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VA Medical Center Gave Veterans Inaccurate HIV Test Results per Investigation

miami va

By Debbie Gregory.

The Bruce W. Carter Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center gave at least eight military veterans who were tested for HIV at the facility different results than tests from an outside lab, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency.

The discrepancy was only discovered after Roman Miguel, a lab director, complained to outside agencies and the White House that local managers were ignoring his concerns. Following a four-day visit to the Miami VAMC in October 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it was unable to verify the complaints after investigating the employee’s claims

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel expressed incredulity that the facility complied with new HIV testing policy only after the employee complained to outside agencies.

In a Feb. 28 letter to President Trump, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said VA investigators could not verify the claims because they loosely interpreted the deadline for the Miami VAMC to comply with the new policy for HIV testing. The nationwide VA policy, Directive 1113, required VA facilities to implement fourth-generation HIV testing within one year of its publication.

It’s unclear how many HIV tests from the Miami VAMC were sent to an outside lab.

The findings have spurred U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of South Florida colleagues to go through federal congressional channels to determine if the Miami VAMC is properly following HIV testing policy and complying with related procedures.

Their March 5th letter to U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee leaders urged U.S. Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), a physician and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Tim Walz (D-MN), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to “demand the General Accountability Office launch an immediate investigation” into the situation. They want GAO “to determine how this happened, who was responsible, to what extent this is a problem throughout the VA medical system, and what we need to do to get the Miami VAMC up to the high standard our veterans deserve.”

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 Veteran is Waging War Against Revenge Porn Sites

kirk cuomo

By Debbie Gregory.

Former Marine Sgt. Erin Kirk-Cuomo is a woman on a mission. One of the co-founders of Not In My Marine Corps, a support group for women who’ve been harassed while serving their country, Kirk-Cuomo is waging war against military revenge porn sites.

First in her crosshairs was “Blame Marines United (Non-Butthurt Edition)” a Facebook group that had been sharing revenge porn images complete with a link to an online Dropbox folder titled “Hoes Hoin.” The Dropbox folder contained more than 260 explicit pictures of women and their dogtags, uniforms, and other identifiable information.

Don’t bother looking for the group on Facebook anymore…they’re gone

And so is access to the Dropbox link to the explicit pictures; the company took it down and and banned it so it cannot be recirculated on Dropbox.

The original Marines United Facebook group, which shared explicit photos of female troops and other women, resulted in a scandal that prompted the Marine Corps and Navy to criminalize posting explicit pictures of people online without their consent.

Marines United counted thousands of active duty and veteran soldiers among its ranks, many of whom also posted highly misogynistic commentary on the social media platform. Some 55 Marines were punished in the ensuing blowback, which also saw top brass hauled in front of the Senate.

Kirk-Cuomo is frustrated that no one at the Defense Department seems to make a priority of finding sites like the latest incarnation of Marines United.

“I have full-time job; I’m a mother; I have my own business – and I still managed to do this in my ‘free time,’” she said.

The former combat photographer, who left the service as a sergeant after nearly five years and multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, thinks that the Marines have the least female-friendly culture among the military branches.

“It’s a problem in retention for females in the Marine Corps and the other services.

Kirk-Cuomo is heartened that Congress is starting to take the welfare of female service members seriously. Post-Marines United, the sentiment is bipartisan, with everyone from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Jodi Ernst and Sen.Ted Cruz having pressed the military to do better.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” Kirk-Cuomo says. “It’s a fact that we need to fix our service and make the Marine Corps more inclusive and show women the respect they deserve.”

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.

Fox’s Toughest-Talking Military Analyst Quits, Calling the Network a Propaganda Machine

ralph peters

By Debbie Gregory.

Retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, Fox News Analyst and author Ralph Peters has parted ways with the network, calling it a “propaganda machine” for the Trump administration while accusing the network of “wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

Peters had become known for his impassioned commentaries against Russian appeasers, critics of Israel, and other enemies of American democracy.

