Army Develops VR Game to Prep Teachers for School Shootings


By Debbie Gregory.

With mass shootings sadly becoming a regular occurrence, the U.S. Army and Homeland Security are working to create a virtual reality experience they hope will help train teachers  how to react in the event of a school shooting.

It’s a grim project, but one that the creators hope will help teachers stay calm in a real emergency.

The VR experience allows role-playing, and multiple players take the role of a teacher trying to keep students safe during a shooting; a law enforcement officer trying to apprehend the shooter; and the shooter.

The project is based on a multipurpose Homeland Security simulator called the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE.) In 2016, the Army and Homeland Security released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train both fire and police departments how to handle school shooting response.

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” said Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE. “So this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

Teachers in the school-specific version get prompts to do things like lock the doors and windows, and they can give students instructions like “follow me” or “find a place to hide.” To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings.

No one can say for sure if this technology would have saved some of the victims in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day, among them teachers protecting their students.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel was killed after he unlocked his door so that he could let students inside his classroom and shelter. Assistant football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, used his own body to shield students as gunfire rang out in the school. Athletic director Chris Hixon, a former Navy Reservist, also lost his life.

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring. And unfortunately, it can’t come soon enough.

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 Soldiers Set to Compete at 2018 Winter Olympics


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army will be well represented at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games when seven of its own will compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Returning in bobsled will be 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Sgt. Justin Olsen from San Antonio, Texas; 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Cpt. Chris Fogt from Alpine, Utah; and 2010 and 2014 Olympic team member Sgt. Nick Cunningham from Monterey, California. Olsen and Cunningham are members of the New York National Guard. They will be joined by Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Weber, of the 10th Special Forces, from Pueblo West, Colorado.

Sgt. Emily Sweeney from Suffield, Connecticut, and Sgt. Taylor Morris from South Jordan, Utah, will complete in singles luge, along with Sgt. Matthew Mortensen from Huntington Station, New York, who is competing in the doubles luge event.

All seven participants are part of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s World Class Athlete Program. Soldiers in the program balance athletic training with their military careers, and are soldiers first.

The program was established by the Army to support Public Law 84-11, which allows the Army to provide soldiers, including those in the National Guard and the Army Reserve, to train for and participate in athletic competitions on the world stage.

Most soldiers in the program are assigned to the detachment and train on Fort Carson or at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Others train with the U.S. national team for their specific sport.

Soldiers must be nationally ranked in their chosen sport to be considered for the program.  They represent the United States and the Army, maintain their military occupational skills, and often return to traditional military units when they are not competing or training.

On average, 40 to 60 soldiers are in the detachment.

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 Promises Medical Care for Test Subjects


By Debbie Gregory.

Decades after the U.S. Army used soldiers to test the effects of potent chemical and biological warfare agents – including some prohibited by the Geneva Protocol – it has begun notifying veterans that they may be eligible for government-paid medical care for related injuries and illnesses.

The Army is notifying veterans that they may be eligible to receive medical care if they participated in U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing from 1942 to 1975 and have an injury or disease that they believe was proximately caused by their participation.

While thousands of U.S. veterans won a 2009 class action suit filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America against The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army over being used in the testing, the group’s attorneys say the service branch is falling short of meeting its obligations. The Army is also withholding details veterans are seeking about what agents they were exposed to.

Testing programs with names like Project MKULTRA, Project Bluebird and Project Artichoke exposed military personnel to a variety of substances including psychoactive drugs and irritants such as mustard gas.

The Army tested over 100 “biological and chemical warfare/threat agents and substances, as well as medications, vaccines, and other chemical and biological agent countermeasures,” said MEDCOM Public Affairs Chief Maria L. Tolleson.

According to now-declassified records on many of the programs, soldiers who participated were required to sign oaths of secrecy and received no formal documentation that would prove their involvement.

The Army says its Medical Command is conducting “an exhaustive search” for veterans who may have been research subjects “so that no individual who may benefit from medical care is inadvertently omitted.”

To apply, eligible Veterans must: (1) have a DD214 or the equivalent; (2) have served as a volunteer medical research subject in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program from 1942 to 1975; and (3) have a diagnosed medical condition they believe to be a direct result of their participation in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program. For more information, visit the Army Medicine website.

