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Mattis: General Purpose Forces Easing Special Forces Workload

special forces

By Debbie Gregory.

In an effort to ease the strain on the overworked U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has devised a plan to shift some mission responsibilities to the conventional forces.

Last year, SoCom forces, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, deployed to 149 countries around the world. This record-setting number of deployments comes as American commandos are battling a plethora of terror groups in wars and conflicts that stretch from Africa to the Middle East to Asia.

The breakneck pace at which the United States deploys its special operations forces to conflict zones has been unsustainable, prompting Mattis to take advantage of the “common capabilities” the conventional forces have developed.

“I mean, there was a time when the only people who ran drones were the Special Forces,” Mattis said, but the use of drones is now widespread in the conventional force.

Mattis said that what he called “general purpose” troops are already taking on roles normally performed by the Special Forces in some geographic areas.

The Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB) have trained at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Military Training Adviser Academy and will likely deploy to Afghanistan in the spring.

The Academy offers unique instruction to the NCOs and officers, who learn about the social aspects and cultures of their partner nations, how to work with interpreters, and “the art of negotiation.”

To fill the SFABs, the Army is looking for high-performance Soldiers with a “propensity to learn.” Soldiers must score at least 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test, with 80 in each category.

Eventually, the Army will have five active SFABs and one in the National Guard. Initially, two will focus on the Middle East, with the additional SFABs concentrating on the Pacific, Africa and possibly Europe.

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.

The Lowdown on Navy SEAL Leadership

seals

By Debbie Gregory.

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, named to assume command of the Naval Special Warfare headquarters in Coronado this summer, was confirmed for promotion to a second star by the U.S. Senate.

But questions have been raised by Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran who asked for an investigation of contracts that Szymanski played a role in earlier in his career.

The congressman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to investigate Navy SEAL training contracts for evidence of insider dealings by Szymanski. Hunter said he would stick to his demand for investigative scrutiny and continue to speak out against Szymanski’s rise to the top SEAL job in Coronado until he was satisfied.

A retired SEAL, Eric Deming of Virginia, wrote to Hunter saying that a 2008 formal complaint Deming filed alleging nepotism and misconduct led to reprisals that destroyed his career.

Bill Wilson, who retired as a Navy SEAL captain in 2014 and who served with Szymanski said, “Right when we need a good Naval Special Warfare leader, for Duncan Hunter to do this is baffling. I know all of these guys, and Tim is the best leader of all of his peer group.”

Wilson noted that Szymanski was co-author of the SEAL “Ethos,” a set of personal and professional codes that Naval Special Warfare adopted in 2005.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, the SEAL commander slated for retirement this summer after political pressure sunk his promotion to a second star, has broken his silence about what his camp calls a deeply flawed process for investigating military wrongdoing.

“I remain fully accountable for my actions in command. The highest priority of any line commander is in ensuring that our service members have the resources, guidance and empowerment to succeed,” Losey 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.

Dramatic Rescue Earns Navy SEAL the Medal of Honor

seal

By Debbie Gregory.

As his SEAL Team Six unit raided a Taliban hide-out where an American doctor was being held hostage, Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers displayed actions that have earned him the Medal of Honor. Tragically, one member of the team was killed.

Byers will be the first sailor in a decade to receive the award. Although his actions in Afghanistan in 2012 have been deemed heroic and self-sacrificing, few details about the rescue or Byers’ actions have been made public.

“There’s no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor,” a defense official said. “His actions were so conspicuous in terms of bravery and self-sacrifice that they clearly distinguished him to be worthy of the award, including risk of his own life.”

While the White House usually gives a detailed account of what a service member has done to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Byers commendation cites only “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan, December 8-9, 2012.”

Dr. Dilip Joseph, the medical director for Colorado faith-based nonprofit Morningstar Development, had been held captive in a shack by ransom-seeking Taliban fighters in the mountains east of Kabul.

On December 9th, just after midnight, the SEALs burst in to the shack. The forward-most SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, was shot in the forehead. “Is Dilip Joseph here?” shouted another member of the SEAL team, wearing night-vision goggles and speaking English. When Joseph identified himself, Byers immediately laid down on top of him to protect him from the fighting. As they waited for a helicopter 12 minutes out, the SEALs protected Joseph by “sandwiching” him between two team members.

Byers and other medics performed CPR on Checque during the ride to Bagram Airfield, but Checque, 28, was pronounced dead.

Byers joined the Navy in 1998, serving as a hospital corpsman before attending Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2002.

A Toledo, Ohio native, 36 year old Byers will be the 11th living service member to receive the medal for actions in Afghanistan and the third sailor to earn the distinction since Sept. 11, 2001.

His awards and decorations include five Bronze Stars with combat “V” device, two Purple Hearts, a Joint Service Commendation with “V,” three  Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals — one with “V”— and two Combat Action Ribbons.

President Obama will present Byers with the nation’s highest award for valor in a February 29th ceremony at the White House.

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 SEALs Prepare to Open Doors to Women

sealtraining

By Debbie Gregory.

Navy SEALs training may soon be open to women.