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer,” Peters said. “I swore to ‘support and defend the Constitution,’ and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

As a Fox News national security analyst for 10 years, Peters has been a foreign policy hawk who frequently criticized the Obama administration. He once used a vulgar term to describe former President Obama’s fortitude in combating terrorism by Islamic extremists that resulted in Peters’ being suspended for one week.

Peters’ condemnation of Fox News does not extend the hard news reporters at the network whom he called “talented professionals in a poisoned environment,” as well as excluding the Fox Business Network, “where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity.”

Peters served in the Army for more than two decades, eventually specializing in Russian intelligence. He began appearing as a television commentator in the late 1990s, and signed an exclusive contract with Fox in 2008.

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.

DoD Releases Video Showing a Navy Pilot’s Encounter with UFO

go fast

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 9, a video was released that appears to show U.S. Navy pilots encountering an unidentified flying object in 2015.

“Wow, what is that, man?” the pilot says in the video. “Look at that flying!”

“GO FAST is an authentic DoD video that captures the high-speed flight of an unidentified aircraft at low altitudes,” according to the To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science (TTSA), which has mobilized a team of the most experienced, connected and passionately curious minds from the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA and the Department of Defense.

This is not the first time video has captured an alleged encounters between U.S. Navy pilots and unidentified flying objects.

Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. David Fravor believes he witnessed a UFO during a routine training mission on Nov. 14, 2004, that “was not from this world.”

He continued: “I’m not crazy, haven’t been drinking. It was — after 18 years of flying, I’ve seen pretty much about everything that I can see in that realm, and this was nothing close.”

Commander Fravor, was flying one of two fighter jets on a routine training mission about 100 miles into the Pacific ocean off San Diego when they were diverted to check out an aircraft spotted on radar from their navy cruiser the USS Princeton.

The operations operator said they had been tracking up to a dozen mystery aircraft over two weeks but hadn’t had manned planes deployed when they showed up.

The object first appeared at 80,000 ft, then hurled towards the sea, stopping at 20,000 feet and hovering before dropping out of radar.

Chris Mellon, a TTSA advisor and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations said, “We have no idea what’s behind these weird incidents because we’re not investigating.”

He added, “Nobody wants to be ‘the alien guy’ in the national security bureaucracy; nobody wants to be ridiculed or sidelined for drawing attention to the issue. This is true up and down the chain of command, and it is a serious and recurring impediment to progress.”

The Department of Defense declined to comment on the latest video, but confirmed last December that the U.S. government halted the program for investigating reports of unidentified flying objects after 2012.

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.

Former Forest Ranger Ordered to Pay Judgement to Disabled Vet

general_court_07

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera has ordered a former U.S. Forest Service ranger to pay nearly $600,000 to a disabled Army veteran and another camper for violating their civil rights by using excessive force during their 2014 arrests at the Juan Tomas campground in the mountains east of Albuquerque.

Former U.S. Forest Service Ranger David Chavez confronted Adam Griego, who served in the Army during two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fellow camper Elijah Haukereid, advising them that the road to the campground was closed and that Griego would have to hike into the area to retrieve his belongings.

Griego found another route to rejoin his friends, which apparently angered Chavez, who handcuffed Griego and slammed his face into the hood of Chavez’s truck, and his head into the door frame of the truck.

Griego was forced to remain in the backseat of the truck for several hours without water despite the heat. Once Griego was secured, Chavez focused on Haukereid, who was recording his friend’s arrest on his cellphone.

Chavez slapped the phone out of Haukereid’s hand and threatened him with a taser. When Haukereid questioned Chavez’s order to get on the ground, Chavez commanded his dog to attack Haukereid.

Griego, a Purple Heart recipient, is 100 percent disabled veteran and suffers from both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Herrera awarded Griego $450,000 in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that the beating he suffered made his combat injuries worse. Haukereid was awarded $140,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Although the judgement is directed at Chavez, normally his former employer would have to pay the judgment for his actions.

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.

Green Beret Rewarded for Heroism on Highway

Brave sgt

By Debbie Gregory.

There was no time to wait for emergency personnel or to see if others on the highway would stop.

“We were the first there,” he said. “It was my responsibility.”