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.

New Approach to Growing Army Force Numbers


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army, like the other service branches, is struggling to maintain strong force numbers.

In the not-too-distant past, there was talk of a troop drawdown. But now Army recruiters are facing a significant challenge to increase their numbers and reach their target goal.

To that end, the Army has launched a pilot program to bring Active, Guard and Reserve recruiting under one mission.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commander of Army Recruiting Command, was able to exceed the active troop goal by more than 300 soldiers, but fell short on the numbers for the Reserve component by 1,228 soldiers.

Since some of those soldiers may have gone to the Army National Guard, which recruits separately from the Army active and Reserve components, bringing the Army’s Active, Reserve and National Guard recruiting under one umbrella makes sense.

“The Army has obviously got three components; we only recruit for two of those in this command,” Snow said. “United States Army Recruiting Command has responsibility for two components — that’s Reserve and Active.”

Recruiting all three components as one Army would mean “we leverage recruiters to recruit for all three components, which I have always felt this is the right thing to do,” said Snow. Additionally, it would benefit the National Guard because there are some parts of the country where the Guard struggles to meet its numbers.

To reach last year’s target of 69,000 recruits, the Army accepted more people who did poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

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.

Theories of the Origins of the Army’s Battle Cry “Hooah”


By Debbie Gregory.

The battle cry “hooah!” (not to be confused by the Marine Corps’ “OOHRAH”) is used by soldiers the U.S. Army. Many have questioned the origin of the term.

One version said that Seminole chief Coacoochee toasted officers of the regiment with a loud “Hough!”, apparently a corruption of “How d’ye do!”

“I don’t know how exactly to spell it, but I know what it means,” said former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan. “It means we have broken the mold. We are battle focused. Hooah says — ‘Look at me. I’m a warrior. I’m ready. Sergeants trained me to standard.’”

Other rumored origins include:

  • During World War II, soldiers would reply to orders from their commanding officers with “HUA,” an acronym for “heard, understood, acknowledged.” Some say that HUA really stands for “head up ass,” or HOOA, for “head out of ass.”
  • On D-Day, 1944, on Omaha Beach, General Cota, the 29th Division Assistant Division Commander asked a group of Rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, “Where’s your commanding officer?” They pointed him out and said, “Down there, sir.” General Cota reportedly followed their direction and, on his way down the beach, said, “Lead the way, Rangers!” The Rangers from 2nd Bat reportedly said, “WHO, US?” General Cota thought he heard them say “HOOAH!” He was so impressed with their cool and calm demeanor, not to mention their cool term, hooah, he decided to make it a household name.
  • American soldiers using Vietnamese and Vietnamese-French expressions interchangeably with English during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese word for “yes,” which is pronounced “u-ah” is easily changed to “hooah.”

Although no one is really sure where and when the term originated, or even how to spell it, the word is still an expression of high morale, strength, and confidence. And, when powered by an overwhelmingly proud, and usually loud, tone of voice, “hooah / hooyah / oohrah” no matter how it is spelled, makes a statement.

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.

California Woman Named as Disabled American Veterans Commander


By Debbie Gregory.

Congratulations to Delphine Metcalf-Foster, who has been elected National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans.

Metcalf-Foster was chosen over roughly 10 other candidates at the organization’s 96th National Convention in New Orleans.

Metcalf-Foster is the first woman candidate, as well as the first African-American female, to head up the DAV’s most important position.

“I was really overwhelmed and in shock and so humbled” she said upon the announcement.

Metcalf-Foster followed in the footsteps of her father, a Buffalo soldier, by pursuing a career in the U.S. Army. Her military career included service with the U.S. Army Reserve, 689th Quartermaster Unit, 6253rd Hospital Unit and 6211th Transportation Unit, Letterman Army Medical Center. She retired after 21 years of service with the rank of first sergeant in 1996.

During her military service, she received the following honors: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Component Achievement Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal. She also worked for the Department of the Navy at the Alameda Naval Air Station as a Quality Assurance Specialist

A Vallejo, CA  native, Metcalf-Foster has been active within the DAV Department of California, becoming the first woman commander in the state. She also completed a four-year appointment as a member of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in November 2015.

