The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan revealed July 12 he’s been using new rules of engagement that allow his command to deploy American and NATO forces to aid Afghan troops who are on the attack.
The new policy marks a sharp departure from previous authorities for the use of force that restricted U.S. and allied combat power to last ditch efforts to save Afghan troops from defeat.
Afghan mission commander U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson said in a press briefing in Kabul that now U.S. and NATO forces can use airpower and other troops “so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy.”
“As we focused on it this year, we used our in-extremis authorities that we had at the time to help prevent a strategic defeat. … It was in a defensive, reactive kind of manner,” Nicholson said. “With the new authorities that we have now, as of June, we’re able to then provide combat enablers to assist the Afghans … taking the initiative against the enemy and their staging areas.”
The new authority comes on the heels of a stinging Pentagon report that showed special operations forces trying to help Afghan troops fight off a Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 were hamstrung over rules of engagement that left them confused over when they could fight.
According to the report obtained by Reuters, commandos who radioed back for clarification of the ROEs were left hanging by superiors in the rear.
“Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire,” one special operator said in the Pentagon report, according to Reuters.
Nicholson launched a reassessment of the Afghanistan operation, dubbed “Resolute Support Mission,” when he assumed command in February. And in June he was given new authority to help Afghan troops on offense.
In one battle, Nicholson explained he was able to sortie F-16s to strike Taliban positions outside Tarin Kowt to help Afghan forces clear roads cut off by insurgents.
“Since that operation … we’re using our new authorities so that the Afghan army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well-known staging area. So it’s offensive,” Nicholson said.
President Obama announced last week he would keep about 8,500 American troops assigned to Afghanistan to fight the continued Taliban insurgency and fight terrorist groups.
Nicholson said during his press conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops would be assigned to continue training and advising Afghan troops, with another 3,300 “enablers,” including helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crews, assigned to give the Afghans a little extra combat punch.
The force also includes about 2,150 troops dedicated to the counterterrorism mission and about 400 troops based in other countries but helping with the Resolute Support mission.
A NATO-led training exercise focused on anti-submarine warfare ASW just kicked off in the north Atlantic.
Naval forces from more than 10 nations, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Norway, and Iceland, will be out in force off the coast of Iceland to hone their skills in hunting down and destroying enemy submarines as part of Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.
Running from June 27 to July 6, the training will feature warships, submarines, and maritime patrol aircraft.
“The presence of NATO in the waters south of Iceland is a a sign of an increased focus on the North Atlantic and will strengthen the Alliance’s knowledge and experience of the area,” Arnor Sigurjonsson Director, Department of Security and Defense, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told Naval Today.
The US Navy is bringing in a Los Angeles-class fast attack sub, an Arleigh Burke-guided missile destroyer, one P-8A Poseidon aircraft, and two P-3C Orion aircraft, both of which are designed to hunt down subs and surface vessels from the air.
“We look forward to this training opportunity with our NATO allies and partners,” Capt. Roger Meyer, commander, Task Force 69, said in a statement. “While promoting international security and stability, Dynamic Mongoose will serve to fortify theater ASW capabilities, enhance interoperability, and strengthen alliances within the European theater.”
The exercise comes amid increasing tensions with Moscow, which has complained about NATO’s acceptance of Montenegro into the alliance and Norway’s recent decision to host more than 300 US Marines in its country for at least another year.
The National Archives will open a special exhibit dedicated to former First Lady Elizabeth Anne “Betty” Ford. The exhibit will include rarely seen objects, documents, and photographs that highlight Betty Ford’s courage and candor when speaking publicly about her own personal battle with breast cancer.
On display in the Public Vaults Gallery at the National Archives Museum, “Betty Ford: A Champion for Breast Cancer Awareness” celebrates the 100th anniversary of her birth, which was on April 8, 1918.
“Betty Ford’s success in using her position as First Lady as a platform to raise cancer awareness was a significant step in fostering an open discussion about such an important health matter for the American public,” said exhibits information specialist Corinne Porter, curator of the exhibit.
Just a little more than a month after she became the First Lady, Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. On September 26, 1974, doctors discovered a lump in her breast during a routine medical examination. She underwent a mastectomy just two days later.
Ford purposefully raised public awareness of screening and treatment options while reassuring women already suffering from similar ordeals with the disease. At this time, women were not openly talking about breast cancer and First Ladies, in particular, hadn’t previously been open about their personal health problems. Ford was credited by many for saving the lives of countless American women over the coming decades.
