Smarter Military Bases

smarter bases

By Debbie Gregory.

Meeting the unknown challenges of the 21st century depends more on the creativity of those in uniform to see new connections and opportunities than it does on any killer app or new technology.

And this smart-city technology could be coming to a military base near you.

The use of artificial intelligence, analytics, automation and robotics could make military bases both safer and more efficient.

According to Ted Johnson, the Defense and National Security Research Manager at the Deloitte Center for Government Insights, he believes that the connectivity to these technologies will be an integral part of shaping out future world.

“Compare the way cities will look in the future — and are beginning to look today — to how military bases look now and have looked for the last 50 years,” Johnson said. “It’s obvious there are advantages to be realized in upgrading military bases with these new technologies. No matter what aspect of the base you’re looking at, there is a comparable smart technology and application of that technology in a city or university or an airport that allows for efficiencies to be realized and for upgrades to occur”.

While smart technologies are slowly being put to use on military bases, there are significant security, operational, and economic benefits yet to be realized. The smart military base is the key to tomorrow’s fighting force.

Smart energy initiatives are already being utilized.

For example, the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, in conjunction with Georgia Power, deploys solar panels that provides their own independent power source during emergencies.

There are also smart construction initiatives happening at an Air Force base in Colorado.

The slow roll-out is due to security concerns. When these technologies can increase security, streamline operations and deliver efficiencies, they will be more quickly adopted by military bases.

Supplemental funding coming from the Trump administration to the Pentagon, focusing on streamlining capabilities and realizing efficiencies, may provide the impetus to get the ball rolling across the board.

Johnson is a retired commander in the United States Navy where he primarily focused on cyber policy and signals intelligence.

Tell us what technologies you believe will make your base more efficient and safer.

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.

Info on VA Streamline Home Loans

irrl

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) strives to help  servicemembers, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses obtain home loans so that they may become homeowners.

A VA loan provides a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for personal occupancy. These loans are obtained through private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide more favorable terms.

A VA Streamline (also known as Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or by its acronym IRRL ) is a refinance opportunity that enables refinancing of a VA Loan to a lower rate, or from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. When deciding on refinancing, it’s important to determine whether it is beneficial to do so. The general rule of thumb is that if you can refinance and reduce your interest rate by 1% then it is something worth considering. However, it’s important to consider other factors, such as closing costs and how long you plan on living in the property.

An IRRRL can only be made to refinance a property on which you have already used your VA loan eligibility. It must be a VA to VA refinance, and it will reuse the entitlement you originally used.

An IRRRL may be done with “no money out of pocket” by including all costs in the new loan or by making the new loan at an interest rate high enough to enable the lender to pay the costs. But there is no opportunity to receive any cash out from the loan proceeds.

The occupancy requirement for an IRRRL is different from other VA loans.  When you originally got your VA loan, you certified that you occupied or intended to occupy the home.  For an IRRRL you need only certify that you previously occupied it.
The loan may not exceed the sum of the outstanding balance on the existing VA loan, plus allowable fees and closing costs, including funding fee and up to two discount points.  You may also add up to $6,000 of energy efficiency improvements into the loan.

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.

Muslim Chaplain Will Meet Spiritual Needs at Lewis-McChord

chaplain

By Debbie Gregory.

In January, Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz will become the first Muslim division-level chaplain in the history of the U.S. military – a Muslim spiritual leader for more than 14,000 mostly Christian soldiers.

Shabazz, 48, will administer spiritual leadership to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division at Lewis-McChord. He is one of only 10 Muslim chaplains in the entire U.S. military; of the Army’s 1,400 or so chaplains, just five are Muslim.

“When you get the call saying you have been bestowed a division, the news is kind of like, unearthly,” Shabazz said. “The list is so small and it’s such a tough cut.”

Shabazz came into the world as Michael Barnes, born into a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.

