Heroes Among Us: Military Connection

Heroes Among Us

By Debbie Gregory.

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone will receive the Airman’s Medal and possibly the Purple Heart for helping stop a gunman on a European train.

Not only did Stone tackle the gunman, his quick thinking and action saved the life of a passenger who was shot in the neck and losing blood. Stone applied pressure on the wound and held that position until paramedics arrived.

Stone was traveling with friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris when they came face to face with a suspected Islamic extremist who was armed with an AK-47, Luger pistol and box cutter.

The three Americans leapt into action, along with British businessman Chris Norman, confronting the gunman who had strapped the assault rifle across his bare chest.

They subdued the gunman, saving countless lives.

Stone’s unit put him up for the Airman’s Medal, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said that he also may be eligible for the Purple Heart.

“We are looking at the potential, to see whether we can award the Purple Heart as well,” Welsh said, but it will first have to be determined whether the train incident was an act of terrorism.

The gunman, 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, is an Islamic extremist who may have spent time in Syria.

Stone, Sadler, Skarlatos and Norman have already received the French Legion of Honor from French President Francois Hollande.

Hollande said, “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration. Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that.”

“Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said, ‘Let’s go.’ And [I] ran down, tackled him. We hit the ground. Alek came up and grabbed the gun out of his hand while I put him in a choke hold.”

Just like that! Spoken so matter-of-factly. Like a true hero.

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.

Thoughtless Words Cause Concern: Military Connection

Thoughtless Words Cause Concern

By Debbie Gregory.

In this age of rapid communication, many of us have had a moment where we’ve sent a reply to an email or text message and the second it goes, we question if we sent to the right person. We second guess whether we remembered to attach that document referenced in the note. Sometimes we say the first thing that comes to mind, even though it might not be the appropriate comment. But the minute it leaves your fingertips, it’s out there for the world to see and to remember.

Such is the circumstance of a VA physician in Pennsylvania. A quick, not thought-out post on his Facebook page has turned into something that he deeply regrets, and so does the Veterans Administration.

Dr. Gregg Gorton, a VA psychiatrist, has been practicing for 30 years, treating psychiatric patients and teaching suicide prevention. While reading his Facebook timeline, a post appeared that had been shared from Imgur. The status stated,

“I am all for gun control. If there is a gun in the room, I want to be in control of it.”

Gorton would not call himself a gun-control activist, but for some reason, this status struck a chord, and he quickly posted a reply, “Off yourself, please.” He agreed that he has concerns about gun violence as many others do.

“It’s just one of those moments you’d rather take back in your life,” Gorton told The Associated Press. The exchange was also exposed in The Washington Times.

“The post was totally inappropriate and does not convey our commitment to veterans. We are taking steps immediately to address the situation,” the VA told the newspaper.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia is reviewing his 11-year job status. Gorton said he has deleted the post and realizes the Veterans Affairs agency does not need more negative press, “That’s not me.”

The hospital has apologized to veterans and called the post “unacceptable.”

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.

VA Waives Choice Act Resident-Rate Requirements: Military Connection

Choice Act

By Debbie Gregory.

In order to make it easier for veterans and their families to receive their GI Bill benefits where they choose, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald has delayed the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions.

The time allotted for states and territories to comply with Section 702 of the Choice Act is challenging for some states and schools, due in part to the necessary legislative and/or policy changes.  This limited waiver by Secretary McDonald covers programs that are not in compliance for all terms beginning prior to January 1, 2016, in order to allow time for non-compliant states and territories to make the requisite legislative and policy changes.

Under Section 702, the VA must disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) benefits if a school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.

The current maximum tuition benefit is just over $20,000, so veterans have to dig into their pocket for any university that charges more than that. Out-of-state tuition at public universities often exceeds $20,000 a year.

“Our military members and their families make sacrifices that require them to pack up and move with little notice,” said McDonald.  “They shouldn’t be penalized after they leave military service by burdensome residency requirements.  This waiver will allow students to continue receiving the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned as states work to comply with this important law.”

