Vietnam Special Forces Veteran to Receive Medal of Honor

gary rose

By Debbie Gregory.

As Director of Employer Engagement for California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), I had the pleasure of meeting Retired Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose at a September ESGR event.

Rose, a Vietnam veteran, will receive the Medal of Honor on October 23rd.

In 1967, Rose decided to volunteer for the Army.  Thanks to high aptitude test scores, jump school and Special Forces training followed, and by October 1968, he was a Special Forces medic.

In 1970, Rose, a Green Beret, participated in Operation Tailwind, a classified mission in support of the Royal Lao Army, creating a diversion aimed at North Vietnamese Army troops.

While serving as a medic with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam — Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group, Rose “repeatedly ran into the line of enemy fire to provide critical aid to his comrades, using his own body on one occasion to shield a wounded American from harm,” according to the White House.

Despite being wounded on the final day of the mission, Rose helped move wounded personnel to a helicopter extraction point.

“As he boarded the final extraction helicopter, intense enemy fire hit the helicopter, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff,” according to the White House. “Again, ignoring his own injuries, Sergeant Rose pulled the helicopter crew and members of his unit from the burning wreckage and provided medical aid until another extraction helicopter arrived.”

Over the four-day battle, Rose is credited with treating between 60 and 70 wounded troops, saving numerous lives.

Rose has asked the White House to include his fellow MACV-SOG veterans in the ceremony, as well as the Marines and Air Force personnel who supported the mission, particularly the A-1E Skyraider and AH-1 Cobra pilots who were there.

“To me, this medal is a collective medal, and it honors all those men who fought.”

In spite of the fact that Rose has only just taken up playing golf in the last few years, he is no stranger to hitting a hole in one.   I suggested he might consider buying a lottery ticket.

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.

Vice Admiral Avoids Charges in ‘Fat Leonard’ Probe

branch

By Debbie Gregory.

Unlike Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau, who was convicted of lying to federal agents about receiving bribes in the “Fat Leonard” scandal,  the U.S. Department of Justice decided not bring charges against Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, the former director of Navy intelligence.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard” because of his size, has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes and more.  He wanted classified information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, that supplied food and fuel to ships.

Prosecutors allege that he overbilled the Navy by more than $34 million.

The Navy has closed its review with appropriate administrative action for Branch.

“The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy’s Consolidated Disposition Authority,” said Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka.

“The last three years were extremely difficult for my family and me, but we are glad now to turn the page,” said Branch.

Branch served in the Navy for 37 years. At the time the case was opened, former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and his admirals felt that they couldn’t fire Branch from his intelligence post, so they left him in his job but they stripped him of his security clearance.

At the time, Branch said, “Probably the most important point is, I am not a danger to national security, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, and the idea that I would be is insulting.”

No one thought the case would drag on for months, let alone years.

“As time went on, they (at the Department of Justice) questioned us, ‘Why aren’t you replacing him?’ But we were in a horrible position,” Mabus said. “They made us aware of potential problems, but we had no grounds to relieve him.”

Branch, a highly decorated career aviator, retired from the Navy on October 1st. He received multiple recognition for combat valor over the skies of Grenada, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq.

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.

Will VA Scrap Ethics Law That Safeguards Veteran Students?

va seal

Debbie Gregory.

Statute 38 U.S.C. 3683 is an ethics law that prohibits Department of Veterans Affairs employees from receiving money or owning a stake in for-profit colleges.

But the VA is now pushing back, claiming that the 50-year-old statute is redundant due to the other conflict-of-interest laws that apply to all federal employees and provide sufficient safeguards.

You may be wondering why this is important.

Veteran advocacy groups believe that doing away with the law would make it easier for the for-profit education industry to exploit veterans with their rich GI Bill benefits.

There is mounting concern that suspending the statute would make it possible for high-ranking agency officials to enact policies that benefit for-profit schools in which they have a financial interest.

“The statute is one of many important bipartisan reforms Congress implemented to protect G.I. Bill benefits from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said William Hubbard of Student Veterans of America. “A thoughtful and robust public conservation should be had to ensure that the interests of student veterans is the top of the priority list.”

“Congress enacted a zero tolerance for financial conflicts of interest for VA employees precisely because Congress uncovered massive fraud by for-profit colleges targeting veterans.”

“Student veterans were already facing an aggressive rollback of their protections under the Trump administration’s Education Department,” said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success.  The non-profit group works to protect and defend the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers.

The law already provide measures for any employee that it covers to receive a waiver if they can prove that there is no conflict of interest and that whatever arrangement they have or had will not be a detriment to veterans.

The VA proposal is set to go into effect on October 16 unless the agency “receives a significant adverse comment” by or on that date.

Unfortunately, to date, no such comments have yet been submitted nor have any public hearings been scheduled.

What do you think?

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.

Widow of Pat Tillman Unhappy Trump Used Her Husband in NFL Debate

pat and marie

As the “Take a Knee” debate continues on, Marie Tillman, the widow of NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, has asked that her husband not be used for political gain.

