Saturday, October 4, 2014

CPL J.L. SPEARS, USMC - Navy IDs Marine lost in Persian Gulf; search called off - 11th MEU

MANAMA, Bahrain — The U.S. Navy on Friday identified the missing U.S. Marine who is presumed lost at sea after he bailed out of an MV-22 Osprey when it lost power after taking off from the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.
The U.S. Navy ended the search Thursday in the northern Persian Gulf for Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, of Memphis, Ind., who embarked on the Makin Island as part the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was a tiltrotor crew chief working with the 11th MEU's aviation combat element. He was assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force and based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
Spears was one of two aircrew members who went into the water Wednesday when it seemed the Osprey might crash. The other aircrew member was rescued and is in stable condition aboard the Makin Island, officials said.
The Osprey’s pilot was able to regain control of the aircraft and return to the ship. The Navy said the plane was participating in flight operations to support the military’s mission in Iraq and Syria.
 “U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel conducted an extensive search of the area using all available assets, which continued throughout the night and the next day,” the Navy said in a news release.
"Cpl. Spears was a cherished member of our MEU family, and he fulfilled a key role in our aviation combat element," Col. Matthew Trollinger, commander of the 11th MEU, wrote on the unit's official Facebook page. "His absence will be felt throughout the unit. My heart goes out to his family, and they will remain in our thoughts and prayers."
Prayers and expressions of support poured onto the Makin Island’s official Facebook page as news of the incident reached family and friends at the ship’s San Diego home port.
“This has been on my heart all day, my prayers are with the family and the ship,” Ruth Tedrahn of San Diego wrote on the Facebook page.
The Makin Island, along with its amphibious ready group that includes the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, left home on July 25. Last month the ship arrived in the Middle East, where it relieved the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in the Persian Gulf and has been conducting operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State.
Last month, all 25 personnel aboard a Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter survived after it crashed in the Gulf of Aden while attempting to land aboard the USS Mesa Verde.

WWI Zeppelins: Not Too Deadly, But Scary as Hell

The USS Los Angeles airship was built by the Germans for the US Navy as a part of a war reparation agreement.
The USS Los Angeles airship was built by the Germans for the US Navy as a part of a post-war reparation agreement.
World War I was shaped by the new vehicles developed during the four years of conflict. A century after the start of the war, we’re looking back at the most remarkable vehicles—the planes, cars, tanks, ships, and zeppelins—it helped bring about.
World War I saw the rise of the submarine and the airplane as vital weapons of war, and even now they remain keystones of military might. The airship, on the other hand, became little more than a means of capturing fantastic aerial shots at the Super Bowl.
Although the zeppelin was embraced by both the Germans and the Allies during World War I, the Germans made far more extensive use of the rigid, hydrogen-filled airships. The concept of “strategic bombing”—targeted airstrikes on a particular location—didn’t exist before the conflict. The advent of aerial warfare changed that, and also robbed the British of the protection afforded by the English Channel. The zeppelin allowed Germany to bring the war to the English homeland. Kind of. 
The USS Los Angeles airship ended up nearly vertical after its tail rose out of control while moored at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1927.
The USS Los Angeles airship ended up nearly vertical after its tail rose out of control while moored at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1927.  US Naval Historical Center
The airships of the era were in some ways more more capable than fixed-wing aircraft. They could fly higher, and farther, with greater payloads. But aerial raids were tricky. The large and slow airships flew at night and at high altitude to avoid being hit by artillery. That, however, made it hard for them to see their targets, and—given that this was the dawn of aerial bombardment—there was more than a little guesswork involved in knowing just how many bombs were needed to destroy whatever they were aiming at.
All these things aside, the airships were fantastically successful at at least one thing: scaring the hell out of people.
“They did more damage keeping people awake than actual physical damage,” says Jeffery S. Underwood, a historian at the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Zeppelins “scared the living daylights” out of the British. The Germans believed that bombing civilians would bring panic in the cities, leading the British government to collapse—or at least pull out of the fighting and leave the French on their own on the Western Front.
By the end of the war, however, the British had grown accustomed to the bombardments and begun taking precautions to protect themselves, lessons that would prove useful against much deadlier German aerial attacks during World War II.
Zeppelins were also used for surveillance. Both sides used them to spot submarines, which were nearly invisible to ships but relatively easily seen from the air. And airships were exceptionally useful for fleet maneuvers, carrying radios that could convey information to commanders on the ground. They also provided a measure of aerial protection for convoys. No less important was their tremendous cargo capacity. Zeppelins could carry men and munitions great distances, something that was not possible with the fixed-wing aircraft of the day. 
Zeppelins remained popular after the war, and their development continued until the LZ 129 Hindenburg disaster in 1937. The crash, seen by millions of people in newspapers and newsreels, helped end the public’s interest in traveling by airship. Today, they are used largely for promotional flights (our most famous airship is without doubt the Goodyear blimp, the latest iteration of which is Wingfoot One) and industrial purposes, though lighter-than-air airships have drawn renewed interest as military surveillance and communications platforms, as well as for passenger transport.
Airships “had a usefulness when employed correctly,” says Underwood, who notes that although the technology has advanced, what we’re doing today is “not a whole lot different from what they were doing” back then. Minus the scaring the bejesus out of people part.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chief Gunners Mate John Henry Turpin, USN (Ret)