Many states already offer In-state tuition to any veteran, but there are 18 states that will be affected by this new law. Those are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon program grant veterans additional funds to help make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state fees. However, the program has limitations and special requirements, meaning not all veterans will qualify for funding that covers all their expenses.

For more information on GI Bill resident-rate requirements and to see which states comply, visit the GI Bill website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp.

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.

Bergdahl Faces Rare Charge: Military Connection

Bergdahl Faces Rare Charge

By Debbie Gregory.

In the Army’s case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan, military prosecutors have reached into a section of military law seldom used since World War II.

For months, there has been speculation if Bergdahl would be charged with desertion after the deal brokered by the U.S. to bring him home. He was — but he was also charged with misbehavior before the enemy, a rare offense that carries a potentially stiffer penalty.

Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.”

Soldiers who served with Bergdahl have said that the search for the accused deserter endangered other troops and diverted resources from other units.

Cody Full, 28, Bergdahl’s former platoon mate, and Evan Buetow, 28, who was the sergeant and team leader of Bergdahl’s unit, welcomed the new charge levied against the accused deserter.

“You give an oath,” Full said. “You sign your name to serve your country no matter what you’re supposed to fill that oath.”

“The whole reason we came forward last year when they released Bowe, we knew he needed to answer for what he did,” added Buetow. “We knew he was not a hero… He had to answer for why he deserted, and that’s what happened.”

Bergdahl has also been accused of “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty,” a charge that carries a potential five-year sentence, noted the Army statement.

On September 17th, his case is scheduled to go to an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury, and would recommend whether the case goes to a court martial.

Five senior Taliban figures were exchanged for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

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.

Pilot Reaches Elite Milestone: Military Connection

Pilot Reaches Elite Milestone

By Debbie Gregory.

For Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Hibbard, a 333rd Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, the clouds are like a second home. Hibbard joined two other active-duty F-15E pilots in clocking more than 3,000 hours, the equivalent of more than four continuous months in the air.

His journey began in 1995, as an F-15 student, an experience Hibbard described as “exhilarating.”

“The simulator and ground briefs prepared us for all of the procedures we would execute, but nothing prepares you for the kick in the pants, the G-forces and the mind-racing visuals of a flight in an F-15E. Over time, I’ve grown accustomed to the physical demands, but the joys of dominating the aerial environment haven’t faded.”

Although Hibbard has deployed seven times and flown more than 1,550 sorties,he’s doesn’t get caught up in statistical credentials.

Nevertheless, upon landing from the sortie that took him over the 3,000 hour mark, Hibbard was joined by family and friends to celebrate his achievement. “My wife of 22 years has supported me the whole way (as well as) all the unsung Airmen doing their best to make this milestone possible,” said Hibbard.

As an instructor pilot, Hibbard said he plans to continue passing down his knowledge and expertise to all the younger pilots who come through his classroom.

During his long career with the U.S. Air Force, Hibbard had deployed to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and at Seymour Johnson AFB. He was also at the 90th FS at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson when F-15Es were deployed there.

“I can tell you the 3,000th hour didn’t feel very different from the 2,000th or 1,000th hour, but it feels a lot different from that first hour,” Hibbard said. “I look forward to being able to continue to fly the Strike Eagle for as long as the Air Force will allow me.”

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.

Drones Seek Out Terrorists: Military Connection

Drones Seek Out Terrorists

By Debbie Gregory.

The CIA and U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces have launched a secret drone program designed to hunt down and kill high-value members of the Islamic State (IS).

Among those recently killed was 21 year old Junaid Hussain, a British militant thought to be an architect of the terrorist group’s effort to use social media to incite attacks in the United States. Hussain moved up in the “target list” after his name was linked to one of the two gunmen who opened fire at the Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland in Texas earlier this year.

The collaboration represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al-Qaeda as a threat.

