Missing Black Hawk Crew Identified

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By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the active search for five crew members missing after their Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down during a training exercise on August 15th off the Hawaiian coast.

The Army has identified the crew as:

  • 1st Lt. Kathryn Bailey, 26, of Hope Mills, North Carolina, was an aviation officer. Her decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Army Aviator Badge.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Cantrell, 32, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. He received multiple decorations and awards including the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
  • Staff Sgt. Abigail Milam, 33, of Jenkins, Kentucky, was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief. She received multiple decorations and awards including the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and Army Good Conduct Medal with two loops.
  • Sgt. Michael Nelson, 30, of Antioch, Tennessee, was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief. He received multiple decorations and awards including the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Woeber, 41, of Decatur, Alabama, was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. He received multiple decorations and awards including the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and Navy Achievement Medal.

They all served with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.

“I know that all the responders helping in this rescue effort join me and the rest of this division in offering the families of the missing soldiers our deepest condolences and sympathies, “ said Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. “They have been and will constantly remain in our thoughts and prayers during this trying time.”

Our sincerest sympathies go out to the loved ones of these five heroes.

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.

Troops’ Biophysical Data Could Lead to Better Weapons, Performance

 

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By Debbie Gregory.

Breakthroughs in biometric science mean future troops will fight with weapons that understand them,  inside and out.

The U.S. military is funding research to collect biophysical data from soldiers, sailors, Marines, and pilots in order to improve troops’ performance by understanding what’s happening inside their bodies.

The research will help develop the next generation of fighter jets, body armor, computer systems, and weapons, which will work more cohesively with those at the controls.

Pentagon-backed researchers are designing an entirely new generation of wearable health monitors that will relay valuable information about the person to whom the system is bound, including focus, alertness, health, and stress.

Over the past two years, the military has purchased more than $2 million worth of biomedical tracking devices. But it turns out that off-the-shelf consumer devices, such as Fitbits, aren’t good enough for the military’s biotracking ambitions.

That’s why researchers are creating a new class of wearables, based on new research into what size electrodes are the most efficient.

One application for such sensors would be helmets that record brain activity while their wearers do their jobs. Modern fighter jets expose human bodies to physical forces that are still not entirely understood. For example, in the past, F-22 pilots reported in-flight episodes of confusion, shortness of breath, and skin-color changes, which are symptoms of hypoxia, or decreased oxygen in the blood. These symptoms were due to speed.

Beyond helmets, Air Force researchers are working on a comprehensive cognitive monitoring system, one which may not need a physical sensor on the body, but rather the information would be gathered using cameras.

In fact, one research project configured a laptop camera lenses to detect hemoglobin oxygenation, which lets you read a person’s heart rate from a distance.

Sensors can also detect changes in metabolism that indicate weariness and stress before the person notices.

These innovations are making their way into actual gear and weapons. By 2020, Navy SEAL teams and Army Rangers could take down high-value targets while wearing an exoskeleton that’s earned the nickname ‘Iron Man.’

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 Seeks More Authority to Deal With Civilian Drones

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By Debbie Gregory.

The head of the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command wants permission to deal with civilian drones—including shooting them down

Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command (ACC), is trying to remedy the problem of unmanned aerial systems (UASs) that are flown near a military airfield.

Holmes reported that back in July, there were two such incidents on the same day.

“At one base, the gate guard watched one fly over the top of the gate check, tracked it while it flew over the flight line for a little while, and then flew back out and left, and I have no authority given to me by the government to deal with that.”

In a second incident, an F-22 Raptor had a “near collision” with a small UAS. The ACC commander was left with few options.

Flying drones within five miles of a U.S. base without getting permission from that installation is already illegal, but actually taking action against them is a federal matter, and only federal civilian agencies can jam drones.

When a civil aircraft enters a restricted airspace, the military can make sure that the pilot faces consequences from the FAA, such as a fine or losing his or her license.

But that’s more difficult with small unmanned systems. While the espionage aspect is a given, there is always the threat of a terrorist or state-sponsored drone swarm attack crippling an air base.

“Imagine a world where somebody flies a couple hundred of those and flies one down the intake of all my F-22s with just a small weapon on it? I need the authorities to deal with that,” Holmes said.

If General Holmes has his way, Air Force security police may soon be carrying weapons such as the Battelle DroneDefender, which utilizes a non-kinetic solution to defend airspace against UASs without compromising safety or risking collateral damage.

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.

Preliminary Report Results in Fitzgerald Officers Relieved of Duty

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By Debbie Gregory.

The three top officers aboard Navy warship Fitzgerald that collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan were relieved of their duties. They are the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Cmrd. Sean Babbitt, and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. Additionally, nearly a dozen sailors face disciplinary action, including all those on watch the night of June 1.

