Military Connection: Military Family Survey Results: By Debbie Gregory

Blue starThe fifth annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey was conducted by Blue Star Families, a non-profit organization that is run for military families by military families. For their 2014 survey, the organization polled 6,270 individual members of military families, from all branches of service. The results show a growing concern about financial stability, and uncertainty about the future among military families.

  • 60% of those polled said that their financial situation caused them “some stress” or a “great deal of stress.”
  • 49% said that financial issues were a top stressor during their time in the military.
  • 40% polled said that the spouse of the service member was unemployed.
  • 38% said that they had uncertainty about their military lives.
  • 36% said that their costs for renting were higher than their BAH.
  • 34% were uncertain about the changes and potential changes to their family’s benefits.

These numbers show the amount of stress that many military families face, even with the benefits provided. Perhaps the government or the service branches could make efforts to utilize this information to improve, or at least reevaluate, how they provide and educate their personnel.

Other noteworthy data related to deployments and permanent changes of station:

  • 88% of the people surveyed said that their service member deployed between one and five times since September 11, 2001.
  • 47% said that their service member was deployed between 13 and 36 months in total.
  • 41% said that they were separated from their service member for 13-36 months for training, temporary duty and other assignments that were not deployments.
  • 69% said that their family has moved between one and six times within the U.S.
  • 42% said that their family has moved outside of the U.S.

This data shows just how much time service members are separated from their families. Of course, this is a well-known sacrifice that all service members make. But seeing the actual numbers is eye-opening for lawmakers and civilians alike

With the data provided by the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, can better understand the struggles that military families face.

The survey can be viewed by visiting: http://bluestarfam.org/tags/fifth-annual-military-family-lifestyle-survey.

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: Military Family Survey Results: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: F-22s Finally See Action: By Debbie Gregory

F22 RaptorOn September 22, 2014, the U.S. led airstrikes against Islamic State Forces in Syria dominated the media, and rightfully so. Five Arab nations joined in the assault, with four of them sending aircraft to join the U.S. The strikes were as symbolic as they were devastating to the terrorist militants, sending a clear message that they aren’t just being singled out by Americans, they are being eliminated by the world. But another momentous event happened that has been overlooked. During the airstrikes, the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor flew its first combat mission.

The F-22 is a stealth tactical fighter developed by the Air Force as its ultimate weapon in the air. In addition to its maneuverability, the Raptor’s weapons and detection capabilities make it the perfect weapon in air superiority. The Air Force had 187 commissioned between 2005 and 2011. Many pilots believe the F-22 is unmatched in air-to-air capabilities.

The F-22 fleet has been held back from combat operations, largely due to the small size of its fleet. The Pentagon originally planned on a major buy of the Lockheed Martin-built jets. But the high cost of the Raptor, combined with the constant campaigns against foes with limited air capabilities, and the general lack of any fighters that match the F-22, caused the DOD to abandon further production.

Air Force officials confirmed that the Raptor was used as part of the mission in Syria, along with F-15E, F-16, F/A-18 and B-1 bombers. The Air Force didn’t specify the number of each type aircraft used. The American aircraft were assisted by other aircraft from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, Tomahawk missiles were launched in support from the U.S. Navy warships the  USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and the USS Philippine Sea (CG-51). The destroyer and cruiser were steaming in international waters in the Red Sea and the Northern Arabian Gulf.

The F-22 can carry up to six AIM-120 advanced, medium-range, air-to-air missiles, or two AIM-120s and two GBU-32 joint direct-attack munitions for air-to-ground strikes. It also carries an internal 20mm gun and two AIM-9 Sidewinders in internal weapon bays.

With Washington and world leaders claiming that Monday’s strikes were just the beginning of a sustained campaign against the Islamic State, the F-22 Raptor will likely get additional chances to prove its worth and its superiority.

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: F-22s Finally See Action: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New On-Base Wi-Fi Program: By Debbie Gregory

wifiGreat news for Soldiers, Marines and Airmen! An improved Wi-Fi service could be heading to an installation near you.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Marine Corps Non-Appropriated Fund Business and Support Services Division are closing in on a deal that would feature a new service plan to thirty installations through Boingo Wireless.

Under the new plan, service members living on base in barracks and in dormitories will be given free in-room access to an all wireless basic internet plan, with a data transfer speed of 128 kilobits per second, as well as internet based television with local channels.

