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Military Connection: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns

guns seizedBy Joe Silva

Two members of the Army National Guard were arrested in California, accused of selling weapons, ammunition and body armor.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Reyes and Specialist Jaime Casillas were assigned to Troop C, 1-18, a California Army National Guard Cavalry unit stationed at the Armory in El Cajon.

On seven separate occasions, the two soldiers sold  a total of $13,000 worth of military property to undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The items included: four AR-15 rifles, an AK-47 assault rifle, a .40-caliber pistol, and a 7.62-caliber SKS rifle, body armor and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Reyes claims that some of the guns were his, and that he purchased them in Texas.

The undercover ATF agents told the two soldiers that they were members of a Mexican drug cartel, and that the guns would be transported into Mexico. Both men were reported to have been in uniform for at least one of the meetings with the agents.

Reyes and Casillas were arrested on April 16, 2015. Each man faces a charge of dealing firearms without a federal license. Reyes faces an additional charge of unlicensed transportation of weapons. Casillas is a Mexican national, and may have joined the military to assist in becoming a U.S. citizen. Both men are considered to be flight risks because they each travel to Mexico as many as four days/week.

There is no defending this behavior. Stories like this always beg the question, how did no one notice? I wonder what sort of investigation will be happening at that armory and what procedural changes will take place? As a Veteran, stories such as this, that tarnish the military that I served in, disgust me. The fact that I have to report them makes me even more uncomfortable. But I hope that some service members may read this article or hear about this incident, and become more observant where they work. Ensuring others aren’t acting in a similar matter will uphold all of the virtues our military represents.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: Info For Potential Reserve Commanders

Army Colonel

By Debbie Gregory.

Through June 5, 2015, the application window will be open for Army Reserve colonels and promotable lieutenant colonels who want to compete for brigade-level command assignments that will be opening in 2016.

The process for officers who are considered for command will include an approval board that will convene August 12th through 21st. The boards will compile order of merit lists to be used to fill command positions that become vacant as early as October of this year, and into 2016. Most of the command positions are scheduled for a tour of duty of 24 months stateside duty, and 36 months for overseas duty. Extensions of up to 36 months for stateside command positions must be approved by the chief of the Army Reserve.

Basic eligibility for these positions include:

Army Promotion List and Army Medical Department colonels and promotable lieutenant colonels of the AGR who are on the Reserve Active List. They must have mandatory release dates that will allow them to serve at least 24 months of command tenure based on a 30-year commissioned career.

The Army Reserve is also accepting applicants who are Active Guard Reserves (AGR) with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and are in the zone of eligibility for promotion to colonel. Officers who are passed over for promotion are not eligible for command.

Also eligible are colonels on the Army Promotion List (APL) and Army Medical Department colonels of the non-AGR categories of the Army Reserve who are on the Reserve Active List. They must have mandatory release dates that will allow them to serve at least 24 months of command tenure with a Troop Program Unit based on a 30-year commissioned career. APL, JAG and Military Technician lieutenant colonels who are in the zone of eligibility for promotion to colonel are also eligible. Officers who are passed over for promotion are not eligible for command.

Officer Evaluation Reports submitted for these boards must be received at the Human Resources Command by August 3, 2015. The online My Board File record review tool will open June 9th through August 15th for officers in the zone of consideration. My Board File can be accessed via the self-service link of the Human Resources Command homepage at www.hrc.army.mil.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Info For Potential Reserve Commanders: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army’s New Mental Health Program

Army Mental Health

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is in the process of overhauling its mental health services for its soldiers. Over the last several years, the Army has experimented with close to 200 different mental health programs. It is now committed to one that reduces the use of private psychiatric hospitals, while moving counseling teams out into its commands and expanding intensive mental health provisions at on-base medical facilities.

Over the last three years, the Army has recorded the highest level of PTSD diagnoses since the height of the Global War on Terror. Even though considerably less personnel are currently being sent to and from combat zones, the higher levels of PTSD diagnosis can be attributed to progress in the removal of the stigma of seeking help. But even with the progress that has been made, the Army estimates that close to half of soldiers who suffer from PTSD still aren’t seeking the help they need.

The Army’s new practice will embed counseling teams within individual units throughout the force. This strategy is intended to further work to remove the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues. The new program calls for counseling teams to be readily accessible at or near the soldiers’ barracks, brigade headquarters, dining facilities, and other places they frequent, instead of only at medical facilities that are too often a great distance from where soldiers live and work. The Army feels that giving soldiers the ability to pop-in when they need help would make it more likely that the resources would be utilized.

