Category Archives: Military News

Manning was almost the Grand Marshall

Charged with one of the largest leaks of classified documents in history, U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, is set to be acknowledged at San Francisco’s annual gay rights parade. Naming Manning as a Grand Marshall of the parade, a role that is annually filled by activists, politicians and celebrities who have made significant achievements for the LGBT community, has drawn fire from multiple groups that represent the LGBT Service Members.

Being openly gay, Manning’s lawyers argue that his actions of leaking classified information to the website Wikileaks were in part caused by his experience as a gay Soldier before the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”

“As a longstanding Manning supporter, I’m thrilled to see our community publicly embrace his courage in disclosing classified truths about the war in Iraq and other facts, which empower the American public to promote smarter future policy,” said Rainey Reitman, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

While those who believe that Manning was in the right for his actions will see this recognition as a milestone in the movement for his support, this leave a bad taste in the mouth for many towards the LGBT community; this is the case for Stephen Peters, the president of American Military Partners Association, an advocate group for gay and lesbian military families.

“The LGBT military community is outraged by this decision and we genuinely hope that San Francisco Pride will reconsider their appointment of Bradley Manning as a grand marshal for this year’s celebration. No community of such a strong and resilient people should be represented by the treacherous acts that define Bradley Manning,” said Peters.

Regardless of whether or not Manning will be kept on ticket as a Grand Marshall of the pride parade, his nomination to that position was one of symbolic gesture. Under normal circumstances, the Grand Marshalls of the parade ride by in convertibles, waving to the crowds and reviewing parties, but whether or not San Francisco Pride decides to keep him as such, he will not be in attendance due to the fact that he is currently residing in a comfortable cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as he waits for his court martial trial.

Read more at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/26/wikileaks-suspect-manning-named-honorary-grand-marshal-san-francisco-gay-pride/

UPDATE- Since I had written this there has been an update and it looks like Manning will NOT be the Grand Marshall now. Due to the heavy amount of criticism facing their decision to honor PVT. Manning as a Grand Marshall at the gay pride parade on June 30, those at SF Pride have decided to drop Manning.

SF Pride Board President Lisa Williams was quoted in a statement  saying that “an employee of the organization had prematurely notified Bradley Manning this week that he had been selected for this honor. ”

“That was an error, and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride,” Williams said.

A committee of former San Francisco Pride grand marshals did select the openly-gay Manning, to honor him, but the Pride Board decided his nomination would be a mistake, Williams said.

 

Keep What You’ve Earned

Alcohol use, and more importantly, alcohol abuse, are issues that each branch of the military faces. Posing a threat to the health and safety of both enlisted and officer alike, as well as the overall readiness and functioning ability of each branch as a whole, it is an extremely difficult set of issues to handle, as alcohol use is deeply rooted within the culture and traditions of the Armed Forces. With all of this, the Navy has launched a new campaign that is not aimed at eliminating drinking or those traditions, but at helping Sailors think before they drink.

Stemming from research collected by the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office, which compiled information from the surveys of over 700 Sailors, the “Keep What You’ve Earned” campaign aims to help eliminate the negative consequences that can occur when soldiers chose to drink and make mistakes.

“We recognized the need for an innovative strategy aimed at promoting responsible drinking among Sailors,” said Dorice Favorite, the Director of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office . “So we conducted interviews, focus groups, and an online survey to gain a better understanding of Sailors’ personal drinking habits and how alcohol consumption is perceived in the Navy as a whole.”

Bearing the slogan “You’ve Earned It, Don’t Waste It,” the campaign works towards highlighting Sailors accomplishments so far, a reminder of what they have earned, so that they know what they have to lose. This was the elected slogan after officials sifted through all of the surveys and research that was conducted in order to find out what Sailors valued and felt that they had the most to lose.

“The majority of Sailors we spoke with listed loss of pay, rank and other privileges as the most significant consequences of alcohol abuse,” said Favorite.

The initiative offers three courses of action for sailors to follow to ensure that they can still have a few, have some fun and stay out of the brig.

1. Plan ahead for a safe ride home, 2. Don’t try to “keep up” with your friends or shipmates and 3. Know your limit, before you get there. These are the simple paths that the program suggests to follow, that way sailors can still have a good time and keep what they have been working for their entire military career.