Service members will also be given the option to pay for upgrades, including faster internet speeds and more television channels. There will be multiple options and prices offered through the new deal, including internet-only upgrades, and packages with combined television and internet upgrades. The largest package includes an expanded Internet with up to 30 Mbps, packaged with 100-plus channels for $89.95 a month. A five MB per-second service will be offered for $29.95 per month. Pricing will be standardized from base to base, wherever it is provided.

Along with being considerably lower priced for comparative services, the services will not require long-term contracts. The upgrade programs will all be offered on a month to month basis, which is ideal for service members on the go.

And one more bonus is that service plans will be  transferable to any installation that offers the service. So service members going TDY, attending a training or being permanently reassigned can take their plans with them, making for a seamless transition.

The service is now available through Boingo Wireless at Camp Pendleton, CA, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, CA, Fort Eustis, VA, and Barksdale Air Force Base, LA.

Most Marine Corps installations will have the Boingo Wireless service implemented by 2015. The Army and Air Force expect to expand the service to eleven additional installations by October 1, 2014, and to most of the remaining installations by the end of next summer.

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 On-Base Wi-Fi Program: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Wounded Warrior SurveyOn September 16, 2014, the Wounded Warrior Project released the results of their 2014 Annual Alumni Survey. The organization surveyed more than 21,000 wounded Veterans in an effort to determine the areas where these Veterans struggle after they separate from the Military. The intention is that the data provided by the survey can be used to improve support and benefits for wounded Veterans.

The survey found that the two most common problems in accessing both physical and mental healthcare were 1. Difficulty in scheduling appointments,  and 2. Inconsistent treatment due to canceled appointments and switches in providers. The survey found that this was not just among VA healthcare patients, but among Veterans seen by private providers as well.

The survey revealed that the primary type of current health insurance or coverage cited included Veterans Affairs at 59.2%. This stat was up from 52.7% in 2013.

The percentage of Veterans receiving VA disability benefits is 72%, which is up from 62.8% in 2013.

The number of Veterans with a VA disability rating of 80% or higher rose to 42.6% in 2014, up from 36.2% in 2013.

The study also found that the top five reported injuries and health problems experienced during post-9/11 service were:

  1. Sleep disorders (75.8%)
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (75.2%)
  3. Back, neck, and shoulder problems (72.3%)
  4. Depression (67.1%)
  5. Anxiety (64.2%) or

Other important findings from the survey include:

  • The unemployment rate for respondents in the labor force is 13.9%
  • 82.3% of warriors are overweight or obese
  • 75% of warriors reported the memory of an upsetting military experience has haunted them in the past month.
  • 59.2% of warriors say talking with another veteran is in their top five ways for coping with stress
  • 43.2% of warriors report having a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Wounded Warrior Project has conducted this survey. The data will allow the organization to identify trends and compare this data with surveys from other military populations.

Download Survey Here.

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: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Robert Gates on Obama’s Plan: By Debbie Gregory

robert gatesOn September 10th, President Obama addressed the nation and offered his official stance on the Islamic State, and American involvement in Iraq and in Syriagoing forward. In his address, the president vowed to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State. In order to accomplish this, the president called for the continuation of airstrikes, while at the same time saying that he would not send ground forces back into Iraq.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, stated his belief that the use of American ground forces would be necessary to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates weighed in on the topic, and appeared to agree with Gen. Dempsey. In an interview with CBS News on September 17th, Mr. Gates said that he believed that President Obama will need to send Americans boots on the ground to combat the Islamic State.

“The reality is, they”re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” Gates said in the interview. “So there will be boots on the ground if there”s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the U.S. won”t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”

While the former defense secretary admitted that he thinks the president’s plan is sound, Mr. Gates says that he feels that the president’s promise to destroy the Islamic State is unrealistic.

“I”m also concerned that the goal has been stated as degrade and destroy, or degrade and defeat ISIS,” Gates told CBS. “We”ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. But I don”t think anybody would say that after 13 years we’ve destroyed or defeated al Qaeda.”

Mr. Gates continued his point by saying:

“And so I think to promise that we”re going to destroy ISIS, or ISIL, sets a goal that may be unattainable, as opposed to devastating it, or whereas the vice president would put it, ”following ”em to the gates of hell”, and dealing them terrible blows that prevent them from holding territory. Those are probably realistic goals.”

For now, Americans watch with growing concern as American pilots continue their airstrikes against I.S. forces. As the conflict continues in Iraq and in Syria, many current service members face the possibility of a third campaign in Iraq since 1990.

