Acing Basic Training: Military Connection

U.S. Army Soldiers make their way through an obstacle during the confidence course portion of basic military training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 20, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Denise Rayder) (Released)

By Debbie Gregory.

Basic Training – often called boot camp – prepares recruits for all elements of service: physical, mental and emotional. It gives service members the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of them for the duration of their tour. Each of the Services has its own training program, tailoring the curriculum to the specialized nature of its role in the Military. No matter which branch of the Service a recruit chooses, Basic Training is an intense experience. There are some do’s and don’ts that will help you prepare for basic training. Many of these tips will also serve you well in many other aspects of your life.

  1. Never aim for the minimum. Set your goals as high as possible. Your goals are what will push you be better. So if it’s a certain number of push-ups, better endurance, or a career move, challenge yourself to rise to the top.
  2. Especially when it comes to your finances! Being prepared isn’t just a motto for Boy Scouts. How many times have you found yourself with your back up against a wall because of poor planning? Set up your bills on an automatic payment system, or make arrangements to pay them remotely, such as through online banking. If you’re married or have a family member whom you trust, show them what bills you have and how to pay them. This is not a task to be handed off to someone with whom you may have a “temporary” relationship. While he or she may be your soulmate right now, a boyfriend or girlfriend is not the person to entrust with your financial future. Notify companies of the dates you will be in basic training and provide them with an emergency number in case there is a problem with your account. Preparation will also go a long way in eliminating fear and anxiety.
  3. Take advantage of your brain cells long before you get to Basic. Each branch of service has its own required items to be memorized, such as General Orders, Chain of Command, phonetic alphabet, etc. Find out in advance what you need to know, study the information, and take quizzes until you’re confident you know the information. Then study some more!
  4. Take good mental and physical care of yourself. Getting your body into the correct sleep cycle before you leave home will help you adjust to long days and short nights at basic training. Adjust your sleep pattern to the time zone you’ll be in. Get your attitude in check: don’t take basic training personally; it’s the instructor’s job to stress you out. Remember the person next to you and in front you is part of your team. You help them, they help you.
  5. Free time will be very limited while you are in basic training. Make sure you let your loved ones know that you will not be able to communicate with them regularly or frequently. You will be transforming from a civilian with limited knowledge of military life into a highly trained defender of freedom.
  6. This one is probably the most important: Remember, basic training doesn’t last forever…even if it feels like it does!

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.

Acing Basic Training: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Amid Pressure, VA Inspector General Retires: Military Connection

Military Connection: oig

By Debbie Gregory.

The acting director of the Veterans Affairs Department’s investigative arm said that he will step down after facing criticism from both whistleblowers and members of Congress that he has interfered in the agency’s investigations to protect VA leadership.

Richard Griffin, appointed deputy inspector general in 2008, has served as the office’s acting head for 18 months amid allegations that he’s done little to uncover fraud and abuse in the agency. He retires after more than 43 years of federal service.

In a statement, Griffin said, “I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to serve with you at the VA OIG for more than 14 years and to have worked with such a dedicated team of men and women who have constantly demonstrated their courage, integrity and passionate commitment on behalf of our nation’s veterans.”

Griffin has faced harsh words from critics in recent years for ineffectiveness in dealing with VA leadership for well publicized issues such as patient wait times, overprescribing by physicians, and medical records manipulation.

Concerned Veterans for America applauded the departure of Mr. Griffin and reissued a call to the president to nominate a permanent inspector general. A bipartisan group of senators echoed that sentiment, stating that nominating a permanent VA inspector general is “long overdue” calling for the president to choose someone to take over the vacant position.

Linda Halliday, previously the assistant inspector for audits and evaluations, replaced Griffin on July 6th . Halliday holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Bridgeport (CT) and is currently a Certified Internal Auditor. She also completed the VA’s Executive Leadership Program, the Federal Executive Institute’s Executive Development Program, and American University’s Key Executive Leadership Certificate Program in the School of Public Affairs. This year, Halliday began completing executive development course work at the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA. She has worked in the inspector general’s office for the last 23 years.

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.

Amid Pressure, VA Inspector General Retires: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection

Military Connection: dollars

By Debbie Gregory.

If you had millions of dollars in an account, would you need an auditor to remind you that you had it?