If orders come from Navy officials, the academy could open the screening test to women as soon as this spring.

With Defense Secretary Ash Carter announcement that all military positions will open to women, all Navy service assignments will be open to female midshipmen.

At the Naval Academy, officials said Monday they were awaiting orders on how to meet Carter’s mandate. At earliest, the Class of 2017 could send the first women to SEALs training, according to Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commandant of midshipmen.

“We will ultimately respond to the timeline that’s established,” he said. “There has always been interest from the female members of the brigade.”

With SEALs assignments being highly competitive, Academy officials routinely send very few midshipmen to SEALs training. The final numbers depend on the needs of the Navy.

From the class of 2012 through the Class of 2015, a total of 117 mids to were sent to SEALs training.

Prior to earning their spots, these midshipmen must take the academy’s screening test. Although officials declined to describe the requirements, they did say that the test is a “24-hour physical and mental exercise, which includes both team and individual physical activities and assessments.”

Vice Adm. Walter Carter Jr., the academy superintendent, said the standards won’t change for women.

“There won’t be two tests,” he said.

The approximately 60 midshipmen who pass the screening are sent to a three-week evaluation at the Naval Special Warfare Command, in Coronado, California. About half of them are approved to enter SEALs training upon graduating from the academy. The notoriously difficult SEALs school is known as BUD/S, Basic Underwater Demolition training.

The Naval Academy’s male graduates maintain about a 90 percent success rate, Carter said. Meanwhile, some 80 percent of outside candidates fail the training, he 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.

Most Male Commandos Say No to Women Serving in Special Forces

rand

By Debbie Gregory.

According to a RAND survey, many of the men in the U.S. military’s most dangerous jobs feel that women have no place on their special forces teams.

In blunt answers to the voluntary survey, more than 7,600 special operations forces said, almost unanimously, that allowing women to serve in Navy SEAL, Army Delta or other commando units could hurt their effectiveness. They also expressed concerns that women serving in the special forces could lower the standards and drive men away.

They also expressed concern that women wouldn’t have the physical strength or mental toughness to do the grueling jobs.

Since the survey was taken, May through July 2014, women have broken through the special forces barrier by graduating from the Army Ranger course. However, the detailed results and comments written by respondents have only just been released following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement that he was opening all combat jobs to women.

That decision was based on recommendations by the military service secretaries and the leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command. Only the Marine Corps asked to exempt women from certain infantry and frontline positions, but Carter denied that request.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Steve Russell had asked the Department of Defense for documents about the women who attended Ranger School after becoming concerned that “the women got special treatment and played by different rules.”

Some 85 percent of the respondents said they oppose opening the special operations jobs to women, and 70 percent oppose having women in their individual units. More than 80 percent said women aren’t strong enough and can’t handle the demands of the job. And 64 percent said they aren’t mentally tough enough.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, noted that women have already moved into some special operations jobs, including as helicopter pilots and crew, members of cultural support teams in Afghanistan and in civil affairs and information operations.

The services must submit implementation plans that would address such issues by today.

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.

Gay Navy SEAL Tells His Story: Military Connection

brett jones

By Debbie Gregory.

Brett Jones was born into a military family, spending his childhood traveling around the world. He continued the tradition through service as a Navy SEAL, all the while knowing he was gay. Jones served during the era of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that prohibited discrimination against gay service members but also barred them from disclosing their sexuality.

For years, Jones lived this double life, holding his secret so close that even his SEAL teammates, who were his closest friends, never knew. His lover, a Navy sailor, was referred to as his roommate.

Jones accidentally outed himself when he left an “I love you” phone message for his lover. A woman in the same office as Jones’ boyfriend heard the message and reported it up the Navy’s chain of command.

There was an investigation, which was eventually dropped. But in 2003, Jones decided to get out of the Navy. He felt that too many people knew he was gay, and it would have been a matter of time before they found another way to try and dishonorably discharge me.

But this story has a happy ending. More than a decade later, Jones, now with a husband and son, decided to break his silence to the world about his sexuality The first openly gay SEAL has built a new life with this family, the one that has replaced the two families he lost — the family that raised him and the one he built with fellow SEALs.

Jones said writing his self-published his memoir, “Pride: The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy SEAL” helped heal the pain of the scorn and rejection he experienced.

“I’ve known that I’ve been gay since I was probably about six years old,” he says. “I knew going in [to the Navy] that I was going to have to do a lot of lying.” But the time finally came to tell the truth.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Gay Navy SEAL Tells His Story: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: SEAL Community Mourns Two

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Navy’s Special Warfare community is in mourning after two of their members died in an accident while training.

On April 24, 2015, two members of Naval Special Warfare Group 2 were found unresponsive in a swimming pool at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia. Both men were Navy SEALs conducting physical training. The two SEALs were discovered by other service members assigned to the Combat Swimmer Training Facility and were rushed to Sentara Leigh Hospital.

