Bill to Create Career Tracks for JAGs


By Debbie Gregory.

A bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would require each branch of the military to allow a portion of its Judge Advocate General (JAGs) to specialize in litigation.

“The lack of specialized JAG litigators that currently exists in many branches of our military is an injustice to our service members who may be hindered from receiving the best trial possible,” said in a statement Thursday.

Aimed at bolstering expertise in the military justice system by creating a career litigation track for the JAG Corps, the bill would put military lawyers in the Army, Air Force and Marines to be on par with the Navy, which already allows JAGs to specialize in litigation.

“Improving our military justice system will ensure victims of sexual assault and other crimes receive legal advice from well-qualified, experienced JAGs in the military justice system,” Ernst said. “Our service members — both victims and defendants — deserve the best.”

The bill aims to:

  • Increases prosecutorial experience, ensuring victims, including sexual assault survivors, work with seasoned prosecutors
  • Develops seasoned defense counsel
  • Empowers new JAG officers by providing an experienced co-counsel in the courtroom
  • Creates a talent pipeline of experienced litigators
  • Provides protection for skilled litigators who otherwise may have been forced out of military justice practice or military service due to lack of jobs for military justice practitioners at higher ranks or a preference for generalists

Senator Ernst and Senator Gillibrand also implemented a review of this program in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Air Force Culture Change Pressed By New Secretary

Heather Wilson2

By Debbie Gregory.

New Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson thinks the Air Force has too much bureaucracy, too many regulations and too many people stuck doing busy work. And she wants to breathe some fresh air into the branch.

The Air Force is currently facing a crisis-level shortage in fighter pilots as well as an aging fleet, and the Rhodes Scholar is looking to improve all aspects of the service branch.

Wilson, 56,  feels that this may happen by relieving airmen of undue bureaucratic and training requirements, which many believe has driven Air Force pilots into commercial aviation.

Wilson’s attitude is: “Let’s not try to tell them how to do everything. Let’s tell them what to do, and let them surprise us with their ingenuity.”

The Air Force has 660,000 airmen, but is struggling to keep up with its demands. Wilson is advocating for adding additional aircraft and people.

The Keene, N.H. native was recruited for the job by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a science and engineering university where Wilson served as president.

“Heather Wilson is a leader for all seasons,” Mattis said in a statement. “She distinguished herself as an active-duty Air Force officer and as the president of a university. Her experience in Congress and the private sector made her the ideal choice to lead the Air Force.”

Wilson was one of the first women to join the Air Force Academy when classes were opened up to women.  She graduated in 1982 from the Air Force in Colorado Springs. She had secured a slot in flight school, but was surprised to learn she also had been accepted as a Rhodes Scholar.

She earned her doctoral degree at Oxford University. She worked as a planning officer at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and at the Pentagon.

“To me, I work for General Mattis and the United States Air Force, and I am here to serve the Air Force and organize, train and equip the Air Force and make sure it sustain combat operations in air and space,” she said. “My role is to focus on securing that, and that’s what General Mattis has asked me to do. That’s a mission that can and am happy to do.”

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Will the DoD Renege On Enlistment Contracts for Foreign-Born Service Members?


By Debbie Gregory.

Some 1,000 foreign-born service members whose visas have expired while they were enlisted under the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) could be facing deportation.

The DEP, also called the Delayed Enlistment Program or the Future Soldiers Program, allows individuals to sign an enlistment agreement to report on a certain date for training, but they are not yet a member of the United States Armed Forces until they enlist in the regular component of their selected branch on their ship date.

But under a proposed Department of Defense policy, these individuals may have their contracts cancelled and be deported. Most of these enlistees are DEPpers who are already preparing for military service while they await their recruit-training entry.

The undated action memo prepared for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis by personnel and intelligence officials at the Pentagon and obtained by the Washington Post. The memo describes potential security threats of immigrants recruited in a program designed to award fast-tracked citizenship.

Under the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, the DoD has recruited legal aliens with critical skills, such as certain health care professionals and experts in certain languages. But those service members, as well as new MAVNI recruits have been draining Army fiscal and manpower resources.

The DoD has recommend “canceling enlistment contracts for all 1,800 awaiting orders for basic training, and halting the program altogether,” according to Army veteran Alex Horton, a reporter for the Washington Post. Additionally, 4,100 troops, most of whom are naturalized citizens, may face “enhanced screening.”

Defense Department spokesman Johnny Michael said that the agency is reviewing program requirements, declining to confirm the existence of the memo or ongoing internal discussions.

If their contracts are cancelled, many of them are in immediate danger of deportation.

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Would Changes to the GI Bill Impact Military Recruitment?


By Debbie Gregory.

Patriotism is usually among the top three reasons people give for joining the military. So is the promise of great educational benefits provided through the GI Bill. With that said, changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education benefits would probably have a bigger impact on military recruitment and retention if the recipients actually understood what they were getting.

It is common knowledge that a college education is expensive. A recent RAND report evaluating military education benefits revealed that many new recruits and service members don’t really understand what their benefits entail.