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: Robert Gates on Obama’s Plan: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory

Discharge upgradesUp to 80,000 veterans with “Other Than Honorable” military discharges due to PTSD have been given the opportunity to petition to have their discharges upgraded.

On September 3, 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum that directed the boards for correction of military records or naval records to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

Secretary Hagel instructed the boards to give “liberal consideration” to any language found in medical records describing one or more symptoms that meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD or related conditions.  Liberal consideration is also to be used when veterans’ civilian providers have diagnosed PTSD. And where PTSD is reasonably determined to have existed at the time of discharge, it is to be “a mitigating factor” in the misconduct that generated an Other Than Honorable Discharge.

The generation of veterans who will most benefit from this new directive will be Vietnam Veterans. PTSD wasn’t formally recognized until 1980. Studies have estimated that as many as 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffered from PTSD at some point after the war.

An immeasurable number of Vietnam Veterans came home with PTSD, and were then punished for behaviors that are recognized today as symptoms of post-traumatic stress. With their Other Than Honorable Discharges, these veterans were not eligible for VA benefits and care. Many of these veterans also faced an uphill employment battle because of their type of discharge.

Forty years have gone by, and for many, the damage has been done. But a number of veterans, estimated as high as 80,000, could have their discharge statuses upgraded, which would possibly qualify them to receive benefits, including healthcare.

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: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Navy Uniforms: By Debbie Gregory

UniformsThe Navy is close to approving several uniform changes that could take place as early as next year.

The first change could be the long anticipated addition of a warm-up suit. The Navy has been testing a moisture-wicking running suit that would be similar to the warm-up suit worn by Marines. A suit of this type would offer sailors better comfort, warmth and protection against exposure. The color scheme has not yet been determined. It is most likely to be a Navy blue color with gold or silver reflective lettering on the back, chest and possibly pant legs, as well as reflective trimming to provide optimum visibility for Sailors who PT early in the morning or in the evening. The suits will likely be made available for personnel to wear with their civilian attire.

The warm-up suits are very likely to get approved. The Navy will be running a test of the new PT gear this fall. If all goes well, the Navy could be adding these warm-up suits to the sea bag by end of fiscal year 2015.

Another possible uniform change would affect female chiefs and officers only, as female E-7 and above are set to start wearing choker collars, similar to the men’s dress whites for these pay grades. Along the same lines as the current wear-test in progress that has female enlisted personnel wearing the iconic “cracker jack” dress blues uniforms and “Dixie Cup” white caps, the Navy is also looking to streamline the uniforms in the wardroom and the chief’s mess.

Currently, female chiefs and officers wear a white coat and black tie. The Navy wants to replace that uniform with the high-collar “choker” worn by men, which clasps at the neck and is not worn with a tie.

A wear-test has been scheduled to hit the fleet in 2016. If approved, the current female dress uniforms could be replaced by the end of that year.

The Navy is also finishing a 60 day wear-test of a lighter version of their Navy Working Uniform. Over 230 Sailors wore lighter versions of the blue and gray camouflage uniforms in locations including Hawaii, Guam and Bahrain. The Navy intends to offer a more breathable option of their NWU for personnel in locations given to heat and tropical climates.

The Navy has also chosen a new cold weather waterproof parka that is similar to those worn by the Coast Guard. The new parkas offer better protection against the elements with its 3-in-1 design. The parka has an outer shell that is waterproof and two zip-in liners. One liner is an insulating fleece liner and the other is a jacket that is lighter and water repellant and can be worn as a stand-alone garment. Both the outer shell and the light jacket have rank tabs on them.

With the Coast Guard already wearing these parkas in blue, the Navy opted for their parkas to be black. Most uniform changes take up to three years to implement. The Navy hopes that because this style of garment is already being used by the Coast Guard, that this change can be applied much sooner.

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 Navy Uniforms: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Looks Ahead to More Cuts: By Debbie Gregory

Enduring FreedomThe U.S. Army is expected to make more cuts in personnel in an effort to meet DOD ordered force size reductions.

Back in June, the Army notified more than 1,100 Captains (O-3) that they were essentially being pink-slipped by the military. It was later revealed that 48 of those officers were serving in Afghanistan when they received the news. The dismissals were part of a military-wide effort to reduce the force-sizes of the standing U.S. armed forces. Each branch was ordered to reduce their ranks. Branches first incentivized early retirements for eligible personnel, then they utilized selection boards to determine which of their members they would involuntary separate.

