Army OKs Direct Commission for Civilian Cybersecurity Experts

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By Debbie Gregory.

Are you a programmer, web developer or data scientist? Do you enjoy solving a challenge with a innovative tool, script, program, or reverse engineering a piece of equipment? If so, and you have a four-year degree and are currently working in the tech field, you can now join the Army as an officer.

Qualified civilians can now directly apply for a commission as an officer in U.S. Army Cyber. Direct commissioning will allow candidates chosen to forgo the Army’s 10-week Basic Combat Training Course

The Army has approved a program to recruit experienced cybersecurity experts directly into the service as cyber officers. That means you could join the Army at the rank of First Lieutenant or higher, and start building the future of Army Cyber warfare.

The pilot program aims to bring in five new officers each year for five years. Potential candidates should be skilled in teamwork.

Applicants must be younger than 41 years old, hold U.S. citizenship, be able to obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance, and meet the Army’s physical fitness standards.

Individuals selected for the pilot program will spend six weeks in the direct commission course at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and then attend the 12-week Cyber Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Gordon in Georgia. Most cyber officers will be stationed either at Fort Gordon or Fort Meade in Maryland.

Those selected will build tools and devices, write algorithms, ciphers, programs and scripts, and conduct research based on their current industry expertise.

Officers entering military service must complete a total of eight years of service, with at least three years on active duty, followed by service in the U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard.

Following suit, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be offering similar programs in the cyber field.

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.

VA Allows Doctors to Discuss Medical Marijuana with Patients

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By Debbie Gregory.

Advocates of medicinal marijuana use for veterans believe in its effectiveness in treating chronic pain. Now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has authorizes its physicians and care teams to speak openly with veteran patients about their marijuana use.

Currently, VA doctors cannot prescribe medical cannabis, but thanks to VHA Directive 1315, in states where medical marijuana is legal, VA providers can discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of comprehensive care planning, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.

Veterans enrolled in a state-approved medical cannabis program can discuss their marijuana use so that their doctor can make adjustments to the treatment plan.

The new policy is likened to the VA removing its proverbial head from the sand.

“It not only encourages, but really mandates that their physicians and primary care teams have healthy and in-depth knowledge-based conversations with veterans about cannabis use for whatever ailment their suffering from,” said Lou Celli, the director of national veterans affairs and rehabilitation division at American Legion.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance — “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Veterans groups say the fastest and most effective way to help veterans get access to treatment is to simply reschedule the drug. That would automatically lift the most onerous barriers to research and allow VA health care providers to immediately prescribe marijuana in states where it is legal.

“We’ve got young men and women with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries coming to us and saying that cannabis works,” said Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the American Legion.

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 of the Challenges Facing Student Veterans

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By Debbie Gregory.

Military veteran benefits such as the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and now the Forever GI Bill, have enabled education for veterans by paying for expenses such as tuition, textbooks, and housing.

With those obstacles out of the way, there are still some challenges for veterans that are transitioning from the military to veteran education programs.

Gone is the military ranking system. Gone is the brotherhood. Gone is the sense of working towards the successful outcome of a shared mission. What remains, for most, is the drive towards personal, individual success, which may be confusing for some veteran students.

Additionally, since veteran students tend to be older than their civilian counterparts, they have not only had different life experiences, but they also have different life obligations, which may include spouses, children, mortgages, etc.

Another difference is that many veteran students have witnessed or experienced the horrors of war, and may be suffering from mental or physical issues.

So what can be done to support these students in order to improve their chances of success?

The VA Campus Toolkit offers tips on what faculty, staff, administrators and students can do to help veteran students.

A community site for veterans to gather on campus can empower students to share information, respond to one another’s needs, and relieve stress while providing a venue for veterans to discuss shared concerns.

Having a chapter of Student Veterans of America or a Veterans Resource Center on campus offers a safe haven for veteran students, without them having to overshare their veteran status.

Removing obstacles and red tape can go a long way towards student retention and in the reputation of your institution as a military-friendly campus.

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.

Stolen Valor Forces Honor Guard Group to Shut Down

Wright stollen

By Debbie Gregory.

Do the ends justify the means? The question is usually considered when it comes to premeditated voluntary actions of questionable ethics taken with a defined objective in mind.

Take the case of  Papotia Reginald Wright, an alleged retired Green Beret command sergeant major who started the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard to perform burial services for veterans.

A noble goal, to be sure. The problem is that Wright was a total fraud. Although he did serve in the Army, he never served in any combat role, never was awarded a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star or any of the other 19 medals, badges or tabs he claimed to have been awarded.

