Army Offering Up to $90K Re-enlist Bonuses


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army is offering up to $90,000 to soldiers who reenlist as the service branch looks to add tens of thousands to its ranks.

The Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, which includes incentives to woo soldiers to re-enlist, in an effort to expand its ranks.

By committing to another four or more years, soldiers in the most sought after positions such as Special Forces, cyber security, cryptologist and language skills could get $50,000-$90,000 up front. This with more routine jobs, such as some lower level infantry posts, may get just a couple of thousand dollars, if any bonus at all.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will also be adding troops, but at a lesser number.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on and add 1,000 officers.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans,” said Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command.

Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, head of the Army’s Human Resources Command, said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” inferring that there will be not be a  relaxation of standards such as previous waivers given to those with criminal or drug use records.

The new bonuses seem to be working, with the Army seeing a spike in re-enlistments, according to Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies.

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments.

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Troop Surge in Afghanistan?

troop surge

By Debbie Gregory.

Officials have said that some 3,000 to 5,000 extra troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be deployed to Afghanistan. Their mission? To stop the Taliban. But instead of hoping to beat the Taliban on the battlefield, the aim would be to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The Pentagon has previously announced plans to expand U.S. military operations in Afghanistan by at least several thousand additional troops, but that number will depend on how many troops NATO partners are willing to commit.

President Trump is scheduled to meet with those partners at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25th.

There are currently 8,400 American boots on the ground deployed to Afghanistan. NATO partners contribute 4,900 more.

Special Operations troops are waging a direct campaign against the Islamic State’s local affiliate, known as ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K) but the bulk of the forces are focused on training and advising Afghan troops.

However, a raid that took place on April 27th killed Sheikh Abdul Hasib, the emir of ISIS-K, as well as other leading ISIS-K members and 35 ISIS-K fighters

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” said General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters. For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.”

Gen. Nicholson has been pushing for increased troop levels since February, but his request took a back seat to a broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.

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How Will the UK’s Exit from the EU Affect U.S. Defense?


By Debbie Gregory.

With Britain voting to leave the European Union (EU), many in the defense sector are wondering how the decision will affect the U.S.

Pro-defense Prime Minister David Cameron announced his decision to resign after voters rejected his pleas for the UK to remain a member of the 28 nation EU.

The EU was founded as an economic organization to create a common European market, in the decades since it has taken up additional missions in the social and security arenas, such as participating in peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions.

The exit decision has opened up the possibility that the pro-European Scottish government will seek to call another referendum on whether the country should break away from the union with the rest of the UK. A breakaway by Scotland would have a profound effect on military capabilities; Britain would lose its only nuclear submarine base, located at Faslane, Scotland.

U.S. leaders will surely continue to seek to sustain a close special relationship with the U.K. in the security and defense arena. Close cooperation on intelligence, nuclear issues, special forces and critical overseas counterterrorism operations and other issues is certain to continue.

With that said, Brexit could decrease American influence over its non-British allies in Europe.

Many U.S. officials believe that having the UK, one of America’s closest partners, has helped align the European Union more directly with U.S. foreign policy objectives, such as the EU participating in the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.

When asked if Brexit would weaken NATO, Secretary of State John Kerry responded, “No, I think it will strengthen NATO.”

The U.S. and Putin have publicly said they do not expect Brexit to affect existing sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans on certain officials. Britain, along with the nations of Eastern Europe, has been among the strongest voices to keep the sanctions in place.

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Most Male Commandos Say No to Women Serving in Special Forces


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.

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.

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