In August, 550 Army majors (O-4) were given similar notices, and the Army has scheduled separation boards for lieutenant colonels (O-5) and colonels (O-6) for next year.

Active duty Army force size is scheduled to go down from 510,000 troops this year to 490,000 in 2015. It is expected to drop to about 450,000 by 2019.

As the Army looks at future personnel cuts, there remains a strong possibility that some of the individuals selected for separation could be notified while serving in combat zones. The Army is expected to have soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another two years, and some of them could be among those selected for involuntary separation.

Once notified of their pending separation, personnel have nine months to transition out of their branch of service. That is why the Army prefers to notify their personnel as soon as possible, even if that means notifying them in a war zone. Deployed personnel who receive separation notices are generally returned state-side within a matter of days. For higher ranking officers, especially those in command positions, it could take up to 30 days to turn over their commands.

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 Looks Ahead to More Cuts: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Airstrikes in Syria: By Debbie Gregory

airstrikesThis week, a message was sent to the Islamic State (I.S.) that the world is rallying against them. A U.S. led coalition conducted a series of airstrikes against the terrorist group that has seized large parcels of land in Iraq and Syria.

There were two major differences in this latest attack against the I.S. One was that this series of attacks happened in Syria. The second was that multiple Arab nations took part in the airstrikes, solidifying that it isn’t just the U.S. opposing the Islamic State.

The airstrikes began in the early hours of September 23, 2014. Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the U.S. in sending units to carry out attacks on I.S. forces, with Qatar joining them in a non-combatant support role.

This multinational coalition is important for a number of reasons. During the earlier campaigns in the region, it seemed as though it was the Western powers against the Middle East, as U.S. and British forces took on the bulk of the workload. This gave the impression that other world leaders within the Middle East were against, or at least not on board with, the conflicts. Now, with other Arab nations joining in against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it sends a resounding message that the threat the I.S. poses is real. So is the need to destroy them, regardless of cultural, religious, language and ideological barriers.

President Obama met with the leaders from the five Arab nations that make up the coalition. Each one made it clear that they understood that the mission to destroy the I.S. could be a long and difficult one. But every member confirmed that they would see the mission through to completion.

The airstrikes happened in three waves, all targeting combatants, vehicles, and training camps. The first wave focused on the Khorasan Group, a separate terrorist organization that is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous to Americans, because of its stated mission to carry out operations in the U.S. The wave hit several Khorasan Group targets in Eastern and Northern Syria.

The second wave hit I.S. targets, including its headquarters. The third wave concentrated on I.S. positions in Eastern and Northern Syria.

Let us send best wishes and support to our American pilots who are carrying out the airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. While we don’t have personnel on the ground, we certainly have Americans in harm’s way. Let us keep them and their families in our hearts and minds.

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: Airstrikes in Syria: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Look for Armored Units: By Debbie Gregory

GXVT

When most of us think of armor, we imagine the archaic iron suits worn by medieval knights. While extremely limiting the wearer’s speed and mobility, the armor protected the knight from blows and stabs. Modern ground warfare has been dominated by heavily armored, slow moving vehicles that are reminiscent of those immobilizing suits worn by knights. But the U.S. Military is working to change that.

In August, 2014, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the launch of its Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program. The program is bent on revolutionizing modern armored units.

Attempting to move away from the slower, bulky units that are often limited to roads, the GXV-T program is investigating ways to improve the mobility and survivability of U.S. Military vehicles through means other than just bulking on more armor. Researchers are currently looking into alternatives that include avoiding detection, engagement and hits by enemy forces.

The primary goal of the GXT-V program isn’t to replace one type of vehicle, but rather to overhaul the U.S. military’s entire concept of armored units. GXV-T’s technical goals include reducing vehicle size, weight and crew size by 50%, increase vehicle speed by 100%, improve access to diverse terrains by 95%, and reduce detection signatures.

DARPA plans to develop GXV-T technologies over a 24 month period after initial contracts are awarded. Contracts are expected to be awarded by April, 2015. The GXV-T program intends to pursue research, development, design and testing of new units or major components of them. So far, there are only a few sketched drawings of possible prototypes. But the pictures depict a hyper transformation of unit types that are a far cry from M1Abrams tanks.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp, 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 Look for Armored Units: By Debbie Gregory