Some of the benefits you could be eligible for through the Post-9/11 GI Bill include 100% coverage of tuition and fees paid directly to a state operated college or university on your behalf, a monthly living stipend based on your school’s zip code, an annual book and supply stipend, a one-time relocation allowance, and the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or eligible dependent. And since 2009, servicemembers are not required to contribute to the program to access the benefits.

Veteran advocacy groups, including the Student Veterans of America, have been pushing Congress to make changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that would expand eligibility for wounded service members and reservists.

For the report, RAND researchers polled 165 new recruits who had yet to attend boot camp, in order to ascertain how much they knew about the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefit. While education was among the recruits’ commonly cited reasons for joining the military, many were unclear about the actual details of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The new recruits who were well informed about the benefits were generally older, more likely to have college experience and more likely to be female.

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New Forever GI Bill Unveiled


By Debbie Gregory.

It looks like big changes may be on the horizon for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The “forever” GI Bill, officially titled the “Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017″ looks to be a broad, permanent bill of rights for student veterans and their families. And it has a pretty good chance of passing through Congress.

Named for Harry W. Colmery, the past American Legion national commander who hand-wrote the original GI Bill in 1944, the proposal contains reforms to benefit Purple Heart recipients, reservists, veterans’ surviving dependents, and victims of for-profit school closures.

If the bill, introduced on July 13th  by House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman and Republican Rep. Phil Roe, is passed by Congress, it will affect veterans who become GI Bill-eligible after January 1, 2018.

Major changes would include:

  • The elimination of the 15-year “use it or lose it” time limit on veteran education benefits
  • A permanent change to the program’s name- just “GI Bill”
  • The guarantee of full veteran benefits for ALL Purple Heart recipients
  • Help for victims of predatory for-profit schools
  • Assistance for survivors and dependents by extending Yellow Ribbon eligibility to those survivors
  • Changing housing allowances for student veterans to the same BAH as similarly situated active-duty service members

The Student Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Got Your Six, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors assisted in putting the bill together and readying it for approval.

“This beefed-up Post-9/11 GI Bill recognizes the long service and sacrifice of the one percent of Americans who have voluntarily put their personal lives on hold to fight an unimaginable multi-front war for 16-plus years,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy.

What do you think?

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Calling All Marines:$10K Bonus for Early Re-Enlistment



By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps has announced that as part of its fiscal year 2018 budget, the service branch will pay out $10,000 to Marines who sign their re-enlistment by September 30, 2017. The bonus is in addition to any Selective Retention Bonus.

“Retaining our experienced and qualified Marines remains one of the Commandant’s highest priorities,” the Corps announced in the budget document released on July 6th. “Achieving retention goals is vital for shaping and sustaining the Marine Corps’ enlisted force.”

Marines are eligible for retention bonuses based on their rank, military occupational specialty and how much active-duty service they have in the military.

Marines who volunteer to serve as drill instructors, recruiters, or security guards will get a bonus of $20,000. The highest bonuses will go to Zone B Marines (who have between 6 and 10 years of service) in the 2612 cyber MOS, who are eligible for a rate of $98,500 over a six-year reenlistment period.  But according to Capt. Scott Steele, career force planner at Manpower & Reserve Affairs, there are only eight Marines who are eligible for that particular payout.

“Zone A” Marines have between 17 months and 6 years of service; “Zone C” Marines have between 10 and 14 years.

The other service branches have all announced similar plans to rebuild force structure with the exception of the Navy, which decreased 14 selective reenlistment bonus levels and eliminated six skills from the list of bonus-eligible careers.

“The intent is to keep them  — to the maximum extent possible  — within the unit that they’re already in,” said Col. Gaines Ward, manpower plans officer for Manpower & Reserve Affairs.

“It’s a greater return on the investment for the time that the commander puts into training these individuals to have these qualifications.”

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.


Military Plane Crash Kills 16


By Debbie Gregory.

In the worst Marine crash since 2005, 15 Marines and a Navy Sailor were killed when their KC-130 air tanker went down Monday afternoon in the Mississippi Delta.

While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, based on the extensive five mile radius of the debris field, the plane experienced an explosion at high altitude.

“Two large impact areas are half a mile north of Highway 82 and a half a mile south of Highway 82,” said Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commander of the Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps. It said the seven and their equipment were headed for pre-deployment training at Yuma, Arizona.

In the aftermath of the crash, emergency workers had to keep their distance from the plane because the plane was carrying explosive ordnance that resulted in several high-intensity detonations. It is not yet know if the cargo played a role in the cause of the crash.

Plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat landscape of the delta.

On Tuesday, just a couple hundred yards from where the plane went down, David Weeks stood on the side of the highway and played “Taps,” the song played at U.S. military funerals and memorials.

“I’m out here today to show my respect for the fallen. Felt in my heart to come out and honor them,” Weeks said.

Although not a member or veteran of the military, Weeks is a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of volunteer motorcycle riders who attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes to show their respect.

The KC-130 is a four-engine propeller-driven plane that is used by both the U.S. Marine Corps. and the U.S. Air Force, and is a variant of the Cold War-era C-130 Hercules.  It is used to refuel aircraft in flight and transport cargo and troops.

