Navy SEALs Prepare to Open Doors to Women

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By Debbie Gregory.

Navy SEALs training may soon be open to women.

If orders come from Navy officials, the academy could open the screening test to women as soon as this spring.

With Defense Secretary Ash Carter announcement that all military positions will open to women, all Navy service assignments will be open to female midshipmen.

At the Naval Academy, officials said Monday they were awaiting orders on how to meet Carter’s mandate. At earliest, the Class of 2017 could send the first women to SEALs training, according to Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commandant of midshipmen.

“We will ultimately respond to the timeline that’s established,” he said. “There has always been interest from the female members of the brigade.”

With SEALs assignments being highly competitive, Academy officials routinely send very few midshipmen to SEALs training. The final numbers depend on the needs of the Navy.

From the class of 2012 through the Class of 2015, a total of 117 mids to were sent to SEALs training.

Prior to earning their spots, these midshipmen must take the academy’s screening test. Although officials declined to describe the requirements, they did say that the test is a “24-hour physical and mental exercise, which includes both team and individual physical activities and assessments.”

Vice Adm. Walter Carter Jr., the academy superintendent, said the standards won’t change for women.

“There won’t be two tests,” he said.

The approximately 60 midshipmen who pass the screening are sent to a three-week evaluation at the Naval Special Warfare Command, in Coronado, California. About half of them are approved to enter SEALs training upon graduating from the academy. The notoriously difficult SEALs school is known as BUD/S, Basic Underwater Demolition training.

The Naval Academy’s male graduates maintain about a 90 percent success rate, Carter said. Meanwhile, some 80 percent of outside candidates fail the training, he said.

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A Dusty Boot Soldier Remembers

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A Dusty Boot Soldier Remembers, written by Military Connection user Larry Redmond, is much more than a memoir. It is a fast-paced, hard to put down account of Redmond’s service; the places he went and the people he met, as well as the history he experienced and witnessed. The book traces his adventures from college graduation as a second Lieutenant of Infantry to his retirement as a colonel.

Redmond’s service and travels took him to some out of the way places in addition to the norm for any infantryman.  He served overseas in Panama, two tours in Vietnam, one tour in Thailand (assigned to a little known unit, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center looking for our Missing in Action and POWs), a five month TDY in Israel on the Golan Heights as a UN Observer during the 1973-1974 “war of attrition,” and his final overseas assignment as a student at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London England.

He served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY and twice in Vietnam with that storied unit (67-68 / 71-72). His service in the 8th Special Forces in Panama and assignment in Thailand were unique unconventional periods with many one of a kind stories. He also served at XVIII Airborne Corps before going to the 82d Airborne and command of the 1-505 Airborne Infantry, the Black Panthers. As commander of that battalion he led them on a real world operation at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA to control Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boat Lift. While at XVIII Airborne Corps he was involved in testing and certifying our initial Counter Terror units. Earlier in his career he served at Infantry Branch in Washington as an Assignment Officer and then attended the Navy Command and Staff College, effectively, as he terms it “escaping from Washington.” He was assigned as the Senior Offense Instructor at the Infantry School for four years and his tales from that time are quite interesting.   Colonel Redmond’s last assignment was as Chief of Plans at United States Central Command, MacDill AFB, Florida.

His experiences were definitely not the norm. Every page brings a new revelation, or experience, or fabled soldier he served with and leaves the reader wondering, what next? Deemed a primer for young officers and NCOs by several who have read it, the book is an easy, illuminating, quick read. Chapters stand alone. One reviewer called it “A look at both the shiny and tarnished elements of our Army, and our Joint Services, over the years, and a tribute to our great soldiers and leaders.” It rates as a must read.

Fighting a “Social Media” Enemy

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By Debbie Gregory.

While social media can be a tool of liberation and freedom, it can also be used for the rapid dissemination of harmful information.

Such is the case with homegrown terrorists who support the Islamic State, commonly referred to as IS, ISIS, and ISIL. According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in some cases, they are “just losers with a keyboard.”

Rather than calling followers to the front lines, ISIS’s social media strategy cultivates them at home in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the result can be devastating, as demonstrated by the violent attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California.

Carter called ISIS the United States’ first “social media enemy.” But, the United States will defeat them, he said.

“We have to be ingenious, and that’s why I’m committed to thinking and working and adapting so that we change our techniques and our avenues of attack so they don’t know we’re taking them by surprise, and we’re doing new things to defeat them,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing that until they’re defeated, which they will be.”

Dismantling a website or Twitter feed is a temporary solution, since it’s so easy to create a new one. But in a step to control abuse, Twitter has clarified its definition of abusive behavior that will result in deleted accounts, banning “hateful conduct” that promotes violence against specific groups.

“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease,” according to the revised rules.

The social media company disclosed the changes in a blog post, following rising criticism it was not doing enough to thwart ISIS’ use of the site for propaganda and recruitment.

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.