Wright’s lies allowed him to become a prominent figure in the local military community. It gave him entrance to swanky galas and even field access to the New York Giants. But under the Stolen Valor Act, it’s a federal crime to lie about military heroics for monetary or other tangible benefits. And it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong!

Wright was exposed after the Guardians of the Green Beret, a watchdog group that works to expose people pretending to be part of Special Forces, was alerted by another watchdog group called Guardian of Valor that Wright was exaggerating his military service to promote the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard.

What was the one dead giveaway that Wright was an imposter? The beret he wore was black.

Papotia Reginald Wright can now take his place in the Guardians of the Green Beret Hall of Fakes, Frauds, and Phonies.

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.

Paychecks Reflecting 2018 Raise Going Out January 15th

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By Debbie Gregory.

The first paychecks for servicemembers reflecting the 2.4 percent pay raise will be going out on January 15th. The raise is part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

This was only the second time since 2010 that the pay raise has topped 2 percent.  It was 2.1 percent last January.

The increase will put an additional $680 in the wallets of younger enlisted ranks, and about $1,080 a year for more senior enlisted and junior officers. Mid-career officers can expect almost $2,000 a year extra.

The 2.4 percent figure is also the mark mandated as the standard pay raise under federal law.

Government employee unions had argued for pay parity between the military and federal workers, but President Trump ordered an average raise of 1.4 percent, with an additional average of 0.5 percent adjusted in locality pay, for a total of a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal civilian employee, which was also effective January 1st.

The 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate increase will see on average a .7 percent increase, but falls far short of the 2.9 percent that was proposed.

TRICARE Standard and Extra will become TRICARE Select, and there will be changes to copay amounts and pharmacy prices. But probably the biggest change in 2018 involves the military retirement system. The Blended Retirement System (BRS) blends a fixed pension system like the military has always had, with a user-contributory system, the Thrift Savings Plan.

Service members with less than 12 years active duty on Jan. 1, 2018 will have a limited time to decide if they want the new system or an older one. New military members will be automatically enrolled in the BRS.

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.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases are Still an Issue for the Military

stds in the mil

By Debbie Gregory.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise, and those serving in the military are just as much, if not more, at risk as the civilian population.

Previously, the war on STDs was being won, with historically low rates of diseases such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Undetected STDs can lead to serious health consequences, and since they frequently show no symptoms, experts recommend that all sexually active people also should be tested if they’ve had sex with a new partner or multiple partners, or their partners did.

Despite free health care, free condoms and chlamydia screenings, the military has significantly higher STD rates than the civilian populations.

For obvious reasons, the military takes disease seriously — which also owes to the historical struggle between the forces and infection.

In World War I, the military discharged more than 10,000 soldiers because of STDs. During World War II, the War Department distributed condoms to troops and embarked on a massive propaganda campaign, which helped.

But the invention of penicillin and better screening were the main reasons why STDs ceased to be a significant threat to the military.

Living in a high-risk environment could lead to more risky behaviors. The fact that military personnel deploy globally, and to countries with weak or non-existent health systems, doesn’t help.

Also, when you take thousands of twenty-somethings with raging hormones away from their hometowns and pack them onto military bases, unleash them on the weekends, add in alcohol, and load up their smartphones with hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, perhaps that is all the research you need to do to understand the “why.”

Now we need to figure how to get the ounce of prevention message out to these servicemembers, for their own good.

For anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to an STD, it is imperative to seek medical care right away. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all bacterial infections and therefore curable with antibiotics. But in order to be treated for these STDs, a person must first be diagnosed.

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.

Most Veterans Doing Slightly Better Financially Than Civilians


By Debbie Gregory.

While many veterans are a bit ahead of their civilian counterparts when it comes to money, they still struggle with credit card debt and timely mortgage payments.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Foundation’s recent study included more than 3,000 veterans and 23,000 non-veterans.

There are approximately 22 million military U.S. veterans in America, representing more than 8% of the U.S. population

The study found that veterans are 22% less likely to be unemployed than civilians and slightly more likely to be covered by health insurance.

But many veterans are underwater on their mortgages, and are more likely to carry a balance and to be charged a late payment fee on their credit cards.

These findings tend to vary within subsections of the veteran population: Air Force veterans are 19% less likely to report having difficulty covering their expenses than Army veterans; veterans who left the military 10 or more years ago are 43% less likely to report an unexpected drop in income than those who left the military in the last year; and veterans who retired from the military are 14% less likely to report difficulty covering their expenses than those who did not retire from the military.

