GPS Devices Banned for Troops on Deployment

GPS Devices Banned for Troops on Deployment

GPS Devices Banned for Troops on Deployment

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Deployed service members will no longer be allowed to use fitness tracking apps or other wearable technology such as Fitbits and iWatches that rely on geolocation, according to a new Pentagon policy.

“The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents a significant risk to the Department of Defense (DoD) personnel on and off duty, and to our military operations globally,” according to an August 3rd  memo written by the  Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

The discovery that geolocation capabilities can expose locations of bases and important facilities based on where the geo-tracking stops prompted the policy change. Data firm Strava’s January release of a heat map revealed the locations and pathways of military installations around the globe due to user data on fitness apps such as Polar Flow. The global map reflected more than 1 billion paths that the Strava app tracked, but patterns and locations of U.S. service members could be garnered from zooming in on sensitive or secured areas.

The new policy does not require a total ban and only affects service members at operational bases or locations. Personnel working at the Pentagon will still be allowed to use the devices. Additionally, it doesn’t prohibit service members from having the devices with them when they deploy, as long as the geolocation services are disabled. With that said, each on-site commander will have final say as to what gadgets they will allow.

“These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel,” Shanahan wrote, “and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission.”

In some cases, the geolocation services will be allowed to be turned on after a security review, according to the new policy.

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill, Including 2.6% Troop Pay Raise

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill, Including 2.6% Troop Pay Raise

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

During the signing at Fort Drum, the president invited members of the 10th Mountain’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team to gather round him for a photo opportunity.

Like most prior NDAAs, this year’s authorization is the product of a relatively bipartisan legislative process and received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The 2.6 percent pay increase would be the biggest for the military in nine years. Estimates are that the pay raise will translate into about $670 more annually for junior enlisted troops and about $1,300 more for senior enlisted and junior officers.

It also funds new purchases of aircraft, ships and weapons. And it increases the size of our service branches: the Army’s end strength will grow by about 4,000, the Navy’s by 7,500, the Air Force by 4,000, and the Marine Corps by about 100. It also increases funding for training and readiness.

The NDAA also requires the DoD to carry out an annual education campaign to inform those who may be eligible to enroll in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. And it requires a study on the feasibility of phasing out the use of open burn pits.

Other allowances include:

  • $7.6B for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
  • $85M for UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters.
  • Funds the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range stealth B-21 bomber.
  • Funds 13 new Navy ships to include $1.56B for three littoral combat ships, the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, six icebreakers, and a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
  • $225.3M for Stryker A1 combat vehicles and supports efforts to modernize the Army’s armored combat vehicles.
  • Additional assistance to military spouses seeking employment by enhancing the My Career Advancement program.
  • Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to provide training tailored to servicemembers’ post-separation plans.
  • Resources for victims of military sexual trauma as part of pre-separation counseling.
  • Providing active duty and reserve personnel an “authoritative assessment of their earned GI Bill benefits” prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization.

Making a Difference- Profiles of Some Immigrant Service Members

Making a Difference- Profiles of Some Immigrant Service Members

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

As a nation founded by immigrants, the U.S. has long drawn its strength through the diversity of its citizens. Many of these immigrants have served this country as part of the one percent in the military. Here are just a few:

After fleeing war-torn Nicaragua, 1st Lt. Lizamara Bedolla now serves as an Army nurse at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Surgical Ward at Fort Bliss. “The Army has taught me a lot about tolerance, self-awareness, patience and has opened my eyes to the different people that are all over this country and abroad.”

Although Staff Sgt. Tamba Benjamin wanted to join the Army or Marines, he joined the Air Force to appease his mother. He came to the U.S. from Monrovia, Liberia, via Freetown, Sierra Leone, when he was nine, escaping civil war. Currently assigned to the 407th Expeditionary Comptroller Squadron, Benjamin said, “Living in another country is like sleeping in someone else’s home — you take care of the home.”

It took Pfc. Fortytwo Chotper seven years to make it to the United States from Sudan via a Kenyan refugee camp. He joined the Iowa Army National Guard’s 1168th Transportation Company, not to get his citizenship. “I was just doing it to give thanks to the United States for bringing me here from the refugee camp.” Chotper’s 1168 TC team and Iowa Air National Guard Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Randy Greenwood joined Chotper at the U.S. District Courthouse in Des Moines in their dress uniforms to watch their brother take the oath of citizenship.

