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Military Connection: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement

military retirement

By Debbie Gregory.

Current service members are well aware that the military has been taking measures to cut its spending, in light of our nation’s current economic state. Every branch has seen noticeable reductions in force size, with tens of thousands of service members encouraged to enter early retirement or into involuntary separation. Now those who fought to remain in the military may see their retirement benefits reduced as proposals to overhaul the military retirement system mill about our nation’s capital. How will the changes affect those who serve twenty years in the military?

Traditionally, only service members who remain in the military for a full twenty years or more get retirement pensions, medical benefits for themselves and their dependents, as well as other benefits. Exceptions to this policy are those who have a service-related disability, those who received a medical retirement, and those who took the offered early, pro-rated retirement to help force reduction efforts. More than eighty percent of service members don’t meet the requirements for military retirement, and therefore, don’t receive pensions or benefits after they complete their tours of duty.

One of the proposed changes could benefit those who serve and don’t qualify for military retirement, as a proposed new model would offer service members a personal retirement savings account benefit, wherein the government would make annual contributions of up to six percent of their basic pay.

However, this proposed system complicates matters for service members who plan to make a career out of the military and retire with twenty years in. The new system calls for cutting the size of the current pension by twenty percent, an average of over $4,000 per year. To make up for that, the Department of Defense would open 401(k)-style retirement accounts. Funds placed into these accounts will not be available for withdrawal without a tax penalty before the service member reaches age sixty.

The proposed changes to military retirement also effect on when the service member can begin receiving their retirement pension. Under current policy, an individual who enlists at eighteen years old and retires after twenty years can begin collecting their retirement checks as soon as they retire at age thirty-eight. Under the new system, military retirees would have to wait until they are sixty to start receiving retirement pay.

The proposed changes to the retirement system are included in the 2016 defense authorization bill that is moving through Congress. Under that legislation, today’s troops would have about 18 months to make a decision, by 2017, on whether to stick with the old benefit or sign up for the new plan. Let us hope that our elected leaders do what is right when making decisions for our service members. Be sure to contact your representative and senators to make sure that they know how you want them to represent you.

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: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Limits on Military Gear Sold to Police

police tank

By Debbie Gregory.

Lately, it seems as though media outlets are reporting on conflicts and protests against law enforcement.  As many of our readers are former military, they often side with law enforcement, as do many law abiding patriotic Americans. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that military and local law enforcement are two different entities, each with separate, but equally important missions to our country, its government, and the American way of life. While similar in nature and mentality, they are two separate trades- and the tools for each trade should also be separate.

For years, the military has offered surplus and out of date weapons, gear, ammunition, and vehicles to law enforcement agencies at discounted prices. Recently, the White House announced new limitations on federal programs that provide military grade equipment, weaponry, and vehicles to state and local law enforcement agencies. From now on, there will be restrictions on gear such as armed aircraft, tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers and high-powered guns and ammo of .50 caliber or greater. The restrictions prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring such equipment from federal agencies or with federal funds.

Additionally, the restrictions will put terms on law enforcement agencies wishing to acquire more common equipment from the military. Riot gear, drones, helicopters, firearms, and wheeled armored vehicles will now have to be approved by local government before law enforcement agencies are able to purchase them from the military. Agencies will be required to provide explanations for the need of the equipment as part of their mission and duties, and prove that the members of their force are properly trained to use such equipment before a purchase can be made.

Since the 1990s, more than $4 billion worth of military grade equipment has been procured by law enforcement agencies. Naturally, many law enforcement agencies and their supporters across the country are not pleased with the restrictions. But the risks of misusing such powerful equipment is too great. More to the point, such equipment is generally used for military assaults, and is not essential for agencies that are intended to “protect and serve.”

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: New Limits on Military Gear Sold to Police: By Debbie Gregory

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: What the Fall of Ramadi Shows

RamadiBy Debbie Gregory.

The White House has officially acknowledged the fall of the city of Ramadi to the Islamic State. A statement from the Obama administration calls the loss of Iraq’s Anbar province capital a “setback.” The Pentagon concurred with the White House’s summation, as both bodies maintain that the current strategies being used against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), will ultimately bring about the destruction of the terrorist group. Both the White House and the Pentagon urged patience to those who wanted a faster resolution to the Islamic State problem.

