Remembering George H. W. Bush

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

He has returned to Washington, DC for one last visit before his final resting place. He has been visited by many, including his faithful service dog, Sully, who has sat in empathetic mourning in front of his flag-draped casket. Flags across our country fly at half-mast and our social media feeds are flooding with stories of his greatness. Whether you loved him during his career or opposed him, George HW Bush’s legacy surpasses the politics for which he is known.

 

Born June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA, George H.W. Bush was one of five children for Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. A young man headed for collegiate life, Bush was extremely impacted by the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, on his 18th birthday, George Bush enlisted in the US Navy and subsequently became one of the youngest aviators in naval history. His three years in the military was only the beginning of his lifetime of service to the American people.

 

By 1948, George Bush was out of the Navy and a graduate of Yale. Upon his graduation, he moved with his family to Texas and began his career as an investor in the oil industry. He founded his own oil company and was a millionaire by the age of 40. From there, he launched himself into the field of politics. His initial run for US Senate resulted in a defeat in 1964. However, that loss was followed up with a win for the 7th District for the US House of Representatives just two years later. He won re-election in 1968 but suffered another defeat in the US Senate election of 1970. He had already garnered the attention he needed, however, as President Richard Nixon took the opportunity to appoint Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971. By 1973, he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  

 

Bush’s run for the Oval Office began in 1980, but he was defeated in the Republican Primary by Ronald Reagan. Reagan subsequently selected Bush as his running mate and this Republican ticket was elected in 1980. Bush used his eight years as Vice President to head the war on drugs, which became a popular slogan of the decade. He also headed the task force on deregulation.

 

After two terms as Vice President, Bush became the first incumbent VP to win the Presidential election. He defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis and began what would be a foreign-policy presidency.

 

In those four years, Bush’s presidency saw a series of military operations and historical events. From Panama and the Persian Gulf to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, foreign events helped to make Bush’s term memorable. These events also led to a variety of issues in this new, post-cold war environment. A domestic economic recession, foreign wars, and foreign policy issues combined to give Bill Clinton the edge in the 1992 election.

 

Despite leaving office in 1993, George Bush remained active in the public eye. It was just eight years later that he would officially become George H. W. Bush, as his son, George W. Bush, became the 43rd President of this great country.

 

It is no doubt that our 41st President was a great man, a good leader and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather. While his son was in office, he was called into service yet again. This time to work side-by-side with former political adversary, Bill Clinton. The two were thrust into humanitarian projects and through working together, became friends. In fact, his son, George W. Bush, once joked that during Clinton’s surgical recovery, he likely “woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea…my Dad.”

 

It was those humanitarian lessons that taught us some of George H. W. Bush’s greatest lessons. We learned that there is always more we can do – more ways we can help. His time to be in the limelight was technically over and he would have been within his rights to want to enjoy his retirement with his wonderful wife, Barbara, by his side. Instead, he spent much of his golden years trotting the globe, helping those in need.

 

Through his relationship with Bill Clinton, he taught us that the past is the past and we can overcome personal differences to truly make the world a better place. What they demonstrated is something this country is sorely lacking.

 

Even Clinton has made this observation:

“I think people see George and me and they say, ‘that is the way our country ought to work.’”

 

President Trump has declared today, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning in honor of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. He has been lying in state in Washington DC in the Capitol Rotunda since Monday. He will make his way to the National Cathedral for his State Funeral Service. After the State Service today, “Special Mission 41” will take George H. W. Bush home to Texas where he will ultimately find his final resting place on the grounds of the library that bears his name.

 

To Ink or Not To Ink…

To Ink or Not To Ink…

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Tattoos have been around for a long time. Many historians believe that the first tattoos were inked onto hands and fingers of our Neanderthal ancestors in an effort to ward off illnesses. Tattooed mummified remains have been found and those remains date back to more than 5,000 years ago. Tattoos have been used to mark your skill set, designate your tribe, honor your lineage and more. The perception of tattoos continues to change every day as an increasing number of soccer moms sport full inked sleeves to practice. Public perception has changed and the Navy had to catch up.

For years, the United States Navy limited to the ink that it allowed in its ranks. Rules were in place to limit visible tattoo size and number, so sailors were restricted with what could be on their forearms and lower legs. Additionally, neck tattoos were not permitted. However, with tattoos on the rise in the 17-24 demographic, the Navy found themselves limiting recruits because of this rule.

