Army Captain Florent Groberg Awarded Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

“On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best.”

These are the words that President Obama said, just prior to presenting Army Captain Florent Groberg with the Medal of Honor.

In 2012, Groberg rushed and tackled a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan.

Although Groberg has spent much of the last three years recovering from 33 surgeries, he saved countless lives on that fateful day when he disregarded thoughts of personal safety and allowed his training to kick in.

As the head of a personal security detachment in the Fourth Infantry Division, Groberg was escorting commanders on foot to a weekly security meeting at the provincial governor’s office in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar Province.

When the group approached a narrow bridge, they saw two motorcycles heading toward them, which tuned out to be a diversion from the real threat.

As Groberg tells it, “A man came out of a building walking backwards, which was eerie, and then started walking towards us. I left my post. As I maneuvered towards him, Sergeant Mahoney to my left maneuvered with me,” referring to Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, who received a Silver Star for his actions that day.

Captain Groberg confronted the man. “I pushed him as hard as I could and honestly I just wanted to get him as far away from my guys as possible. He had a dead man’s trigger, which means he had already pressed the trigger prior to walking towards us. As he hit the ground chest first, he let go the trigger and he detonated.”

The explosion set off another bomb nearby. “It was the worst day of my life because even though we defeated the enemy, I lost four of my brothers.”

The four Americans who lost their lives were: Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin and Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy of the Army; Maj. Walter D. Gray of the Air Force; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, a Foreign Service officer with the United States Agency for International Development.

President Expected to Sign National Defense Authorization Act

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By Debbie Gregory.

Congress sent President Obama a revised $607 billion defense policy bill that the Senate overwhelmingly approved, 91-3, just days after the House passed the bipartisan measure, 370-58.

In spite of the National Defense Authorization Act limitations, especially the provisions designed to block Obama from moving some detainees to federal prisons, the president is expected to sign to sign the bill.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there are too many important provisions in the defense bill for another veto.

“I would expect that you would see the president sign the NDAA when it comes to his desk,” he told a news briefing.

Closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay is an unfulfilled promise of Mr. Obama’s presidency, and Earnest said that the administration would continue to press that goal. “[The signing] certainly does not reflect a change in our position, or the intensity of our position, about the need to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

The annual defense policy bill has passed each year for more than half a century and is one of the few bipartisan achievements of the current Congress.

Among the changes: the bill updates the military retirement system; establishes a new 401(k)-style retirement benefit for all service members; adds a number of reforms to the Pentagon’s acquisition system; strips substantial authority for acquiring new weapons from Pentagon leaders, authorizing the military branches to oversee their own programs; imposes new restrictions on transfers to third countries, including Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

Congress must pass the remaining 11 appropriations bills, or a larger omnibus agreement, by December 11th , when a temporary spending measure expires. Despite the budget accord, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, warned that a government shutdown was still possible, but said there had been progress toward a larger accord on appropriations.

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.

Preventing Substance Abuse in Today’s Army

Cynthia Hamala, part of Fort Lee’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, briefs Soldiers from Foxtrot Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ord. Brigade, about the ASAP within the Army. (Contributed Photo)

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army has decided to put medical officials back in charge of drug and alcohol abuse treatment for soldiers. Approximately 20,000 soldiers are screened each year for substance abuse.

While many of us know that a growing percentage of veterans struggle with addiction and excessive alcohol use, many of us may not know that the problems often begin during active duty. The stress of repeated deployments, long absences from loved ones, combat exposure, and, for too many women, sexual assault, all take their toll.

Army Secretary John McHugh decided to shift oversight of the program back to the Army Medical Command from the Installation Management Command after it was determined that close to 50% of those who needed treatment were deemed to be healthy, and denied treatment.

The Army is looking to fix the system that broke it shifted command of the program from medical to nonmedical leadership. That’s when program goals shifted from an emphasis on the treatment of each individual to filling “slots” and getting reports in on time. This resulted in an exodus of clinicians, increased vacancies, eroding care, and subsequently, poorer outcomes.