It seems that the Veterans Health Administration “parked,” (and then seemed to forget about) more than $43 million at the Government Printing Office over three years ago. “Parking” refers to the transfer of funds to a revolving fund through an intra-agency agreement, in an attempt to keep the funds available for new work after the period of availability for the funds expires.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside the funds to produce “tailored handbooks.” These handbooks were supposed to provide veterans with information about VA benefits, though they were never made. In fact, the authorizations never specified the quantity of handbooks to be produced or the dates for delivery.

There was a surplus of funds to cover the costs of the handbooks, but the funds sat in an account until an agency financial manager happened to notice.

Money budgeted for one account is not supposed to be spent for other needs without congressional approval.

The Inspector General’s office cited a “breakdown of fiscal controls” and “lack of oversight” in concluding that VA officials had “no need” for the $43.1 million. At least not for the purpose they claimed

“A breakdown of VA fiscal controls and a lack of oversight led to the parking of funds for an excessively long period and the failure to detect and properly use and manage these funds,” auditors wrote in their June 17 report. They cited a “lack of supervisory review” to ensure that the money was spent properly.

The VHA, it turned out, had “no current need” for the money and wanted to save it for another year, a strategy that’s considered poor financial policy.

The biannual handbooks provide each veteran with information about his or her health benefits and other services. They list contacts for the veteran’s preferred clinic, instructions on how to schedule appointments, information on the Affordable Care Act, any co-pays and other information. VA officials are now looking at whether they have any unpaid bills for fiscal 2011 they can use the money for. If not, it must be returned to the Treasury, auditors said.

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.

The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Bonuses for AF Reservists: Military Connection

Military Connection: af airmen

By Debbie Gregory.

Ever since 2013’s sequestration threat, many Air Force airmen questioned whether they wanted to commit to long-term careers in active duty. Still desiring to serve in uniform and have the benefits of a military service, the Air Force Reserve offered the best of both worlds.

And now, the Air Force Reserve is offering large bonuses for in high-demand career fields. For many service members, joining the reserve components fills an obligation they incurred when they first signed up for active duty.

At bases across the country, reservists are picking up more of the slack and flying missions alongside active-duty airmen, and in some cases becoming even busier than their active counterparts.

Last October, the Air Force Reserve raised its enlisted affiliation bonus for seven jobs on the critical skills list from $15,000 to $20,000. Active duty airmen who agree to serve six years in the reserve can get up to $20,000 bonus if they are 1A1X1 flight engineers, 1A4X1 airborne battle managers, 1T2X1 pararescue airmen, 2A2X2 special operations forces/personnel recovery airmen, 2A5X2 helicopter maintainers, 2A6X4 aircraft fuel systems, and 3E8X1 explosive ordnance disposal airmen. Officer affiliation bonuses remain at $10,000.

The reserve’s effort was bolstered by the Air Force’s drawdown last year, which included an expanded Palace Chase program. Palace Chase normally makes enlisted airmen serve two years in the Guard or reserve for every year of active duty they have left, and officers typically must serve three years for every year left. But the expanded program allowed active-duty airmen to serve out the rest of their time in the Air National Guard or reserve.

The promise of money and the ability to use education benefits is the largest thing that gets airmen to join the reserve, along with the ability to continue to wear the uniform.

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.

Bonuses for AF Reservists: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Flowers, Funerals, and Flowing Tears: Military Connection

military connection: funeral

By Debbie Gregory.

An anonymous donor from New York gave 3,000 flowers to the city of Chattanooga to be used for memorial and funeral services for the five service members slain in the attacks on the Navy/Marine operations center. The flowers, echoing the colors of the American flag, were donated on behalf of the staff and residents at the Col. C. David Merkel, MD Veterans’ Residence program in Saranac Lake, N.Y. The center treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as earlier conflicts, who have post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions.

A group of some 40 volunteers organized by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga crowded into a room, stripping and snipping and placing red, white and blue blossoms into pails of water.

Staff Sgt. David Wyatt of Delaware was laid to rest last Friday at Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN. Hundreds of people lined the funeral procession route from the church to his final resting place.

Visitation for Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist was held on Saturday at Grantsburgh High School in Wisconsin. More than 60 people in military uniforms saluted as an honor guard of Marine pallbearers carried Sgt. Holmquist’s flag-draped coffin to a hearse on the way to a private burial with military honors.

Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells was buried on Sunday, his funeral held at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. He was the youngest of the group, at only 21 years old.

Also on Sunday, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Massachusetts, following funeral services at Holy Cross Church in Springfield.

Visitation and funeral services for Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith will be held tomorrow, July 28th at First Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe, GA. with burial immediately following at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has declared memorials at Lee Highway and Amnicola Highway as “protected memorial services” which will shield them from any protests.

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of these five patriotic Americans who selflessly chose to serve their country.

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.

Flowers, Funerals, and Flowing Tears: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection

 

Military Connection: toran

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a corporal infantry rifleman in 15 Charlie Company with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was badly injured four years ago during his second deployment to Afghanistan. An IED claimed his left leg and severely damaged his right leg. He also sustained a crush injury to the left side of his head and lost part of his brain.

Gaal is currently on a 3,000 mile trek, using a hand cycle, across the U.S. Brian Riley is his one-man support crew.

Riley, a fellow Marine, was on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 when machine gun fire penetrated his left leg, which had to be amputated.

A former athlete, Gaal spent two and a half years in physical therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. It was at Freedom Station, where veterans re-acclimate to civilian life, that he met Riley.

Although they didn’t much care for each other at the beginning, they shared a common goal to compete in adaptive sports. They had something else in common: a desire to support other veterans and their families the way they had been supported by the Semper Fi Fund.

The two veterans began planning a coast-to-coast trip, where Gaal would ride an adapted bike, and Riley would provide vehicular support.

Their journey began on June 1st in San Diego, with plans to arrive in Arlington, Virginia, on August 2nd , where they will visit the Iwo Jima and Marine Corps memorials. At the end of the ride, Gaal will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To date, Gaal has raised $35,000 of his $40,000 goal, but he wants to raise more.

“I challenge every person in each city we visit to donate $1,” Gaal said.

“Not just for us — for the next generation of warriors who are going to have to endure the hardships we did for recovery.” As Gaal’s website says, “The only limits in life are those we set for ourselves.”

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.

A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

With a Little Help From Your Peers: Military Connection

Military Connection: onesources

By Debbie Gregory.

Now you can talk to someone who gets it: Military OneSource has expanded confidential services for service members and their spouses through a “peer-to-peer” specialty consultation service. This is the newest resource to support and connect service members and their families with professionals who understand military life.

Peer support can promote wellness, healthy stress navigation, stronger social connections, and improve overall quality of life—all built upon a foundation of trust.

The military’s unique life, in which deployments, relocations and transitions are commonplace, makes it essential to find consultants with similar life experiences. Military OneSource’s peer consultants are  accessible at 800-342-9647. The consultants are military retirees, reservists, Guardsmen, spouses and separating service members, all of whom have trained in best-support practices at the Defense Centers of Excellence.

Probably one of the best features of the service is that callers never get an answering service; a live person answers every call, regardless of whether it’s an urgent need or just a friendly conversation. The peer consultant’s goal is to help callers deal with stress before the stressors get out of control.

Military OneSource has a wide and growing array of resources, so their consultants can connect callers to the information outlets they might need. Although not a crisis line, if someone calls in crisis, the peer on the other end of the line will use all the resources at their disposal to ensure the caller gets the help they need.

Active-duty service members, Guardsmen, reservists –regardless of activation status — and family members are eligible to call the service. Veterans who have been separated from military service for up to 180 days also are eligible. Veterans who are past the 180-day cutoff will be given a warm handoff to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While talking about stress may seem intimidating, having the support of someone who has “been there” can take the stress out of finding the resources you need.

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.

With a Little Help From Your Peers: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Playing “Wargames”: Military Connection

Military Connection: wargames

By Debbie Gregory.

A two-day “war games” event held in late June in the Washington suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.

The brainstorming session brought together tech pioneers and computer-science experts with current and former Pentagon officials and military experts from think tanks across Washington. Sponsored by the Defense Department, the event hoped to address the long-term challenges in building a force for the 21st century, and recruiting and retaining the talent it will need in the years ahead.

The newly appointed undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Brad Carson, wants to modernize the Pentagon’s outdated, paper-based personnel system.

Carson said it’s time to change the military’s promotion practices that are based on seniority and stability over performance and innovation. “We should move into a talent-based system with competency-based benchmarks,” he said.