The most efficient way to handle this barrier was to eliminate it, which is what the US Navy did. Under the revised rules, sailors have no restrictions on tattoos below the neck. Full sleeves are now permitted. Neck tattoos are also permitted, but have a limit on size. This opens up the doors for the young and tattooed who have an interest in serving in the Navy.

Sailors and tattoos have had a long history, so this recent change opens up a level of public acceptance that reflects the personal feelings of many who choose to decorate their personal canvases. Over the past few years, tattoo rules have changed in the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army. While each branch has changed their code regarding the allowing and acceptance of tattoos, all of the individual rules are different.  

 

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

Just a few months after the existing VA medical center in Redding, CA was threatened by nearby wildfires, the VA has awarded a lease for a new medical facility. The new complex will rehome the two existing VA treatment facilities in Redding as well as increase the amount of space available for medical professionals. This new facility will serve more than 60,000 Veterans. In addition to all of the services currently provided, the new facility in Redding will have room for 17 new mental health providers, a mammography center and a second x-ray center.

 

The lease award in Redding is just one of thirteen major leases that have been awarded across the country.

 

“These awards are the next step in increasing access for our Veterans across the country,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA stands firm in ensuring our Veterans are treated in state-of-the-art facilities and continue to access the high quality of care VA is able to provide.”

 

Charleston, SC

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Houston, TX

Lincoln, Nebraska

Lubbock, Texas

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

New Port Richey, Florida

Phoenix, Arizona

Ponce, Puerto Rico

San Antonio, Texas

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Bakersfield, California

 

While timelines have not been provided for these projects, the VA is hopeful to have construction underway as quickly as possible.

 

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel

 

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel

 

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Chapels are a common sight in many military communities, but one in particular holds a very special place for many of us that were serving on September 11, 2001.

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel is located at the crash site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Dedicated a year to the day after the event, the chapel is a solemn place for prayer, meditation and reflection. Throughout the week, services for various faiths are held at the chapel and those who come to worship there recognize that it’s a special place, one that symbolizes strength, hope, and rebuilding. The Chapel helps meet the spiritual needs of all major faiths, and is open 24 hours a day for prayer and meditation,

According to the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, the Pentagon Memorial Chapel was the vision of the 3 most senior government civilians and the Chiefs of Chaplains. They, among others, realized that the Pentagon workforce needed a symbol for their recovery.

The point of impact where American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon had become a place where the Pentagon community and other officials came to leave flowers and other symbols of respect and mourning. Rather than return the area to office space, leaders decided to build the Chapel and use the transforming power found in faith to commemorate the events of that tragic day.

One special attribute of the physical space is the Chapel’s memorial windows. Along the wall that faces the outdoor public memorial are four stained-glass windows dedicated to those who perished. Those windows represent one piece of art by Dennis Roberts of IHS Studios and each window has a plaque at the bottom with a dedication to groups who lost friends and comrades that day.

The memorial stained-glass window in the front of the Chapel is designed like the five-sided “Survivor’s Pin,” which was given to the survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. The window links together the five military branches that guard the Nation. The American Bald Eagle is in a vigilant stance, symbolizing the past and present generations of those who defend our country. The flag is displayed upon alternating rays of green and gold, which portray the dark trials and bright triumphs in our history. The Pentagon building represents the undefeated bulwark at the heart of our defenses and the more than 23,000 men and women who contribute to the planning and execution of the defense of our country. The olive branch reveals the national character: always desiring peace but prepared to defend freedom. The two crimson rings total 184 individual pieces of glass, each representing those who lost their lives in the attack.

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

There have been a variety of settlements made to Agent Orange victims since the chemical warfare in Vietnam ceased over 40 years ago. While some settlements had immediate payouts, there may be funds still available, depending on your condition and infliction. The VA is providing assistance, benefits and care for Veterans who have health implications as a result of Agent Orange exposure.

Initially, the Agent Orange Settlement Fund was a result of a class action lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the chemical agents used in the Vietnam War by the Veterans of the war and their families. This fund and lawsuit did not involve the VA or the government in any way.

