Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why soldiers can now pretty much say goodbye to counter-insurgency training

An increased emphasis on large-scale ground combat and a greater focus on cybersecurity during combat operations are among key changes in the Army’s updated Field Manual 3-0, Operations, released Oct. 6.


America’s potential enemies now have capabilities greater than what Soldiers faced from insurgents in the Middle East. Threats from near-peer adversaries today include the infiltration of communication networks and cybersecurity compromise during combat.

“They have the ability to reach out and touch you — to interrupt your networks, to amass long-range artillery fires on your formations,” said Col. Rich Creed, director of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “How to consider protection is different… (they) force you to dig in, or stay mobile and to consider air defense of your key assets … those are the kinds of challenges we’re talking about.”

The changes, directed by Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, mark the first updates to the manual since 2011, when the Army moved from the AirLand Battle concept to unified land operations focusing on the joint force. To revise the guidance, the CADD worked closely since last fall with Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy at the Combined Arms Center and Gen. David Perkins at the Training and Doctrine Command.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

The updates highlight a shift in readiness from counter-insurgency and stability operations to large-scale combat. Three chapters of the new manual will heavily focus on large unit tactics during large scale ground combat, addressing both the offense and the defense during operations. The emphasis on large-scale combat stems from the perception that conflict with a peer adversary is more likely now than any time since the end of the Cold War. Conflict with a nation state able to field modern capabilities approaching our own is quite different than facing insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, Creed said.

“Those adversaries have modernized,” Creed said. “They represent a type of capability that would be more challenging in many ways than what we’ve been doing. That type of warfare — large-scale ground combat — is a very different environment.”

Creed said CAC researchers examined which countries had the most dangerous conventional capabilities that were proliferated around the world so that doctrine could take a more threat-based approach to operations.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Photo under Creative Commons license.

While the Army has focused resources on cybersecurity for years, Creed said the new manual will help account for cyberspace threats during combat and large-scale operations.

“There’s always been hackers,” Creed said. “We didn’t generally worry about that during military operations because the people that we were fighting couldn’t really do a whole lot to affect our operations. However (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea) are very active in cyberspace and have significant capabilities in cyberspace that extend into the military realm. So there’s no separation of cyberspace between civilian and military; you have to be aware of it all the time.”

Other areas addressed by the manual include consolidation after tactical victories, one of the Army’s strategic roles. Creed said after US forces seized Baghdad during the Iraq invasion of 2003, after the quick strike, the enemy was allowed to extend the war.

“(We) gave the enemy the opportunity to reorganize and protract the conflict for a long time,” Creed said. “Because we didn’t account for the different possibilities that they could continue resistance … There’s a lot of other things you need to do after the initial battles to secure an area and make those gains enduring.”

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Each of the manual’s chapters aligns with the Army’s strategic roles of shaping operational environments, preventing conflict, prevailing in large-scale ground combat, and consolidating gains.

The manual will also emphasize the roles of echelons above brigade. Creed said building around brigades won’t be enough in large-scale combat and that divisions, corps and theater armies take increased importance in large-scale operations. Finally, CAC made adjustments to the operational framework, the model commanders use to plan and conduct ground operations.

Creed said the revisions in the FM 3-0 will help deploying units continually prepare for future conflicts as the Army remains wary of threats from these nation states.

“We needed to make sure from a doctrine perspective that we had adequate doctrine to address those kinds of conflicts — the high-intensity type of conflicts,” Creed said. “If you are engaged in large-scale combat with a nation-state adversary with modern capabilities, you’ve got a different problem set to deal with. So that’s the underlying reason for what we’ve done.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US runs bombing drills on North Korea’s birthday

US Air Force B-1B heavy bombers from Guam linked up with fighter jets from the Air Self-Defense Force on Sept. 9, the anniversary of North Korea’s founding, for the latest training drill between the two militaries amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


The two B-1Bs from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam trained over the East China Sea with two ASDF F-15 fighters based in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

US Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said the mission “was not in response to any current event” and had been planned in advance.

“The purpose of this bilateral training is to foster increased interoperability between Japan and the US,” Hodge said.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Lt. Col. Lori Hodge. Photo from Angelo State University.

“Following the operation, one B-1B flew to Misawa Air Base to be a static display for the Misawa Air Festival, while the other B-1B returned to Andersen Air Force Base,” she added.

The flight by the B-1Bs was the first since North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, which it claimed was of a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The North called that test a “perfect success,” and the Yonhap news agency, quoting a senior US official on condition of anonymity, reported late Sept. 8 that Washington believed the blast was likely of a hydrogen bomb.

