Price Tag for Airstrikes Against Islamic State Hits $5.5B

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By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. has won battles, destroyed targets, and saved towns from ISIS, but we might not be winning a war that carries with it a massive price tag.

The air war against the Islamic State group has cost the American taxpayer $5.5 billion, roughly $11.2 million per day. This is a $2 million increase since June, this according to the latest Defense Department data.

The Air Force accounts for $3.75 billion of that cost, totaling roughly $7.7 million/day since the U.S. began launching airstrikes in August, 2014.

In 2015, the Air Force conducted 21,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria, 9,000 of which included at least one weapons release. For the first time, in the last two months of 2015, the Air Force surpassed over 3,100 dropped bombs during Operation Inherent Resolve.

Recently, the U.S.-led coalition blew up a warehouse in Iraq where the Islamic State held millions of dollars in cash, a defense official confirmed.

In November, Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said that munitions from A-10s and C-130s destroyed 116 tanker trucks in what the Defense Department has called Operation Tidal Wave II — a push to limit the Islamic State’s oil revenue.

U.S. allies have stepped up their targeting of the militant group following the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the United States will convene a meeting next month of defense ministers from 27 countries participating in the fight against the Islamic State. The meeting in Brussels will focus on how each member of the coalition could contribute more to defeating the extremist group, assist with the reconstruction of cities that were held by the Islamic State, and on countering the group’s propaganda.

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.

Senate Panel Backs Atty. Michael Missal for VA Inspector General

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has approved the nomination of Washington lawyer Michael Missal to be the new chief watchdog at the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Washington, D.C. attorney, who specializes in government enforcement and internal investigations, was nominated by President in October.

Missal would fill a key position at the VA that has been vacant since the previous inspector general at the VA stepped down in December 2013. The acting IG, Deputy Inspector General Richard Griffin, retired on July 4th.

The new Inspector General will be faced with investigating an agency with a history of widespread data manipulation, management relocation schemes used to skirt rules on pay raises and massive construction cost overruns.

He told lawmakers that his inspiration for working at the VA was his deceased father, who served in Europe with the Army 286th Engineer Combat Battalion during World War II.

Missal said he recognizes “the great frustration in VA not fully meeting its mission” and vowed to work with lawmakers in finding ways to fix those problems.

“This is a particularly critical time for VA as it attempts to rebuild the trust and confidence it has lost from our veterans, Congress, veterans service organizations and the American public,” said attorney Mike Missal, who previously worked as senior counsel on a number of federal and congressional investigations.

The chairman of the Senate veterans panel, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), says the top priority of the inspector general must be to “hold bad actors at the VA accountable” for chronic delays for veterans seeking medical care and other problems at the agency.

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.

First Vessels in Navy’s Great Green Fleet Launch

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Great Green Fleet (GGF) is a Department of the Navy initiative that demonstrates the sea service’s efforts to transform its energy use. Carrier Strike Group 3 and its flagship, the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis, are the first vessels to deploy using alternative fuels.

Named after President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the concept of the GGF seven years ago.

“Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us,” Mabus said in a written statement.

The Navy is a leader when it comes to decreasing the U.S. armed forces dependence on fossil fuels. President Obama helped push the goal of curtailing fossil fuel dependence with his 2011 national energy strategy called the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

The shift from fossil fuels to alternative fuels includes nuclear power for the carrier, and a blend of advanced biofuel made from beef fat and traditional petroleum for its escort ships. These biofuels are certified as “drop-in” replacements that require no engine modifications or changes to operational procedures, and can be produced from a variety of sources.

The third-generation drop-in fuel contains much less oxygen than in ethanol and biodiesel, but holds the same energy “density” as petroleum fuels. That means the energy released is equal to its fossil counterparts.

Throughout 2016, other Dept. of Navy platforms including ships, aircraft, amphibious and expeditionary forces, as well as shore installations, will participate in the GGF by using energy efficient systems, operational procedures, and/or alternative fuel during the course of planned mission functions worldwide.

The Navy hopes to have one half of its energy from alternative fuels by 2020

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.

U.S. Veterans Who Lack Citizenship Can Be Deported

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By Debbie Gregory.

A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship, guaranteed by the Constitution, even if the sole purpose of the parent being in the U.S. is to achieve that goal. So you would think that anyone who enlists in the U.S. military and serves this country would have earned the right to become a citizen.

In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. About 8,000 troops with green cards became citizens that way last year alone.

But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.

The Obama administration has been aggressive about deporting immigrants who commit crimes, including veterans, although no one knows an exact number.

U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.