While his wife called 9-1-1, he ran to the wreckage and went to work.

“I just did all I could do,” he said.

Thus unfolded the events of October 10, 2016 when a single vehicle accident west of Asheboro, NC claimed two lives. But due to the actions of a brave Fort Bragg Green Beret, two lives were saved.

Staff Sergeant Adams, a member of 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group sprang into action without regard for his personal safety. To protect Adams’ identity, only his last name has been used.

Adams pulled Lillie Mingin, 33, and her surviving son, 7-year-old Eric, from the wreckage. Army officials said the pair likely would not have lived were it not for Adams, who rescued them from the vehicle and provided lifesaving medical care.

The Special Forces soldier has now been awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest award for heroism outside of combat. The Soldier’s Medal requires that a soldier do more than save a life. The soldier also must voluntarily risk his own life to save others.

During the ceremony at Fort Bragg, Adams’ heroism was celebrated by more than 100 Special Forces soldiers and members of his family.

Front passenger seat, Brittany Goodman, 26, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Mingin’s 12-year-old son, Colby Springle, died shortly after the crash. The accident report quoted witnesses as saying Mingin was not speeding at the time of the accident, thus speeding is not suspected as being a factor.

“It takes a special person to do what he did,” said Army Maj. Crocker, acting commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.

“Staff Sgt. Adams saw four of his fellow human beings in desperate need of help,” Crocker said. “And in trying to save them, proved that the Army’s “capacity to do good in this world is not limited to the battlefield.”

And that is what a hero does.

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 and Air Force Botched Adoptions of Military Working Dogs, Report Finds

Staff Sgt. Shawn Martinez and Bono, a tactical explosive detection dog, inspect an Afghan truck for explosives near Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jacob Giardini)

By Debbie Gregory.

The Inspector General’s office has determined that the Army failed their canine soldiers once their work in Afghanistan ended.

The tactical explosive detection dogs (TEDDs) were also let down by the Air Force, as the agent for the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program.

Lacking proper oversight of the placements and adoptions of the dogs “occurred without complete adoption suitability records and some families adopted TEDDs with possible aggressive or unsuitable tendencies,” according to the IG’s report.

The IG found cases where a dog that was trained to bite or was aggressive was given to a family with small children. Many of the dogs weren’t neutered or tracked properly.

Army data show that of 232 dogs, only 40 were adopted by their handlers.

An important thing to remember is that not all Military Working Dogs (MWDs) are TEDDs.

In 2010, the Army began developing the TEDD program to support Brigade Combat Teams deployed to Afghanistan to mitigate Improvised Explosive Device attacks and to reduce casualties resulting from Improved Explosive Devices.

The TEDD capability was developed as a nontraditional Military Working Dog program. The Army procured and trained the dogs through an Army contract rather than procuring them through the Air Force’s 341st Training Squadron, the agency authorized by regulation to procure Military Working Dogs for use by DoD components. The Army selected and trained soldiers attached to deploying units as temporary TEDD handlers only for the duration of deployment. The Army ended the TEDD Program in 2014.

Some of the TEDDs were sent to law enforcement agencies, but were never used n a security role. Additionally, an unidentified private company adopted 13 TEDDs, but ended up surrendering them to a kennel, according to the report.

In a 2016 report to Congress, the Air Force noted shortcomings in its policy allowing the dogs’ military handlers to adopt them. Breakdowns in the system for notifying handlers when their former working dogs became available for adoption resulted in missed adoption opportunities.

Congress has recommended “former handlers of MWDs as first priority for MWD adoption,” the report said.

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.

Woman Who Fought in Desert Storm Trying to Get Son Freed From Kuwaiti Prison

Gabriel

By Debbie Gregory.

Before accepting a defense contract job in Kuwait, Barbara Jennings had served in the region as part of Operation Desert Storm. After two decades, she retired from the Army in 2003. But now she finds herself tied to the region once again.

In March, 2016, Jennings’ son, Gabriel Walker, also a contractor, was sentenced to 20 years in Kuwaiti prison for the crime of marijuana possession.