The Army plans to integrate substance-abuse counselors within mental health clinics that are embedded within combat brigades. The reasoning is two-fold: it will make care more accessible, while reducing the stigma of needing help. Currently, substance abuse counselors work in separate clinics on each Army base.

“What we have found is that our soldiers are more willing to go into an embedded behavioral health facility to be seen,” said Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, deputy commander for operation under the Medical Command.

The reorganization of these substance abuse programs under Army Medical Command– which is expected to be complete by October 2016, and is being lauded by experts and advocates alike.

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.

Britain’s Prince Harry Salutes All Who Serve

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By Debbie Gregory.

Britain’s Prince Harry was greeted by cheers when he entered Wells Field House at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to officially launch the 2016 Invictus Games. The Prince, who is the Patron for the games, was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and they all “high-fived” the athletes who had lined up to meet them.

The inaugural Invictus Games took place last year in London, England, using the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women worldwide.

In May 2012, Prince Harry met with five injured service members in Washington, D.C., before accepting a humanitarian award for his charity work with wounded warriors. He then attended the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado, which is where the idea for the Invictus Games was born.

“I saw the power that sport could play in the recovery of both mind and body,” he said. “I left Colorado with a determination to broaden this to an international audience.”

Prince Harry attributed the 10 years he spent in the British army as life-changing. He did two tours of duty in Afghanistan and shared a flight home with three British soldiers in comas and a Danish soldier who had been killed in action. That’s when the reality of war really sunk in.

“From that moment, I knew I had the responsibility to help all veterans who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries to lead healthy and dignified lives after service,” he said.

The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and sick service personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury.

“The games epitomized the very best of the human spirit — men and women who had not only adjusted to life, but embraced it, proving what can be achieved post-injury rather than focusing on what cannot,” Prince Harry said.

Joining Prince Harry on his trip to the U.S. were two competitors from the British Armed Forces team who took part in last year’s Games.

Mickaela Richards, from the Royal Navy, won three medals at the 2014 Invictus Games. A former Captain with the Army in the Royal Engineers, Rob Cromey-Hawke won two Gold medals in the cycling event.

“Sport has played such a huge part in my recovery. The Games last year taught me that I don’t need to be defined by my injuries and that I can achieve as much as I did when I was in the military. In fact, it’s inspired me to do more and more with my life,” said Cromey-Hawke.

The 2016 Invictus Games will take place in Orlando, Florida May 8th-12th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

 

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.

Are You Going to “Greenlight a Vet?”

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By Debbie Gregory.

America’s veterans are some of our nation’s bravest, hardest-working men and women. However, it’s hard to show them the appreciation they deserve when, back home and out of uniform, they’re more camouflaged than ever.

Now a major retailer is calling attention to the professional and personal struggles some veterans face once their military service comes to an end. Greenlight A Vet is Walmart’s campaign to establish visible national support for our veterans by changing one light to green.

The project should compel ALL Americans to show greater support for the men and women who have fought two wars on their behalf while encouraging veterans to seek the support they may need.

Why green? Green is the color of hope, renewal and well-being. “Greenlight” is also a term commonly used to activate forward movement. The simple action of changing one light to green is intended to spark a national conversation regarding the recognition of veterans, and “greenlight” them forward as valued members of our communities.

To participate, all you need to do is install a green light at your home and/or workplace and turn it on for Veterans Day. This will show your gratitude for the service and sacrifices made by more than 2.5 million military families since the nation went to war in 2001. Additionally it will call attention to several veteran advocacy groups, including the IVMF Syracuse University, Team RWB, Team Rubicon and Blue Star Families.

The Greenlight A Vet website launched Oct. 26th, and is collecting digital support for the initiative. As of this writing, the clicks of support surpassed 2,000,000. The final tally will be displayed during the New York City Veterans Day Parade.