But the overhaul has another benefit, besides convenience. Because these mental health teams will be embedded within each battalion, the counselors, psychiatrists, and social workers will already know more about where the soldier’s service has taken them, what their role is, and more specific stresses that they have faced. The counseling teams will also have an established relationship with command leadership, making communication easier for cases of soldiers in crisis.

This communication between counselors and the command can be viewed as both beneficial and controversial. The embedded behavioral health program requires psychiatrists to meet with commanders on a regular basis to discuss high-risk cases. In contrast to the private sector, soldiers can’t expect complete confidentiality with their medical records. Their command can monitor medical appointments, and talk with doctors about their health. Another critique of the embedded counseling team is that soldiers may be deterred from seeking help if they fear running into others from their unit while at these offices.

While the new system may not be perfect and may have some bugs to be worked out, it is a plus to see the Army proactively maneuvering care for soldiers’ mental health treatment and prevention.

Military Connection: Army’s New Mental Health Program: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Soldier is Being All That He Can Be

West Point

By Debbie Gregory.

“Be all that you can be, in the Army.”

It may be an outdated recruiting slogan, but that doesn’t make it any less true today than it was in the 1980’s. That was the battle cry that brought many young Americans into Army recruiting offices during the Cold War. Soldiers today are still realizing their dreams through service in the Army, becoming all that they can be, and more.

Private First Class Nathaniel Okyere-Bour of the New Jersey Army National Guard is one shining example of this. Okyere-Bour is realizing his dream of attending West Point.

Okyere-Bour’s mother taught him the value of sacrificing in order to accomplish your dreams. She had always wanted to be a nurse. When Nathaniel was only three years old, his mother sent him to live with her family in Ghana, while she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. Okyere-Bour moved back in with his mother once she was an intensive care nurse at a Manhattan hospital.

With his mother’s determination as an example, Okyere-Bour set out to achieving his own goals. As a teen, he gained admittance into New Jersey’s elite McNair Academic High School. As graduation approached, Okyere-Bour ambitiously applied to elite colleges, including Duke University and the University of Chicago. The young man was accepted into both schools, but couldn’t afford them. So instead, Okyere-Bour enlisted into the New Jersey Army National Guard in 2013, with a plan to use the force’s tuition waiver to attend Rutgers University.

But it was during basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, that Okyere-Bour discovered his true calling. After Okyere-Bour’s battalion commander, who had attended the Military Academy at West Point, described what it meant to him to be a West Pointer, a chord was struck. From that point on, Okyere-Bour had his heart set on going to West Point.

As an enlisted man, Pfc. Okyere-Bour has proven himself to be among the best and brightest, with true leadership potential. His performance as a soldier, along with outspoken desire to attend West Point, prompted all of the officers in Okyere-Bour’s chain of command to write letter of recommendation for him.

In June, Okyere-Bour will join the U.S. Military Academy at West Point Class of 2019.

Let Pfc. (soon to be Cadet) Okyere-Bour’s story serve as an example that no matter where you come from, or even where you are now, what matters is where you want to be and what you are willing to do to get there. And let Okyere-Bour’s mother’s story serve as the example that accomplishing your goals don’t just impact you, but your children as well.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Soldier is Being All That He Can Be: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Drone Training Facility in Colorado

RQ-7

By Debbie Gregory.

The Colorado Army National Guard recently dedicated a new facility to train drone operators for real world missions.

Keeping up with warfare technology is at the forefront of the success of the U.S. military. But equipping our forces with the best strategies and tools is only half the battle. Training our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and members of the Coast Guard to use their resources is just as vital to military success. The new facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora will provide that essential component for Colorado’s Army National Guard members who operate the RQ-7 Shadows.

RQ-7 Shadows are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS, commonly called drones) that carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions, including battle damage assessment and target acquisition. The use of drones provides invaluable intelligence without putting American lives in harm’s way. Shadows and other UAVs serve as an eye in the sky for many ground operations, providing a picture of the battle that helps commanders make the most informed decisions for ground troops and air assets.

Because of the nature of the missions that Shadow operators carry out, training should include coordinating with ground forces and other elements. The new facility will provide drone operators with that type of training with classrooms, planning areas, maintenance bays and drone simulators.

Previous drone operator training has been primarily classroom-oriented, with only simulated ground forces coordination and other elements in realistic joint exercises on Buckley AFB. The new facility is geared to provide operators with the most holistic training curriculum, involving the real-world feel of their mission in a safe training environment.

The National Guard says that the new facility comes with a $4 million price tag.

In this age of budget cuts and sequestration, getting the funding to open new facilities is a difficult task. But it is imperative to the success of our armed forces that they get quality training and exercises as close to real world missions as possible.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Drone Training Facility in Colorado: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Closing Ten Warrior Transition Units

1WTU

By Debbie Gregory.