Survived USS Maine and Bennington explosions

John Henry Turpin served at Mare Island in early 1900s

John Henry "Dick" Turpin, the first African-American Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, held an even greater distinction:  Turpin, who served at Mare Island in the early 1900s, survived explosions on the USS Maine in 1896 and the USS Bennington in 1905. Turpin enlisted in the Navy in 1896.
Turpin was one of 354 crew members aboard the USS Maine on that fateful day in February 1898. The ship was patrolling the harbor of Havana Cuba when a blast ripped through the armored vessel. More than three-fourths of the Maine's crew, including 22 African Americans, was killed during the explosion. Turpin attempted to save a number of lives during the 1898 catastrophe. The sinking of the Maine precipitated the Spanish American War.  
On the morning of July 21, 1905 Turpin survived yet another disaster when a boiler in the USS Bennington tore through the gunboat. Sixty men were killed and 40 crewmembers were seriously hurt. 
At a time when black men in the Navy were limited to serving as mess stewards, Turpin, in 1914 served as a Gunner's Mate First Class at Mare Island. 
While serving at Mare Island, Turpin, who was tall and powerfully built, spent some of his spare time in the boxing ring. In November 1905 the Oakland Tribune reported that Turpin fought Matt Turner in a six round match at The Palm Club in Vallejo.
Turpin would distinguish himself during his long service in the Navy. Qualified as a Master Diver, he was also employed as a Master Rigger at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. Transferred to the Fleet Reserve in 1919, CGM Turpin retired in 1925. Turpin's deep love for the military would bring him back as a volunteer during the World War II era. From 1938 through World War II Turpin volunteered his services as a speaker at Navy Training Centers and defense plants throughout the nation.

He died on March 10, 1962.

Coast Guard gives WWII vet a Viking funeral at sea

The Coast Guard carries out dozens of burials at sea in a given year, but one World War II veteran got a unique farewell.
On Sept. 29, Station Atlantic City fulfilled the final wishes of service veteran Andrew Haines, a New Jersey resident who died in late August at age 89. Haines spent more than a decade planning his own Norse-style send-off — a self-built funeral ship to carry his cremated ashes, which was then to be ignited with a flare.
“Oh, I was thrilled,” Haines’ son Andy told Navy Times. “I was thrilled when the Coast Guard called and told me we were doing it my way.”
Haines said his father, a World War II veteran who finished his tour at Atlantic City, had been planning his funeral for years. Andrew Haines emigrated from Norway as a child in 1927 and had stayed connected to his Scandinavian heritage throughout his life.
About 10 years ago, Andy said, Haines’ cousin in Norway sent him blueprints for a 100-foot wooden ship, which he scaled down as small as two feet, as a small construction project.
“When I came over to the house one day with the wife and one grandson, we were in the basement, and he’s got the whole bottom shell done with the deck, getting ready to put the rest of the stuff on,” Andy recalled.
Then Andy had an idea. He asked his father if he still wanted to be cremated, and he said he did.
“So I said, ‘How about if we try to make a Viking funeral out of this for you?’ ” he recalled.
Haines built five versions of the ship, his son said, settling on a 54-inch version for the ceremony.
More remarkable, Haines built the boats one-handed. He lost an arm in a 1975 boating accident, which ended his career as a commercial fisherman for Atlantic City Fisheries, the family business.
In his retirement, however, he became active in amputee golf tournaments, his son said.
He passed away of natural causes on Aug. 26. After his cremation, Andy filed paperwork with the Coast Guard to have his father buried at sea.
“Burial at sea is not that uncommon,” Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Fonseca, Atlantic City’s operations officer, told Navy Times. “We probably do about seven a year just at Atlantic City.”
Once the station came up with a plan to safely bring the wooden boat out to sea and set it on fire, they coordinated with the family to set up a ceremony. Fonseca said about 30 people came to say goodbye to Haines ashore.
After a group memorial, a few close family members and a preacher rode out on a 47-foot motor boat with Fonseca’s team, as the rest of the party threw flowers into the water behind them.
About three miles off the coast, Fonseca and his crew brought the miniature Viking ship down to a recess in their boat, lit the wood shavings inside on fire with a flare and sent it out to sea.
It took about 20 minutes to burn, he said. The family said some last words, and one crew member read a nautically themed Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, “Crossing the Bar.”
Fonseca said he’d done a few burials at sea in his career — they are free to any military veteran — but never one this elaborate.
“Scattering ashes and flowers is pretty much the norm,” he said.

