Marine Corps Opens Twitter Dialogue with Comedienne Sarah Silverman


By Debbie Gregory.

Emmy winning comedienne Sarah Silverman was not joking around when she tweeted concern for her nephew to the Marine Corps, in light of the boot-camp abuse scandal. Silverman, who has nearly 9 million Twitter followers, tweeted to the Marine Corps’ main account twice and once to another account affiliated with its Recruiting Command.

The Marine Corps responded by reassuring Silverman that the service branch  is committed to her nephew’s success as a recruit at Parris Island, S.C

The scandal alleged that numerous drill instructors abused recruits at what is likely the U.S. military’s best-known boot camp.

In the most tragic incident, Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui, 20, fell three stories to his death in March after running away from a drill instructor who had hit him. The same drill instructor has been accused of putting another recruit in an industrial-size dryer last year and turning it on multiple times.

Up to 20 Marines face either criminal or disciplinary action, and the service has removed numerous senior officials at Parris Island after investigations found that they had not done enough to stop it. More than 100 other cases of abuse and hazing in the past few years at the recruit training center also have been substantiated, according to military documents. The service has not released any information about most of those.

Silverman asked for reassurances that her nephew will be safe during recruit training.

The Corps responded with, “We appreciate and understand your concerns and thank you for sharing them directly with us. Rest assured, the recent circumstances regarding recruit training in the media are not indicative of the manner we transform young men & women into Marines. We are actively engaged in ensuring everyone with a loved one or family member working hard to earn the title Marine is assured and informed. We remain committed to your nephew’s success, and when he’s earned the title Marine he’ll be proud and so will we! See you at his graduation.”

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.

Air Force General Optimistic Regarding the F-35 Program


By Debbie Gregory.

The F-35 program, the most expensive weapons system ever made, has had a rough couple weeks. In September, a ground fire during training and a supply issue led the Air Force to suspend flight operations for 15 F-35As.

But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein isn’t worried. He said he was “very confident that we’re going to be getting this fixed.”

The faulty cooling lines affected a total of 57 aircraft. On Sept. 16, 15 of the F-35As were found to have faulty coolant line insulation, which had begun to peel. The additional 42 jets were in various stages of production.

The F-35 joint program office rolled out a retrofit plan for those jets, which involves cutting into the wings and removing the insulation from around the coolant lines and inside the fuel tank.

Then, on September 23rd, an F-35A burst into flames before takeoff during an exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The fire was extinguished and although the jet was damaged, the pilot was unharmed.

The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has delivered 108 F-35As. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the jets.

Of the 15 grounded aircraft already in the field, 10 had been declared combat ready, one was being used in testing, and the final four were for training, with two of those four training aircraft belonging to the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

The F-35A is the Air Force’s version of the jet. The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy will also have their own F-35 variants.

Neither of the Marines’ or Navy’s aircraft were affected.

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Marine Slogan The Few. The Proud. Headed for Retirement?

Marine slogan

By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps is exploring the possibility of using a new tagline, replacing the current “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”

Set to launch next year, Lt. Col. John Caldwell, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command said the current slogan…“ does a great job distinguishing ourselves from the other branches and making us prestigious to recruits, but it doesn’t say anything about what we do or why we exist.”

The objective of the new advertising campaign is to show Americans how the Marine Corps is different from the other services and reinforce “the elite — almost spiritual — standards the nation has for Marines,” Caldwell said.

While Caldwell did not say specifically what the new advertising campaign will show, the basis is on three concepts: fighting self-doubt to become a Marine, fighting the nation’s battles and fighting for what’s right in our communities.

“What we’re looking for is consistent messaging from the beginning to the end of all those ads – so not to introduce a different or an incomplete thought associated with the new material,” Caldwell said.

Previous slogans that date back over one hundred years include “Tell That To The Marines,” “We Don’t Promise a Rose Garden,” “The Marine Corps Builds Men” and “The Change is Forever.”

Over the past 40 years, in addition to the current slogan, the Corps has used “If Everybody Could Get In The Marines, It Wouldn’t Be The Marines” and “We’re Looking for a Few Good Men” were put to use during the same time frame.

The new campaign is expected to be ready for approval by senior Marine Corps leadership either late this year or early next.

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.

Carter Orders Pentagon to Halt CA National Guard Bonus Paybacks

nat guard

By Debbie Gregory.

Calling the situation “unacceptable,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to suspend efforts to recover enlistment bonuses improperly given to thousands of California National Guard members during the height of the Iraq war.

The demand would have affected some 9,700 California Guard members who had received enlistment bonuses, student loans or other payments, mostly between 2006 and 2008.

Soldiers argued that it was unfair to require them to repay the money — often $15,000 or more per soldier — when their only mistake was to take financial incentives that recruiters offered. Many served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some were badly wounded.

Carter gave senior officials in his department until the end of 2016 to set up a new and streamlined process that can ensure “the fair and equitable treatment of our service members and the rapid resolution of these cases,” with a deadline of July 1, 2017 for all cases to be decided. He said the suspension would continue until he was “satisfied that our process is working effectively.”