It is a bittersweet time for soldiers and leaders within the U.S. Army, as the branch is looking to close ten of its remaining twenty-five Warrior Transition Units (WTU) by the summer of 2016.

WTUs were implemented to provide personalized support to the wounded, injured and ill soldiers who require at least six months of complex medical management or rehabilitation. These units were positioned at major military treatment facilities around the globe. Since their inception in 2007, WTUs have provided care to nearly 66,000 soldiers. The Army states that 29,000 of them managed to return to duty.

The ten WTUs that will be closing over the next year are: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright, both in Alaska; Naval Medical Center in California; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

The Army made the announcement on April 24, 2015, about one month after it stopped assigning new soldiers to WTUs. The target date to complete the closures is August 15, 2016. This leaves a gap longer than an average WTU stay, which is 360 days for active duty and 417 days for reservists. All soldiers currently receiving care should be able to complete their assignment at their current WTU. Civilian, active duty and reservist members who work at WTUs will have to be reassigned or laid off.

The closing of these ten units is bittersweet, because WTUs provide a necessary and critical function for  injured, sick and wounded soldiers. But the upside is that the Army does not have the need for as many WTUs as it did when they were first created in 2007. Most units serve fifty or fewer soldiers, and four provide care for less than twenty.

The WTUs that will remain are: Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, both in Georgia; Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Joint Base San Antonio, Fort Bliss, and Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Belvior, Virginia; Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State; and European Medical Command in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army Closing Ten Warrior Transition Units: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Twelve Women to Start Ranger School

Female Soldier

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army is edging closer to the full inclusion of female soldiers, as six more women have qualified to attend Ranger School.

In January, 2015, the Army announced that it was planning to conduct a pilot program for women at its elite Ranger School, for a cohort beginning on April 20, 2015. The Army said that as many as forty slots would be open for female soldiers who could qualify and were eligible.

To qualify for the school, the Army has required female soldiers complete a two-week Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) at Fort Benning, Georgia. In March, 119 soldiers (85 males and 34 females) started the RTAC session. By the end of it, only 31 soldiers, 25 males and 6 females, successfully completed the course.

The six women, all of them officers, will be joining six other women who had previously completed RTAC back in January, bringing the total number of women starting Ranger School, this month, to twelve.

But these women have a long way to go to achieve their goal. Ranger school is 61 days long, and is a grueling test of their physical and mental conditioning. Approximately 45% of soldiers admitted to Ranger School successfully complete it, with more than half of the failures occurring within the first four days. Most soldiers are disqualified during the physical fitness test conducted on the very first day, which requires candidates to complete 49 pushups in two minutes, 59 sit-ups in two minutes, six chin-ups, and a five miles run in forty minutes.

“Not every soldier is going to make it through this course,” said Major General Scott Miller, commanding general of Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence. “The standards are demanding, and the standards are not changing. They’re not changing in the pre-Ranger course, and they’re not going to change for the Ranger Course.”

Any female soldier who successfully completes Ranger School will receive a certificate, and will be awarded the elite Ranger tab. However, for now, none of the twelve women will be assigned to the 75th Ranger regiment, the Army’s special operations force.

The Army is using this pilot program as part of an effort to determine how best to include women into combat roles. This group of twelve women will be a first for Ranger School, which, until now, has only been open to men.

These soldiers are history in the making, and we wish them the best of luck at Ranger School.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Twelve Women to Start Ranger School: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Bergdahl’s Charges, Hearing Set

bergdahl-active-dutyBy Debbie Gregory.

The drama of the Bowe Bergdahl saga continues, as an Article 32 hearing is scheduled for July 8, 2015. An Article 32 hearing is the equivalent of a preliminary hearing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the laws that govern the behaviors and actions of the U.S. military.

Many civilians don’t realize that when service members enlist in the military, they are essentially surrendering many of their personal rights as citizens. They are also subjecting themselves to a different, often stricter, set of rules under the UCMJ. Because of the importance and severity of their duties, service members are not able to challenge or shrug off the responsibilities of their occupation as easily as civilians can in their workplaces. All branches of the U.S. military are subject to criminal law governed by the articles of the UCMJ.

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is famous for disappearing from his observation post on June 30, 2009, in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. Bergdahl was kidnapped by the Taliban, and held captive for five years. His release was secured through the exchange of five Taliban leaders being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

In June, 2014, the Army ordered an investigation of Bergdahl’s disappearance and the actions that led to his captivity, as well as his behavior while he was held by the Taliban. The investigation was headed by Major General Kenneth Dahl. In December, the results of Dahl’s investigation were then sent to General Mark Milley at U.S. Forces Command.

