Resilience Training for Army Spouses: Military Connection

Resilience Training for Army Spouses

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is now offering deployment resilience training to spouses to help them deal with the unique challenges they may face during pre- and post-deployment.

It is no surprise that deployment affects both the Soldier and the spouse. The key to handling the challenge is working together to both give and get support through the process. The training, delivered between one to six months before a deployment, helps the family think about ways they will stay connected throughout a deployment.

Deployment Cycle Resilience Training is offered in specific modules, depending on where the Soldier is in their deployment process.

The Pre-Deployment Resilience training gives spouses skills and communication techniques so that they can come up with creative ways to stay connected, while managing expectations.

Post-Deployment Resilience Training is delivered up to one month before, or one month after a deployment is completed, and focuses on adjustments that may be necessary upon reintegration. Reunions are a joyous time for military families, but the expectations and reality of roles and responsibilities can cause friction if expectations are not clear.

Deployment Cycle Resilience Training is required for all active, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, who are deploying from their home station for 90 days or more. The training is also offered for spouses and takes about two to three hours.

Eight master resilience trainers recently completed a train-the-trainer course offered by the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness’s National Capital Region, or NCR, Training Center. The course certifies these trainers to deliver Deployment Cycle Resilience Training to Soldiers and spouses, who are facing, or just returning from a deployment.

Family members who, are interested in receiving Deployment Cycle Resilience Training, may contact their local CSF2 Training Center, Army Community Service or Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Research Transition Office at [email protected]

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Openly Gay Civilian Advisor Named Secretary of the Army: Military Connection

Secretary of the Army

By Debbie Gregory.

If confirmed by the Senate, the first openly gay US Army secretary, Eric Fanning, could help lead America’s corps of fighting men and women into uncharted territory, on many fronts.

President Obama is nominating Eric K. Fanning, a close civilian adviser to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, to be the secretary of the Army, an appointment that would make him the first openly gay secretary of a military branch.

The president said Mr. Fanning brings “many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership” to the role. “I am grateful for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and I am confident he will help lead America’s soldiers with distinction,” he said.

As a civilian, Mr. Fanning has been the acting under secretary of the Army as the current secretary, John McHugh, prepares to leave his post. Mr. Fanning’s Defense Department jobs have spanned the services: He has served as Air Force undersecretary, deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy chief management officer of the Navy.

Former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Doug Wilson, praised Mr. Fanning.

“Eric Fanning is one of the most qualified individuals to hold any senior position having to do with defense,” Mr. Wilson said. “The fact that he is openly gay and has been nominated for his position is just evidence of the degree to which Americans can accept sexual orientation as part of an individual, and not something that completely defines an individual.”

Mr. Fanning will help guide the country’s largest military service as it undertakes a sweeping integration of gay soldiers. While the Pentagon lifted a prohibition on openly gay service members in 2011, the culture remains resistant, to an extent, to open integration of gay soldiers into the ranks, as well as the promotion of women into combat roles. Some gay service members say they experience harassment and discrimination.

Phil Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said, “The Army cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.”

A graduate of Dartmouth, Fanning’s appointment was widely expected.

 

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

A Puzzle? Or Stolen Valor? Military Connection

Purple Heart

By Debbie Gregory.

John James Lavoie served in the U.S. Marine Corps for over 20 years, and that is certainly something to be proud of. But there’s a possibility that it wasn’t enough for him as he is now in the position of having to clear his name.

Lavoie has been accused of “Stolen Valor,” which refers to non-veterans donning veterans’ gear or service members wearing medals they did not earn.

Lavoie wears a Purple Heart Medal, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. But according to the National Archives in St. Louis, his service records do not confirm that he was awarded any of them.

Further complicating the matter, Lavoie’s service records that he has in his possession are completely different from his service records from the National Archives.

The DD 214 verifies service history, and the DD 215 usually corrects any minor mistakes on the DD214. But why there’s a difference between what’s recorded in the archives and what’s documented on Lavoie’s DD 214 and DD215 is puzzling, if the document are genuine.