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for a wide variety of VA benefits. These benefits may include disability benefits for diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. These diseases include:

 

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Additionally, survivors of exposed Veterans and depends may also be eligible for benefits. Fortunately for Veterans, there is no need to prove Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange exposure is presumed if a Veteran was in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 until May 7, 1975. This includes both time on land and time aboard a ship that operated in the Vietnam waterways. Also covered by this presumption are veterans who were in or near the Korean demilitarized zone from April 1, 1968 to August 31, 1971.

Veterans can apply in person at their local office or online: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage. If you need any additional information about your possible disability benefits, please visit the VA’s site: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange.asp.

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

The chemical warfare efforts of Operation Ranch Hand were active for just 10 years of this country’s military history. Those 10 years of active efforts have had nearly 50 years of fallout, and the impact on future generations still remains unknown.

When the military began the chemical warfare airstrikes, the focus was on reducing ground cover utilized by the Viet Cong and Northern Vietnamese troops and destroying crops that would be used for sustenance. US Military, manufacturers and scientists were aware of the dangers that the dioxins posed to the humans and animals exposed, but there wasn’t a pressing concern as the toxins were being used on the enemy. Science overlooked the impact on US military personnel and long term impact on the environment. Air Force researcher Dr. James Clary has been quoted on the subject. “When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to the dioxin contamination in the herbicide. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide.”

As Veterans returned home, they began to report a variety of health issues. Initial reports were primarily skin issues, but the list grew to include type 2 diabetes, miscarriages, birth defects and more.

The VA continually updates its list of afflictions, conditions and diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. This is the most up-to-date list of recognized conditions:

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

In addition to the number of illnesses reported by American Veterans and their families, the list of afflictions that have impacted the Vietnamese continues to grow. Most notable and heartbreaking are the images of children born with severe birth defects. While many assume the impacts ended after the war, in truth, children are still coming into this world with physical and mental handicaps as a result of their grandparents’ exposure to Agent Orange in the 60s.

Globally, we need to be aware of the impact that Agent Orange had on our ecosystem. If genetic abnormalities in humans were caused by exposure and still continue to be prevalent, there is a high likelihood that the dioxin would be found in our food that originated in that area.

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Operation Ranch Hand was the codename for the US program that ordered over 20 million gallons of herbicide to be spread over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during a ten-year span of the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was the most commonly used herbicide. Intended to be the primary agent in the destruction of the forest cover in these countries, it was an extremely powerful herbicide that not only caused the desired deforestation but also has since been known to cause a multitude of devastating conditions for the local people and returning US Soldiers.

Operation Ranch Hand was aggressive chemical warfare designed to reduce food supplies for strategic cover being used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. The over 20 million gallons were spread across nearly 4.5 million acres. While seemingly a strategic win at the time, the fallout would prove to be a blemish on the face of American warfare history.

Operation Ranch Hand utilized six different herbicides. Produced by well-known American manufacturing companies, such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical, the herbicides were marked by colors on their packaging drums and subsequently referred to as those colors – Agent Orange, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Blue, Agent White and Agent Purple. Agent Orange was the most used, most potent and most altered – with four different variations, including Super Orange. Agent Orange and its variations account for almost two-thirds of the herbicide use during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange’s active ingredients caused plants to lose their leaves. TCDD, a type of dioxin, was not an intentional ingredient but instead a byproduct of the manufacturing process. The TCDD found in Agent Orange is the most dangerous and deadly of all dioxins.

It has been nearly 50 years since the US Government stopped using Agent Orange and other herbicides in chemical warfare. Despite the time that has passed, many of those exposed – both Vietnamese and American – still face the physical repercussions and fallout.

 

Another Order for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The Reuters News Agency reports that Belgium has chosen Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth jets over the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace its aging F-16s, a move that would cement the U.S.-made war plane’s position in Europe.

The country has been deliberating for months over a multibillion-dollar purchase of 34 new fighter jets, with a late October deadline looming. Lockheed spokeswoman Carolyn Nelson did not confirm that a purchasing decision has been made, but if so, Belgium will become the 12th country to buy the radar-evading F-35 fighters and could help to strengthen the U.S. aerospace company’s position in potential offers from Switzerland, Finland and Germany.

News of the order comes not long after all F-35 fighter jets were temporarily grounded. The F-35 Joint Program Office said the U.S. and its international partners had suspended flights of the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the Lightning II, until a fleet-wide inspection of the aircraft’s fuel tubes were completed. Officials ordered the inspection following a nonfatal crash on Sept. 28 in Beaufort, South Carolina. The F-35 Joint Program Office reported earlier this month that the majority of the single-seat, single-engine jets have resumed flight operations.