Russia Raises Scuttled Battle Cruiser Off Crimea

Ochakov crimea refloating
After being intentionally sunk this past March at the entrance to Donuzlav Bay in western Crimea in order to effectively block the movement of any Ukrainian naval vessels out of port, specialists from Russian Black Sea Fleet have refloated the large Kara-classs cruiser Ochakov.
Over 400 metal plates were installed on the ship to help make her water tight and the ship was drained by using hydraulic and electric pumps at a rate of 6.5 thousand cubic meters per hour.
Images via
The ship has a displacement of 8500 tons, a length of almost 180 meters and was raised and towed to one of the piers of Donuzlava to await her fate.  She had previously been laid up since 201.
Ochakov crimea refloating  Ochakov crimea refloatingOchakov crimea refloatingOchakov crimea refloating

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Medical lobbyists spend over $1 million to influence VA legislators

Former Congressman, now partner in lobbying fi...
Former Congressman, now partner in lobbying firm, Bill Lowery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Medical lobbying groups have spent more than $1 million to influence politicians in Virginia.
The list of total expenditures by medical lobbyists for the period May 2013 – April 2014 includes:
The information, along with a list of the “Top Lobbying Spenders,” comes from public documents on file with the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth and compiled byThe Virginia Public Access Project. This is not money given directly to candidates, but money spent on activities.
All of this spending raises questions about the ability of lobbyists to influence legislators to the detriment of patients and their families. Those spending numbers, by the way, may not even tell the whole story, as reported last year by’s Kathryn Watson as part of a look at lobbying spending:
The numbers are probably much higher than the figures lobbying groups volunteered to the secretary of the commonwealth. Virginia has loose restrictions on how much lobbying groups are required to report, and there are plenty of loopholes, as the Virginia Public Access Project, which aggregates the data, points out.
“The disclosure law provides no guidance on how to calculate lobbyist compensation, often the largest expense,” VPAP writes in its summary of the 2012-13 lobbying cycle. “Compensation ranges from providing a lobbyist’s entire salary; listing a portion of a firm’s retainer; and parsing hours to report only time engaged in lobbying based on the narrow legal definition of the word. All are acceptable, but the result is there is no apples-to-apples way to compare or rank spending.”
Though that information is from a previous year, much remains the same.

VA hospital lacks PJ’s, sheets and toothbrushes, yet spends millions onnew furniture, TVs and solar

VA hospital lacks PJ’s, sheets and toothbrushes, yet spends millions on new furniture, TVs and solar

