Vet Filmmaker Who Wrote “Sand Castle” Salutes His Generation

sand castle

By Debbie Gregory.

Screenwriter Chris Roessner, an Army and Iraq war veteran, turned his war experiences into the controversial Netflix film, Sand Castle.

The Canton, Ohio native grew up in rural Texas and joined the Army when he was 18, a few months before 9/11. Less than two years later he was deployed to Iraq, where he spent the next 14 months serving with a civil affairs unit attached to the 4th Infantry Division.

Roessner describes his deployment to Iraq as “the best and worst thing” that ever happened to him.

Roessner received the Tillman Foundation’s “Make Your Mark” award, and used the opportunity to address the criticism and stereotypes about his generation, often referred to as millennials.

Stereotypical millennials are lazy and entitled. But Roessner believes you can’t support the troops if you’re trashing the generation that’s actually doing the fighting.

“I’m of the opinion that one cannot disrespect our generation and respect the military at the same time. Those two thoughts are in opposition.”

He continued, “We are a group that has been asked to shoulder two of the longest wars in our country’s history, to weather a great recession, to surmount crippling student loan debt.”

There are many combat veterans who have criticized his work as narrow at best and “anti-war” at worst. But Roessner maintains that he wrote his story from his experiences, and encouraged those with a different view to write their own story.

“If I approach this film thinking that my job or my goal to write the film that resonates with every Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran, I would’ve never started,” Roessner said. “But I hope you write your film; I hope you write your book; I hope you do whatever you possibly can to have your story told.”

Roessner had been home from Iraq for more than seven years before he began working on the screenplay.

“Initially, I just wanted it to be cathartic,” he said. “I had no dreams whatsoever of it being made. I just wanted it to exist, so I at least knew that I tried to make some sense of this thing.”

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.

Delta Force Creator Dies


By Debbie Gregory.

Lt. General (Ret) Samuel Wilson, who was known as “General Sam” and helped created Delta Force died on June 10th at the age of 93.

Wilson had a distinguished military and intelligence career.   He served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Wilson was also known for coining the phase “counter-insurgency.”

Wilson joined the Army in 1940 at the age of 16.  He taught guerrilla and counter-guerrilla tactics at Fort Benning.  By the time he was 19, he was a first Lieutenant and was the chief reconnaissance officer for a unit known as “Merrill’s Marauders.”  This unit operated behind enemy lines in Burma during World War II.

Wilson was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, in Southwest Asia after the war.  He also worked in West Berlin as a CIA officer and in Russia as a defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy.

Wilson retired from the Army in 1977.  He became a political science professor at Hampden Sydney College, and served as president of the college from 1992 to 2000.  Wilson also continued to consult with officials in Washington D.C.

Hampton-Sydney College was an all-male college. It remained male and decided not to allow women even during difficult times of slow enrollment under Wilson’s tenure.  Even today, Hampden-Sydney College is one of our country’s few remaining all-male colleges.

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 Chief of Staff Recommends More Troops In Afghanistan

in afghan

By Debbie Gregory.

General Mark Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, said he supports additional troops in Afghanistan.  He also supports a residual force in Iraq.   General Milley has not yet decided on whether or not to send more troops to South Korea.

General Milley was asked these questions by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) during a Senate Appropriations hearing on defense this week

The Army has requested $166.1 billion for 2018 for a total force of 1,018,000, including 476,000 active duty soldiers.  The focus is on combat readiness.

The Army also has a $12.7 billion wish list that was sent to Congress, asking for 17,000 additional troops.  There is $3.1 billion to pay for training, sustaining, housing and equipment for these extra troops.

Milley believes that the Army should be a force of 550,000 strong, the Army National Guard should be an end strength of 355,00,  and 209,000 soldiers in the Army Reserve.

What do you think?

Three Brothers Graduating From West Point


By Debbie Gregory.

For the first time in more than 30 years, three brothers will be graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at the same time.

It was four years ago that brothers Noah, Sumner and Cole Ogrydziak entered West Point as cadets. On May 27th, the Texas natives will be graduating with the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2017.

Oldest brother Noah is 23, and twins Cole and Sumner are 21.

While they were in different regiments at the school, they always tried to make time for each other.

“Usually on the weekends we’ll buy a pizza at Grant Hall over there and we’ll watch a movie together. Just hang out,” Cole said.

Their mother, Kristine, served in the Coast Guard for 10 years, and their father, Randal, is a Coast Guard captain who is retiring next month after 38 years of service. Following the graduation ceremony, the family will take part in the traditional “pinning ceremony.” Dad Randal will exercise his privilege as a commissioned officer to personally give his sons their oaths and place bars on each of their boys’ shoulders as they become second lieutenants.

“He’ll be our first salute, too,” Sumner said. “And I couldn’t be more happy.”

Both of their grandfathers were also in the military. The three Ogrydziak brothers received presidential appointments, which are available for children of career military personnel.

Noah will be in the Signal Corps , Sumner is headed to South Korea, assigned to the Army engineers, and Cole is headed to a medical school to become a doctor.