The most expensive weapons program of its type, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been under development for decades by the U.S. and its allies and is set to enter a round of testing to determine if the jet is indeed ready for action worldwide. The highly anticipated initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) tests will start in November 2018 and conclude in July 2019. There are collectively more than 240 F-35s among the Marines, Air Force and Navy.

AI May Enhance Tradecraft, Prevent Geopolitical Surprises

AI May Enhance Tradecraft, Prevent Geopolitical Surprises Says Military’s Top Spy

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., the Pentagon’s “top spy,” hopes advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can get a jump on global conflicts when they ignite overnight.

“My core mission is to make sure that the secretary of defense is never surprised,” said Ashley.

Ashley became the 21st Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency on October 3, 2017. He formerly served as the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2, where he was the senior advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff for all aspects of intelligence, counterintelligence and security.

“AI and machine learning will be a huge enhancement” to tradecraft and other skills defense analysts use to avoid blind spots,” he said.

Using algorithms to sort through massive amounts of information can take some of the burden off defense analysts, but it doesn’t come without challenges, Ashley said.

“We look very closely at the technology development. Obviously, there’s some breakout things — we watch the AI side of the house, the hypersonics, counter-space, [and] what they’re doing with regard to subs, if you’re following the maritime piece of that as well,” he said. “They’re in the trials for their first carrier. They got an old one from the Russians; now they’re building their own.”

“When an analyst sits in front of a senior leader, they always say, ‘Based on reporting, based on sources, based on what I have seen I have a moderate [degree of confidence]’ or if you see a national assessment that says ‘I have a high-degree of confidence,’ it goes back to sourcing and analytic tradecraft,” he said.

“You never want to be in a position where you say, ‘Well, the computer told me so,'” he continued. “Part of the challenge we have now, and I think really the opportunity is, as we look at algorithms, as we look at machine learning and AI, is developing a degree of confidence within the AI, a degree of confidence within the algorithm.”

DIA will have to test these algorithms “to be able to prove that it can in fact come back with a high-degree of confidence that the analysis that it’s doing is correct,” Ashley added.

Ashley wants to ensure that the Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System, or MARS, is at initial operating capability before he leaves office in two years. MARS will take advantage of modern technologies in storage, cloud computing and machine learning to allow analysts to interact with data and information in a more dynamic fashion, rather than static.

 

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

By Debbie Gregory

The United States Navy announced the intention to bring cyber officers in at mid-grade officer levels to ensure that the branch recruits and retains the best cyber officers. The service secretaries can take advantage of new authorities recently granted by Congress that allow them to do so.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said that these officers need the flexibility to move between the Navy or Marine Corps and the private sector without hurting their chances of promotion to secure their interest in staying in the service.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has allowed for the easing of requirements, like moving officers out of the military if they did not receive a promotion within a certain timeframe, and allowing for officers to be promoted faster.

“You have to have an active offense to have a great defense,” Spencer said. “Cyber is not one or the other. It’s a continuum and it’s a process because, to stay current in defense, you have to know what’s going on in offense.”

He added that the changes could help recruit and retain officers in other important communities, such as medical personnel and pilots.

The need for improved cyberwar intel is critical at this juncture of the United States history. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that there is “no question” that Russia is the “most aggressive foreign actor,” in its ongoing efforts to undermine American democracy.

On another front, the U.S. could also face cyberattacks from Iran in retaliation for the re-imposition of sanctions by President Trump, which the administration says was done to prevent its aggression, denying it the funds it needs to finance terrorism, its missile program and forces in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

“Iran’s cyber activities against the world have been the most consequential, costly and aggressive in the history of the internet, more so than Russia,” said Norm Roule, former Iran manager for the office of the Director of National Intelligence. “The Iranians are destructive cyber operators.”

“While we have no specific threats, we have seen an increase in chatter related to Iranian threat activity over the past several weeks,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, a cyber threat intelligence company, which has predicted that the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement would provoke a cyber response from the Iranian government.

Moriuchi anticipated that businesses most at risk include banks and financial services, government departments, critical infrastructure providers, and oil and energy.