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.

Next Generation Stealth Bomber Coming

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By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. Air Force team of approximately 80 people are overseeing the service’s most sensitive aircraft project in decades: the development of a new stealth bomber to be built by Northrop Grumman.

“The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation’s security,” said Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush. “As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber.”

The move will more than likely create thousands of jobs in Southern California, with much of the work expected to be done in Palmdale. Both Palmdale and the neighboring city of Lancaster have suffered in the last couple of decades as aerospace firms moved jobs out of California to states where wages and other costs are lower. The project will also benefit dozens of smaller companies that supply the major aerospace firms.

Informally being called the B-3, the strike aircraft will be able to fly deep into hostile areas, undetected, where it can unleash serious munitions against an enemy. The emphasis of this next generation bomber will be on stealth and range, and is predicted to be airborne within the next 10 years or so.

The bomber team works inside the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, a unit that specializes in “delivering eye-watering capabilities,” according to William LaPlante, the service’s acquisition chief.

While the military wish list has been kept secret, as have been most aspects of the new bomber, it will be fully loaded, with lots of technologies and next-gen innovations.

The military is expected to invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 billion in creating this game-changing tech, with the B-3 stealth aircraft costing approximately $564 million each. The number of aircraft to be produced is estimated to be between 80 and 100.

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.

Hacker Arrested for Providing Info to IS

hacker

By Debbie Gregory.

Authorities have arrested a Malaysia-based hacker who they accuse of stealing personal information of U.S. military members and giving it to ISIS.

Operating under the pseudonym “Th3Dir3ctorY,” Ardit Ferizi led a group of ethnic Albanian hackers from Kosovo. Malaysian and U.S. authorities say that Ferizi is believed to be leader of Kosova Hacker’s Security. He has been arrested in Kuala Lumpur for computer hacking and allegedly providing the information to the Islamic State group.

Malaysian national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar says the 20 year old man was arrested September 15th. The initial investigations revealed that Ferizi was in contact with a senior Islamic State group leader in Syria.

The data, which includes home addresses and photos, was allegedly passed on to Junaid Hussein, a British hacker who was active on social media recruiting Westerners to join ISIS, authorities said. Hussein was killed in an airstrike in August.

John Carlin, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General said that the case against Ferizi, which combines cybercrime and terror charges, is the first of its kind.

This arrest demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt ISIL’s efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur,” Carlin said in a statement. ISIL is another name for the Islamic extremist group ISIS.

Ferizi entered Malaysia in August, 2014, supposedly to further his computer science studies at a college in Kuala Lumpur. He is under remand on a provisional arrest warrant while authorities in the United States apply for his extradition.

Although Ferizi did little to portray an ideological adherence to jihad, his hacking background and connections made him an ideal pioneer in the jihadi-hacker arena.

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.

App to Aid in “Night Terrors” Relief

mybivy

By Debbie Gregory.

As of 2015, 3.6 million United States military veterans have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses, many due to witnessing traumatic and life-threatening events during deployment.

One major symptom of PTSD is ‘night terrors,’ in which a person gets little or poor sleep due to recurring troublesome thoughts or emotional triggers. Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Skluzacek, who spent a year in Iraq, was one of the people who was experiencing night terrors.

Skluzacek’s son Tyler, a senior at Macalester College, wanted to do something to help his dad.

Inspired by his dad’s struggles, Tyler developed myBivy, (short for bivouac, temporary soldier’s quarters) an application for smartphone and smartwatch that tracks a veteran’s heartbeat and movements in order to track night terrors and actually prevent them over time. Post-sleep, the veteran can see how they slept the previous night, while also having the option to submit a statistical report to their VA doctor or clinician.

“After a couple weeks of tracking the soldier we can find … the exact symptoms of the onset of the panic attack and try to use the watch or use the Android phone to disrupt that or take them out of the deep sleep but keep them asleep,” Tyler said.