By   /   October 1, 2014  /   4 Comments
By Tori Richards |
Cartoon by Mike Shelton
Cartoon by Mike Shelton
Veterans at the Shreveport, La., Veterans Administration hospital have been going without toothbrushes, toothpaste, pajamas, sheets and blankets while department officials spend money on new Canadian-made furniture, televisions to run public service announcements and solar panels, a Watchdog investigation has revealed.
Sources inside the hospital told that patients also have had to contend with substandard care, as many nurses spend less time on work than on cell phones, iPods or accessing personal data on hospital computers.
“It shouldn’t be like this. These are our veterans,” one employee said. “When I saw those solar panels out there and they waste money on things like new TVs that just play (public service) announcements, it really made me angry.”
According to the VA, the department spent $74,412 on 24 flat screen TVs for “patient/employee information” — one 50 inches wide and the others 42 inches. The furniture cost $134,082 and the solar project was approximately $3 million.
Photo courtesy of the VA
Photo courtesy of the VA
Overton Brooks Veterans Administration Medical Center
Shreveport’s Overton Brooks VA Medical Center was built in 1950 and its linens look like they’ve been around just as long. Sheets and blankets often have holes or are threadbare. Pajamas are missing buttons or snaps and are ripped. But patients who get even these items are the lucky ones.
By the weekend, the hospital runs out while waiting for its supply of laundry to arrive from 125 miles away, where it was cleaned at another VA hospital in Pineville, La.
The VA said it doesn’t contract with a local vendor because the employees in Pineville are veterans, but it did not address why it would spend $3 million on solar panels to help the environment yet condone burning millions of gallons of gasoline.
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
VA PRIORITY: $74,412 was spent on TV’s for messages like these, while vets go without pajamas or sheets.
“The patients don’t complain, they are wonderful,” the employee said regarding the lack of resources. “They are so appreciative of the care. That’s the least of their problems, these ratty, torn pajamas.”
The VA said in a statement that laundry is inspected before it is delivered. To this, the employee laughed in amazement.
“I can’t tell you how many times a blanket will be opened and there will still be the electrode pads stuck to it from the last patient,” he said. “And the pajamas still have tape on them from the last person’s IV.”
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
IMPORTANT MESSAGE — VA bought dozens of these TV’s to deliver messages while vets go without sheets.
The employee asked not to be identified because he feared repercussions. However, a second employee who quit her job over a climate of substandard care did not wish to hide her identity.
Kathy Scott, a former nurse at the facility, echoed the first employee’s complaints. She recalled, “I know there were times when we didn’t have any sheets and we would put a pillowcase over the patient.”
The scarcity of supplies drives nurses to hoard. Toiletries are kept in a locked cabinet on another floor, accessible by an employee who works the day shift. Scott worked nights, so she purchased items with her own money and kept them in her own locker for her patients.
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
MORE WORDS OF WISDOM: One of the many messages relayed by the VA via 42-inch flat screen TV.
The VA “does not furnish those. Volunteers come through and drop off toothbrushes, deodorant, mouthwash and combs,” the first employee said. “We run out, so all we have available are pre-moistened sponges for oral care.”
Overton Brooks has “volunteers who pass out comfort-item kits daily to newly admitted veterans,” and after hours a supervisor can unlock the cabinet, the VA noted. The first employee disputed this.
“This is the first I’ve heard of that,” the employee said. “Volunteers only come by a certain number of days to stock the drawer with toothbrushes,” the employee said. “When it runs out, it’s out. Nurses call around to other floors looking for some but it’s the same situation with everyone else.”
The employee said it’s also common knowledge that several nurses and aides will bring their own toiletries for patients.
Overton Brooks, a 10-story, 111 hospital-bed facility, serves about 37,000 veterans each year and another 462,000 outpatients.
Scott said she left her job in December 2012, afraid that “something bad would eventually happen to one of the patients and I could be implicated” just by merely working the same shift as some of her inattentive colleagues.
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
MADE IN….CANADA?: The government buys foreign-made furniture for its Shreveport VA hospital.
“Nurse assistants were allowed to sit around and disappear and talk on the phone or listen to headphones,” she said. “Supervisors never supervised and didn’t know what was going on on the floor and didn’t want to hear about it. If I wanted something done, I had to do it myself.
“I didn’t want to lose my license I’ve had all these years,” Scott said. “If you can’t trust people you work with, you are in a bad situation.”
She recalled some nurses sitting at a computer doing personal business for an entire eight-hour shift while aides refused to bathe patients.
Scott said aides complained that patients often waited hours to be bathed. She said one aide complained that it was useless to keep patients clean early in a shift. The aide told her, “If I have to do it now, I will just have to do it again before the end of my shift.”