The hypothetical crisis for the “game” took place in the year 2025. With a thriving economy, young Americans have no interest in military service. The Pentagon’s budget is tight, so monetary incentives are few. The Defense Department needs top talent, but can’t find it.

Experts discussed hypothetical databases to track individuals’ skills, strengths, interests and educational backgrounds. An optimal system might include data from performance evaluations, school transcripts, health records and other information.

“If we don’t actually think about what a military should be for in the future, this [event] is just supporting something that is all too much like the Maginot Line, which is like trying defend against the previous war rather than thinking about what the actual situation is going to be in the future,” said Alan Kay, a 75-year-old pioneering computer scientist. Kay has been credited with helping to invent modern computer programming.

Many people may not know that the DoD was more or less responsible for the invention of the Internet. In the 1960s, U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency, funded by the Pentagon, doled out millions of dollars in research grants that resulted in the foundation of the technology that underlies today’s Internet.

Much of that money flowed to Stanford University, to a number of computer scientists who went on to create the modern software and information technology industry.

The war game was organized by retired Air Force pilot Frank DiGiovanni, director of the Pentagon’s Force Readiness and Training office.

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.

Playing “Wargames”: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Protecting Our Country from Missile Threats: Military Connection

jlens

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon is quietly working to set up an elaborate network of defenses to protect American cities from a barrage of Russian cruise missiles.

Military officials are working on ways to better protect U.S. cities that involve F-16 fighter jets, working in concert with sensor-laden aerostat balloons and warships. National Guard F-16 fighter jets would be able to spot and shoot down fast and low-flying missiles.

The Pentagon’s overall cruise missile defense plans, much of which remain classified, have been hinted at in speeches, congressional hearings and other public forums over the past year. The statements reveal the Pentagon’s concern about advanced cruise missiles being developed by Russia.

Adm. William Gortney, who leads U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), highlighted the Kh-101 cruise missile as the kind of threat the Pentagon was find a way to counter. The weapon is being developed by Russia and has a range of 1,200 miles.

Intercepting cruise missiles is far different from shooting down a missile of the ballistic variety. Launched by ships, submarines, or even trailer-mounted launchers, cruise missiles are powered throughout their entire flight. This allows them to fly close to the ground and maneuver throughout flight, making them difficult for radar to spot.

One item in the early stages of a three-year test phase is a giant aerostat called the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS.) JLENS carries powerful radar that can spot small moving objects.

“The only nation that has an effective cruise missile capability is Russia,” Gortney said at a House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing earlier this year.

Rather than having to shoot missiles down, which is an expensive option, Pentagon officials are focusing on the delivery platform.

“The best way to defeat the cruise missile threat is to shoot down the archer, or sink the archer, that’s out there,” Gortney said. He added that the Pentagon needed to expand its strategy to “hit that archer.”\

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.

Protecting Our Country from Missile Threats: Military Connection by Debbie Gregory

Protecting Those Who Serve: Military Connection

Military Connection: pdloans

By Debbie Gregory.

The Obama administration and U.S. Department of Defense issued a new rule to clamp down on predatory lenders who take advantage of American servicemen and women

When service members return from active duty, they’re more likely to face severe financial challenges than civilians. That’s why the Obama administration and Department of Defense have updated the Military Lending Act—a law that capped interest rates and add-on fees to members of the military and their families at 36 percent. Unfortunately, the original regulations implementing the law capped rates for just a small number of loan types, such as “payday loans” of 91 days or less and so-called “car title loans” of 181 day or less. Since that time, unethical loan sharks have evaded the rules by extending the terms or restructuring the loans.

The new rule is an important advance to control the widespread abuse in the payday and small loan market. Research by the Department of Defense released last year found that as many as one out of every ten enlisted serviceman and woman continued to be targeted by high-cost credit designed to evade the Military Lending Act.

Unfortunately, service members are almost twice as likely as their civilian counterparts to carry some credit card debt from month-to-month. Furthermore, twice as many service members as civilians have paid less than the minimum required payment in the last 12 months.

The DoD estimates that the final rule will reduce involuntary separation caused by financial hardship, resulting in a savings of $14 million a year or more.

With the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. economy, especially the job market, is challenging. The transition to civilian life has been tough for many veterans. But hopefully, with this new ruling, they won’t be starting out civilian life already in debt.

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.

Protecting Those Who Serve: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory