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After a Long Wait, Translator’s Special Immigrant Visa Finally Approved

translator

By Debbie Gregory.

For Iraqis and Afghans, working with the U.S. military in the Middle East carried great risks. Mahmood, who is going by his first name for his protection, is one of more than 23,000 Iraqi and Afghan people who worked with American Forces, and then immigrated to the United States.

Their work as translators or other supporting roles earned them special immigrant visas for themselves and their families.

Mahmood has been mired in the dangerous process of applying for the visa for more than two years. But on April 6, 2017, Mahmood found out that his application had been approved.

“It was the best day of my life,” said Mahmood, but he is still treading very carefully; his family in Iraq is still at risk.

With his parents’ encouragement, in 2008 Mahmood got a job in the laundry department on a U.S. military base in the Kirkuk province.

As Mahmood’s language skills improved, Army Col. Mark Leahey encouraged him to become a military translator, a job that would allow him to apply for a special immigrant visa.

Mahmood became a tactical translator first in the Kirkuk province, then in Diyala province.  He lived on an American base and translated reports about attacks.

When the United States began drawing down its forces in Iraq, Mahmood moved back to his family home and worked on finishing his degree.

And, he waited. Finally, his application was approved, and within two months, Mahmood landed in Washington, D.C. He stayed with Leahey at his home in New Hampshire, and eventually settled in Portland.

He hopes to become a teacher.

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.

From AK-47 to Flying Car!

Kala

By Debbie Gregory.

Kalashnikov Concern is the largest arms manufacturer in Russia, and produces a wide range civilian and military weapons, including the AK-47 assault rifle, which became a staple of fighting forces around the world.

Kalashnikov Concern has also channeled its ingenuity to unusual military-grade technology, which now includes a flying car!

The slender metal vehicle, which is more like a hovercycle than a car, bears a close resemblance to the speeder bikes from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It also resembles the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a prototype hovercraft funded by Google co-founder Larry Page.

As seen in a promotional video released last month, the unnamed vehicle is fully electric, powered by batteries located underneath the driver, which are linked to sixteen rotors. The car is controlled using two joysticks situated in front of the driving seat.

The vehicle is still in very early stages of development, with a rough and exposed appearance, although the video also appears to show the design plans that are in place for the hovering car.

Obviously, the prototype is far from battle-ready, lacking both armor and weaponry, which will necessitate design tweaks to accommodate for the additional weight.

The U.S. military has been working on its own hoverbike with Malloy Aeronautics, which they showed off in a successful flight demo earlier this year. The Malloy Hoverbike is a single seater turbo-fan powered quadrocopter developed in 2006 by Chris Malloy, and has been contracted by an American engineering firm to produce such bikes for the United States Department of Defense.

Either way, it seems possible we’ll see the first few of these skeletal hovercycles skimming above land in the near future.

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.

McCain White Paper Outlines Plan to Build Up U.S. Military

mccainwhitepaper

By Debbie Gregory.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain has a plan to fortify the U.S. military, and it comes with a hefty price tag.

McCain’s 33-page white paper, “Restoring American Power,” makes recommendations for the defense budget for fiscal years 2018 through 2022.

The report details how defense budget cuts under the Budget Control Act have left the military underfunded, undersized, and unready, and lays out a plan to repair, rebuild, and re-imagine the military for a wide range of threats facing our nation.

“This white paper details what I believe will be necessary to achieve these goals: repeal of the Budget Control Act, a $640 billion base defense budget in fiscal year 2018, innovation for the future, and an end to business as usual at the Pentagon,”  McCain said. He added, “Rebuilding our military will not be cheap—$430 billion above current defense plans over the next five years. But the cost of inaction is worse: we will irreparably damage our military’s ability to deter aggression and conflict. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to chart a better course.”

McCain’s white paper offers detailed recommendations for the armed services to improve capabilities incrementally, but significantly.

“Reversing this budget-driven damage to our military must be a top priority for national leaders,” McCain argues. “The damage that has been done to our military over the past eight years will not be reversed in one year.”

McCain would like to grow the Navy by at least 59 ships, investing in autonomous and unmanned capabilities.    The Navy also needs to boost procurement of manned submarines from two per year to three per year in 2020 and four per year starting in 2021; procure an added 58 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and 16 additional EA-18G Growlers, in light of F-35C delays.