After high school, Shabazz headed to Jarvis Christian College, a historically black college in the small town of Hawkins in eastern Texas. Upon graduation, he returned to Louisiana and began teaching biology to fifth-graders at an elementary school in his hometown. He said he wasn’t prepared for how despondent he became at seeing so many children whose growth was stymied by poverty or poor parenting; he struggled to accept that he couldn’t help them all.

After just six months, he quit. At age 23, he decided to join the Army, thinking that it would help him mature and make him a better, stronger teacher afterward.

While stationed in Baumholder, Germany, Shabazz began studying Islam on his own.

After two years, he decided to convert to Islam, taking the name Khallid Shabazz. He said that there had been no single tipping point in his thinking, just a deep identification with Islamic tenets, such as the lack of a clerical hierarchy and the emphasis on charity.

It was a decision that his family found hard to accept.

“I do still go to church with my family – that’s an important part of reaching across the aisle,” Shabazz said. “It would be improper for me to disrespect something that instilled in me so much of who I am.”

Shabazz’s conversion caused a few speed bumps with the military as well. He had to write memos for religious accommodation, such as time to perform the traditional Friday prayers. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, while keeping up his physical activity, was also challenging. Dietary restrictions were also an issue.

Shabazz has now been in the Army for 26 years, 18 years as a chaplain. He’s been deployed seven times – including Iraq, Kosovo and a stint at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was sent to advise commanders on religious issues after a string of scandals.

“My job is not to convert anybody to Islam. God guides people. My only goal is to have people leave my office stronger than when they came in.”

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.

DoD-funded School at Center of Federal Probes Over Suspected Chinese Military Ties

Yanping Chen Frame

By Debbie Gregory.

The University of Management and Technology (UMT), located in Arlington, Virginia, United States, is an accredited institution of higher education offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs and professional development programs.

The school, based four miles from the Pentagon, has been at the center of multiple federal probes about its leadership’s alleged ties to the Chinese military and whether thousands of records from U.S. service members were compromised.

The U.S. taxpayer-funded school has a campus in Beijing and partnerships with universities around the world, and claims to have had 5,000 graduates in the last five years.

But the school’s leadership has drawn the attention of the FBI, the Justice Department, the Pentagon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) since at least 2012 — and perhaps as early as 2009.

In December 2012, the FBI made two very public raids of UMT and the northern Virginia home of university president Yanping Chen Frame and its academic dean, her husband J. Davidson Frame.

Yet since those FBI raids, UMT has continued to collect more than $6 million from Defense Department tuition assistance programs as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs through the post-9/11 GI bill.

“It’s a bad deal for the soldiers, and it’s a bad deal for the taxpayer,” said Stephen Rhoads, a military veteran turned whistleblower who says he worked with the FBI on the case.

Chen, who appears to have served in the People’s Liberation Army, came to the United States in 1987 from Beijing on a non-immigrant visa with her daughter Lele Wang. She may have been a full colonel.

The Chinese government funded Chen’s research at George Washington University where she received a Ph.D. in Public Policy in 1999, the year after UMT was created.

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.

Drugs Vanish at Some VA Hospitals

opioids

By Debbie Gregory.

Opioid theft, missing prescriptions, and unauthorized drug use by staff at federal hospitals has increased sharply since 2009, according to a recent investigation.

Now, federal authorities are stepping up investigations at more than 1,100 Veterans Affairs medical centers.

The investigation by the Associated Press revealed that drugs intended for patients simply disappeared.

Aggravating the problem is that some VA hospitals have been lax in tracking drug supplies.

“Drug theft is an area of concern,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the VA’s acting assistant inspector general for investigations.

Both the inspector general’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said they have increased scrutiny of drug thefts from the VA, with the DEA reporting more criminal investigations.

It’s not clear if the problem is worse at the VA than at private facilities, where medical experts and law enforcement officials say drug theft is also increasingly common in a time of widespread opioid abuse in the U.S.

But the VA gets special scrutiny from lawmakers and the public, given Americans’ esteem for veterans served by the agency, and because of past problems at the VA, especially a 2014 wait-time scandal in which some patients died.