This will be the first time three siblings graduated West Point together since 1985, when Rose, Anne and John Forrester became officers at the same time.

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.

First Woman to Command a Combat Brigade Retires

brown retires

By Debbie Gregory.

Gender equality has become a hot issue in the military. Women have demonstrated that their gender does not affect their ability to perform. And for more than 35 years, Army Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown has served as a role model throughout her history-making military career.

A major influence throughout Brown’s life was her father, William Brown. A field artillery officer, William Brown served in both World War II and the Korean War before retiring as a major. In fact, it was while serving in Germany that William met his wife Virginia, who worked with Special Services. After his retirement, William Brown moved his wife and six children to El Paso, Texas.

The close proximity to Fort Bliss would increase the military influence that surrounded Heidi Brown through her childhood.

In 2003, Brown commanded Fort Bliss’ 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, becoming the first woman to command a brigade in combat. During this mission, Brown’s father died. Although he had been diagnosed with colon cancer, he optimistically told his daughter, “I will live to see you take command.” William arrived in an ambulance at the ceremony the day Brown accepted command of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Brown said that whenever she got an opportunity during her career, she made the most of it. It all added up to a career full of firsts and ground-breaking moments.

On April 1, 2017, at the age of 57, Brown officially retired. She had hoped to continue her service with one more assignment, but she had reached her mandatory retirement date based on time in her current rank.

Brown plans to spend the first phase of her retirement overseeing a major renovation of her lakefront home. She is also planning to write a book called “From Bliss to Baghdad” that details her time in Iraq.

Brown credits her success in the military not to her gender, but to her ability to lead and command other soldiers.

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 Offering a Variety of Perks to Attract New Recruits

sgtmaj dailey

By Debbie Gregory.

In order to meet the targeted active force end strength of 476,000 by October 1st, the U.S. Army is developing programs to attract new recruits. In addition to the active force increasing by 16,000, the Army National Guard will grow by 4,000 and the Army Reserve by 8,000.

The proposed benefits include bonuses and other monetary incentives as well as training that will into translate into future civilian employment credentials and college credits.

The Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Education System will also give soldiers an advantage that will directly transfer to universities the Army has partnered with to ensure courses transfer for college credit, according to Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey.

Coming into the job in January 2015 at age 42 — making him the youngest Sgt. Major in Army history — Dailey already had a long to-do list, focusing on professional military education, readiness, robust training, physical fitness, and helping soldiers transition smoothly into civilian life. The educational benefits the Army offers will be a key part of its effort to attract additional soldiers, Dailey said.

“The number one reason men and women join the military today is because of sacrifice and service, and the second one is because of our education benefits,” Daily said. He went on to say, “And we will fight to sustain those benefits. … We cannot erode benefits to our soldiers and their families or we will put the all-volunteer force at risk … we have to continue to invest in the soldier because that is an investment in the future.”

As soldiers advance through the ranks and attend the Advanced Leader Course and the Senior Leader Course, they will earn many of the requirements for an undergraduate degree, he said.

“That way, in the future, a senior noncommissioned officer should have an undergraduate degree before they go to the Sergeant Major Academy,” Dailey said.

“So I think that we have got tell America: One, we need your sons and daughters to continue to sacrifice and serve because it is the right thing to do for their nation, but two — when we send them home, they are going to be better than when we received them, and that’s our commitment to the American soldier.”

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 Sends Congress List of Needs

troop strength

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army has been steadily drawing down the force since 2012, decreasing its numbers from a war time high of 570,000 active Army soldiers.

But following the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act in December, the Army is poised to increase its end-strength by 16,000 more soldiers than originally planned. What is yet to be determined is the amount of funding the Army will get in the fiscal year 2017 budget and beyond to cope with the proposed troop increase.

The bill adds billions of dollars for “unfunded priorities” that the Obama administration left out of its budget request. The House bill partly pays for those programs by siphoning about $18 billion from the account that directly supports overseas contingency operations.

Congress has yet to pass a 2017 appropriations bill, keeping the Defense Department operating under 2016 funding levels until April 30, 2017.

Besides troop strength, there is a need for modernization, particularly in aviation. The Army is asking for $2.5 billion for 10 new-build AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and advanced procurement for an additional 10 aircraft, 14 new-build CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters, 17 LUH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters, and 12 additional Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft.

Additionally, Bradley Fighting Vehicle production would be sped up to build one cavalry squadron set. The Army would also ramp-up the pace to modernization of 140 Stryker armored fighting vehicles to the Double V-Hull (DVH) variant as well as the production of 18 M88A2 Hercules armored recovery vehicles, which would accelerate the pure-fleet of M88A2 for all Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT) and ABCT support units.

Among other armor formation upgrades, the Army would procure battalion mortar capability for three ABCTs and would fund research and development to increase fire power of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with a 30mm gun.

Electronic warfare is also a growing concern and the Army would speed up the procurement of ground and air electronic warfare capabilities.

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 Unveils New Physical Assessment Test


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army has launched a new physical fitness dubbed the Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) to weed out new recruits and soldiers that fall short of the physical demands of certain jobs.