The red flags? There are a few:

  • Lavoie’s DD215 is dated Feb. 25, 1993.However, the characters used on the DD 215 to write the date, as well as list all the medals, were written in a font, Calibri, that didn’t even exist until 2004.
  • Lavoie’s name is misspelled at the top of the document. A misspelled name would render the form nearly useless if a veteran attempted to use it to obtain veterans benefits like the GI Bill, or Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
  • Every acronym listing Lavoie’s medals is wrong: the Silver Star listed as SST, the Bronze Star listed as BSw/v, the Vietnam Service Medal as VMS. The Marine Corps Individual Records Administration Manual lists the Silver Star as SSM, the Bronze Star with Valor as BSMV, and the Vietnam Service Medal as VSM

The issue of stolen valor has risen to the forefront in the military and veterans community. Photos and videos of those caught fraudulently wearing uniforms or military awards regularly make the rounds on veteran websites and Facebook feeds, prompting disdain and anger among those who served. Stolen valor is especially important to them because many knew friends who died earning the same medals the impostors wear dishonestly.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Is Iran Deal a Bad Deal? Military Connection

Is Iran Deal a Bad Deal?

By Debbie Gregory.

The Iran nuclear deal will leave Tehran as a growing power and require the United States to increase its spending on the military, according to four House Republicans

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) all House Armed Services Committee members, expressed this opinion, saying that after the deal negotiated by the Obama administration is implemented and sanctions are limited, Congress will need to play a role in preventing problems with Iran from growing.

They expressed concerns that lifted sanctions would allow Iran to pour money into terrorist groups, cyber attacks and ballistic missiles, and encourage an arms race in the region.

Rep. Thornberry said, “There’s a tendency to say, ‘Oh, there’s an agreement. We can breathe a sigh of relief. Everything’s going to be OK.’ That’s not the case here. This agreement means billions more for all the sorts of activities that we described Iran is doing that causes problems in the world.”

Thornberry cited Iran’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Houthi in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon as activities that would be allowed to continue and grow under the deal.

“We’re going to have more problems, not fewer. And that goes back to the defense budget issue. We cannot cut defense anymore,” he said. He also emphasized the need to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, which would authorize $612 billion in funding for the Pentagon.

Rep. Walorski added, “Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism, and this is not really addressed at all.”

“There is more investment in our nuclear deterrents than we’ve had for a while, and we’re going to need that as nuclear weapons spread around the world,” he said “Building military capability is key, and we are trying to push that.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Awards and Accolades for Train Heroes: Military Connection

Awards and Accolades for Train Heroes

By Debbie Gregory.

When the Air Force sought to honor Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone for his heroic actions in stopping a terrorist gunman on a French train this summer, the options were limited.

Since the incident occurred in the French countryside, far from any declared combat zones, Stone was not eligible for traditional valor medals like the Bronze Star or Silver Star. Those medals are limited to formal combat zones or military operations against a specified enemy.

The Air Force opted to give Stone an Airman’s Medal, an honor that technically ranks above the Bronze Star in the military’s official medals “order of precedence.”

President Obama met with Stone, U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, who also participated in the takedown of gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani. The president said the three young Americans represented “the very best of America and the American character.”

The White House visit was just one of the accolades the service members received Thursday. In addition to his Airman’s Medal, Stone was also awarded a Purple Heart at a Pentagon ceremony. Skarlatos is receiving the Soldier’s medal, and Sadler is getting a civilian award. Stone will reportedly be promoted two ranks, bypassing the level of senior airman to reach staff sergeant.

The three friends have already been awarded France’s highest decoration, the Legion D’honneur, for their heroism. They were also honored with a parade on September 11th in Sacramento.

In an interesting turn of events, Skarlatos has teamed up with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold to compete on the new season of Dancing With the Stars. He danced a foxtrot to Afrojack’s “Ten Feet Tall” with partner Arnold, receiving rave reviews. In less than a month, the 22-year-old’s dancing inexperience seems to have been eradicated, along with his anonymity.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Unannounced Inspection Uncovers Improper Shredding: Military Connection

shred

By Debbie Gregory.