Already a citizen, Staff Sgt. Fadi Chreim, a 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations dispatch chief, joined the Air Force reserve to give back to his adoptive homeland.  “ Part of me wanted to put on that uniform just to say ‘thank you.’”

In March 2017, Pvt. Maria Daume, originally from  Siberia, Russia became the first female Marine to join the infantry through its traditional training pipeline at the age of 18, joining the Fleet Marine Force as a mortarman.

Senior Airman Mina Fawzi of the 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron was born in Cairo, Egypt, and joined the Air Force to support his family.

Mohammad Nadir worked as an interpreter for U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan, and is now a Marine. “I told my family I was going to come to America and become a Marine, so I did,” Nadir said.

Staff Sgt. Eric Piime, a boom operator in 121 Air Refueling Wing, Ohio Air National Guard. Piime, a native of Ghana, enlisted in the Air Force as “the ultimate way of giving back” to his adopted country.


Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army

Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army

Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army


Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Major modernization reforms are underway in the Army to create leaner and faster processes. In fact, modernization and adding more active-duty, Guard and Reserve soldiers are among the Army’s top priorities for 2020, according to Army Secretary Mark Esper.

Although Secretary Esper is the civilian head of the Army, he has considerable experience on the ground. A graduate of West Point, he deployed to Operation Desert Storm, and was part of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

“For me, the big picture is continued support from Congress in regard to our modernizations initiatives, particularly the stand-up of Army Futures Command,” Esper said. “The second is improving the capacity and capability of the Army, and that means continuing to grow end strength.”

Secretary Esper’s objectives, in his own words:

“We must grow the regular Army above 500,000 soldiers with associated growth in the Guard and Reserve. And we must recruit and retain the very best.”

“We must ensure adequate quantities of Infantry, Armor, Engineers, Air Defense, Field Artillery…Our units from Brigade through Corps must also be able to conduct sustained ground and air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and cyber operations. And we must have aviation combat support and robust logistics available to all formations.”

“We must be focused on high-intensity conflict, again, in urban terrain, under persistent surveillance, and in electronically degraded environments. It must incorporate battlefield innovation and continuous movement to frustrate enemy observation and intelligence collection. And it must include combined arms maneuver with the joint force, as well as our allies and partners.”

“We have identified six modernization priorities; I am sure you’ve heard of them. They are in order: First, long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air and missile defense, and the one closest to my heart, soldier lethality.”

“We must reform our outdated personnel system to one that develops smart, thoughtful, innovative leaders of character who are comfortable with complexity and are capable of operating from the tactical up to the strategic level.”


General Relieved of Duty for Inappropriate Comments

General Relieved of Duty for Inappropriate Comments


General Relieved of Duty for Inappropriate Comments

By Debbie Gregory

Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein, the Marine Corps general in charge of sexual assault prevention and response efforts, has been relieved of his command over remarks he made at a public meeting disparaging claims of sexual harassment at his command as “fake news.”

The remarks were made during an April 6, 2018, town hall discussion before hundreds of Marines and civilian employees under Stein’s command.

Following the town hall, someone made an anonymous complaint to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service tip line.

Stein’s remarks were in regards to allegations made by two civilian women employees of the division that an unnamed Marine officer showed them that he was sexually aroused through his clothing on more than one occasion.

Marine leadership had dismissed their concerns.

Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller reviewed the investigation and “determined that he lost confidence in Stein’s ability to lead this particular organization,” according to Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Dent.

“The Marine Corps expects every Marine, uniformed and civilian, and particularly those in leadership positions, to take allegations of misconduct seriously and to promote positive command climates,” Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Brian Block said in a news release.

Stein entered the Marine Corps in 1991 and has logged more than 4,500 flight hours on more than 100 missions over various platforms. He previously served as the assistant deputy commandant for aviation, and as vice chief of staff for Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North.

This latest misstep comes on the heels of the Pentagon investigation into allegations that files containing hundreds of lewd photographs of servicewomen had been shared online in a Dropbox folder.

There was also the March, 2017 scandal regarding the now-defunct Facebook group called Marines United, where some 30,000 followers accessed nude photos of female servicemembers posted by active-duty and veteran Marines.

Army Spends Millions to Search for Unexploded Ordnance

Army Spends Millions to Search for Unexploded Ordnance

Army Spends Millions to Search for Unexploded Ordnance

By Debbie Gregory

Unexploded ordnance experts have been searching for military munitions off Hawaii’s Makua Beach, focusing on a 22-acre area after a 5-inch projectile was found offshore in 2016.

“It’s about the length of two football fields and the depth of one football field,” said Col. Steve Dawson, of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

Unexploded ordnances are explosive weapons (bombs, shells, grenades, land mines, naval mines, cluster munition, etc.) that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation, sometimes many decades after they were used or discarded.

The Army expects the search, which is just about to wrap up, to cost approximately $3.5 million.

In 2011 that a recovery effort at Ordnance Reef resulted in the removal of approximately 2,380 small, medium and large items that appeared to be munitions. A total of 331 pounds of explosives was destroyed, the Army said.

The munition found in 2016 was recovered and destroyed by the Navy. During World War II, the military practiced beach landings at Makua. It’s possible more rounds fired from Navy ships fell short of land. Additionally, Makua Military Reservation was used as a firing range by the Army.

Excess World War II munitions were also dumped by the military in such a quantity over a 5-square-mile area off Pokai Bay that it became known as “Ordnance Reef.”

The search, which was conducted on weekdays, utilized UXO-qualified divers with metal detectors and a global positioning system (GPS) to scan the ocean floor, according to Col. Dawson.

The delay in launching the project after the 5-inch round was found was due to the Army needing to obtain federal unexploded ordnance removal funding, as well as access to a fully operational and staffed hyperbaric chamber, which was a safety regulation required for the divers.



ESGR Freedom Award Finalists Announced

ESGR Freedom Award Finalists Announced

ESGR Freedom Award Finalists Announced

By Debbie Gregory.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense office, has selected 30 employers and government organizations from 2,350 nominations for 2018 Secretary of Defense Freedom Award, commonly referred to as the “Freedom Award.”

Almost half of the U.S. military is made up of National Guard and Reserve members, many of whom also hold jobs with civilian employers. The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

ESGR organizes the annual award program. The award was instituted in 1996 by then Secretary of Defense William Perry, and has since presented the honor to hundreds of recipients.

ESGR received nominations for employers in all 50 states, Guam-CNMI, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

Fifteen awards are presented in three categories – large (500 or more employees), small (fewer than 500 employees), and public sector.

Here are this year’s Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award finalists:



AME Swiss Machining LLC

ArgenTech Solutions, Inc.


Big Sky Advisors

Central Washington University

Crystal Group Inc.

CUNA Mutual Group

Duke Energy

Dunlap Police Department

Ecolab, Inc.

Ellsworth Correctional Facility.

FMI Corporation

Greencastle Associates Consulting Company

LG&E and KU Energy

Michigan Department of Corrections

Minnesota Department of Transportation

National Grid

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

Prudential Financial Inc.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

South Charleston Police Department

State of Nevada

Stokes County Schools

Texas Department of Insurance

Werner Enterprises, Inc.

West Valley City

Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office

Worcester Police Department

In 2008, ESGR launched a web site for the Freedom Award. Using videos, news articles, profiles of recipients, and tips about employer best practices, the site provides information about the support that employers across the nation provide to their Guard and Reserve employees and their families. The site also houses the nomination form for the award.


What is the Woobie?


What is the Woobie?

By Debbie Gregory

Anyone who has ever served in the military is familiar with the “woobie.”  The woobie is every service member’s all-weather battle buddy.

The woobie is made up of two layers of nylon surrounding a polyester filling. Tie-cords on the corners and side could be tied through matching grommets on rain ponchos. In hot weather, the woobie is just light enough to be the perfect blanket. If the weather is cold, the woobie keeps you toasty warm.

The magical poncho liner has been a staple of deployed life since it was first introduced during the war in Vietnam. The intent was to field an item which was lighter and faster drying than the standard-issue Army Wool Blanket, which had been rendered all but obsolete in the wet and tropical environment of Vietnam. Even when soaking wet, the poncho liner wrapped around a soldier would trap body heat.

The original woobies were fielded by special forces in 1962. Around 1963, the next generation of woobie was created utilizing WWII duck-hunter-patterned parachute fabric. Until the Marine Corps produced their own Digital Woodland Pattern, most poncho liners were produced with the same pattern on both sides. The Marines decided to field one with Woodland Pattern on one side and a solid Coyote Color on the other. The fabric entrusted with soldiers’ lives was recycled and repurposed to continue its contributions to those who serve.

The woobie can be a blanket, a pillow, a shelter, a hammock, a concealment…the possibilities are endless. Most transitioning service members will gladly pay the $42.95 reimbursement fee to keep their woobies.

The woobie provides comfort and a feeling of safety and security. It’s a staple of any infantryman’s loadout, and though it may follow the poncho on gear lists, the woobie follows nothing in the hearts of warriors.

Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies


Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies

By Debbie Gregory

Last month, the Army lost a special ops legend.

Maj. Gen. Michael D. Healy, 91, spent 35 years serving in the military, completing tours in Korea and Vietnam. Healy began his career with parachute training followed by attendance at a number of Army Colleges, including Ranger School.

Maj. Gen. Healy earned the nickname “Iron Mike” while serving as a young officer leading Army Rangers on combat patrols deep behind enemy lines in Korea in the early 1950s. The nickname, which stuck with him throughout his life, was a testament to his stamina and ability to take heavy loads, as well as helping others with their loads.

The Chicago native enlisted in the Army at the age of 19.

He entered the Korean War as a Company Commander with the Airborne Rangers, which at the time was a newly formed unit of the Army. Most of his career was spent in Vietnam, where he served five and a half tours, leading the 5th Special Forces group for almost 20 months, and earning him his first Distinguished Service Medal.

When he retired in 1981, Maj. Gen. Healy was the nation’s most senior Special Forces soldier.

Iron Mike’s legend made it to the big screen as the inspiration for John Wayne’s character, “Col. Iron Mike Kirby,” in the 1968 film “The Green Berets.”

Maj. Gen. Healy’s legacy would not be forgotten in the close-knit Special Forces community, according to Retired Sgt. 1st Class Cliff Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association.

“He was one of the first Americans to go into Vietnam and one of the last to leave,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Healy was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Star Medals, a Legion of Merit with three oak-leaf clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with valor device, an Air Medal with Valor device, a Navy Commendation Medal with valor device and two Purple Heart Medals. He is also a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Maj. Gen. Healy was inducted as a Distingished Member of the Special Forces Regiment. He had a special bond with the men he lead, and was a beloved hero of the Green Berets. He always credited his success to the men he lead.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Healy said: “I would like to walk in the back gate at Fort Sheridan like I first did and say, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll go.’ But today, I’m in civilian clothes. My uniform is packed away.”

Maj. Gen. Healy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his mentor, the late Gen. Creighton Abrams.



Earning a Degree While on Active Duty: What You Need to Know


Working toward a degree while serving on active duty is much different than attending classes on a traditional campus, or even taking online classes from home. Before you take on the challenge of school and active duty, there are some key points to know that will increase your chances of success.

Be Flexible

As you consider your educational options, you might develop a plan that involves taking a certain number of classes each term to finish your degree by a defined date. While planning is imperative, it’s also important to consider the need for a flexible enrollment schedule. Therefore, when weighing your schooling options, consider the following:

Does the school offer flexible scheduling? Can you take all of your classes from a distance, or will you have to spend time on campus? If you are required to spend some time “on the ground,” are there classrooms or branches of the college near your post, or will you have to wait until you have completed your commitment?

How military friendly is the school? Will the college be understanding of the demands on your time and be willing to make accommodations when you need to focus on your military responsibilities? Look for a university that offers accommodations for those who are active duty or veterans, including assistance with military benefits, access to military-specific services including development counselors and academic support.

How will your military experience coordinate with your studies? If you’re taking classes while you are still in active duty, determining the proper amount of transfer credit may be challenging. It is important to evaluate your options and work with your chosen school to determine the best course of action to ensure that you get proper credit for your experience and develop a course plan that accounts for the knowledge gained in the field.

GI Benefits and Military Promotions

Many service members are concerned about their GI Bill benefits should they opt to take courses while on active duty. You do not lose benefits if you earn a degree while serving, and you can use your tuition assistance benefits to pay for courses while you’re in the field. Therefore, you can still use your GI Bill to pay for a graduate degree, to supplement your income while you are in training for a federal job, or to transfer to a spouse or dependent.

Taking courses while on active duty can help you earn military promotions faster. All branches of the military consider civilian education when determining promotions. In the Army, for instance, you can earn up to 100 promotion points by taking classes at 1 point per credit hour. These points can add up, allowing you to move up the ranks and earn more money throughout your military career.

Education is a major priority for the armed services, and you don’t have to wait until after discharge to begin working on your degree. With time management and a flexible approach, you can finish your higher education while you’re on active duty.