Most people know that Pat Tillman gave up his NFL Arizona Cardinals contract to serve the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004.

President Trump recently tweeted a photograph of Tillman accompanied by the hashtags #StandForOurAnthem and #BoycottNFL, a move that forced Marie Tillman to make the following statement:

“Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that.”

The Take a Knee movement was started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the National Anthem before a pre-season game for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

Kaepernick had said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.

The president has been very vocal regarding his criticisms of NFL players taking a knee, and of the NFL owners’ tolerance of the gesture.

“The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for,” Marie Tillman said. “Even if they didn’t always agree with those views.”

Team owners, even some who have supported Trump’s campaign, showed solidarity with their players.

“As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Marie said. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.”

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.

Urine Might One Day Power America’s Wars

urine

By Debbie Gregory.

As gross as it may sound, scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD are looking at ways to turn liquid human waste into clean, efficient fuel.

The scientists observed an unexpected result when combining urine with a newly engineered nano-powder based on aluminum. It instantly releases hydrogen from the urine at much higher rate than with ordinary water.

Hydrogen has the potential to fuel cells and provide energy that doesn’t cause pollution. It is also the most abundant element in the entire universe.

In space, astronauts recycle waste water and urine because drinking water is a precious commodity. For soldiers, power and energy are becoming increasingly important to run communications and electronics gear, which can’t be resupplied.

Dr. Kristopher Darling, an ARL researcher said, “What we do as Army scientists is develop materials and technology that will directly benefit the Soldier and enhance their capabilities.”

Fuel cells generate electricity quietly, efficiently and without pollution. According to a Department of Energy’s website, fuel cells are “more energy-efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources.”

The ARL team will continue investigating ways to harness the nano-powder as a potential energy source.   They are working closely with other researchers at the laboratory, including the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, to discover how to harness the material as a potential energy source.

Across the DOD, thousands of scientists pursue innovative research in support of the joint warfighter.

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.

Veterans’ Preference Hiring Program

The-Veterans-Preference-Point-System

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans’ Preference gives those who are disabled, served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns preference over others in hiring for virtually all federal government jobs for veterans. While veterans’ preference does not guarantee jobs for military veterans, it does show our nation’s gratitude by giving them a leg up.

Veterans’ Preference was enacted at the end of the Civil War to aid disabled veterans. It was greatly expanded after World War I, allowing able-bodied, honorably discharged veterans, widows of deceased veterans and wives of severely disabled ones to take advantage of the assistance. Under the Obama administration, federal agencies established hiring goals that has resulted in one-third of new federal hires being veterans.

The program works on a point system, with 100 being the highest score. Typically, applicants receive points by either taking a test or through an evaluation of their education and experience. Disabled veterans got extra 10 points added to that score, while other former soldiers received 5 points. In the case of a tie, veterans are placed ahead of non-veterans. In addition, veterans with more serious service-related disabilities are placed at the top of the list, as long as they achieved a passing grade of 70 points.

Hiring officials cannot pass over veterans in the top category to hire more qualified non-veterans.

Younger veterans born since 1980 are about 15 times more likely than non-veterans of the same age to hold federal jobs.

Veterans’ Preference is a powerful hiring tool that can help veterans reach the veteran employers of the federal workforce.

Although it only directly benefited about one-tenth of veterans in the past, nearly one-third of recent veterans have federal jobs, many more than would have them in the absence of preferential hiring.

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.

GI Bill for On-the-job Training

otj training

By Debbie Gregory.

When separating from their military service, there are many newly-minted veterans who aren’t desirous of attending a traditional college or university to cash in on their veteran school benefits.  A better fitting veteran education option for them might be on-the-job (OJT) training or an apprenticeship program.

Both OJT and apprenticeship programs are available for veterans using their VA GI Bill education benefits, one of the most valuable veteran benefit.

These programs give veterans the opportunity to learn a trade or skill through training on the job participation rather than attending formal classroom instruction. The programs generally consist of entering into a training contract for a specific period with an employer or union. At the end of the training period, the veteran has earned job certification or journeyman status.

Usually, employers pay a reduced OJT/apprenticeship wage, which must be at least 50% of journeyman’s wage, with periodic wage increases, unless it’s a government program. By the last full month of training, the wage must be at least 85% of the wage for a fully trained employee.

In addition to the wages paid by the employer, veterans who are participating in an approved program can use their GI Bill benefit and receive a tax-free stipend equivalent to the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) of an E-5 with dependents.  However, the stipend is reduced 20% every six months as the Veteran’s wages regularly increase until the Veteran has attained journeyman status and pay.

If traditional college/university education, OTJ training or an apprenticeship doesn’t fit the bill, one other option is available: beneficiaries can use their educational assistance to pursue accredited independent study programs at career and technical schools that provide postsecondary level education and postsecondary vocational institutions. This change went into effect August 16, 2017.

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 Employers Can Retain Veteran Employees

regard

By Debbie Gregory.