The CTC has been given an expanded role in identifying and locating senior IS figures, with the strikes being carried out exclusively by JSOC. The officials said the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”

The program is a move away from the president’s stated ambition to end the CIA’s involvement in drone strikes and return the agency to its traditional spy role.

The decision to enlist the CIA and JSOC reflects rising anxiety among U.S. counterterrorism officials about the danger the Islamic State poses, as well as frustration with the failure of conventional strikes to degrade the group’s strength. President Barack Obama’s goal is to “degrade” and “destroy” the jihadist movement, as it continues to control large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

IS poses different challenges, because unlike al-Qaeda, IS has extensive territory, a seemingly endless stream of recruits, and a deep roster of senior operatives, many of whom served in the military of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

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.

Father, Daughter Helicopter Pilots Fly Together: Military Connection

polis

By Debbie Gregory.

The Polis family from East Patchogue, New York spent many years sharing their love of flying. As a young dad, Stephen Polis piloted his family on many occasions. His daughter, Meghan grew up thinking that her dad’s job as a pilot was pretty cool. Now as an adult, father and daughter have flown together again, but this time, with both of them as pilots.

With a career both as a civilian pilot flying corporate jets and helicopters, and later as a military pilot, dad Stephen has logged more than 10,000 hours in each. Joining the National Guard as a mechanic, then crew chief, Stephen’s focus was understandably on flight school. As New York Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3, Polis had conducted test flights as a maintenance test pilot, and then flew air assault and medical evacuation missions.

The family tradition continued when daughter Meghan enlisted in the National Guard, initially serving as a mechanic, and now as an Army Warrant Officer.

Flying was in her blood, and Meghan proceeded to accomplish her flight training this past February.

Both father and daughter are now UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, headquartered in Ronkonkoma, New York. They co-piloted a morale flight during the 42nd Aviation Brigade’s annual training for mechanics, fuelers, supply people and other support personnel. The maneuvers displayed the capabilities of the Black Hawk.

“It’s just kind of been a part of the family and I always felt like I could be a part of it,” Meghan said of their family tradition. “By the time I came around to making the decision to do it myself, the little bit of aviation background I had was exactly the route I wanted to go.”

Stephen was a proud father when he had the honor of pinning Meghan’s wings on his daughter during her graduation ceremony, just as his own father had done years before, on the very same stage.

“A lot of family tradition is being created here,” Stephen said. “It was pretty prideful. Very rewarding.”

You might wonder how father and daughter felt, flying beside each other.

“It’s really cool to actually be able to sit in the seat next to him,” said Meghan. “I’ve always kind of felt like I really wanted him to know how I fly, and now I guess he’s got an assessment and it’s not that bad.”

Ultimately, Stephen complimented Meghan on her ability as a pilot, saying she did a good job, making him proud.

Father, Daughter Helicopter Pilots Fly Together: Military Connection: By Debbie Gregory

Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Office Open for Business: Military Connection

Pentagon's Silicon Valley

By Debbie Gregory.

One might not expect the Pentagon to have a branch office. But the Silicon Valley area of California is now home to just that.

The Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx for short, has begun operations near Moffett Federal Airfield’s WWII-era airship hangars. The DIUx director, George Duchak, is joined by Rear Adm. Brian Hendrickson to develop alliances with the progressive innovators of the region.

The landmark move will position key Pentagon staff to focus on meeting tech companies with commercial components in order to improve military equipment. Duchak has worked at the Air Force research Laboratory, DARPA, as well as in the private sector with tech companies and startups. Hendrickson is a Naval Academy graduate with an MBA from Harvard and experience with SEAL teams and US Special Operations Command. With both men having an entrepreneurial mindset, their mission is part of a Pentagon initiative to find technologies that will prepare troops for the battlefield of the future. It is evident that technologies such as robotics, cyber, additive manufacturing and big data analytics will be critical to defense.

“We’ll learn a lot about what technologies are emerging in the high-tech world and they’re going to learn a lot about what we need,” Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said.

