against New York City,” de Blasio said, encouraging New Yorkers to “go about their business” as normal, while remaining watchful.

ISIS also appeared to threaten an attack on Washington D.C., and any country launching air strikes on Syria, in a new video from the terror group that surfaced online Monday (November 16).

The six-minute video clip comes a day after France launched a series of airstrikes on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, the New York Daily News reports. Twelve French aircraft dropped at least 20 bombs over jihadi training camps during an evening assault.

France had been bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq for months already, but the new strikes showed a severe escalation of force responding to the massacre that French President Francois Hollande has called “an act of war.”

French President Francois Hollande State Chancellery of (Latvia photo via wikipedia)

French President Francois Hollande
State Chancellery of (Latvia photo via wikipedia)

*** *** ***

Hollande Outlines French Response.

Speaking to a gathering of the nation’s mayors in Paris Wednesday (November 18) French President Hollande to increase French border security with the creation of 5,000 new police posts; 1,000 new customs and border guards and 2,500 new justice officials.

Hollande also said that more than 9,000 army positions, that were to have been scrapped will not be eliminated, according to the BBC.

November 19, 2015 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

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