Posters featuring Sailors from the Jacksonville-Mayport-King’s Bay, Fla. Region will be issued out as part of the campaign amongst the five fleet communities of aviation, expeditionary, medical, submarine and surface.

“It was great to see how the campaign’s imagery represented each of the unique roles our Sailors serve in as part of the Navy, from medical corpsmen to aviation pilots,” said Cmdr. Jay Clark, USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) executive officer.

Calling it a “campaign for Sailors, by Sailors,” Favorite acknowledges that this whole process would not have happened if it weren’t for the feedback and cooperation of the Sailors who took part in all aspects of the initiative.

Now it will be interesting to see if this works, and if so, if the other branches will take notice and try the same approach.

See the posters and learn more at http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=73624

and

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/nadap/campaign_events/drinkresponsibly/Pages/default.aspx

The impact of Military Sexual Trauma

Top Talk Radio (www.toptalkusa.com) has taken off like crazy since its launch on January 16th, 2013. The guests we have had on the show have been fabulous, and tonight’s show is no different. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month (http://www.sapr.mil/index.php/saam) so we are dedicating tonight’s show to the topic of Military Sexual Trauma.

Sexual Assault in the military is a rising problem (in my opinion 2nd worst problem behind suicide in the military)  and is something we want to make America aware about. It is a taboo sort of topic that does not get a lot of coverage in the news so this is out attempt at getting the word out there. It is one that is both embarrassing for the victim and the military as a whole. We would love to think that every service member is honorable and has values and morals but the truth is, just like in our society, that is not always the case. The convicted have ranged from lower enlisted to Drill Sergeants to senior leaders. There is even an ongoing trial right now where a One-star General is accused of such acts.

CJ and I will have several guests on who have been victims of sexual assault during their military service. These guests are both female and male, which is important because this is not just a female problem. We are hoping other people will listen to the show, and if motivated to do so, call in if they have personal stories that they would feel comfortable sharing. It may not be something they were directly involved in, but maybe a connection they have to a case.

We will be talking about the impact these acts have on the victim, their loved ones, the unit and the military as a whole. This is a tough topic but one that needs to be covered. We hope that by covering this topic tonight on Top Talk, it will encourage other victims who may have stayed silent and are still fighting with demons today to come forward and seek help and move beyond such horrific events.

Please join us starting 8:30PM on www.toptalkusa.com as our show runs every Wednesday night from 8:30-10:00PM. Also be sure to check out our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/toptalkusa or on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/top_talk_usa. If you can’t listen over the internet and would like to call in and listen or would like to call in to comment or ask a question, you can dial 323-580-5659.

 

Photo of the Day- In the Hot Seat

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Budget Request in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2013. Dempsey joined Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Under Secretary of Defense-Comptroller Robert Hale for the testimony. DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

We have interviewed Gen Dempsey before (http://www.vamortgagecenter.com/blog/2010/03/17/gen-dempsey-talking-about-the-impact-of-new-media/) when he was the Commander of TRADOC. I am sure he likes being the top Uniformed military member in the country, but I don’t think he liked being in front of Congress the other day when a member of Congress (Rep. Doug Lamborn) asked him about North Korean Nuclear missiles in an open forum after parts of a DIA report about North Korea were accidentally de-classified.

 

Is Sequestration stopping the recovery of our missing?

While the budget cuts following the sequester are hitting the obvious areas and aspects of the Military, an aspect of the Armed Forces that is often overlooked, but nonetheless important, is also on the route to suffering.

Addressing the local American Legion in late February, Johnie Webb Jr., the deputy commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii, said that in the event of the sequestration cuts (that went into effect on the March 1st), the efforts to recover the remains of American troops that never made it home from previous wars will come to a screeching halt.

Personally this appears to me as part of the standard fear mongering by many leaders in the military and government in order to pull at the heart-strings of the American people and to put pressure on Congress to reach a compromise. However in the grand scheme of things that the military must spend money on, this could very well be one of low priority and significantly impacted by the current sequestration.

If this impact is really being felt, then in order to meet the new cuts, civilian employees, like those who work for JPAC, will be forced to take two furlough every two weeks. “You can’t be deployed and be on furlough.” Webb said when he addressed the issue at hand, saying that “All of our operations run a minimum of 30 days. If we can’t get an exception to that policy – and let those civilian scientists and others deploy and take a string of successive days when they get back – we won’t be able to do any recoveries, and only limited investigations” of sites where remains are suspected to be.