“Setbacks are regrettable but not uncommon in warfare,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. “Much effort will now be required to reclaim the city.”

While those currently in power in Washington are campaigning to stay the course with our strategies in Iraq, there are others, including some who previously held positions of authority in the capital, who believe we should alter our tactics against the Islamic State. Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has said on national television that, “We don’t really have a strategy at all. We’re basically playing this day by day.”

Gates was speaking of the administration’s attempts to drive a wedge between Iraq’s Sunni tribes and the Islamic State. The former defense secretary has warned that if the situation keeps unfolding the way it currently is, we could see Iraq go down the same path as Yugoslavia.

“Right now, it looks like we’re going to see a lot of trouble in the Middle East for a long time,” Gates said.

The fall of Ramadi has caused suffering for the city’s residents, as well as a delay in any push to retake Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq. Mosul has been  an Islamic State stronghold since June, 2014. The loss of the city revealed that U.S. airstrikes, while effective, are not decisive. It also revealed further weaknesses in the already weak Iraqi Army. The U.S. had previously hoped that Iraqi government forces would have been ready to march on Mosul by April or May, but those hopes are now lost.

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: What the Fall of Ramadi Shows: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: The Reach of ISIS

ISISBy Debbie Gregory.

Since the rise of the Islamic State in January, 2014, and the intervention of U.S. and collation airstrikes against the terrorist group, federal authorities have identified approximately 150 Americans who have sought to join the Islamic State, also interchangeably called ISIS and ISIL.

There have been reports of individuals, mostly young people from the U.S., U.K. and other western countries, attempting to join Islamic State fighters in their war against the governments of Iraq and Syria, as well as the U.S. and other coalition nations.

Approximately forty U.S. residents are reported to have travelled to the Middle East in an attempt to join the Islamic State, and have returned back to the states. Nearly all of these individuals have been charged with a variety of federal and international crimes. Federal investigators estimate that there are at least a dozen or more U.S. residents who are in Iraq or Syria, fighting for the Islamic State. Of course, these are just the occurrences that government agencies are aware of; the actual number could be higher.

American officials credit the Islamic State’s multimedia campaign for their ability to successfully recruit new members and gain sympathy for their organization. ISIS utilizes the internet and just about every social media outlet they can to spread propaganda. In every case investigated by the U.S. government, ISIS propaganda that was obtained online was at least partially responsible for the individual’s interest in joining the Islamic State.

One of the most effective aspects of the Islamic State’s multimedia recruitment campaign is their peer-to-peer, sometimes called “brother-to-brother” engagement. This is where established members of ISIS provide encouragement and personalized mentorship to potential ISIS recruits. These measures have been very effective, according to individuals who attempted to join the Islamic State.  As one would imagine, the ability to recruit Americans to their cause is a feather in the cap for the Islamic State, and sends a powerful message to their allies and enemies alike.

It is important to be aware of the abilities of your enemies, especially when their reach can affect your own home town. American citizens may not be fighting ISIS from here in the U.S., but the Islamic States’ war is targeting you, your family, and your way of life, in your own communities.

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: The Reach of ISIS: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Creditors Ordered to Repay $3M to Service Members

Allotments

By Joe Silva

On April 20, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) intervened against a creditor for charging hidden fees to service members.

The Fort Knox National Company and its subsidiary, Military Assistance Company (MAC), are alleged to have charged millions of dollars in hidden fees to service members over the course of several years.

Service members would set up allotment programs with MAC that would automatically transfer portions of their pay every payday into a pooled bank account that MAC controlled, and used to make automatic payments to creditors, including auto lenders and credit cards. For this service, MAC would charge monthly fees that were often between $3 and $5.

While this is a convenience for service members, MAC was alleged to have, on several occasions, continued to collect funds from a service member’s pay, even after a debt had been paid off. These excess funds collected into a residual balance that MAC would charge hidden fees against. These fees would slowly drain the service members’ bank accounts, many times without them noticing for several months.