The Marine Corps needs to grow the troops by 3,000 per year by 2022. The Marines should also accelerate the procurement of replacement aircraft like the F-35B, CH-53K helicopter and KC-130J tanker; F-35B procurement should be increased by 20 aircraft over the next five years.

To stay competitive with Russia and China, the Air Force may need 1,500 fighter aircraft and an end strength boost of 20,000.

The Army should add 8,000 soldiers a year through 2022. It should also field emerging technologies, such as electronic warfare and unmanned ground vehicles and modernize air defenses and munitions.

McCain concludes, “The budget increase advocated for in this paper is a lot of money, but we must be clear about the cost of doing nothing: Our military’s ability to deter conflict will continue to weaken. And should we find ourselves in conflict, our nation will be forced to send young Americans into battle without sufficient training or equipment to fight a war that will take longer, be larger, cost more, and ultimately claim more American lives than it otherwise would have.”

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

army

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.

Experts Say Russia, China Closing Weapons Gap with U.S.

flyby

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. is worried that its military advantage is getting smaller.

Russia and China are improving their ability to target U.S. aircraft and ships, closing the advanced weapons gap and challenging the US military presence in their regions.

Experts say the two countries are pushing the U.S. military farther away, in the air, on the sea, and under the sea.

China has become a big threat in the South China Sea, able to deploy numerous military assists to the disputed waters in no time. Russia has also warned that the Baltic Sea has become unsafe for the American military forces there.

China and Russia have test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles that have the ability to evade the most complex of missile defense systems.

In terms of undersea technology, Beijing and Moscow have shown advancements.

“Chinese nuclear attack submarines are just in absolute overdrive, how quick they’re building and how fast the technology is developing,” said Chris Harmer, senior naval analyst at the US Institute for the Study of War. He added, “And we’ve seen a significant increase in Russian naval activity, Russian long-range naval activity, Russian ships conducting port calls to Bandar Abbas in Iran.”

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.

SunShot Initiative Creates Jobs for Military Veterans

army-solar-panels

By Debbie Gregory.

In the first workforce training partnership between a civilian federal agency, the Department of Defense and individual military branches, the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Ready Vets program is training our nation’s transitioning servicemembers for careers in the solar energy industry. Upon completion of the program, these veterans are ready for careers as solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations, great jobs for military veterans.

In the U.S., employment in the solar industry has steadily increased 123% over the past five years. Veterans are strong candidates to fill these positions because they are disciplined, motivated, and technically savvy.

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and a major source of new jobs. Employment in the solar industry is expected to grow by nearly 15% in 2016, continuing into 2020 – with rising demand for more highly-trained, skilled workers. With at least 190,000 veterans leaving the U.S. military each year for the next several years, the Solar Ready Vets program matches highly qualified individuals with growing industry demand.

The Energy Department has secured commitments from some of the largest U.S. solar companies to interview graduating military trainees for employment, a step that will help place qualified trainees in the high-paying jobs for which they received training. So far, the program has been hugely successful, with, every graduate of the program having received at least one job offer from a solar company.

During the pilot phase, the program has been tested and designed  at three military installations: Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.  The Energy Department is working with the Department of Defense to expand the program to a total of ten military bases by late spring 2016.

Future locations will be evaluated based on the number of exiting military personnel, the strength of the surrounding solar market, and the training capacity of nearby DOE-supported training institutions.

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: Disaster Relief Sent to Nepal

Nepal

By Debbie Gregory.

When disaster strikes, the United States is usually one of the first nations to step up and offer assistance.

More than 3,600 people have been confirmed dead, with thousands more injured in a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25th. The death toll is expected to rise, as many remote villages were completely destroyed.

According to the Pentagon, a U.S. military plane has departed from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, bound for Nepal. Amongst the personnel onboard are a U.S. disaster assistance response team, as well as a Virginia-based search and rescue team. Additionally the plane is carrying 45 tons of cargo.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement of condolences Saturday and announced that the U.S. would be joining in the effort to help Nepal recover.

“To the people in Nepal and the region affected by this tragedy we send our heartfelt sympathies. The United States stands with you during this difficult time,” Kerry’s statement reads.