The deputy commander went on to say that JPAC’s projects have already been slowed due to the arbitrary deadline being pushed back as far as it was. Furthermore, instead of receiving the budget increases that they had expected, of about $19 million, they will have to operate with their current budget of $100 million. This has ultimately limited their recoveries to that of Vietnam where they have approximately 180 possible recovery sites, out of the 253 missing Americans in Vietnam, instead of being able to recover remains from other countries.

But in addition to the cuts, recovery operations are being stalled at several locations in Cambodia due to financial issues and irregularities with the states military, which was described by saying that issues “arose in the way payments were being made and money was being paid to some Cambodia[n] military officials.”

To make matters worse, political issues between North and South Korea have ultimately halted recovery operations in North Korea. In 2011, officials from JPAC were in the process of securing travel visas, when due to regular military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea, the North Koreans decided to cut off the scheduled visit. After North Korea showed their aggression in the beginning of 2012 through a missile launch, officials from JPAC realized how dismal the recovering the remains of the 4,800 fallen heroes really was.

Bringing home these American Heroes is harder than just researching the locations and recovering the remains. With foreign governments and across the board budget cuts standing in the way, it will take a change on both fronts in order to return the remains of those who gave all to their proper resting place back on American soil.

Learn more at http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/02/26/sequestration-will-halt-recovery-of-mia-remains.html

AF Cadets trying to save lives

With the billions of dollars invested over the years to keep military aircraft from suffering both damage and loss of life it, it is surprising to realize there are still avenues for Mother Nature to work against these efforts. But at the U.S. Air Force academy in Colorado, cadets are now striving to find a way to limit the amount of bird strikes that take their toll on the wings of the Armed Services.

Defined as “when an aircraft and any type of avian species collide” according to Capt. Jeffrey Newcamp, the director of the capstone course that is leading the charge at the Academy, Bird Strikes have been linked to the deaths of 250 people over the last 25 years and each year have resulted in over$700 million in damages to military aircraft.

With nine cadets, the capstone course aims specifically at discovering the effects of aircraft noise, flashing lights and Canadian geese distress calls on scaring away the airborne culprit from airplanes and runways. Weighing as much as 18 pounds, a Canadian goose turns into a weapon of destruction when struck by an aircraft, which gives legitimacy to the concerns of the course.

Calling it the “Airborne Bird Strike Countermeasure,” the cadets hope to limit the occurrence of situations like that of the January 15, 2009 downing of the U.S. Airways Airbus, where Air Force Academy Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, III saved every life onboard by landing the plane in the Hudson River. Struck by a large flock of Canadian geese after shortly departing from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Sullenberg was forced to conduct an emergency water landing in the Hudson after the flock of geese took out both of the engines on the 320-passenger Airbus.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, testing for the project will be held at both the Academy and in Monument Colorado, where the cadets will be able to conclude on their hypothesis that “the combination of the flashing light and distress call will cause the geese to alter their flight path, thus preventing bird strikes,” according to Newcamp.

Depending on the results from the testing, the systems fabricated by the cadets may eventually find itself as a critical part of both military and civilian aircraft in the future. And with many graduates from the Air Force leaving the Academy with a pilot slot, the need for this sort of technology hits very close to home for the cadets as Newcamp said, “They are working on a project that directly impacts the safety of themselves and the people they know.”

Read more at http://www.usafa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123336618

Curing TBI through the tongue

With the increase in cases of traumatic brain injury over the past decade, it is no secret that the military is looking for a way to better treat those who suffer from it. While finding the absolute best solution is still a long way away they may be on the verge of a break through to deal with an injury that causes symptoms that until now have been considered irreversible. All of this may be very possible, from a very unsuspecting place, the tongue.

Possessing thousands of nerve fibers in it, the tongue operates beyond its basic functions as a direct connection to the brain. Now a joint collaboration of researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the NeuroHabilitation Corporation are trying to harness the power that the tongue holds as a gateway to the brain to help treat not only those who have suffered from TBI but from stroke,  Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis as well.