“We’re still assessing that test,” the official was quoted as saying.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
A Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15 (F-15DJ) in flight, as viewed from the boom operator position of a US Air Force KC-135 from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron. USAF photo by Angelique Perez.

“I can say that so far there’s nothing inconsistent with the North Korean claim that this was a hydrogen bomb, but we don’t have a conclusive view on it yet,” the official said.

Seoul had said that Pyongyang would follow the nuclear test with another missile launch over the weekend.

The last reported incidence of the US sending B-1Bs to the area came on Aug. 31, in a “direct response” to North Korea’s unprecedented launch over Japan of a missile designed to carry a nuclear weapon two days earlier.

In that exercise, the US sent four F-35s — one of the military’s most advanced stealth fighter jets — to accompany two B-1Bs for a joint training drill with the ASDF over Kyushu airspace. The fighters and bombers later linked up over the Korean Peninsula with South Korean Air Force F-15Ks for a flight and bomb-dropping exercise simulating precision strikes against the North’s “core facilities,” according to the US Pacific Command and South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

Overflights of the Korean Peninsula by heavy bombers such as the B-1B have incensed Pyongyang. The North views the joint exercises by what it calls “the air pirates of Guam” as a rehearsal for striking its leadership and has routinely lambasted them as “nuclear bomb-dropping drills.”

While not nuclear-capable, the B-1B — six of which are currently positioned in Guam, 3,360 km from North Korea — is regarded as the workhorse of the US Air Force and has been modernized and updated in recent years.

The North said last month that it had drawn up plans to simultaneously launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam, with a flight plan that would see them fly over Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later backed off that threat, saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct” of the United States.

Washington formally requested a vote of the UN Security Council for Sept. 11 on proposed tough new sanctions against the reclusive country.

Articles

‘Squad’ drops you right back into anti-terror combat (in a good way)

“Squad” is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.


Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.

These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”

All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.

This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.

The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy gears up for ‘leaner, agile’ operations in Arctic

This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet.

The Navy‘s newest combatant command will be “leaner, agile and more expeditionary” than the U.S. 2nd Fleet that was deactivated in 2011, Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, told attendants Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.


The 2nd Fleet, which the Navy re-established in May 2018, is designed to assert U.S. presence in the Atlantic and support operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. While its actual makeup is still in the works, it is expected to reach initial operational capability summer 2019.

When it does, it will be a small fighting force that has taken lessons from the service’s overseas fleets and II Marine Expeditionary Force, Mustin said.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)

“The focus of 2nd Fleet is to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” he said.

According to the service, the fleet will serve as the maneuver arm for U.S. Navy North in the Western Atlantic, “ensuring freedom of the sea, lines of communication and executing operational missions and exercises as assigned.”

It also will serve as a maneuver arm for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in the Eastern and North Atlantic.

The idea is that the fleet will focus on force employment, capable of deploying rapidly, regardless of area of operations.

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

The Navy first established the 2nd Fleet in the 1950s, a response to deter Soviet interest in the Atlantic, especially Europe. It was disbanded in 2011, and most of its assets and personnel were folded into Fleet Forces Command.

But growing concern over potential Russian dominance in the North Atlantic and Arctic prompted Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to reactivate the unit.

2nd Fleet version 2.0, however, won’t look much like its historic predecessor.

Mustin said the command staff will be small, currently consisting of 85 members. The full number is still being determined, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman said.

And while technically it will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, Mustin said sailors can expect that it will have the ability to deploy its command-and-control element forward, with a small team operating forward from a command ship or “austere offshore location.”

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Naval Station Norfolk.

(Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott)

The command also will integrate reserve forces on an as-needed basis and bolster its staff with personnel from allied nations, he added.

“This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

It will resemble overseas fleets, he said, which means it will become responsible for forces entering the integrated phase of composite unit training exercises, and “we will own them through deployment and sustainment.”

The ships will fall under operational control of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but tactical control will be delegated to 2nd Fleet.

Standing up a fleet within a year has been a challenge, Mustin said, but there’s excitement surrounding the concept. He noted that many surface warfare officers interested in being assigned to the command had approached him at the symposium.

“It’s fast and furious, but we are getting there,” he said.

At the symposium, some observers questioned how integration will work with other naval fleets with overlapping areas of responsibility.

Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of 6th Fleet, said the integration will be seamless.