Tyler said the app will use sound or vibration to prevent night terrors. He has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and sleep experts.

The myBivy app earned Tyler and his team top prize in the Best Mobile Application for Clinicians category. The team was awarded $1,500.

With seven days to go on their KickStarter campaign, myBivy has raised over $23,000, well past the original goal of $1,194.

The app has yet to go through clinical trials, but Tyler hopes that in the near future, there will be one on every veteran’s wrist.

“My team and I kind of have a saying right now that my team and I won’t sleep until the veterans can,” he 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.

Warrior-Scholar Project Preps Transitioning Students

WSP

By Debbie Gregory.

Military veterans have more life experience and maturity than the average traditional-aged college student. With that said, they can still benefit from extra guidance as they make the transition to a residential college environment often designed for 18-year-olds

Non-profit Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) is an academic boot camp aimed at veterans who plan on attending or transferring to a 4-year college. Funded by foundations and private donors, the one and two-week programs are immersive and demanding. Veterans run the sessions, which are taught by university professors and graduate students. The curriculum is designed to help participants prepare to tackle the reading lists of rigorous college courses.

The project began at Yale in 2012 with 9 participants. Since then, the boot camps have spread, first to Harvard University and then to the University of Michigan, Vassar, UNC Chapel Hill, Syracuse, Cornell, Georgetown, U of OK, U of So. CA, and U of Chicago.

The application requests information about the prospective students’ military experience, academic background and plans for college, and includes a series of short essay questions.

WSP is now accepting applications for its 2016 academic boot camps. The programs are open to enlisted veterans and transitioning current service members who plan to enroll in or transfer into a four-year undergraduate program. With the exception of transportation, WSP’s generous donors cover all program costs for accepted students. If you would like to apply online, click here. Applications will be accepted until March 14, 2016, and all students will receive responses by early April, 2016. Course dates and locations will be determined by January, 2016.

Also, for universities interested in hosting a bootcamp, the application for new host institutions is now open. Please find additional information on becoming a Warrior-Scholar Project Host Institution click here.

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.

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Step Up to End Vet Homelessness

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

By Debbie Gregory.

To demonstrate their commitment to veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America (BPO Elks) announced that it has committed $4 million, over a 4-year period, to help end Veteran homelessness.

While the organization is committed to the mission, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them,” the Elks’ Veterans Service Commission, established in 1946, takes that pledge one step further. In VA clinics, veterans’ homes, USOs, homeless shelters and more, thousands of Elks volunteers give generously of their time, energy and resources to serve veterans and military members each year. Just this year alone, approximately 1,300 Elks members volunteered more than 117,000 hours of service at VA facilities nationwide.

Now, in their quest to end veteran homelessness, the Elks have joined forces with the Veterans Administration (VA) to launch pilot programs in Washington DC, Chicago and New York City. In addition, the organization is calling on the group’s 800,000 members across the country to support efforts to support homeless Veterans in their communities. In this fiscal year alone, approximately 1,300 Elks members volunteered more than 117,000 hours of service at VA facilities nationwide.

“We’re so excited about partnering with the Elks on this important issue impacting far too many Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “As we move closer to our goal of ending Veteran homelessness, partnerships like these will be critical to ensuring that all Veterans have access to safe and affordable housing.”

“Our goal is to provide the tools and support necessary for homeless Veterans to transition successfully into healthier and more stable lives,” said Mary Morgan, Director of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission. “Most Americans agree that Veteran homelessness should not exist, but few people know how they can help.”

Many Elks lodges partner with a local VA Medical Center or Stand Down organization to give homeless vets a place to receive food, clothing, hygiene supplies, medical checkups and counseling.

Elks provide school supplies for veterans’ children, and help families with car repairs, employment searches and job training. Additional Elks projects include: ramps and stair lifts, rental and utility assistance, backpacks of survival gear for homeless vets, dental services, bus passes and laptop computers to disabled vets.

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.