Special Warfare Operator (SO, the Navy rate for SEALS) First Class Petty Officer (E-6) Seth Cody Lewis passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. SO1 Lewis was 32 years old, and originally from Queens, New York. Lewis served in the Marine Corps from 2001-2005 before enlisting into the Navy in 2006 to become a member of the SEALs. SO1 Lewis earned the Bronze Star with Combat Valor, the Purple Heart, the US Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, the US Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Valor, and other campaign and service medals. He is survived by his wife, Kristy

SO1 Brett Allen Marihugh was in critical condition for two days until he, too, passed away on April 26. Marihugh was 34, from Livonia, Michigan. Like Lewis, Marihugh had previously served in the Marine Corps, from 1999 to 2003. Marihugh also enlisted in the Navy in 2006. So1 Marihugh’s awards include the Bronze Star, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat V in support of the global war on terrorism. Between enlistments, Marihugh worked for Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. He is survived by his mother, Sandra Murray; father, Michael Marihugh; stepmother Zona, and sisters Sheradyn and Meghan.

Both deaths are still under investigation, but at this point, are being called accidental drownings.

Everyone who signs their enlistment contract, raises their right hand, and promises to serve their country know that there are sacrifices and risks. But this never makes it any easier when our service members– our sons, daughters, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors die.  We at MilitaryConnection.com would like to send our deepest condolences to the families, comrades and friends of SO1 Lewis and SO1 Marihugh. Fair winds and following seas…

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: SEAL Community Mourns Two: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Can Women Work in Special Forces?

women special

By Debbie Gregory.

Today, feminism is stronger than ever. Companies, such as Proctor & Gamble, have started campaigns to tackle the stereotypes that commonly associate women as being the weaker sex.  The Always “Like a girl” campaign asks why “run, fight, or throw like a girl,” can’t mean, “Run like a girl and win the race?”

This stereotype for women being weaker is prominent in the armed forces. Surveys found that men in U.S. special operations forces do not believe women can meet the physical and mental demands of their commando jobs. They also expressed concerns that the Pentagon would lower standards to integrate women into their elite units.

However, not all men agreed, and not all women disagreed. The studies found major misconceptions within the special operations as to whether women should be brought into these former male-only jobs.

The U.S. Special Operations Command consists of more than 68,000 people, including 3,000 civilians. The main survey went to around 18,000 people who are in positions not available to women, with approximately half of them completing the survey.

Another survey revealed concerns that if they were allowed into special ops positions, women could be treated more harshly, or unequally. Additionally, there were concerns that they would be subject to increased sexual harassment or assaults.

The ban on women in combat jobs was lifted in 2012, and slowly integrated women into male-only front-line positions. It is expected that all combat jobs will be open to women by January, 2016. If the positions are not open, an explanation must be written as to why they are not open.

Positions within the Special Ops, including the clandestine Navy SEAL and Army Delta units, are considered to be the most grueling and difficult jobs in the military. Training and qualifying courses push troops to their every limit.

Defense officials have stressed that they will not reduce standards in order for women to become eligible for these positions. The reaction from women integrating into more demanding combat positions, which even men find difficult qualifying for, have been mixed.

As of now, approximately 7,000 positions within special operations forces have been opened to women. One woman made it through training to become a pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a specialized unit used to fly forces fast, low, and deep behind enemy lines at night. There are currently three female pilots and 41 other women going through training for the helicopter crews, knows as Night Stalkers.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Can Women Work in Special Forces?: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Women on SEAL Teams? By Debbie Gregory

SEALSMilitaryConnection previously reported that the U.S. Army is deciding whether or not to proceed with a pilot program to integrate female soldiers into the elite Army Ranger school. Apparently, U.S. Navy leadership is also deliberating on whether or not to integrate women into their Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman units. A report from a U.S. Special Operations Command was due in July, 2014, but the completion of the report or its findings have not been confirmed.

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus has made a deliberate effort to expand the inclusion of women Navy-wide. Mabus has supported admitting women to SEAL teams, as well as other Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units. The NSW community remains the last area in the Navy that prohibits women from joining. Within the past year, the Navy opened the  Coastal Riverine Force, as well as the attack submarine community, to women.

In March, 2014, the Navy opened up 267 riverine billets to women, with 21 more billets for the joint terminal attack controller enlisted classification added in September. The first female attack sub officers will report to the USS Virginia (SSN-774) and the USS Minnesota (SSN-783) in January, 2015.

In a meeting with the press on September 30, 2014, the SECNAV stated that he hadn’t heard whether or not a report had been submitted to the DOD about adding women to SEAL teams. But he did express his opinion on the subject.

“In my opinion, if people meet the qualifications, I don’t think gender should matter,” Mabus said. He later added, “The thing I keep saying about SEALs, about special warfare, is eighty percent of men don’t make it. So we know what the standards are. If you can make it, I don’t see where gender has much of a place.”

The current push to integrate women into all communities and occupations in all branches of the U.S. Military began in February, 2012. When then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the DOD would allow women in the ranks to fill billets in ground combat units at the battalion level. This opened over 14,000 billets to women across all branches of service. In 2013, the Navy began opening up the last jobs closed to female sailors.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Women on SEAL Teams? By Debbie Gregory