Last January, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous allegation that staff at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office (VARO) were inappropriately shredding mail regarding veterans’ disability compensation claims. It was also alleged that VARO supervisors were instructing their staff to shred these documents. The following month, the OIG/Office of Audits and Evaluations conducted an unannounced inspection to evaluate the merits of the allegation.

The Veterans Benefits Administration’s has a written policy on management of veterans’ and other governmental paper records. Although unable to verify or identify what had taken place prior to their visit, the inspectors did find nine claims-related documents inappropriately placed in shred bins. Eight of the nine documents had the potential to affect veterans’ benefits. There were not able to say with any certainty that VARO supervisors were instructing their staff to shred claims-related documents.

“The shredding of these documents would have prevented the documents from becoming part of the veterans’ permanent record and potentially affect veterans’ benefits,” the auditors said. “We could not determine whether the VARO staff improperly shredded documents prior to our review. This is because the VARO destroyed documents prior to our arrival, as part of the VARO’s normal records disposition process.”

In response to their findings, the VA’s main headquarters in Washington said Los Angeles has now filled a position that had been empty for months and that was in charge of training staff. Los Angeles VARO management has provided VARO staff training on proper shredding procedures. In order to determine whether this is an isolated problem or a systemic issue, the OIG will initiate unannounced inspections at 10 selected VAROs across the nation.

If you would like to read the interim report in its entirety, visit www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-15-04652-448.pdf

To report suspected wrongdoing in VA programs and operations, you can call 800-488-8244 or Email: [email protected]

Hotline information is available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/hotline

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Mil Pay Raise:Good News, Bad News. Military Connection

2016abp

By Debbie Gregory.

There’s good news for military families who may have worried about potential paycheck problems due to the budget gridlock on Capitol Hill.

On Aug. 28, President Obama announced that he is moving forward with a plan to provide a pay raise for all service members, effective January 1st .

The bad news is that raise is only 1.3 percent.

President Obama’s cap of the 2016 military pay raise puts it at a level below the unstated preference of House members. Lawmakers could override the president’s order, but that would require negotiators to insert completely new pay language into the compromise bill. It is unikely that both houses of Congress will push the 2.3 percent raise per the Employment Cost Index figure otherwise mandated by Title 37 of the U.S. Code.

“As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare … we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course,” he wrote. “This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints.”

House lawmakers have expressed support for a 2.3 percent raise next year in some defense budget legislation, but decided against including that specific number in their version of the annual defense authorization bill. Senators went with the 1.3 percent mark in their draft version of that military policy legislation.

The two sides are negotiating a final compromise bill that they hope to pass in coming weeks, but are not likely at this point to force a 2.3 percent pay raise by dramatically changing the language in their respective draft bills.

House negotiators have indicated that they would be willing to allow modest increases in health care fees in the final draft of the bill. Senators also are pushing for trims in the annual growth of the Basic Allowance for Housing. Outside advocates have decried those moves as putting increased pressure on the personal finances of troops and their families, and widening the pay gap between service members and their civilian counterparts.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

CA Senators propose VA campus House Homeless Vets: Military Connection

House Homeless Vets

By Debbie Gregory.

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Representative Ted Lieu of Torrance proposed a bill that aims to facilitate housing for veterans at the West Los Angeles Campus. This is an effort to remove veterans from the county’s alleyways and sidewalk shantytowns and onto the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Los Angeles campus.

Speaking recently at a VA building that was refurbished for homeless housing, Feinstein said the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act of 2015 will remove a legal barrier to opening the sprawling campus to temporary and permanent housing, recreational facilities and job training for homeless veterans.

“For a long time it’s been our dream to see this campus as housing for homeless veterans,” said Feinstein, who promised to put the bill forward on Tuesday. “I strongly believe with this bill we will finally turn the corner.”

With the VA facing a nationwide backlog for new construction – and a funding shortfall of billions of dollars – this bill allows the agency to create new housing in West LA much faster than the agency could on its own. The bill authorizes public-private partnerships to develop housing and services that “principally benefit veterans and their families” through “enhanced-use leases.”