“Ultimately, we will provide for a process that puts as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own,” Carter said. “At the same time, it will respect our important obligation to the taxpayer.”

Carter said “hundreds of affected Guard members in California had sought and been granted relief” after filing appeals with the Pentagon.

“But that process has simply moved too slowly and in some cases imposed unreasonable burdens on service members,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

The Pentagon says thousands of soldiers who received re-enlistment money weren’t eligible for the program — and years after paying out the money, it wants it back.

Some veterans have been sending hundreds of dollars a month to repay their bonuses; others have faced wage garnishment, interest accrual and a long appeals process. Soldiers say the appeals process is slow and nerve-wracking for their families.

“I want to be clear: This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members. Too many cases have languished without action,” Carter said. “That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”

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 Claims the Title of Fattest Branch of the Military

fat soldier

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. military is growing larger, but not in a good way.

Today’s military is fatter than ever, and according to Pentagon statistics, the Army is the heaviest, with 10 per cent of soldiers considered clinically overweight.

Weighing in at a close second is the Air Force, and the Navy is in third place.

The Marine Corps appears to have the fittest service members. With that said, some 4,800 Marines appear to be heavier than regulations allow.

The Pentagon’s data is based on body mass index, or BMI. Individuals with a BMI greater than 25 are considered clinically obese.

Weight issues have broad implications for the health and readiness of today’s force.

But military officials caution against placing too much emphasis on BMI scores, which simply evaluate an individual’s height and weight to flag those who might have unhealthy levels of body fat. The measurement is often criticized as a blunt tool that wrongly identifies bodybuilders with heavy muscle mass as being fat while missing flabby and unfit people with lanky body types.

The rate of overweight troops is far less than the civilian population, with approximately 70 percent of U.S. adults having a BMI above 25.

The Army emphasizes  that fitness is an important part of its culture.

“The physical readiness of our soldiers is imperative to unit readiness and mission accomplishment,” said spokesman Paul Prince. “The Army has strict physical fitness requirements and has multiple, coordinated initiatives in place designed to improve the readiness and health of the total Army.”

An Air Force spokesman said,  “Our Air Force is healthy and fit to fight, with approximately 96 percent of airmen passing the test in the past two years, which is up significantly from the 2010 pass rate of 87.6 percent.”

And a Navy spokesman highlighted changes made to its annual fitness test last year that make it more difficult for sailors to fail the body composition assessment portion of the Navy’s physical fitness assessment.

But failure will come at a higher cost, as two failures within three years can result in a sailor being kicked out of the Navy, according to the service’s new rules.

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.

Dunford Outlines Military Strategy


By Debbie Gregory.

Change is coming at strategic levels in the Defense Department, according to Gen. Joseph Dunford , the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The soon-to-be-finalized National Military Strategy will focus on developing international alliances, projecting power to faraway places, and reframing the definition of war to aid in the Defense Department’s planning processes.

The U.S. needs better ways to deal with Russian behavior in Ukraine and Georgia, Iran’s actions across the Middle East, and China’s behavior in the South and East China Seas, Dunford said.

“Each of those nations have leveraged economic and political influence, information operations, unconventional operations and military pressure to advance their national interests,” he added. “I refer to that as adversarial competition that has a military dimension, but falls short of actual conflict.”

The traditional U.S. approach is to think the nation is at peace or at war, but these countries are blurring the lines between peace and war, according to Dunford.

“I like to remind people who have a high level of confidence in assumptions on when, where and how we will fight the next fight … that the Korean War took place right after some of the best strategists that we’ve ever produced as a nation decided to rebalance to Europe,” he said. Military operation plans, therefore, are ill-suited to prepare forces for what defense leaders consider an increasingly complex international security environment, according to Dunford.

A re-evaluation of what constitutes war is necessary because Russian activities in Europe have been carefully orchestrated to fall below the West’s threshold.

Dunford alleged that Moscow was specifically seeking to undermine America’s ability to project power and “the credibility of our alliances” because those two capabilities represent the “centers of gravity” from which the US military draws strength.

“We don’t have mission command today at the strategic level,” he said. “And more importantly, we haven’t set the fundamental conditions that are necessary to establish mission command.”

Previously, the Pentagon’s National Military Strategy documents have been released publicly, but the new version will be classified. The documents are waiting for approval from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

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 America Losing The Cyber War?


By Debbie Gregory.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election

Russia, as well as China, Iran and North Korea routinely launch cyberattacks.

Russia has demonstrated its ability to integrate full-scale cyberwar into its military maneuvers, further threatening U.S. allies along its border.

President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation.

Complicating the ability to hit back are strict policies on how the U.S. is willing to conduct digital warfare. There are hard-line barriers between cyber operators cleared to carry out the government’s business and those who aren’t.

Too many U.S. combat commanders believe developing cyber tools is as clear-cut a process as making and employing conventional weapons.

America’s cyber shortcomings were at the center of a congressional hearing earlier this month during which Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, pressed the nation’s two top officials for digital combat to appraise the military’s ability to respond to cyber aggression.

“The cyber threat is one of the greatest challenges we face,” offered Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

The Arizona Republican prodded, citing former Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey’s troubling acknowledgement in January 2015 that cyber is the only major field of warfare in which the U.S. doesn’t have an advantage over its foes.