Army Electronic Warfare School Preps Soldiers for Tech Battles

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By Debbie Gregory.

Ft. Sill is home to the Army Electronic Warfare School, a program that puts soldiers at the forefront of a key component of the Army’s overall fighting strategy.

Rather than fighting with bullets or bombs, troops are learning how to disrupt an enemy’s communications systems, using electromagnetic signals. Soldiers are also learning how to defend against such attacks.

Because it’s an ever-changing, ever-evolving threat environment, the school gives soldiers a highly technical education. They start with the properties of electricity and radio waves, and then move into electronic warfare systems.

In December, 2012, the Electronic Warfare Specialist Basic Course graduated the first 28 soldiers. They received the EW collar insignia at a graduation and cresting ceremony. A crest identifies a Soldier’s military occupational specialty, and inside the crest are symbols that describe a Soldier’s duties. The EW crest features a lightning bolt, key and shield.

The lightning bolt represents the Army’s intent to rapidly, decisively and precisely strike at the adversary with an electronic attack. The key symbolizes the means by which Soldiers unlock access to knowledge of the adversary, and the safekeeping of friendly capabilities and knowledge through electronic support and protection. The shield represents the unconditional commitment to electronically protect people, information and equipment from danger and harm.

Approximately 500 students graduate from the program each year. Strong math skills are really the only requirement needed to do well.

While they’re at the school, soldiers are exposed to a broad range of electronic warfare techniques, from jamming enemy communications to defeating radio-controlled roadside bombs. The program also trains soldiers to cope with a so-called hybrid threat, or an enemy that uses cyber attacks as part of a larger strategy that also includes conventional warfare.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke to a group of national security experts and defense officials, saying that electronic warfare was one of several areas where the U.S. Defense Department was investing in hopes of countering threats and “challenging activities” made by Russia.

Defense officials have said the Russian military is using its sophisticated electronic warfare capability to jam Ukrainian military communications in eastern Ukraine.

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.

Ft. Hood Says Goodbye to the Hug Lady

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By Debbie Gregory.

On December 23rd, the family of soldiers at Fort Hood lost a beloved supporter.

For the last 12 years, Elizabeth Laird, lovingly known as the Fort Hood Hug Lady, physically embraced hundreds of thousands of Fort Hood soldiers. More often than not, her hug was the last one soldiers received before boarding a plane for deployment, and the first one they received when they returned home. Regardless of the time of day or night, or her own personal trials, she was there.

Just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Laird began volunteering at Fort Hood with the Salvation Army. And she always found time to shake a hand or two. One day a soldier asked for a hug instead, and that simple act began her legacy.

The 83-year-old great-grandmother had been battling cancer for some ten years. But in spite of her illness, she regularly made her way to Fort Hood and hugged the necks of those being deployed. She reassured those who were afraid, and provided company to those who felt alone. She encouraged and prayed for them all.

A GoFundMe page was set up to cover $10,000 of her medical expenses, but as a final embrace, nearly $95,000 from more than 3,000 donors was raised.

Unbeknownst to many, Laird herself was former military, having joined the Air Force at 18. She ended up at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

An online petition is circulating, with nearly 24,000 signatures, for the Fort Hood Deployment Center to be named the Elizabeth Laird Deployment Center.

“For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return,” Col. Christopher C. Garver, III Corps public affairs officer, said in a statement. “It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices … she will be deeply missed.”

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.

Most Male Commandos Say No to Women Serving in Special Forces

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By Debbie Gregory.

According to a RAND survey, many of the men in the U.S. military’s most dangerous jobs feel that women have no place on their special forces teams.

In blunt answers to the voluntary survey, more than 7,600 special operations forces said, almost unanimously, that allowing women to serve in Navy SEAL, Army Delta or other commando units could hurt their effectiveness. They also expressed concerns that women serving in the special forces could lower the standards and drive men away.

They also expressed concern that women wouldn’t have the physical strength or mental toughness to do the grueling jobs.

Since the survey was taken, May through July 2014, women have broken through the special forces barrier by graduating from the Army Ranger course. However, the detailed results and comments written by respondents have only just been released following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement that he was opening all combat jobs to women.

That decision was based on recommendations by the military service secretaries and the leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command. Only the Marine Corps asked to exempt women from certain infantry and frontline positions, but Carter denied that request.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Steve Russell had asked the Department of Defense for documents about the women who attended Ranger School after becoming concerned that “the women got special treatment and played by different rules.”

Some 85 percent of the respondents said they oppose opening the special operations jobs to women, and 70 percent oppose having women in their individual units. More than 80 percent said women aren’t strong enough and can’t handle the demands of the job. And 64 percent said they aren’t mentally tough enough.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, noted that women have already moved into some special operations jobs, including as helicopter pilots and crew, members of cultural support teams in Afghanistan and in civil affairs and information operations.

The services must submit implementation plans that would address such issues by today.

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.