By positioning themselves in the heart of Silicon Valley, Pentagon officials hope to gain insight as to how industries approach innovation.

“We need to prove to the Valley that we aren’t this big ponderous beast — that we can turn some things certainly a little faster if they are very promising, have good technology behind them and we see a way to get there,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said.

“One of the reasons that we’re establishing this new presence in Silicon Valley is to have a visual presence out there and get people to think about the DoD as a source of financing and as a potential customer,” Kendall explained. He hopes to assure tech companies that the Pentagon is not looking to confiscate anyone’s ideas or work.

“We want to make sure people understand that we’ll respect their intellectual property.”

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: Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Office Open for Business: By Debbie Gregory

Expansion of Boots to Business Program: Military Connection

boots to business

By Debbie Gregory.

Considering an exit strategy when moving from one career to another can be challenging, but for military personnel it may be much more complex. Servicemen and servicewomen know that they will be moving to civilian status in a given amount of time. The skills they acquired in the military may not easily translate to civilian careers, thus many veterans opt for entrepreneurial endeavors.

One program is making that transition easier, particularly for those considering business ownership when they leave the service. Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) as a training track within the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program.

SBA and Defense Department officials are now expanding the Boots to Business program beyond transitioning troops to any service member at any time in their career. The program offers courses that service members can utilize while they are still enlisted to begin their track to post-military self-employment opportunities. Officials advise that it is prudent to begin exploring post-military opportunities well before they separate. When space allows, the program is also available to military spouses.

The two-day Boots to Business course offers valuable information to any service member who wants to learn about business ownership. This insightful experience offers an overview of business fundamentals and techniques for evaluating their business concepts.

“It takes a while to learn the language of business,” said Barb Carson, Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development. “It’s not that troops can’t quickly learn if they have to. But it helps to have some exposure to market, time to get some capital together, time to test the idea out before launch.”

According to the SBA, veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Ten percent of all small businesses in America are veteran-owned. More than 27,000 separating service members have participated in Boots to Business training over the past three years.

Subsequent to the two-day session, an eight-week online course is an option through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. James Schmeling, co-founder of the institute, said that the courses allow students to use the information in months for short-term projects, or years later for long-term goals. He added that the extra planning time also can calm the military-to-civilian transition for many service members, allowing them to switch careers with a clearer vision of their path ahead.

“So for those who take the courses earlier, it gives them more time to identify business opportunities, look at ways to mitigate risk,” he said.

More information can be found at boots2business.org.

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.

Russia a Threat, Once Again? Military Connection

ash putin

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is calling Russia a “very, very significant threat,” agreeing with an assessment made by top military officials. Describing Russia’s behavior under President Vladimir Putin as that of an “antagonist,” Carter said a potential conflict with Russia is not something that the U.S. has had to think about since the Cold War.

During confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will take over as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs this year, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, who recently became the Army’s new chief of staff, both named Russia as the top threat.

Carter said that the Pentagon’s strategy in countering Russia included an approach he called “strong and balanced.”

“The strong part means we are adjusting our capabilities qualitative and in terms of their deployments, to take account of this behavior of Russia,” he said.

While the U.S. must deal with Russia’s new aggression on the world stage, Carter said America will continue to work with Russia on things like counterterrorism and conflicts with Iran and North Korea. This cooperation leaves the door open for a peaceful future relationship with Russia, he said.

“The balanced part is we continue to work with Russia, because you can’t paint all their behavior with one brush. There are places where they are working with us: in counterterrorism in many important respects, in some respects, with respect to North Korea, in some respects with respect to Iran and elsewhere,” he said.

“So where Russia sees its interests as aligned with ours, we can work with them and will continue to do that,” Carter added.

U.S. and Western allies were forced to impose several rounds of sanctions on Moscow last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

“We’ll continue to hold open the door so that if either under Vladimir Putin or some successor of his in the future, there’s a leadership that wants to take Russia in the direction that, I believe, is best for Russia,” Carter said.

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.