Through the electrode-laden device called a “PoNS” sending a set of specific nerve impulses to the patient’s brain, the treatment hopes to restore physical and mental function lost due these conditions. In conjunction with sets of physical, occupational, and cognitive exercises based on each patients needs, the therapy with the battery powered mouthpiece will consist of a 20-30 minute session called cranial nerve non-invasive neuromodulation, which targets the brains organizational ability, ultimately allowing the patient to regain control of their own brain.

Funding for the commercial research and development of the PoNS is provided by the NeuroHabilitation Corporation, a company funded by a celebrity that knows firsthand the value of this technology. Celebrity and Veteran, Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in1999 and was first informed about the research for this development through a magazine article. After reading about the program, he quickly joined the efforts of those at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Naval Academy grad soon realized the value this technology posed for those who serve, saying that on “The third day there I said we need this in the mouths of our Soldiers.”

Part of an area of research known as neuroplasticity, its aims at reorganizing the brains functions through new experiences, sensory input and functional demands. Possessing an array of potential for future neurological study, the therapy session are showing evidence of both slowing the loss of functional ability but also restoring those functions that have been lost.

Due to the potential applications for those who have suffered combat-related injuries like TBI, the USAMRMC recently signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NeuroHabilitation Corporation to allow it to examine the PoNS device and the effects of it treatment. With the research staring this month, many at USAMRMC are excited about the possible benefits that the collaboration holds, like Col. Dallas Hack, the director of the USAMRMC Combat Casualty Care Research Program.

“This exciting agreement leverages a unique private-public partnership,” he said. “By collaborating with University of Wisconsin-Madison and NeuroHabilitation Corporation, we maximize our resources to explore a potential real-world treatment for injured service members and civilians with a variety of health conditions.”

Read more at http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/02/15/mouth-device-in-clinical-trials-as-tbi-treatment.html?comp=7000023468004&rank=2

Over 1000 Green Berets speak out

To be transparent, I have talked with Jeff Hinton in the past quite a few times and we have had him as a guest on You Served radio before. However I did not get any of this information from him, nor did I interview him for this blog post.

De Oppresso Liber: Liberate the Oppressed. The creed that the Army Special Forces live by is taking on a new meaning for over 1,100 prior and present Green Berets in response to recent nation-wide efforts of gun control.

Sent to major media outlets as well as being posted on ProfessionalSoldiers.com, a letter signed by over a thousand Green Berets sets out to fight the recent efforts of gun control across the Nation, which act as a knee-jerk reaction to the December 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. which left 20 students and 6 staff members dead.

A significant aspect of the gun bans is the prohibition of assault rifles and weapons with “military-style” features, due to the initial reports which stated that the gunman Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223. But recent reports and statements from medical professionals who examined the victims state that it was four pistols used to murder the 26 people at the school, and the allegedly used assault rifle was in a the trunk of a car during the massacre, and contrary to the media’s first broadcasts.

 

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The letter, signed by scores of American warriors, makes the argument for civilians to have the right to own and use assault rifles, specifically the AR-15 which has been the target of said bans, as well as high-capacity magazines that can hold more than the proposed 10-round maximum. To an untrained eye the AR-15 is identical to the M4A1 (the weapon that the Armed Forces use). The letter points out that the civilian AR-15 does not fire in either fully-automatic or 3-round burst like its military counterpart. The letter goes on to argue how pointless a ban on “high-capacity” magazines is, stating that “it is our considered opinion that reducing magazine capacity from 30 rounds to 10 rounds will only require an additional 6 -8 seconds to change two empty 10-round magazines with full magazines.”

The letter goes on to make lawmakers consider if “an increase of 6 -8 seconds make any real difference to the outcome in a mass shooting incident?,” and the Green Beret endorsed letter responds with “In our opinion it would not.” 

While the names of the Special Forces soldiers that signed the document are not to be released due to the sensitive nature of their line of work both present and future, retired Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Jeff Hinton, who operates Professionalsoldiers.com where the letter was posted, stated that he validated the status of each signatory as either a former or current member of the Army Special Forces.

Read more at http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=40772 or at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/31/1100-green-berets-petition-against-gun-control/

 

V-SAT access is now being locked down

In today’s connected world, where Facebook and Twitter have replaced postal communication, the issue of communication and connectivity with the outside world for those deployed face a unique set of challenges to overcome. While the issue of mission-sensitive information leaking out to the outside in real-time (OPSEC) is a concern for many, there exists another issue that the Army is now focused on solving.