The plane was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.

The identities of those who perished have not yet been released. We at Military Connection extend our deepest condolences to the families. May their loved ones rest in peace.

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.

Camp Pendleton Marine Group Makes History Focusing on Electronic Warfare

marines first

By Debbie Gregory.

On July 6th, a new command known as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s (I MEF) Information Group made history at Camp Pendleton by becoming the first of its kind among the Corps’ Marine expeditionary forces.

“It’s a centerpiece of some of the changes the commandant wants us to make in our support to warfighting,” said Col. Roberta L. “Bobbi” Shea.

The command is skilled in cyber, electronic warfare and intelligence, all critical needs as the service looks to build capacity to conduct information warfare at all.

“In the past, the group’s primary mission has been moving and supporting Marines as they go forward to command forces in theater,” Shea said.

Col. Shea handed over command of the newly designated I MEF Information Group to Col. Dawn Alonso, who most recently served at Central Command.

Marines trained in intelligence gathering and electronic warfare in closer contact with commanders and troops on the ground to degrade the enemy’s ability to exploit the information environment, capitalizing on social media and defending the country’s abilities against cyber vulnerabilities.

Shea pointed to such examples as the use of drones, law enforcement Marines picking up fingerprints or exploiting found cellphones on the battlefield, and imagery analysts gathering information from satellites.

Among the changes that are part of the transition are new Marine personnel, increased intelligence and cyberspace training, and a move to new facilities on the base.

While military officials called the re-designation a first at the Marine Expeditionary Force level, an increased focus on new technology and cyber warfare threats are among the Corps’ broader changes, mandated by the Marine Corps Commandant to “modernize the force.”

The re-designation is the first among the Marine Corps’ three MEFs, with I MEF at Camp Pendleton, II MEF at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and III MEF based in Okinawa, Japan.

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.

Handcrafted Paddleboards by Veteran Honors Fallen Service Members


By Debbie Gregory.

Army Ranger Alex Cabral has found his calling, handcrafting custom Heavy Eddy paddleboards, one at a time. What set his boards apart from any others is that each one is dedicated to a soldier killed in the Global War on Terror.

Each paddleboard has a fallen soldier’s name and rank on the edge.

As is explained on the website, the KIA boards are an effort to provide a legacy of sorts, another chance to honor a fallen comrade, and to perhaps spark interest in this individual. Interest enough to look this person up and find out their story, because it’s worth telling at least one more time.

Cabral is open to who is honored, after talking it over with each client.

“All my boards are custom made, so I talk to them about what they want — what colors, what materials, what size. So part of those questions is, ‘Do you know anybody who died in the War on Terror, and would you like to honor them?’ And if they didn’t know anyone, then I’ll make a suggestion or I’ll pick someone who I think it would be good to remember.”

Cabral’s journey from Ranger to paddleboard-shaper began in California. After he made his first board, he realized he had a skill.

To participate in the World Paddle Association championship, Cabral built a racing paddleboard from scratch to compete.

The homemade board garnered a lot of attention, and people began asking Cabral if he could build one for them.

Currently priced under $1,000, most of the materials Cabral uses are sustainably sourced from around the region.

The paddleboards are built from a core of polystyrene foam, which is then wrapped in fiberglass and an epoxy resin. Each board is custom-made for a client’s needs. Each board can take between three days and a week to make.

Those looking for more information can visit Heavy Eddy’s website at

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.

Deceased Marine’s Belongings Finally Return Home


By Debbie Gregory.

Goose was on his last foot patrol.

Newly married Lance Cpl. Joseph Ryan “Goose” Giese was a proud Marine. He was looking forward to returning home to his family from Afghanistan.  But in January, 2011, a blast from an improvised explosive device took the life of the 24 year old.

It took years, but a couple of Goose’s possessions have finally found their way home.

First was the pocket-sized Bible Goose carried with him when he deployed. A Marine Goose had served with saw the bible in the possession of another soldier, who didn’t recall how he had come to have it. The Marine told him about Ryan and took the Bible, sending back to Goose’s father, Larry Giese.

Last month, just before Father’s Day, Larry, received a package that contained his son’s dog tag. It was found by a soldier who was in the area near where Goose died. The soldier sent it to his dad, Pete Metzger, with the request that he track down Goose’s family and return it.

Metzger found Ryan’s widow in Atlanta, GA. She asked Larry Giese to call Metzger, because if it turned out to be true, she wanted Goose’s dad to handle it. Larry did, and shortly thereafter, the tag was in the Larry’s hands.

A Marine buddy of Ryan’s told Larry Giese the single tag would have been his “boot tag,” the one worn in a soldier’s boot instead of around the neck.

Giese has heard there is some talk of possible putting his son’s tag in a Marine museum, but he’s not going to part with it any time soon.

“It’s weird, you know? Here I am, I’m a big, bad Marine, I was a cop — but boy oh boy, that emotional part just kicks my butt,” Giese said. “In boot camp he made copies of his dog tag to give me and his sister. But now I have an original.”

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.