Although the outlook is grim, she is a mother who will continue to fight to bring her son home.

Jennings has received very little in the way of assistance from the U.S. government.

Walker is one of eight imprisoned Americans in Kuwait.

He had been staying at a friend’s apartment when he was arrested in the early hours of the morning. Jennings learned of the arrest from one of her son’s friends. Jennings tracked Walker down to the Central Prison, a notoriously overcrowded jail complex on the edge of Kuwait City.

Jennings secured a lawyer and was prepared to pay the estimated $13,000 in legal fees to help her son.

Although the attorney, Fayez Tahous Al-Otaibi was challenged to speak English, he said that he’d successfully defended Americans in court before. Whether that is true is doubtful. Jennings said she paid Al-Otaibi about $20,000, but now can’t even get a response to her calls and emails.

The other Americans that have been arrested under similar circumstances were detained by Kuwait’s Criminai Investigations Department (CID.) CID units have been characterized as unscrupulous, targeting foreigners and either planting evidence or making unfounded accusations, taking the accused straight to jail. CID agents planting evidence is a common allegation. But judges are more apt to believe their own than the foreigners that are trial before them.

Currently the eight Americans being held at Central Prison are African American, and all were working as defense contractors when they got arrested.

Walker has suffered extreme physical abuse during his incarceration. Jennings immediately reported this to the U.S. State Department, and was stung by the coldness of the response. “They just said he wasn’t hurt that bad.”

The State Department verified that it had received the complaint from Jennings, and said that the department works with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards. But that doesn’t appear to be the case in Kuwait.

Although the U.S. does not have a prisoner transfer agreement with Kuwait, an exchange is still possible. And unfortunately, that may be the only way home for Jennings and Walker.

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.

Navy Offering Incentives to Re-Enlist

forged by

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Navy is following in the footsteps of the Army, Marine Corps and the Air Force by announcing an incentive bonus program to retain their top talent.

The Targeted Reentry Program (TRP) allows commanding officers to recommend eligible outgoing sailors for “golden tickets” or “silver tickets” that would expedite their re-entry processes should they wish to re-enlist.

The Golden Ticket recipients are guaranteed a quota and an expedited return to AD within one year of release as long as they remain fully qualified. Silver Ticket recipients are afforded an expedited return to AD within two years of release, subject to the needs of the Navy and that they remain fully qualified. Golden Tickets, if not used within one year, will convert to Silver Tickets for an additional year. Silver Tickets not used within two years of release from AD expire.

The TRP is designed to benefit both the Sailor and the Navy by allowing a return to service for those who are well trained leaders with valuable and needed skills and will be offered to selected Sailors prior to their departure from the Navy.

The TRP is open to O-3 and O-4 enlisted, who have completed their Minimum Service Requirement (MSR), but not yet reached 14 years of active service are eligible for consideration for TRP. Also, an officer’s or enlisted’ s community qualifications must be obtained, superior performance annotated in Fitness Reports or Evaluations, and have passed their most recent Physical Fitness Assessment.

Those who accept a ticket will go into a minimum reserve status after leaving active duty. These sailors will not have a participation requirement, but will not be eligible for benefits such as health care or retirement points.

The program will become available for enlisted sailors who enter Intends to Separate status on or after April 1st . Officers with pending resignation requests that have not yet been adjudicated must be dated October 1st  or later to be eligible.

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.

Seven Airmen Killed in Iraq Crash Identified

this is hell

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Defense has released the names of the seven airmen who perished last week in a helicopter crash near Iraq’s border with Syria.

Four of the casualties were members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, based in Westhampton Beach on Long Island.

They were identified as Captain Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, New York; Captain Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, New York; Master Sergeant Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, New York; Staff Sergeant Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, New York;

Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida and Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida,

Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

In a statement, Col. Kurt Matthews, commander of the 920th Rescue Wing said, “No words can heal the pain from the loss of these true American heroes. Our deepest sympathy goes out to their families.”

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is intended to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

There is no indication that the helicopter had been shot down. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

We extend our sincere condolences to loved ones of the selfless servicemembers who perished in this tragic accident.

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.