In an ironic twist, although deported veterans are banned for life, they are welcome to return when they are dead. Honorably discharged veterans, even deportees, are entitled to burial at a U.S. military cemetery with an engraved headstone and their casket draped with an American flag, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA will even pay $300 toward the cost of bringing a deportee’s remains to the United States.

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.

Transcendental Meditation as Treatment Option for PTSD and TBI

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By Debbie Gregory.

Practicing transcendental meditation may help active-duty soldiers significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study funded by the David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness suggests.

By reducing the symptoms, soldiers also can reduce their need for medications, the researchers say.

The study looked at 74 active-duty service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder, often resulting from multiple deployments over multiple years. All 74 participants were being treated at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Half the service members voluntarily practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly in addition to their other therapy. At one month, 83.7 percent of the meditators had stabilized, reduced or stopped their use of psychotropic drugs to treat their conditions. Only 10.9 percent had increased their medication dosage.

The other half of service members who did not meditate saw only a 59.4 percent stabilization rate, while 40.5 percent were taking more medication. By six months into the study, non-meditators had experienced about a 20 percent increase in their symptoms compared with those using the meditation practice.

Transcendental meditation can take those who practice it from a state of active thinking to a level of inner quietness that reduces levels of stress hormones, says study lead author Vernon Barnes, a physiologist with the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

PTSD affects about 13 percent of service members deployed to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. According to the researchers, these prolonged wars have large numbers of active duty and veteran personnel struggling with the emotional aftershocks.

Eisenhower Army Medical Center is among the first to use Transcendental Meditation in active duty personnel, although the practice has been more widely used with veterans.

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.

Partying, Overstepping Rules Contributed to Commander’s Reprimand

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By Debbie Gregory.

Allegations of misconduct have been levied against Col. Christopher Vanek, the former commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Vanek received a general officer letter of reprimand, which can often be a career killer, for allegations that were outlined in an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation.

Vanek, now the assistant chief of staff for U.S. Africa Command, relinquished command of the 75th Ranger Regiment last June.

The allegations included:

  • A risqué version of the Newlywed Game. Numerous witnesses stated that they thought the questions were inappropriate or made them uncomfortable.
  • Inappropriate costumes worn to a hail and farewell at Fort Benning, including a pantless, shoeless character from “Risky Business.”
  • A game of beer pong at a hail and farewell event.
  • A tandem jump with a female civilian during military freefall training at DeLand, Florida, which violated a U.S. Special Operations Command directive that calls for “no mixing of civilian and military jumpers during the jump operation.”
  • Free passes to NASCAR events, violating Defense Department rules about receiving unsolicited gifts.
  • Work trips where the accommodations on post or at a hotel that fell within the maximum lodging rates were bypassed for overpriced hotel bills.

Vanek submitted a request for consideration to the commanding general of USASOC in hopes of removing the reprimand from his record, officials 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.

 

K9s For Warriors: Beyond Man’s Best Friend

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By Debbie Gregory.

As man’s best friend, canines provide many benefits to their owners. Besides the physical assistance and companionship, dogs provide many social and emotional benefits to their humans.

K9s For Warriors is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization that specializes in obtaining, training and placement of service dogs to our disabled American veterans who have been injured in military service post 9/11.  The majority of the dogs they train and place come from shelters or animal rescues.

Founded in 2011 by Shari Duval, K9s For Warriors was born out of her need to help her son deal with his post-deployment Post-traumatic Stress Disability (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) after serving two tours in Iraq.  Duval’s son, Brett Simon, was a civilian K9 police officer before joining a special team whose main mission was to work with the Army. Simon is now the organization’s Director of K9 Operations and works with a team of K9 Trainers selecting the dogs and directs their training.

After two years of research on canine assistance for PTSD, Shari launched the non-profit organization to train and give service canines to assist our warriors return to civilian life with dignity and independence.

With better than 600,000 warriors returning home with disabilities, the need has never been greater.  Service canines are a proven recovery resource. For example, research has shown that it only takes a mere 15–30 minutes with your pet to feel more relaxed and calm. Playing with your dog also raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and tranquility. Furthermore, dog owners have been found to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fewer heart attacks.

K9s For Warriors does not charge for their service, and relies solely on donations. With a year’s long waiting list, there has never been a better time to throw your support behind this great non-profit. If you would like more information, please visit them on the web at http://www.k9sforwarriors.org.

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.

Sale on Military Travel Makes Vacation Stays Affordable

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We’re all constantly on the go, and taking a break for a family vacation is a great way to spend quality time together. For the families of those who serve, past and present, taking a vacation together is even more precious. It’s challenging to be a part of a military family and find time for military travel. It takes imagination, spirit, and energy. Taking vacations together can be the glue that helps you keep it all together.