The Navy released a partially redacted report on the investigation of the collision between the Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal. One of the Navy’s deadliest accidents in years, the collision resulted in the loss of seven sailors.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said the actions are to be taken shortly, although the Navy’s investigation is still ongoing. A statement from the fleet said “inadequate leadership” had contributed to the collision.

Adm. Moran said that the bridge team, the sailors responsible for keeping watch on the ship’s bridge to ensure it remains safe, had “lost situational awareness,” leaving them unable to respond quickly enough to avoid the disaster once the oncoming container ship was seen.

According to the report, dozens of sailors who were rocked from their slumber raced in the dark to escape their flooding quarters. Within 90 seconds, seawater was at first waist-deep, then neck-high as sailors pushed aside floating debris to climb a ladder to safety.

Two sailors were credited with taking extra steps to help others out of the flooded berthing space that saved the lives of at least two of their shipmates. The last sailor pulled from the chaos was underwater when his shipmates yanked him up.

“No damage control efforts, however, would have prevented Berthing 2 from flooding completely within the first two minutes following the collision, or the deadly circumstances in that situation,” the report said.

The 9,000-ton, $1.5 billion Fitzgerald, operating out of the Yokosuka naval base, was wrapping up a long day of training. The 29,000-ton Crystal, which is more than 200 feet longer than the Fitzgerald, had been chartered by a Japanese company to bring cargo from Nagoya, on Japan’s central coast, to Tokyo. The Crystal sustained far less damaged than the Fitzgerald.

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.

Veteran’s Global War on Terror Memorial Moving Forward

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s been a few years since former Army Aviation Officer Andrew Brennan began his quest to ensure veterans of the Global War on Terror have a memorial in Washington, D.C.

But, finally, the Pittsburgh veteran’s effort to memorialize his comrades’ sacrifices is set to move forward.

The stumbling block has been the 1986 Commemorative Works Acts, which requires a war to be over for 10 years before a memorial can be built.

On August 3, 2017, the Senate cleared the way for the Global War on Terrorism memorial, unanimously passing the first bill in recent history approving a national war memorial before the fighting is over. The bill cleared the House on July 28th.

For those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the memorial will be a place to honor their dead and wounded, even as those numbers continue to climb.

“Ten years from the end of never … is always never,” Brennan said as he testified at a congressional hearing.

The bill now goes to the White House, where Brennan said staff have assured him it has the president’s support.

The next step is a detailed 24-step bureaucratic process that will include choosing a site, which could take two years; selecting a design through competition, which could take up to three years; and constructing the memorial.

The memorial will include six themes: endurance, sacrifice, all-volunteer, global, multicultural and unfinished.

The foundation has raised about $300,000 so far, but it is estimated the project will run $40 to $50 million to staff, plan, design and construct the project. Brennan said he expects the memorial to be built by 2024.

“This memorial will be wholly dedicated to our 7,000 brothers and sisters who deployed with us but did not return, and their survivors,” Brennan said. “It is dedicated to the 1 million wounded warriors who are reclaiming their lives back here at home. It is for the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who struggle in their transition from combat deployments.”

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.

California Legislators Push Bill to Help Combat Veteran Suicide

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By Debbie Gregory.

A proposal for new state legislation in California that will help confront the issue of veteran suicides has been introduced by Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula and Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

AB 242 would require death certificates to reflect whether the deceased person was ever a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Currently, details such as marital status, birthplace and occupation are required on death certificates, but military service is not.

“Getting ahead of the suicide, getting help when it’s needed, not after it’s too late, and I think this is a good first step,” said Patterson.

The bill would also require the California Department of Health compile a report on veteran suicides, beginning in 2019.

“As a physician, I know accurate data will help us better understand the full scope of the problem of veteran suicides in California,” Arambula said. “Tracking this information will help determine whether or not existing suicide prevention efforts are having a positive effect, if more attention to this matter is needed in the future and where to allocate existing resources for mental health funding.”

“I have no question this information will be very helpful,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, who voted for the bill in the Senate Veteran’s Affair Committee. “To our various veteran operations in the area, we can identify and allot them resources they desperately need.”

If passed into law, Arambula, an emergency room doctor, said California will join 21 other states in implementing such an effort to better calculate veteran suicide deaths.

The legislation is to be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee at the end of this month after the legislators return from recess.

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.

Marine Corps Looking to Turn Officers into PhDs

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By Debbie Gregory.

Two pilot programs are being offered by the U.S. Marine Corps that would allow qualified majors through lieutenant colonels to receive their PhDs with the Corps picking up the tab, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.

Interested applicants should get moving: with only four officers being picked, it will be competitive. And applications are only being accepted through the end of this month.

Two of the recipients will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, geared toward  national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.

The other two will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science.