The drug thefts from VA also raise the possibility that patients will be denied medication they need or that they will be treated by drug-impaired staff.

Perhaps the problem of missing medicine is no worse at the VA than in private facilities, but the VA is charged with caring for the nation’s wounded or ill veterans, and should be held to a higher standard. Our nation’s new VA secretary should make fixing this problem a priority, and ensuring that the drugs designed to treat our military veterans end up in the hands for which they are intended.

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.

Best High Tech Jobs for Veterans

techjobs

By Debbie Gregory.

High tech jobs for veterans are a natural transition, given their abilities to take initiative, problem-solve and make decisions, skills that they honed during their military service.

Those who have served are also well-versed in computers.

For employers, hiring military veterans makes perfect sense. If you’re wondering what some of the top high-tech jobs for veterans are:

  • Project Manager is probably the most natural transition point for most service members. They are in charge of the planning and execution of a particular project, and the foundational skills required are quite similar to what many learn in the military.
  • Solutions Architect is a great position for problem solvers. Solutions architects work with their company’s clients processing feedback on their company’s product, and providing solutions based on that feedback.
  • Software Development Manager is a managerial position, a good use of leadership skills. There are a number of responsibilities, but the primary ones are to get a product out the door or deliver results to the customer.
  • Data scientists are in demand, and the position entails knowing how analyze and interpret complex digital data, such as the usage statistics of a website, especially in order to assist a business in its decision-making.
  • Analytics Managers design, configure, and maintain a data analysis tool that allows them to analyze data and make conclusions about it.
  • Software Engineers apply the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that make computers or anything containing software work.
  • UX Designers enhance user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.
  • Mobile Developers will work in the development of mobile applications.
  • QA Managers monitor software testing processes or test new products.

If you have a technical background, consider one of these great career paths.

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.

 

How to Correct Your Discharge and Military Records

fix records

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has renewed its efforts to ensure veterans are aware of the opportunity to have their discharges and military records reviewed for errors or omissions.

By utilizing Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and other outside groups, as well as direct outreach to individual veterans, the DoD is encouraging all veterans who believe they may have an error or injustice on their record to request relief from their service’s Board for Correction (BCM) or Discharge Review Board (DRB).

For express consideration are issues pertaining to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and sexual assault.

The DoD is reaffirming its intention to review and potentially upgrade the discharge status of all individuals that are eligible and that apply.

Veterans who desire a correction to their service record or who believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade, are encouraged to apply for review.

For discharge upgrades, if the discharge was within the last 15 years, the veteran should download and complete theDD Form 293.

For discharges over 15 years ago, the veteran should download and complete the DD Form 149.

Keep in mind that the more information provided, the better the boards can understand the circumstances of the discharge.

Explain why the veteran’s discharge or other record was unjust or erroneous; was it connected to or a result of unjust policies, a physical or mental health condition related to military service, or some other explainable or justifiable circumstance.

And keep in mind that post-service conduct and contributions to society are an integral part of an upgrade or correction. If you volunteered to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, or was a fellow with the Mission Continues, be sure to include that, along with documentation of support.

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.

Special Privileges Reserved for Medal of Honor Awardees

MOH

By Debbie Gregory.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.

On December 9, 1861, Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced Senate Bill No. 82 to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of   “medals of honor.” Less than two weeks later, the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” Similar bills were introduced and passed to honor service members from other branches.

Sadly, the award is often bestowed posthumously to fallen heroes in recognition for their extraordinary acts of valor. Living Medal of Honor recipients are given the following special privileges and special benefits:

  • Special Medal of Honor pension of $1,303.51 per month above and beyond any military pensions or other benefits for which they may be eligible, including cost-of-living increases
  • Special entitlements to Space A air transportation (travel on aircraft under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense when excess capability allows)
  • Enlisted recipients are entitled to a supplemental uniform allowance
  • Commissary and exchange privileges (includes eligible dependents)
  • Admission to U.S. military academies, without nomination and quota requirements, for qualified children of recipients
  • A 10 percent increase in retired pay
  • Medal of Honor Flag
  • Permission to wear the uniform any time, as long as the standard restrictions are observed
  • Medal of Honor automobile license plates in states where they are available
  • Interment at Arlington National Cemetery if not otherwise eligible

One footnote: Medal of Honor recipients are just that, recipients. They are not winners, because they didn’t win their medals, they earned them.