(Photo courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Library)
“Today, cancer awareness and advocacy campaigns are important, but also commonplace in the public sphere, so it’s hard to appreciate just how radical it was for the First Lady to speak publicly about her cancer diagnosis and treatment at that time,” Porter said.
As record numbers of women began receiving breast examinations—many for the first time—the incidence of breast cancer diagnoses in the United States rose by 15 percent. In recognition of her advocacy efforts, Betty Ford received the American Cancer Society’s “Communicator of Hope” Award in December 1976. The National Archives exhibit will include Ford’s speech cards with her handwritten edits from that event.
Exhibit visitors can view letters and cards from children and adults sharing words of encouragement and their own personal battles with cancer. Ford received more than 50,000 pieces of mail during her ordeal.
“The outpouring of public support for the First Lady was massive,” Porter explained. “What I love most about the correspondence is the impact that the First Lady’s efforts had on the lives of individual Americans.”
Porter told of one particularly moving letter in the exhibit written by a Mrs. Stroud who felt encouraged to conduct a self-examination following the news of the First Lady’s cancer diagnosis and found a malignant lump in her own breast.
“Thanks to her early cancer detection the treatment was pretty minimal, but she tells Betty Ford that it could have been a very different story had she waited till her next check-up,” Porter said.
The display also includes a heartfelt letter written by Betty’s husband, President Gerald R. Ford, expressing his and their children’s love and support while she was undergoing treatment in the hospital.
A special collection of photographs of the First Lady are featured in the display as well as an award she received from the National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Service honoring her for “outstanding courage and for furthering public understanding regarding the importance of early detection and treatment as a means of combating cancer.”
(Photo courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Library)
The exhibition—part of the Betty Ford Centennial Celebration—opened at 10 am on April 6, 2018, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and continues through April 4, 2019. The display is open daily from 10 am to 5:30pm.
In conjunction with the exhibit opening, the National Archives will host a screening of the 2009 PBS documentary that profiles Betty Ford, her time in the White House, her advocacy for equal rights, and the founding of the Betty Ford Center in California. The program, Betty Ford: The Real Deal, will be held April 6, 2018, at noon. Reservations are free and recommended.
Several other events and an exhibit will be held as part of a year-long commemoration of the life of Betty Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Ford Museum will offer free admission on April 8, 2018, from noon until 5 pm to celebrate Ford’s centennial. In addition, they will open a new exhibit, “In Step with Betty Ford: In Celebration of Her Centennial,” on April 10, 2018, through January 6, 2019.
Special events will include the sold out “First Ladies Luncheon—The Centennial Birthday of First Lady Betty Ford” on April 11, 2018, at noon, and a lecture, First Ladies and American Women: In Politics and at Home on April 26, 2018, at 7 pm. Additional programs are scheduled for September 2018, at the museum.
The celebration will continue on social media as well. On April 6, 2018, the National Archives celebrated Betty Ford’s lifelong love of dancing with an Archives Hashtag Party on Twitter and Instagram. Cultural organizations will share their dance-related collections using the tag #ArchivesDanceParty. Over 560 galleries, libraries, archives, and museums have joined the National Archives to share their collections for #ArchivesHashtagParty.
When British General William Howe landed 20,000 Redcoats on Long Island, the situation looked grim for the young Continental Army. General George Washington’s Continentals seemed to be pinned down as Howe simultaneously attacked the Americans head-on while he moved his troops behind Washington’s position.
In his book, “Washington’s Immortals,” Patrick O’Donnell describes how their only way out was a small gap in the British line, somehow being held open by a handful of Marylanders.
Well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence put the nascent United States on a war footing with the world’s largest, most powerful empire, Col. William Smallwood started forming a regiment of men for the coming conflict.
Smallwood formed nine companies of infantry from the north and west counties of the Maryland Colony. Though they would be reassigned multiple times, the 400 men of the 1st Maryland Regiment took part in many major battles of the American Revolution, most notably covering the American retreat out of Long Island through a series of brave infantry charges.
British forces occupied “The Old Stone House” with a force that outnumbered the aforementioned Marylanders. While the rest of the Americans retreated in an orderly fashion, the few hundred Maryland troops repeatedly charged the fortified position with fixed bayonets.
American forces survived mostly intact — except for the Marylanders. Only nine of them made it back to the Continental Army.
Their rearguard actions against superior British troops in New York City earned them the nickname “The Immortal 400.” Their stand against 2,000 British regulars allowed Washington’s orderly retreat to succeed so he could fight another day.
The Immortal Regiment went on to fight at the pivotal battles of Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown. The unit continued its service long after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.