The MOVES program focuses on the principles of applied visual simulation technology and the application of quantitative analyses to human-computer interaction. The coursework may include instruction in object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, computer communications and networks, computer graphics, virtual worlds and simulation systems, probability, statistics, stochastic modeling, data analysis, human-performance evaluation, and human-behavior modeling.

Interested candidates must already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.

By developing a cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders, the Marine Corps has a goal of achieving innovative thinking. This will be the result of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security.

“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”

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.

California Woman Named as Disabled American Veterans Commander

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By Debbie Gregory.

Congratulations to Delphine Metcalf-Foster, who has been elected National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans.

Metcalf-Foster was chosen over roughly 10 other candidates at the organization’s 96th National Convention in New Orleans.

Metcalf-Foster is the first woman candidate, as well as the first African-American female, to head up the DAV’s most important position.

“I was really overwhelmed and in shock and so humbled” she said upon the announcement.

Metcalf-Foster followed in the footsteps of her father, a Buffalo soldier, by pursuing a career in the U.S. Army. Her military career included service with the U.S. Army Reserve, 689th Quartermaster Unit, 6253rd Hospital Unit and 6211th Transportation Unit, Letterman Army Medical Center. She retired after 21 years of service with the rank of first sergeant in 1996.

During her military service, she received the following honors: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Component Achievement Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal. She also worked for the Department of the Navy at the Alameda Naval Air Station as a Quality Assurance Specialist

A Vallejo, CA  native, Metcalf-Foster has been active within the DAV Department of California, becoming the first woman commander in the state. She also completed a four-year appointment as a member of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in November 2015.

Metcalf-Foster hopes to continue her advocacy for veterans rights that include healthcare, care-givers, employment, volunteerism, mental health, PTSD and suicide prevention.

“My focus will be continuing a lifetime of support for veterans and their families,” Metcalf-Foster said, adding that she’s “prepared to take on the challenges for one year.”

Metcalf-Foster is also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is proud of her granddaughter, U.S. Army SSG Jacare Hogan, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

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 Opens Collaborative CyberSecurity Center

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Army Cyber-research Analytics Laboratory (ACAL) is unlike any other lab, providing access to highly-sensitive live cyber-security data to government, industry, and academic partners.

The vision of ACAL is to lead the Army’s future cyber capabilities by discovering new knowledge, providing a world-class laboratory and promoting global partnerships.

Its mission is to enhance the quality of research within the Department of Defense by providing superior capabilities, cyber training and data access to the scientific community to ensure their research initiatives are operationally grounded and relevant to cyber operations of today, tomorrow and beyond.

Army senior officials rely on the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to provide them with the knowledge and understanding needed to make informed decisions on options for disruptive warfighting capabilities with reduced uncertainty and calculated risk.

Soldiers operate in complex terrain wrought with rapidly changing connectivity that’s restricted by spectrum and players — allies and adversaries — on the networks.

With war continuing to shift further in the cyber domain, the ACAL is a necessary ARL resource. ARL planners expect that as the ACAL matures, the laboratory will support rapid development and deployment requirements for the Army’s Computer Network Defense.

ARL’s cyber security research is largely focused on challenges unique to Army ground operations.

As the ACAL matures, the intent is to support rapid development and deployment requirements for the Army’s Computer Network Defense (CND) analytic capabilities across ARL, Army Cyber Command, Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), and their partners.

The ACAL will also be used for personnel training, product integration, systems engineering, and integrated testing using real-world data.

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.

Texas VA Office Denies Most of its Gulf War Claims

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By Debbie Gregory.

A federal report shows that a Veterans Affairs office in Texas has denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses.

The data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that Waco’s Department of Veterans Affairs denied almost 1,100 claims in 2015. This gives Central Texas veterans one of the highest denial rates in the nation.

Part of the issue could be poorly trained examiners, as well as inconsistent methods of handling claims.

According to the report, VA staff members noted the complexity of Gulf War illness claims, with medical examiners stating that they would benefit from additional training on Gulf War illness and how to conduct these exams. The VA has made the training course mandatory. A VA spokeswoman said Waco medical examiners are anticipated to complete the training by November.

Gulf War illness has two main clinical categories: medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness and undiagnosed illness. Symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological problems. Exposure to toxic elements, such as smoke from burning oil wells, depleted uranium and chemical warfare agents are believed to have caused Gulf War illnesses.

The VA estimates that 44 percent of the 700,000 service members who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War have developed illnesses.

The VA claims that when making decisions on claims, VA staff members carefully and compassionately consider all available supporting evidence for each claim.

“(Gulf War illness) disability compensation claim laws and regulations need urgent overhaul,” said Paul Sullivan, director of veteran outreach for the Bergmann and Moore law firm, and a Gulf War veteran whose own claim remains in limbo after 25 years.

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.