As a Veteran, I can speak with the voice of some experience in this matter. I set up automatic payments during my time in the Navy, but was burned on my first deployment when I wasn’t paying attention to these accounts. During that deployment, one of my debts had been bought out by another major bank, and my automatic payments stopped going through, early into my deployment. I was welcomed home by six months-worth of unpaid bills. For my next two deployments, I kept better track of my finances (as much as I could), and I also gave my mother Limited Power of Attorney over my finances, to make sure that she could act on my behalf while I was deployed. I suggest that all service members look into appointing a spouse, parent or someone they absolutely trust with some form of power of attorney while they are deployed. To find out more about Power of Attorney Basics, please visit www.militaryonesource.mil or see your command’s career counselor or admin department.

The CFPB alleges that between 2010 and 2014, MAC charged tens of thousands of service members with hidden fees of $100 or more, totaling over $3 million. The bureau alleges that MAC and Fort Knox National Company failed to clearly disclose key information about costs to their consumers, and failed to notify service members that it had charged fees.

The Fort Knox National Company and MAC have been ordered by the CFPB to provide $3.1 million in relief to the service members they overcharged. The Consent Order can be viewed at consumerfinance.gov.

Military service members volunteer and swear an oath to stand up for their country and protect it. For their dedication and sacrifice, many Americans are grateful to them. But unfortunately, there are many people who take advantage of service members. It is refreshing to see government agencies reciprocating the support of service members, and having their backs as well.

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: Creditors Ordered to Repay $3M to Service Members: By Joe Silva

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: The Evolution of Warfare

Evolution of warfare

By Debbie Gregory.

During a keynote address on international security and the future of defense strategy at the U.S. Army War College, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said, “In the future, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine forces and our allies who fight with us are going to have to fight on a battlefield that is swept by precision-guided munitions but also one that is swept by persistent and effective cyber and electronic warfare attacks.”

Mr. Work’s statement on April 8, 2015 is not a prediction, but a warning based on the continuation of the current evolution of warfare. In the past hundred years, this evolution has seen the following: the introduction of the first aircraft (World War I); the first all aerial battles (World War II); the use of long range missiles (Korean War); ground warfare sped up by the rapid delivery and extraction of personnel through use of helicopters (Vietnam War); the total combined surveillance, air cover, bombing, and air superiority that we see today using aircraft, satellites, and computers. In the last ten years, we have even witnessed the rise of the unmanned aerial vehicle (drones), including the X-47.

We have also seen a rapid trend in warfare not involving one nation against another nation, but organizations (terrorist, militia, or otherwise) against a nation or other organization. This type of warfare knows no international borders. What’s worse­ is that it provides the means to use international borders and international policy to give organizations an advantage over nations, like we have seen from al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State).

With the evolution of weapons and tactics, along with the need to fight enemies within close proximity to friendly civilians and cities, the future of warfare will see further developments in guided munitions and advanced weaponry. Ground forces will be faced with guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles that utilize laser guidance, infrared homing, and GPS capability.

In the future, ground combat will also have to contend with “informationalized warfare”– warfare that uses the combination of cyber, electronic warfare, information operations, and deception and denial to disrupt command and control, giving the enemy an advantage in the decision cycle.

In order to be successful in boots on the ground campaigns, U.S. forces will have to use a combination of informationalized warfare and guided munitions, in conjunction with existing traditional ground combat strategies.

The DOD announced the Defense Innovation Initiative in November, and new Defense Secretary Ash Carter has since expanded it. The initiative is intended to provide the framework and funding for new operational and organizational concepts, and the development of new technological capabilities.

Over the past hundred years, the U.S. military has established itself as the most innovative and technologically superior military in the world. It has become apparent that several other nations are catching up with our capabilities, even surpassing us in some. The department’s focus on innovation is about finding new ways to create organizational constructs, train, and fight in order to remain at the head of the evolution of warfare.

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: The Evolution of Warfare: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Iraq Reclaims 25% of Land with Help

Iraq mapBy Debbie Gregory.

After the rapid and massive gains made by the Islamic State in 2014, Iraqi forces have managed to retake approximately 25% of the territory from the terrorist group.