The problem that much of the brass at big Army is concerned with is the issue of soldiers in a warzone using the logistic satellite network, reserved for war-fighting efforts, to visit social media sites and connected with the outside world, something that has been deemed unacceptable in the past.

On January 13th, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason issued a bulletin stating that the mobile satellite network is for mission essential tasks and explicitly not for surfing the internet, using file-sharing websites or visiting social media websites. Often used for tasks such as making requests for supplies and items essential to everyday life and the mission at hand in a war zone,  the terminals and mobile network has been used by many to access the outside world and connect via social media. And now the brass is looking to put an end to that behavior.

Being monitored by the product director for Defense-Wide Transmission Systems, misusing the Combat Support Service known as Very Small Aperture Terminal, or CSS-VSAT will result in being blocked or banned from the network. While cyber security is a significant threat that concerns many, a major concern that was stated in the bulletin was the issue that misusing the network “can overload the network and cause overall poor network performance.”

Allocating $23 million for these systems in 2012, the Army specified the utilization of these networks manufactured by L-3 communications for a combat -supporting role. Designed to help forces share documents and other data, communicate and coordinate operations and mission related tasks, the network will now be held more closely to that standard and regulated to prevent any further deviation from its efforts to assist in the mission-essential goals and tasks at hand.

I am really surprised it took this long for them to notice and block this I guess. In 2006-2007 when I was there we had a VSAT and that one VSAT provided outside connectivity from our FOB to not only higher headquarters, but also back to our US HQ and back to home for everyone on the FOB. It was a VSAT meant for 3 computers. We had about 45 on it, if you count everyone’s personal laptops. The VSAT was the only way we had to connect because we were not on some nice big Camp in Kabul or Kandahar where you could buy civilian internet. So our FOB was strung with CAT-5 cable and wireless access points. In fact we even setup a little MWR computer room on the FOB for our Afghan terps to plug into because we were ordered to give them internet access too, since we had it.

As you can imagine, that VSAT was slowed to a crawl since it was meant for 3 but had 45+ machines on it at any given time. It was through that VSAT that most of my blogging was published on bouhammer.com, and other blogs that I wrote on. It was on that VSAT that many others and I talked home to loved ones via Skype. It was on that VSAT that many of us were able to keep our sanity in some of the worst and most austere conditions imaginable.

So even though I can see their reasoning for putting in controls like this, I hope LTG Mason and other leaders are putting into place, other ways for our soldiers downrange, in the middle of the real fight, to stay connected.

Read more at http://militarytimes.com/news/2013/02/army-satellite-network-isnt-for-facebook-soldiers-020113/

Software to predict Suicidal Tendencies, Part II

NOTE- This is a second of a three-part series on the same topic. You can read the first part at http://www.vamortgagecenter.com/blog/2013/01/01/software-to-predict-suicidal-tendacies-part-1/

While it will be the responsibility of the individual Commanders to do their job and not allow this technology to replace the basic tasks of their leadership position, the Commanders Risk Reduction Dashboard will hoped to work as a preventative measure to the drastic increase in Army suicides that we have seen over the past couple years. As Les McFarling, director of the Army Substance Abuse Program said

“We want to provide this information to get to the left of events, to start preventing rather than reacting.”

However to be honest I see this becoming a “crutch” for lazy Commanders to use and not have the face-to-face time they should have with their subordinates. I am all for technology when it can truly be a “force multiplier” and help with tasks in life, or even in intel gathering or fusion work. I don’t think this product (though well intended) can do what it says it can do accurately. What about the 1SG who has seen enough of his soldiers die that he can’t take it anymore and just gets out of his Humvee on a patrol and blows his brains out? Or the SSG who has had a exemplary career, is a model NCO but has one minor argument with his wife and that was enough for him to go down to his den or office and kill himself? These are cases I know about which would not have been “detected” by this tool.

Yes there is a HUGE suicide problem in our military and even though technology helps us out in a lot of areas of our life, it does not solve everything. When I worked for the largest Army R&D lab for two years as a contractor I used to tell the engineers all the time that technology does not solve every problem (and I am a technology guy). Sometimes people just need to step up and do their job. In the arena of countering the growing trend of suicides, that is exactly what needs to happen. Leaders and battle-buddies need to pay attention to their subordinates or fellow soldiers on an on-going basis and be aware of the signs.