Maryland earned one of its nicknames, “The Old Line State,” because Washington referred to Maryland units as his “Old Line.” The U.S. Army National Guard’s 115th Infantry Regiment could trace its origins back to the Immortal 400, but the 115th is now merged with the 175th Infantry Regiment.
First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.
Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.
So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?
High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.
A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.
(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)
So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.
And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.
An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.
But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.
And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.
But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.
Wounded veteran Bryan Anderson didn’t know what swimming would be like missing three limbs. But as is his style, he learned to adapt and overcome and now enjoys hot summer days lounging by the pool and working it with the ladies #BryanStyle.
The Pentagon’s research and development outfit wants to stop “UAS-enabled terrorist threats” with a new system it’s calling Aerial Dragnet that would track slow, low-flying drones — or what the military calls unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
“As off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release. “Especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.”
DARPA is soliciting proposals for the program, which seeks to provide “persistent, wide-area surveillance” of multiple drones on a city-wide scale.
Drones have become a mainstay on the battlefield — especially where the US is involved — but many other countries have, or are producing, drones for use in combat. Then there are the smaller, off-the-shelf types, which have even been used for surveillance purposes and to deliver explosive devices by terrorist groups like ISIS, for example.
The proliferation of drones is going to continue, so it looks like DARPA wants a sort-of “super drone” that will tell US forces where all the other little ones are on the battlefield. That is a ways off, since the the Aerial Dragnet research program will take more than three years, after which it’s up to the Pentagon on whether any of the research is implemented in the field.
“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft — from small general aviation planes to large airliners — all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” Jeff Krolik, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”
Krolik also works on another DARPA program called “upward falling payloads” — a way of parking drones in sealed cases on ocean floors around the world, where they can be remotely activated to “fall” up and take a look around should trouble occur.
DARPA said the program is mainly designed to protect deployed troops, but the system “could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas.”
The agency is hosting a proposers day on September 26, and full proposals for those interested in getting the contract are required by November 12.
The Correctional Custody Unit is scheduled to open their doors Feb. 14 at the Brig aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
The CCU is designed to provide an alternative to administrative separation for cases involving minor misconduct. The goal of this program is to decrease early discharge rates for misconduct in first term junior enlisted Marines.
“This will provide an opportunity for good Marines to recover from a slight misstep, as well as return to the ranks free of stigma with an opportunity for redemption,” said Chief Warrant Officer Brian Sheppard the Brig Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “Compared to the alternatives such as administrative separation, ‘babysitting,’ restriction, extra duty, and forfeitures, CCU has the capability to really motivate a Marine and produce a far more fit, disciplined, capable, and fired-up Marine back into the ranks.”
Awardees, Marines assigned to the CCU, will spend seven or 30 days under constant surveillance completing hard labor, formal uniform inspections, combat fitness training and values-based relapse prevention training. The curriculum is designed to foster leadership and decision making abilities in order to have a lasting impact that better supports long term restoration.
“Awardee supervision is ongoing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the 30 and seven day course,” said Gunnery Sgt. Loren Ortiz, the CCU staff noncommissioned officer in charge, HS Bn., MCIPAC-MCB Camp Butler, Japan. “There will always be a senior watch stander, and his assigned watch standers on duty from reception to graduation. Weekly counselings will also be conducted and annotated in their weekly progress summary by our assigned corrections counselor. Commands are also highly encouraged to check on their Marines during command visitations.”
CCU wants Marines to graduate the program re-educated, refocused and “re-greened.”
“I hope commanders take an honest look at this alternative because I see this program has great potential to mitigate first term discharges,” said Sheppard. “Restriction is not motivating. Extra duties are not motivating. Those Marines are negatively labeled, and for the most part see these punishments as career ending; this punishment alone is seldom corrective. Instead give the Marine an opportunity. Remove them from that state, send them to CCU, get them re-motivated and remind these men and women why they put their feet on the yellow foot prints.”
The Trump administration is considering housing up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases in coming months, according to lawmakers and a Defense Department memo obtained by The Washington Post.
In a notification to lawmakers, the Pentagon said that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services asked whether beds could be provided for children at military installations “for occupancy as early as July through Dec. 31, 2018.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) addressed the issue on the Senate floor on June 21, 2018.
“The Department of Defense has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year,” he said. “How will that work? Is it even feasible?”
The plan would seemingly have similarities to 2014, when the Obama administration housed about 7,000 unaccompanied children on three military bases. The Pentagon, in its congressional notification to lawmakers, said it must determine if it “possesses these capabilities.” As required under the Economy Act, the memo said, the Defense Department would be reimbursed for all costs incurred.