The VA will be able to lease parcels of land to nonprofits to build and run housing. To repay their loans, the nonprofits would take housing vouchers from the federal government and try to get grants from state, county, and city governments. They can also raise money through private donations.

Veterans advocates said the VA and Congress should build housing themselves, instead of cutting developers in on lucrative building contracts.

There have been several setbacks in the VA’s drive to end Los Angeles’ designation as the nation’s homeless-veteran capital. Mayor Eric Garcetti backed off his pledge to get every homeless veteran off city streets by the end of the year.

Vince Kane, special assistant to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said the agency had revamped leadership and picked up the pace of engaging and housing homeless veterans. He said the VA remains committed to meeting the year-end goal.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Tragedy Strikes Ft. Meade Soldier: Military Connection

ramirez

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Army specialist Karlyn Serane Ramirez, stationed at Fort Meade, MD was found dead in her home, shot multiple times. Authorities say the medical examiner has ruled her death a homicide.

Making this tragedy even worse, lying next to Ramirez was her 5-month-old daughter. Fortunately, the baby was unharmed and was transported to the hospital as a precaution. She was turned over to unnamed members of Ramirez’s family.

Ramirez’s body was discovered after a neighbor noticed that a door to her townhouse was open and her dog was wandering around outside.

The Army Criminal Investigative Command at Fort Meade will assist police with the investigation.

Ramirez’s Severn neighborhood, about 2 miles from the base, is full of military families constantly moving in and out, according to residents Alvin Zeno, a neighbor of Ramirez, said that he had heard gunshots over the weekend.

“I’ve been in the Army 25 years. So I know what shots sound like. I said, ‘Somebody is firing somewhere,'” Zeno said.

Ramirez was married, according to county police spokesperson Lt. Ryan Frashure. Police have interviewed her husband a couple of times, and Frashure described him as “accessible” and “answering questions.”

It is unclear if the attack is the result of a random violent act or a domestic disturbance.

Serving as a specialist, Ramirez was a doting mother, changing her Facebook profile pictures to photos of her with a baby girl.

Local law enforcement and Army investigators continue to seek answers in the shooting death, but have not identified any suspects

“We’re not ruling anything out. [It’s an] active investigation, homicide still conducting several interviews with family and neighbors, still processing evidence from the scene,” Frashure told reporters.

Police have requested that anyone in the area at the time of the incident or with information regarding the case contact them by calling 410-222-4700, or via www.metrocrimestoppers.org. Tips can be given anonymously.

“It may not seem like a lot of information to them, but it could be a vital piece of the puzzle,” Frashure said.

Defending Innocence and Paying the Price: Military Connection

Defending Innocence

By Debbie Gregory.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland’s Army career changed course during his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. And now it appears that the Army is expelling him for actions that most people would classify as heroic.

The decorated Green Beret said that he is being kicked out of the Army for losing his cool in 2011 and striking an Afghan local police officer, one who had allegedly confessed to raping a boy and then beating the child’s mother for telling authorities. Martland has served in the Special Forces for 11 years. Many of his teammates say that he is the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.

Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. said, “To intervene was a moral decision, and SFC Martland and his Special Forces team felt they had no choice but to respond.”

In a letter to Hunter, Martland said he had encountered corrupt police officials who were conducting beatings, honor killings and rapes that went unpunished. When he became aware of the atrocity that had befallen this child and his mother, Martland said it was too much.

In a memo to the Army Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center, Martland admitted to striking the Afghan.

He was punished by the Army at the time, but why exactly Martland is now being discharged is a matter of dispute.

Martland had fallen under the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, a process that can be triggered by derogatory information on their record. Though technically not a draw-down tool, it is aiding in force reduction efforts by weeding out less desirable soldiers; a black mark on their record, such as a relief for cause, can trigger a formal QMP review and result in involuntary separation.

Army sources cited his accolades, including being named runner-up for 2014 Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in Special Forces, in questioning the decision.

The Army could not comment on the administrative decision to separate Martland, citing privacy concerns.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.