In March, 2015, the Army announced that Gen. Milley had made the determination to charge Bergdahl with two counts, for abandoning his post and endangering the lives of other service members. The first charge is under Article 85 of the UCMJ for “Desertion,” with “the intent to shirk important service and avoid hazardous duty.” The second charge is under Article 99 of the UCMJ for “Misbehavior before the enemy.”

If Bergdahl is found guilty of either charge he could face jail time. The Article 85 charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank to E-1, and loss of pay and allowances. The Article 99 is more severe, and could include punishment up to life in prison.

Historically, the Article 99 charge has been used to shame, disgrace or otherwise humiliate personnel who committed actions that go against the values and training of the military. Historical punishments for Article 99 offenses have included publicly ripping rank insignia from the guilty individual’s uniform, or requiring them to display some written message (often using words such as “coward”) describing their disgraceful behavior before their command.

An Article 99 charge is considered outdated by many familiar with military law. Not since the Vietnam War era have high-profile cases involving charges under Article 99 been used. Most notable was in 1968, when Navy Commander Lloyd Bucher was charged with violation of the article after he surrendered the U.S.S. Pueblo to the North Korean Navy.

Bergdahl’s Article 32 hearing will be held at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, and will determine if his case should proceed to a court martial.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bergdahl’s Charges, Hearing Set: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: ‘Army Strong’ Boxer Eyes Olympic Gold

PFC Rios

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Army Private First Class Riana Rios is proving that she is “Army Strong,” both in uniform and in the boxing ring.

Rios is no newcomer to the sport. She won her first amateur state title when she was eleven years old. Rios then won the title again for the next six years straight, until she could no longer compete due to her enlistment in the Army when she was 18.

Last July, Rios won the National Women’s Golden Gloves Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.On March 27, 2015, Pfc. Rios won her ninth Golden Gloves belt, this time in the women’s 132-pound division at the 2015 Colorado Golden Gloves Championship.

Rios became a soldier to join the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), at Fort Carson, Colorado. Pfc. Rios sees the program as her best chance to vie for a spot to represent USA at the Olympic Games. She recently completed a five week strength and conditioning program with WCAP. She bulkedup from 125 to 140 pounds before cutting to her current competitive weight of 132 pounds, where she will compete for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing.

On her journey towards Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, Rios has been supported by her family, friends, and her fellow service members. Despite being known as an individual sport, many boxers train in teams, sometimes called stables, with other boxers. WCAP functions to provide a team training environment for it warrior-athletes, with, of course, some military bearing, Army fortitude and teamwork thrown in.

But when she is in the ring, Rios is an “Army of One.” She has proved herself as a soldier and as a boxer, and we look forward to seeing “Rios in Rio” as Pfc. Rios inches closer to Olympic contention.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: ‘Army Strong’ Boxer Eyes Olympic Gold: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Investigating Poor Care at Clinics

Army substance abuse

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is in the process of investigating all of its substance abuse out-patient treatment centers in response to claims that as many as half of the clinics were operating at substandard levels, and that thousands of soldiers are being denied the help they need.

After fourteen years of war, many soldiers, along with service members from all branches, have taken to using prescription medication for ailments such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Many service members have been known to abuse their prescribed medicines, and also use other drugs, as well as alcohol to self-medicate. Every branch of the military has substance abuse programs at clinics and treatment centers to help service members with their substance abuse problems.

The effectiveness of the Army’s programs has been in decline since 2010, the year that the clinics transitioned from medical to non-medical control. Since the shift, soldiers and staff familiar with the program have complained that the “treatment” of soldiers at the centers has taken a backseat to completed reports and filled time slots. As a result, many of the seasoned staff members, including counselors and clinic directors, have left, paving the way for the hiring of unqualified individuals to fill their places.

Also since 2010, allegations backed by evidence from current and former employees, claim that the Army’s substance abuse out-patient treatment centers are falling way below performance requirements.

Approximately 20,000 soldiers seek help from these clinics every year. In 2014, more than 7,000 were turned away, following an initial screening. Reports from staff members claim that as many as half of those soldiers should have been approved for treatment.

It has been also reported that since 2010, 90 soldiers have committed suicide within three months of receiving treatment at an Army substance abuse clinic. Although these deaths can’t be attributed to poor care, 31 of these 90 soldiers were documented as having received  substandard by the clinical staff.

Under the authority of both the Secretary of the Army John McHugh and the Army’s Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno,  an investigation was launched in March, 2015. The Army Inspector General was given 90 days to investigate all 54 Army clinics across the United States, as well as in Europe and in Southeast Asia. McHugh and Odierno ordered unfettered access to “Army activities, personnel, locations, organizations and documents” to complete the investigation.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir Force,MarinesCoast GuardGuard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board,information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army Investigating Poor Care at Clinics: By Debbie Gregory