The sites would be run by HHS employees or contractors working with them, the memo said. They would provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be at each location.
The memo was sent to lawmakers on June 20, 2018, after President Trump reversed his administration’s unpopular policy to separate children from their parents as the migrants arrived at the southern U.S. border.
The president’s executive order directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “take all legally available measures” to provide Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families,” and the construction of new facilities “if necessary and consistent with law.”
Two years after winding down its military operation in Afghanistan, NATO has agreed to send more troops to help train and work alongside Afghan security forces.
The move comes in response to a request from NATO commanders who say they need as many as 3,000 additional troops from the allies. That number does not include an expected contribution of roughly 4,000 American forces. They would be divided between the NATO training and advising the mission in Afghanistan, and America’s counterterrorism operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State militants.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on June 29 that 15 countries “have already pledged additional contributions.” He expected more commitments to come.
Britain has said that it would contribute just under 100 troops in a noncombat role.
“We’re in it for the long haul. It’s a democracy. It’s asked for our help and it’s important that Europe responds,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters. “Transnational terror groups operate in Afghanistan, are a threat to us in Western Europe.”
European nations and Canada have been waiting to hear what US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will offer or seek from them. US leaders have so far refused to publicly discuss troop numbers before completing a broader, updated war strategy.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Afghanistan this week, meeting with commanders to gather details on what specific military capabilities they need to end what American officials say is a stalemate against the resurgent Taliban.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro
The expected deployment of more Americans is intended to bolster Afghan forces so they eventually can assume greater control of security.
Stoltenberg said the NATO increase does not mean the alliance will once again engage in combat operations against the Taliban and extremist groups. NATO wants “to help the Afghans fight” and take “full responsibility” for safeguarding the country.
He did acknowledge “there are many problems, and many challenges and many difficulties, and still uncertainty and violence in Afghanistan.”
Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, welcomed NATO’s decision and said Afghan troops were in need of “expert” training, heavy artillery, and a quality air force.
“We are on the front line in the fight against terrorism,” Radmanish said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
But Afghan lawmaker Mohammad Zekria Sawda was skeptical. He said the offer of an additional 3,000 NATO troops was a “show,” and that NATO and the US were unable to bring peace to Afghanistan when they had more than 120,000 soldiers deployed against Taliban insurgents.
“Every day we are feeling more worry,” he said, “If they were really determined to bring peace they could do it,” Sawda said.
As the war drags on, Afghans have become increasingly disillusioned and even former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has questioned the international commitment to bringing peace.
Many Afghans, including Karzai, are convinced that the United States and NATO have the military ability to defeat the Taliban. But with the war raging 16 years after the Taliban were ousted, they accuse the West of seemingly wanting chaos over peace.
The first Royal Marine to receive the Victoria’s Cross earned the medal for gallantry at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War when he lead his men against a Russian patrol despite being completely out of ammo. Since he couldn’t fire, he wrestled the enemy leader and threw him off a ridge.
John Pethyjohns joined the military in 1844 but, because he couldn’t read, did not know that the enlisting officer had misspelled his name as John Prettyjohns. The former farmworker slowly rose through the ranks and, in November 1854, he was a corporal helping lead a platoon against the Russians.
So Prettyjohns’ platoon was sent to clear Russian snipers out of caves near the main battlefield. The platoon sergeant and Prettyjohns led the attacks and cleared some caves, but then they noticed Russian reinforcements approaching up the hill.
The Battle of Inkerman by Victor Adam (Painting: Public Domain)
The Royal Marines were nearly out of ammunition and trapped on the hilltop, but Prettyjohns quickly improvised. He ordered the marines to collect stones and then to the edge of the summit to meet the Russians himself.
When the first Russian crested the hill, Prettyjohns grabbed him and executed a wrestling throw, hurling the Russian down the slope. The other marines, meanwhile, threw their rocks at the Russian patrol, fired a volley of rifle fire, and forced them to withdraw.
When the Victoria Cross was introduced, the marines chose to nominate Prettyjohns for his actions on the hill and he became the first Royal Marine to receive the award. He left the service in 1865 as a Colour Sergeant and died in 1887.
The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.
“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.
“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.
There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.
Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.
The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.
New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.
The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.
While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.
China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.
The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.
Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.
The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.
Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.
The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.
Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.
Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.
In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.
Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.
With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:
1. Tell your story
Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.
2. Participate in surveys
Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.
3. Give Feedback
We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.
4. Self-identify in the workplace
CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.
One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.
Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.