There are resources for veterans who need them — the National Association of American Veterans and U.S. Soldiers Foundation help them access health benefits and finances, and USA Cares aims to help veterans prevent foreclosure/eviction and provides financial aid — some 30% of veterans in the survey said they’d gone over their credit limit, bounced or forged a check, been reported to a collection agency, or fallen victim to a money scam within the last year.

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.


Next Generation Bullets- Will They Hit Moving Targets?


By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is looking to takes bullets and mortar shells to the next level: hitting a moving target. For example, a bullet that would be able to change its trajectory, scale a wall and hit the target hiding behind it would be the ideal.

A maneuverable projectile that could continuously adjust its trajectory could offer numerous benefits, such as “extreme range extension, enhanced maneuver authority, and increased trajectory shaping. The challenge is building small projectiles with actuators that can withstand being shot out of a gun.

Some actuators can survive being launched from artillery pieces that impart a force of 20,000 times the force of gravity. But direct fire weapons can impose bigger stresses: the electromagnetic railguns that the U.S. military is developing, for example, impart a force of 60,000 times gravity.

The Army will more than likely turn the project over to a defense contractor, such as Lockheed Martin or Raytheon.

Raytheon already has skin in the guided artillery game – the company’s Excalibur shells are guided by external fins that pop out after firing. But these shells, shot indirectly from miles away, are really suited to hit stationary targets. Regular artillery shells have an accuracy of landing about 650 feet from the target, according to the army. The M1156 guidance kit, which can be fitted to turn regular shells into smart shells, has an accuracy of 165 feet, while even an Excalibur shell still has an accuracy of sixty-five feet from the target.

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 Will Discontinue TERA Program-Deadline January 15th

army retiredBy Debbie Gregory.

Soldiers who have served in the U.S. Army at least 15 years but less than the 20 years and are eligible for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) program will only have until January 15th to submit their requests through their chain of command.

In recent years, each military branch has used different methods to reduce force size, including offering servicemembers the opportunity to get an early transition from active duty to the Guard or Reserves, transition to another branch of the military, or even separate early through Force Shaping or other measures.

Members retired under the TERA program receive the same retirement benefits as those that retire under the 20-year program – complete with TRICARE and TRICARE for Life, starting immediately upon retirement, the same COLA adjustments, base access, ID Card, etc. – the only difference is their retirement pay is reduced.

TERA, in general, applies to both officers and enlisted.

The Army originally put the program in place in 1993, and ended it in 2002. TERA was reinstated in 2012.

In a December 15th memo, Army Secretary Mark Esper said that the end of the Army’s drawing down of its force strength was the reason why he has decided to rescind the TERA program.

Applications will be approved or denied by February 28, according to the memo.

TERA was an effective tool for drawing down the Army’s end strength, but now needs to grow its active-duty force strength by September with an additional 7,500 soldiers.

Soldiers who are awaiting the results of pending 2017 promotion boards after January 15th will have 30 calendar days following the promotion announcements to submit an early retirement request to their chain of command.

Soldiers who are approved to retire through the TERA program will be required to separate by September 1st.

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 Veteran, Gunman in Colorado Shooting, had History of Mental Illness


By Debbie Gregory.

He was once a standout student in law school and an Army medic. But in the very early morning hours on New Year’s Eve, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl shot four sheriff’s deputies who responded to a complaint at his apartment in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, killing Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish.

At 5:15 a.m, law enforcement was called out to the apartment to investigate a complaint of a “verbal disturbance” involving two men. One of the men told them the suspect “was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown” but the deputies found no evidence of a crime.

They were called back less than an hour later and came under fire almost immediately after entering the apartment and trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom. They were forced to retreat.

Riehl was killed during the subsequent shootout with a police tactical team that left a SWAT officer injured.

Deputy Parrish, 29, leaves behind his wife Gracie and two young daughters.

Riehl enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2003, and in 2006 he joined the Wyoming Army National Guard. He deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2009 to March 2010. He was honorably discharged in 2012.

Riehl had a history of mental issues, and had escaped from a veterans mental health ward in 2014 during a stay for a psychotic episode. His mother told authorities that her son had post-traumatic stress disorder from his Iraq war deployment and was refusing to take his medication to treat the condition.

By mid-2016, Riehl was at the center of a string of worrisome events reported by police in Colorado and Wyoming. He posted tirades on social media about the faculty at the Wyoming law school and sent harassing emails to police after getting a speeding ticket.

Riehl posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane, highly personal terms. He also used social media to livestream the confrontation leading up to the shooting.

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.