In the past, financial concerns may have been one of the reasons you put off taking that much needed break. To address those concerns, for a limited time only, Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) is offering 7 night resort stays for just $299. Hurry though, this offer ends on January 29, 2016.

For more information as to how you can take advantage of this limited time offer, visit http://bit.ly/1WyJjrs

Getting away and leaving everyday stresses behind offers a huge benefit to all. Vacations give the mind and body an opportunity to decompress and relax. And who better to do that with than your loved ones?

Armed Forces Vacation Club is a free membership club open to active duty, guard, reserve, and retired members of the Armed Forces as well as civilian employees of the DOD. They also have a sister brand, Veterans Holidays, which provides vacations to our military veterans (www.veteransholidays.com).

Armed Forces Vacation Club is built around the idea that our military deserve the best. With AFVC, you can forget about cramped quarters. Spread out in family-sized resort accommodations, many of which include on-site recreational facilities, living rooms, full kitchen, washer and dryer, kids’ activities and on-site pools!

You’ll find Armed Forces Vacation Club options in destinations all over the world, including the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. With so many options, you are bound to find a vacation that is right for you.

Marine Corps Ordered to End Gender Segregated Boot Camp by April

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By Debbie Gregory.

While entry-level training for the other military services and Marine officers have been integrated for years, Marine Corps officials have maintained that separating the genders is the best way to train impressionable young recruits. But now, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has instructed the Corps to end gender-segregated initial training by April. This is a means to comply with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to open all military jobs to women.

Mabus ordered Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to submit a gender implementation plan by Jan. 15 to integrate enlisted basic training and officer candidate school.

GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) called for Mabus’s resignation over this attempt to end gender segregation at boot camp.

“The only way this relationship can be repaired, I believe, is through the leadership of a new Navy Secretary — specifically one who does not regularly make a point to undercut the Marine Corps, distract it from its mission and insult its leaders,” Hunter said in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Pentagon is currently reviewing the plans submitted by the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force detailing how they intend to open all previously male-only jobs to female troops.

The Marine Corps’ submission did not address entry training, the only military branch that segregates its entry training.

Making enlisted boot camp coed would likely require changes to infrastructure — such as restrooms and living quarters — and perhaps the size of the staff, the Marine official said.

While males may have concerns that adding females to all-male training units will diminish the challenge that recruit training provides young men, women fear it will impede the development of self-confidence among female recruits. Trainers may be leery of the sexual tension and resulting distraction that could accompany mixed gender boot camp. The most important thing to keep in mind is that recruit training is where Marines are made; not male Marines, not female Marines, but all Marines

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.

Many Veterans Suffer From Hidden Brain Trauma

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By Debbie Gregory.

New research done by scientists at Johns Hopkins University has found that thousands of wounded war veterans have return from service with undiagnosed brain injuries.

The resulting physical pain and mental distress has a profound impact on the veterans. In addition to withdrawing and hiding symptoms from loved ones, sufferers have an increased risk of memory loss, cognitive struggles, mood disorders, migraine headaches, addiction, insomnia and suicide.

A major contributor to the injury toll among combat personnel is the recent widespread use of IEDs. Thanks to strengthened body armor and improved battlefield medicine, soldiers today survive blasts that not long ago would have been fatal. But the high-powered explosives also leave troops vulnerable to other injuries, including loss of limbs and head trauma.

According to the study, there is a line of demarcation between those who suffered injuries before 2010, and those who incurred them afterwards, when there was a positive cultural shift relating to the mental health and emotional well-being of those who served. Servicemembers who were injured after 2010 were much more likely to be diagnosed and treated.

However, the researchers reported that progress was still needed and that many veterans said that they were passed between different branches of the military’s medical infrastructure without receiving appropriate treatment.

Researcher Rachel P. Chase accompanied her brother Nate on a trip to visit an Army buddy when the discussion of TBIs in the military came up. Deciding to make that subject her PhD thesis, Chase immersed herself in the lives of veterans, compiling their stories of frustration, anger and determination, and counting their unseen battle wounds that often left deep and enduring scars.

Chase’s PhD thesis was titled “You Don’t Have Anything to Give but Your Word and a Faulty Memory.”

Her hope is that her work will help spotlight the issue of undocumented TBIs in the military and serve as a starting point to develop new policies that better meet the complex needs of affected veterans.

“I think these results need to be a part of the conversation as we figure out … how are we going to take care of our service members and vets,” she said.