Kerry also announced that the U.S. government is sending an additional $9 million to aid in the relief effort, bringing the total funds sent thus far to $10 million.

Prior to the disaster, more than two dozen Defense Department personnel and a transport plane were in Nepal on a training exercise. All personnel are accounted for.

The earthquake also caused deadly avalanches on Mount Everest, killing at least 17, with more than 200 climbers needing rescue. One avalanche claimed the life of Google executive Dan Fredinburg. Fredinburg was climbing Mr. Everest to raise money for OrphanGift in support of two Nepali orphanages.

The 7.8 magnitude temblor was the country’s worst in 80 years, and was felt as far away as Pakistan, Tibet and Bangladesh. The quake, which struck before noon local time about 50 miles northwest of Katmandu, happened in an area that the U.S. Geological Survey calls one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. Multiple aftershocks, including one registered at magnitude-6.7, followed.

UNICEF has reported dwindling water supplies, power shortages and communications breakdowns in the stricken areas.

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: Disaster Relief Sent to Nepal: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: US – Afghanistan Sign New Deal: By Debbie Gregory

New deal us-afghanistanOn September 30, 2014, representatives from Afghanistan and the United States signed a new security agreement, allowing American ground forces to remain in the country after the end of this year.

Afghanistan’s newly elected president, Ashraf Ghani, made the signing of an extended security agreement with the U.S. one of his campaign promises. On the day after his inauguration, Ghani made good on his promise and the bilateral agreement was signed by Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham. The signing was televised from the presidential palace.

“As an independent country … we signed this agreement for stability, goodwill, and prosperity of the our people, stability of the region and the world,” Ghani said in a speech after the signing.

In his speech, Ghani also said that the agreement did not compromise Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and that either side has the right to withdraw from the pact within two years.

The same day, a similar agreement between Afghanistan and NATO was ratified to allow the alliance’s European members to contribute to a residual foreign force.

The agreement permits a foreign force of 12,000 military personnel to stay after the end of 2014, when the combat mission of Afghanistan’s U.S.-led NATO force ends.

Some 9,800 U.S. troops are expected to make up the bulk of the force, with the remainder coming from other NATO members. The force will train and assist Afghan security forces in the on-going war against the Taliban and its radical Islamist allies within Afghanistan.

Under the pact, the U.S. has the right to keep bases in Afghanistan as long as the security agreement is in force. In return, the U.S. Military will raise funds to train and equip the Afghan security forces, which now number 350,000.

Hopefully, the security agreement will prevent what is happening in Iraq from happening in Afghanistan. After the U.S. pulled all of its forces from Iraq in December 2011, insurgent groups, most notably al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, have been able to overrun Iraq’s security forces. The Islamic State has amassed huge parcels of land in both Iraq and Syria. Many American Veterans who fought in Iraq feel that the current instability in that country could have been prevented had the U.S. left ground forces in Iraq.

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: US – Afghanistan Sign New Deal: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: House Bill Calls for War: By Debbie Gregory

Bills on ISISTwo separate bills were introduced in Congress that address authorizing military actions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The House bill was presented by Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.) and calls for authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist organizationswhile encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action. These organizations include ISIS, al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram. This bill, if passed as is, would not forbid the use of American ground forces, and does not include a time limit for actions. In a statement on his website, Wolf says that his bill would “send a clear message to the international community that the United States intends to work with allies to confront and defeat this increasingly dangerous challenge.”

Wolf’s “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” would be the firstapproved by Congress since the 2001 and 2002 legislation that authorized the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate bill on the issue was introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.). This bill would give the president congressional authority to order further airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but limits the authority to three years. Nelson’s bill also bars the president from deploying ground forces in the region.

President Obama has authorized more than 140 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, beginning on August 7th. The president said that the strikes were intended to protect U.S. personnel and property as ISIS forces were advancing toward the U.S Consulate in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital in Iraq.

The airstrikes were also utilized to help Iraqi forces recapture and maintain control of the Mosul Dam from ISIS fighters. Officials said that ISIS could use the dam to cut off electricity and water to much of Iraq, or to flood Baghdad.

Over this past weekend, the president also authorized strikes during a humanitarian airdrop of supplies to the Shiite Turkmen in Amerli and to help Iraqi forces hold the Haditha Dam.

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: House Bill Calls for War: By Debbie Gregory