“It’s a level playing field,” the Army general said at the time, “and that makes this chairman very uncomfortable.”

The CIA’s cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say.

The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can’t interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.

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.

Some US Military Options in Syria


By Debbie Gregory.

When considering a U.S. military option to help end the Syrian civil war, following the collapse of a temporary ceasefire negotiated in September, the Obama administration could be considering these options.

Imposing a no-fly zone over Syria: This would mean all aircraft would require prior permission to fly over Syria, or risk being shot down.

This action would require a number of aircraft in the skies to monitor and patrol, take out threats or violators, and conduct search and rescue missions, which would be resource intensive. Opponents believe this action would take resources away from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Another downside would be the threat of the U.S. being drawn into a war with Russia or Syria, if they violated the no-fly zone and sparked a confrontation.

Establishing safe zones: A safe zone would be a designated area where civilians can take refuge from military threats. The zones could be protected on the ground by an international coalition of forces, with air support provided by the U.S. Patriot missile systems in Jordan and Turkey.

The downside to a safe zone is that this would require a lot of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to detect violations, as well as ground forces to protect the zone.

Target Assad’s air force:Another option would be grounding Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s air force.

Ret. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said grounding the air force would take far fewer resources than implementing a no-fly zone, and could be done within 24 hours.

The downside to this option is that it could cross over into “acts of war” against Syria — something the Obama administration has wanted to avoid thus far.

Another option could be providing anti-aircraft systems, including man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels fighting the regime. That could help them take down Russian and regime aircraft, particularly low flying military helicopters dropping barrel bombs.

But the administration has had concerns antiaircraft weapons would fall into terrorists’ hands and be smuggled into the U.S. or used against U.S. air assets.

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.

Alternative PTSD Therapies Catching On


By Debbie Gregory.

The broad acceptance of PTSD after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has posed an unexpected challenge: what is the best way to treat it?

Traditional medical approaches usually rely on drugs, which is not terribly popular with veterans. This has given rise to hundreds of alternatives, including: therapeutic fishing, rafting, backpacking trips, horse riding, transcendental meditation, yoga, dogs, art collectives and dolphin swims, just to name a few..

There has been a marked increase in the number of veterans seeking treatment beyond drugs. New studies suggest that these therapies can be as beneficial as drugs in reducing depression and anxiety without side effects or stigma. That’s why spending some time in downward dog may be just what the clinician orders—or should consider—for veterans with PTSD.

Yoga offers a unique and ancient system to manage the mind and emotions. There are several principles that yoga has to offer which help unravel the mysteries of our experiences and their impact.

The Atlanta VA Medical Center’s recreational therapy program has partnered with the Georgia Aquarium in a program called the Veterans Immersion Program. Since its founding, the program has hosted more than 1,300 military personnel who have injuries both seen and unseen. Participants of all abilities are welcome 365 days a year to swim or dive alongside whale sharks and manta rays.

Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW), a division of the David Lynch Foundation, offers the Transcendental Meditation-based Resilient Warrior Program, a simple, easy-to-learn, evidence-based approach to relieving symptoms of PTSD and major depression and developing greater resilience to stress. Since its initial launch in 2010, the OWW initiative has partnered with leading veterans service organizations, Army and Marine bases and VA medical centers across the country.

Artists for Trauma uses artistic expression to provide a creative portal to aid recovery, process complex emotions, regain confidence and build self-acceptance after suffering a traumatic experience.

There are many more alternative therapies available. Treating PTSD is no longer a one-size-fits-all.

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.

Quadruple Amputee Marine Veteran Receives Double Arm Transplant


By Debbie Gregory.

During his first tour of duty, Retired Marine Sgt. John Peck suffered a traumatic brain injury. But in a subsequent tour in 2010, Peck’s life completely changed.

During that second tour, Peck stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, which triggered a blast that caused him to lose his arms and legs.

After losing his limbs, Peck was equipped with prosthetic arms and a wheelchair. However, in 2014, he was approved to undergo a double arm transplant, in which he would receive real arms from another young man — a man who died.

In August, the 31-year-old veteran underwent a bilateral arm transplant. The 13-hour surgery was performed by a team headed by Simon G. Talbot, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s director of upper extremity transplantation.

His donor’s arms were surgically connected to Peck’s body near his elbows, which doctors say will allow him to eventually feel, grasp and hold in a way that prosthetics couldn’t.

“My dream job since I was 12 was to be a chef, and because of my donor’s gift, I actually have a fighting chance to do this,” Peck said. “As a result of this surgery, I’ll be able to pursue my dreams.”

Although Peck had significant out-of-pocket expenses, a spokeswoman for Brigham and Women’s said the hospital covered the cost of the surgery, and the physicians volunteered their time.

Of his donor, Peck said, “I will love him every day and will respect his life and this gift until the day I die.” To his donor’s family, Peck said, “Your loved one’s death will not be for nothing. Every day that I look down at our new arms, I will drive on . . . and I will never give up. I will remember his selflessness and his gift until the day I die.”

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.