Job specialties are being divided into three physical demand categories: Heavy (Black), Significant (Gray), Moderate (Gold).

Category Black is for military occupational specialties (MOSs) with heavy physical demands, like those of the combat arms branches that require lifting or moving 99 pounds or more. Category Gray is for MOSs with significant physical demands that require frequent or constant lifting of 41 to 99 pounds and occasional tasks involving moving up to 100 pounds. Category Gold is for MOSs with moderate physical demands, such as cyber, that require frequent or constant lifting of weights up to 40 pounds or when all physical demands are occasional.

OPAT measures muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, explosive power and speed. It consists of four individual tests: standing long jump, seated power throw, strength deadlift, and interval aerobic run.

The test will be administered to everyone coming into the service — officer, enlisted, active, Reserve and National Guard, after the soldier swears in but before he or she begins training.

“OPAT is not designed to turn away or weed out people from the Army,” said Brian Sutton, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. “It is designed to put the right people in the right jobs and to ensure we keep our recruits safe while doing so.”

Scoring is gender neutral, upholding the same physical standards for both men and women.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command estimates the test will be administered each year to about 80,000 recruits and thousands of cadets.

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 Outlines Modernization Plans

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derrik Browne of Columbus, Ind., and U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Andrade of Bastrob, Texas, both squad leaders in Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, provide security June 27 during a visit by Army officials to Bala Hesar, a fortress in Gardez that is home to a new Afghan quick reaction force. The force is comprised of Afghan National Army, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Border Police, and Afghan National Civil Order Police members. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Adam L. Mathis, 17th Public Affairs Detachment)

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is looking to the future to determine what will be necessary to support  ground warfare in the years to come.

Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has refined the previously revealed “Big 8” modernization priorities to the “Big 6+1” set of initiatives, with the “+1” referring to soldier and team performance and overmatch which cuts across all other capabilities listed.

The Army has carved out solid modernization objectives and identified the resources needed to meet capabilities in the near-, mid-, and far-term, prioritizing updates to its aviation fleet, combat vehicles, cross domain fires, robotics and autonomous systems, advanced protection, and cyber and electromagnetic capabilities.

Beginning next year and through 2022, the Army will complete its aviation restructure initiative and continue to modernize the AH-64 Echo-model, the UH-60 Mike- and Victor-model Black Hawk utility helicopters and the CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopter.

In in 2017 and 2018,  the Army will test fly both a Bell Helicopter- and Lockheed Martin-developed tiltrotor helicopter and a Boeing and Sikorsky-made helicopter with coaxial rotor blades.

The Army will be taking a close look at combat vehicles, addressing shortfalls in mobility and lethality within the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

The service will also improve Stryker lethality for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. Outfitting the vehicle with a 30mm cannon on 81 of the infantry carriers is being fast-tracked with plans to start fielding in 2018.

The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) will replace the obsolete M113 armored personnel carriers first fielded in 1960. BAE Systems presented its first general-purpose AMPV variant to the Army at its York, PA facility.

The Army will also focus on developing next-generation power trains that will provide a 50 percent increase in power and will also work on a durable light weight track with hopes of reducing weight and cost while not losing durability.

The Army will develop a Future Fighting Vehicle to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

From 2018 to 2022, the Army will work on increasing operations at safer standoff distances for the force through robots and autonomous systems. As part of that, the service will develop Automated Ground Resupply through leader-follower robotics technology. Robots will also have the capability to conduct route clearance and counter improvised explosive devices as well as improve situational awareness.

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 Faces Challenges in Recruiting 80,000 Troops


By Debbie Gregory.

With only thirty percent of applicants being qualified to join the U.S. military, the U.S. Army is facing a big challenge to meet its  recruiting goal of  80,000 new soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of United States Army Recruiting Command,  is charged with signing 62,500 recruits for the U.S. Army and 15,400 for the U.S. Army Reserve in fiscal 2017, which runs Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.

Rising obesity rates in the U.S. have made recruiting people especially challenging, but  Snow is not in favor of changing or adjusting the requirements to enlist because he believes that doing so would ultimately reduce the quality of the military.

“We don’t want to sacrifice quality,” Snow said. “If we lower the quality, yes we might be able to make our mission – but that’s not good for the organization. The American public has come to expect a qualified Army that can defend the nation. I don’t think the American public would like us to lower the quality of those joining the Army if they knew it’s going to impact our ability to perform the very functions or nation expects us to do.”

In January, the Armed Forces will implement a five-part test to measure physical fitness, called the occupational physical assessment, to make sure male and female recruits will meet the physical requirements for the job.

Other requirements for joining any branch of the U.S. Military include: U.S. citizenship or a green card ; at least 18 years old, or 17years old with parental consent; a high school diploma.

Additional requirement to join the Army include: be aged 17-34; have no more than two dependents; pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test with a minimum AFQT score of  31.

“If there comes a point where young men and women are unwilling to raise their right hand and commit an oath to something bigger than themselves, yes, it could be a national security challenge,” Snow said. ” “I have too much confidence in my team of recruiters, and I think the youth of today gets a bad rap.”

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.