A third employee confirmed the lack of nursing oversight. She recalled a patient who was left unattended in a room for nearly 24 hours, wishing to take a shower but unable to make the trek alone to the hallway where the facilities were located.
Instead, a nurse merely dropped towels onto his in-room sink, and told the patient to wash himself.
“Nobody paid attention to him,” the third employee said. “Nurses just shrugged their shoulders.”
The VA health care system has come under fire as whistleblowers have detailed secret lists of veterans waiting — and dying — to receive care. The VA Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) has had its hands full looking into claims of lax supervision and falsified records to cover up lengthy waits at many of the nation’s 1,700 facilities.
AP file photo
AP file photo
NEW ON THE JOB: VA Secretary Bob McDonald speaks at a news conference in September.
The inspector general included Overton Brooks on a list of 110 hospitals requiring investigation.
Fallout over the scandal cost VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job, while his replacement, Bob McDonald, has vowed to right the numerous wrongs. McDonald did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding the issues at Overton Brooks.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.,chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told “These are disturbing allegations that, if true, constitute a serious disregard for the well-being of patients and an organizational climate that puts employees — rather than veterans — first.”
“VA continues to assert that once a veteran has access to care it is excellent,” Miller said. “I want to believe that. But these allegations do not represent quality care, and I expect VA leadership to not only investigate but ismmediately correct and hold accountable anyone who does not embrace a culture of service toward veterans.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking member on the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, had no comment. However, his spokesperson Rachael Hicks said: “As this is the first Sen. Burr’s office has heard of these allegations, we have reached out to the VA Inspector General to look into it.”
report was issued on March 31 by the VA OIG outlining several deficiencies at Overton Brooks encountered during a routine audit, but nothing unearthed in’s investigation was discussed. VA OIG spokesperson Cathy Gromek said the agency’s focus was determined before they arrived. She was unaware of the employees’ complaints and said anyone can anonymously call the OIG hotline at 800-488-8244.
AP file photo
AP file photo
WORDS OF WISDOM: Michelle Obama speaks at a Bronx VA hospital in 2009.
“If they have concerns about the quality of care for the veterans, of course we want to hear about them,” Gromek said.
Standard of care aside, the question remains whether hard-earned tax dollars should be funding new furniture, televisions and solar panels at the expense of veteran care, the employees said.
“They put those flat-screen TVs all over the hospital at every elevator in the east wing and we have 10 floors,” one employee said. “All it has is the weather and then it has these uplifting sayings by Martin Luther King and Maya Angelou and advice by Michelle Obama. Like ‘Be safe,’ ‘Move,’ ‘Eat Less’ and ‘Exercise.’”
None of the televisions were used to upgrade the rooms of patients, which have 24-inch televisions. Rather, their purpose is to serve as an electronic bulletin board that “offers an easy way to spread information to a wide audience in a short amount of time. It also provides a way to inform … (about) Medical Center activities, future events and specific health-related topics,” according to a VA statement.
The furniture purchases include new seating arrangements for lobby areas outside the elevators and upgrades to existing chairs in patient rooms. The tags say “Made in Canada,” the employee said.
“I felt like it was a waste of money,” he said. “A lot of our furniture was still in great condition.”
Cartoon by Mike Shelton
Cartoon by Mike Shelton
The VA confirmed that some of the furniture was made in Canada, but defended its purchase by saying the manufacturer was an American company and the contract went to a minority, female, disabled veteran-owned vendor. Part of the purchase was used to furnish a new wing.
As for the solar panels, the price tag was $9.25 million for Overton Brooks and two other VA hospitals. This is part of a nationwide solar push to make federal buildings more environmentally friendly, as required by a 2009 presidential order.
The solar contract was signed in 2010, construction was completed in June and the panels were hooked up and operational on Aug. 22. It will save $119,000 a year on electricity, the VA said. However, solar systems still require maintenance and pricey parts can start failing after five years, experts say.
In response to allegations regarding lack of care, the VA said in a statement: “Each veteran has an assigned registered nurse to ensure he/she receives appropriate and timely care. In addition, nursing staff conduct veteran care rounds on all inpatient units at designated intervals to ensure needed care is provided.”
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., whose district includes Shreveport, said, “The care of our veterans is crucial and has been under an intense microscope since reports of veterans dying while waiting for care.”
Fleming said he has “engaged with” the hospital’s interim director about “concerns” at Overton Brooks.
“It is the sad reality that patients are often the ones who fare the worst under government-run health care, as is the case with the VA system,” Fleming said. 

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