Metcalf-Foster hopes to continue her advocacy for veterans rights that include healthcare, care-givers, employment, volunteerism, mental health, PTSD and suicide prevention.

“My focus will be continuing a lifetime of support for veterans and their families,” Metcalf-Foster said, adding that she’s “prepared to take on the challenges for one year.”

Metcalf-Foster is also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is proud of her granddaughter, U.S. Army SSG Jacare Hogan, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

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.

Troop Size: How Big Should the U.S. Army Be?

army a go go

By Debbie Gregory.

The United States has higher military spending than any other country so that we can defend our borders, uphold international order and promote American interests abroad. Congress is taxed with increasing the size of the Army in 2018, but the House and Senate have not been able to agree on how many more soldiers the service should add.

The House has called for the Army to add 17,000 soldiers, 10,000 to the active force and 7,000 to the National Guard and Reserves, but the Senate only wants to add about 6,000 soldiers, 5,000 active-duty soldiers and 1,000 reservists and National Guard members.

The Senate expressed concerns that adding 17,000 more soldiers to the force next year could force the Army to reduce its recruiting and retention standards, a problem the branch has faced in the past during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“No one wants to see the Army allowing anyone who can’t meet the current standards into the uniform,” one of the officials said. “That is not a place we can afford to go back to.”

Past administrations have increased military spending, but usually in order to fulfill a specific mission, such as Jimmy Carter’s expanded operations in the Persian Gulf, Ronald Reagan’s arms race with the Soviet Union, and George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House and Pentagon has said Trump’s promised increases to the military force size, including the Army, would begin with his fiscal year 2019 budget.

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 $5K bonus for Training Brigade


By Debbie Gregory.

In order to meet the growing demand for advisers, the U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to troops interested in participating in a new training brigade.

The creation of five training and advising brigades signals the Army’s intent to shift away from the conventional units and tactics that yielded a significant number of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Army Gen. Robert Abrams, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something that doesn’t have a track record as of yet.

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

The new brigades will be specially equipped for the mission of training and building up local security forces (which is also one of the primary missions of the Army Special Forces) to prevent Islamic militants from once again overrunning the countries after U.S. forces depart.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

A colonel chosen by the Army to lead the first Security Force Assistance Brigade is set to visit various military posts to recruit volunteers for the unit. Soldiers for the second brigade will be selected in about a year, and all five brigades will be stood up by 2022.

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, 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.

Steyr Arms Files Suit Against Sig Sauer


By Debbie Gregory.

Firearms manufacturer Steyr Arms claims that their 2001 patent for a removable gun chassis system has been infringed upon by Sig Sauer’s P320 and P250 series handguns. The company has filed a patent infringement case.

Sig Sauer had recently been awarded a contract to make the Army’s next service pistol based on the company’s P320 handgun.

The Modular Handgun System competition was decided with an announcement in late January that SIG Sauer had beaten out FN, Glock, and Beretta for the more than $500 million dollar contract for future 21st Century U.S. Army sidearms. A protest on the decision from Glock is still pending a Government Accounting Office (GAO) ruling, which is expected by early June.

The U.S. Army had selected the Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 polymer striker-fired pistol had proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets.

The 10-year agreement called for Sig Sauer to supply the Army with both compact and full-size versions of the gun. It’s likely that the Army’s $580 million contract made Sig Sauer a target for rival manufacturers.

Steyr Arms claim that they hold the patent rights to the fiberglass-reinforced, polymer grip-frame module, which acts as the weapon’s lower frame. The modular polymer chassis allows the pistol’s slide and trigger pack to be fitted to frames with different grip profiles.

Steyr Arms is demanding preliminary and permanent injunctions against Sig Sauer to prevent them from selling the infringing pistols.

Patent infringement cases can be held up in the court system for months or years before they are settled. So the question remains, how this will this pending litigation impact  SIG Sauer’s contract with the U.S. Army ?

It is likely that Steyr is seeking a lucrative financial settlement in return for a licensing agreement.

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.