Despite a push to increase jobs for military veterans, statistics reveal that almost half of all veterans leave their first post-military position within a year, and only 20-40% of veterans will see their second work anniversary.

It would be naive to conclude that these vets are leaving for better veteran jobs. Most of these first jobs are vacated due to a lack of familiar work culture, career development/advancement, meaning, or professional development opportunities.

What can veteran employers do to help retain their veteran employees?

The first step would be integrate new veteran employees into the workforce by overcoming language differences. Military terminology is quite a bit different from civilian terminology. Even the job descriptions may need to go through a skills translator. Veterans that aren’t familiar with corporate language may be perceived as less competent or cooperative, and may have trouble connecting with their superiors. A simple remedy is to educate managers, recruiters, and leaders about military culture and language. If the company already employs veterans, they should be called upon to help close the divide.

Preparing an orientation program for veteran students has shown great success at colleges and universities. Perhaps a similar program for new veteran employees would assist them in navigating the organization.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the rules in the military are often very different than in the corporate world, so clarity is key. Make sure the unwritten rules are as clear as the written ones.

Buddy up: giving veteran employees a connection with someone who is already well-established in the organization with a similar military background can give a new employee the insight and connection they need to succeed at your company.

Help your veteran employees understand their role within the company. Remember that those who have served are purpose, vision, mission, and value motivated.

Through small, meaningful actions, employers can get great results in retention by integrating veterans into corporate life.

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.

Major Events in October with Free Tickets for Service Members, Veterans, and Families

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran Tickets Foundation (VetTix), a national 501(c) 3 nonprofit founded by veterans, is dedicated to supporting and honoring the U.S. military community, veterans and their families.

Vet Tix has provided veterans, service members, caregivers and the family members of those killed in action with more than three million free tickets since 2008. Events include major sports games, concerts and a diverse mix of other ticketed activities. And because they’re a non-profit, individual ticket holders and businesses can receive tax deductions for their donated tickets.

So, if you’re looking for some fun things to this month, check out Veteran Tickets Foundation.

Here are just some of the hundreds of events available at VetTix.org.:

October 7: Denver, Colorado: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

October 7: Houston, Texas: Houston Museum of Natural Science

October 8: Peekskill, New York: Buddy Guy – Live in Concert

October 13: San Diego, California: Top Gun Party and Movie Night

October 14: Hagerstown, Maryland: Bach to Beethoven and Beyond!

October 14: Fresno, California: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. New Mexico Lobos NCAA Football

October 14: Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Hoosiers vs. University of Michigan Wolverines NCAA Football

October 14: Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Blue Devils vs. Florida State Seminoles NCAA Football

October 21: Manchester, Maryland: Autumn Armageddon 2017 – Live Professional Wrestling Presented by Maryland Championship Wrestling

October 21: East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State Spartans vs. Indiana Hoosiers

October 22: Peekskill, NY: Steve Solomon’s My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy

October 27: Washington, DC: Washington International Horse Show 2017 – Military Night

October 28: Richmond, Virginia: University of Richmond Spiders vs. Stony Brook Seawolves NCAA Football Homecoming

October 28: Rosemont, Illinois: Chicago Wolves vs. Milwaukee Admirals AHL

To become a Vet Tixer and request tickets to these and hundreds of other events, which are free except for a very small delivery fee, visit VetTix.org to create a free account. Once you’ve created an account and verified your military service, you can review hundreds of upcoming events across the country.

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.

 

IRS awards $7.25 Million Contract for Fraud Protection to Equifax

irs

By Debbie Gregory.

Equifax is set to receive $7.25 million to help the IRS identify taxpayers and prevent fraud under a no-bid contract. Equifax is currently embroiled in a massive security breach that exposed the personal information of some 145 million Americans.

The IRS said that it needed to outsource this work because it’s handling a dispute on a different contract that affects its ability to fulfill these duties.

According to the Federal Business Opportunities database, the contract is a “sole source order,” meaning Equifax is the only company deemed capable of providing the service.

The partnership between the IRS and Equifax has received bipartisan displeasure from both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers feel that it is irresponsible for the IRS to turn over millions in taxpayer dollars to a company that in the midst of one of the most massive data breaches in a decade.

“The Finance Committee will be looking into why Equifax was the only company to apply for and be rewarded with this,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR.) “I will continue to take every measure possible to prevent taxpayer data from being compromised as this arrangement moves forward.”

The IRS took a defensive position, saying that Equifax told the agency that none of its data was involved in the breach.

Equifax already provides similar services to the IRS under a previous contract.

While Equifax’s September data breach has mostly subsided, but the actual damage will play out for years. Attackers initially got into the customer portal through a vulnerability in the Apache Struts platform, an open-source web application. Apache disclosed and patched the relevant vulnerability some six months earlier.

Additionally, Equifax stored sensitive consumer information in plain text rather than encrypting it.

Equifax is one of three major credit reporting bureaus whose data determine consumer credit. This includes the credit information for those trying to qualify for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, etc.

Do you think the IRS made the right decision?

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.