American airstrikes against Islamic State units and strongholds effectively weakened the terrorist insurgents’ positions, to the point where ground forces were able to gain back an area that represents 5,000 to 6,500 square miles in northern and central Iraq.

But despite these gains, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, contends that his country requires even more international assistance in its fight against the Islamic State.

Since the U.S. began training Iraq’s military to take over the fight against the Islamic State, approximately 6,000 Iraqi soldier have completed the training. Officials at the Pentagon estimate that 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers will be needed to retake Mosul.

Until then, the ground forces that support the Iraqi government are made up of Shiite and Kurdish militias. Although not as thoroughly trained, these militias are armed, determined, and prepared to fight against the Islamic State. Many of the Shiite militias are backed by the Iranian government, who supply them with funding and weapons.

The intervention of Iran in the efforts against the Islamic State are a double edged sword. The militias, as well as the artillery and other support offered by the Iranian government, is proving effective. But U.S. officials aren’t so keen on the idea that the Iranians might be pushing the Islamic State away so that they can slide in with their influence, which have historically been anti-American.

The Iranians have been supplying their assistance to the Iraqi government, and have yet to ask for anything in return. So both the Iraqi government and the U.S. government are stuck choosing between the possibility of allowing a snake in their yard or looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Recent talks with Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials called for the removal of all “Shiite militias” to withdraw from the front lines in Sunni-populated Ramadi. The U.S. said that they would not increase airstrikes against the Islamic State until the Shiite militias were gone, citing that they caused unrest among the Sunni locals. This is a true and valid point. But the way that the terms were relayed implied that the U.S. specifically wanted the Iranian-backed militias withdrawn.

The terms that the U.S. ambassador presented to Iraqi leaders, and agreed upon, called for the Shiite militias to withdraw, or for the individual fighters to come under the command of the Iraqi military.

The U.S. has been extremely concerned with ridding Iraq of the Islamic State, but is not willing to do so at the cost of opening the door for Iran to take over Islamic State holdings.

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: Iraq Reclaims 25% of Land with Help: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next Generation of USMC Drones

Marine Corps Drones

By Debbie Gregory.

As the use of mechanized warfare continues to evolve, the United States Marine Corps is making a push for its next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be more versatile. One of the features that the U.S.M.C. wants for all of its UAVs, usually referred to as drones, is the capability to be launched and operated from Navy vessels.

Many civilians may not know that the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy.Historically, marines (predating, and including early U.S.M.C.) were sea-going infantry, often responsible for ship-to-ship combat in the days when ships would board each other. Marines have also traditionally been used as expeditionary forces, brought across bodies of water onboard naval vessels and disembarked to the shore. Today’s Devil Dogs of the U.S.M.C have many more areas of responsibility than their predecessors, but they still embark on U.S. Navy ships, and are used as expeditionary forces.

Keeping with their amphibious warfare role, it only makes sense that, like their Marines, the Corps’ equipment be capable of ship-to-shore operations. The next generation of U.S.M.C. drones will range in size from hand-launched model-airplane sized to UAVs that are the size of manned aircraft. The drones will be used for surveillance, attack missions and logistic support. The Corps is even looking to use some for medical evacuation of wounded Marines.

Previous generations of Marine UAVs were almost solely land based. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine drones mostly utilized long runways on land-based airstrips. The Corps’ leadership is reluctant to rely on those types of resources being readily available for any possible needs in the future. A self-reliant Marine Corps with ship-borne troops and ship-borne UAVs is much better equipped for any challenge.

The Marine Corps also wants their new drones to come equipped with control settings that would allow for a single control station to pilot any of the Corps’ drones. They are also in the process of developing unmanned ground vehicles like the Internally Transportable Vehicle, which was designed to fit inside an MV-22 Osprey.

The Navy and the Coast Guard have also begun efforts to develop their next generation of drones that are suitable for ships. Most notably is the Navy’s X-47, which has already conducted safe takeoffs and landings from aircraft carriers, both solo and with other manned aircraft on deck.

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: Next Generation of USMC Drones: By Debbie Gregory