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.

The Best Answers for Law Enforcement Interview Questions

mil to law

By Debbie Gregory.

Law enforcement officers and military veterans have a lot in common: both wear their uniforms with pride; both are a part of a larger team of professionals protecting those who can’t protect themselves; both put their personal safety at risk; and both operate within a rigid command structure. There is a natural path that leads many military veterans to seek government jobs for veterans, including jobs in law enforcement when they transition to the civilian workforce.

Some pre-planning can help close the deal after the interview process to secure law enforcement jobs for veterans.

The interview is where you get your sole opportunity to make a good first impression. Preparing your answers to commonly asked interview questions can make or break your chances of getting the law enforcement job you are hoping for.

Why do you want this job? Don’t answer that you think it would be a cool job. Draw on those similarities between military service and law enforcement: the service to those who can’t protect themselves, the camaraderie, and being part of a team.

What are your salary requirements? When it comes to compensation, don’t give an exact number. You should be familiar with the salary range, and you can say that you expect to be paid the appropriate range for this job, based on the location and your experience.

What is your biggest weakness? Focus on something that you have worked on to improve. For example, if your tactical driving skills were less than what you were happy with, share some of the details of the advanced driving course you took.

Tell Us About You. If you’re asked to tell your interviewer about who you are, resist the temptation to give a chronology of your adult life. Instead, focus on your life experiences as they pertain to the job.

Why should you be hired? Again, call on your military service, stressing that you are a physically and mentally fit candidate. You have good decision-making abilities, common sense, and respect a paramilitary chain of command.

Why are you leaving your current job? If you’re transitioning out of the military, this is an easy question to answer. Remember, if you’re a veteran, you shouldn’t badmouth a previous boss. If you had one that was particularly challenging, focus on what you learned from that person.

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.

Wearable Technology May Determine Severity of TBIs

blast

By Debbie Gregory.

Modern body armor better protects warfighters against shrapnel from explosive blasts. However, they still face a hidden threat — the resulting blast pressure and shock wave which could cause traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Navy researchers are developing a wearable system that could help determine the severity of a brain injury, often called an invisible wound, following an explosion.

The Blast Load Assessment Sense and Test (BLAST) is a five-year, $30 million program that will use sensors in helmets to measure the shockwave thrust of an explosion.

BLAST uses coin-sized sensors which are tough enough to survive an explosion, can be worn on helmets and body armor, and are able to record blast pressure. This pressure can be downloaded with a specialized scanner, and design possibilities include a handheld, barcode-style scanner or a stationary one modeled after airport metal detectors. An algorithm will convert the data to determine if the affected warfighter needs an additional exam.

“When you’re injured mildly, you don’t want to get another injury on top of that because they don’t add up linearly,” said Dr. Timothy Bentley, program manager for the Office of Naval Research’s Warfighter Performance Department. “One plus one doesn’t equal two, but one plus one may equal three, even, because you’re weakened.”

Data from BLAST could signal when an affected warfighter needs to be pulled out for treatment or can return to the fight.

“BLAST sensors can provide valuable blast pressure data that can be used to assess the possibility of TBI,” said Dr. Amit Bagchi, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, which is developing the physical sensors. “The more data we have, the better we can predict the presence of TBI.”

“We’ve learned a great deal about how brains get injured now, much more than we knew previously,” Bentley said.

BLAST could be tested in a year, although its rollout, if approved, is still several years away.

The program is sponsored by the Washington-based Office of Naval Research and involves its Naval Research Laboratory, the University of North Carolina, NASA and New Mexico-based research firm Applied Research Associates Inc.

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.