“Our idea is not to make a line in the water. When you make lines, adversaries exploit them. Our idea is to figure out how to flow forces and how to address anything that flows our way,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousand Oaks shooting suspect is allegedly a veteran

The suspect of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA, has been identified as U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ian David Long, age 28. The shooting occurred late on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a nightclub where at least 12 people were reportedly killed.

One victim includes a sheriff’s sergeant, Ron Helus.

He had legally obtained the .45-caliber handgun, which, according to BBC, had an extended magazine that allowed it to carry more than its typical capacity. He allegedly killed himself in the nightclub after firing into the crowd. Associated Press also reported that he deployed a smoke device.

As a symbol of respect, a Presidential Proclamation was released ordering the American flag to be flown at half-staff.

To contact the Veterans Crisis Line, veterans, servicemembers, and military families can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. They can also text 838255 or click this link for assistance.

Editor’s Note: This story is breaking. More details will be provided as they emerge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

You have to see this Israeli-made tactical vehicle to believe it

An Israel-based company will unveil its new line of highly mobile Mantis armored vehicles at Eurosatory 2018 in Paris.

The Mantis family of tactical armored vehicles will feature four variants that can be customized to seat three, five or eight passengers, according to a recent press release from Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions, which has been equipping the Israel Defense Force, NATO and United Nations forces with vehicles since 1947.


The Mantis vehicle concept differs from any other known vehicle on the market, according to the release. The driver of the vehicle is seated in a cockpit-like position, allowing for an enhanced field of vision and optimal control of the various digitally displayed systems in the cabin.

“The development of the Mantis Family answers the global demand for lightweight vehicles with improved capabilities in the field,” Eitan Zait, Carmor’s CEO, said in the release. “These new vehicles provide a range of solutions and capabilities together with a unique ergonomic design that do not exist in any other lightweight armored vehicle.”

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
(Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions)

Carmor will show off the new Mantis line of vehicles at Eurosatory June 11-15, 2018.

The Mantis vehicles will be equipped with “multi-layered protection” against kinetic, blast, and nuclear, biological and chemical threats, the release states. They also will include dynamic thermal and visible camouflage options.

Carmor’s vehicles undergo “rigorous ballistic testing against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and meet international standards,” the release states.

The new family of vehicles can be upgraded with night vision and surveillance systems and provide options for mounting foldable weapon station systems, missile launchers, mortar and turrets, the release states.

“Due to their lightweight design and superb ergonomics, the vehicles deliver a combination of survivability, agility and lethality, presenting optimum automotive performance and multi-mission readiness for any field requirements,” according to the release.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Swarm of Iranian boats harassed US ships in Persian Gulf, Navy says

Close to a dozen vessels from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy spent an hour making repeated “dangerous and harassing approaches” near American ships operating in international waters on Wednesday, according to Navy officials.

The 11 vessels carried out the aggressive moves in the Persian Gulf, Naval Forces Central Command said in a news release. The U.S. ships, including four Navy vessels and two Coast Guard, were conducting joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the release states.


Video of #IRGCN vessels conducting dangerous harassing approaches on U.S. naval vessels in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.pic.twitter.com/zL9VKQ0eiQ

twitter.com

The Iranian vessels came within 10 yards of the Coast Guard’s Island-class cutter Maui and within 50 yards of the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller.

“The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” the Navy’s news release states, adding that the dangerous passes increase the risk of miscalculation and collision.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.

(U.S. Navy)

The provocations came about two weeks after the U.S. moved a carrier strike group out of the region. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed the Middle East earlier this month.

It had been operating in the region with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, a rare move for the Navy which hasn’t had multiple strike groups in the region for years. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group remains in the area.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been high. In March, two U.S. troops were killed by a rocket attack in Iraq, believed to have been carried out by Iranian-backed militia groups.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.

(U.S. Navy)

In the Wednesday statement about the unsafe maneuvers, Navy officials said U.S. naval leaders are trained to remain vigilant and professional. But, they added, “our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

The other U.S. ships involved in the episode were the Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton and coastal patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, along with the Coast Guard cutter Wrangell. The crews have been operating in the region since March.

“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response,” the release stated.

About an hour passed before the vessels responded to bridge-to-bridge radio queries, “then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” the release added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.

It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.


Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.

No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved?

There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.

These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

No. They were not told.

According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.

Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.

In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.

These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax

This is the call to action!

Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.

Here’s how to contact your Senator.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Apache will fly for 30 more years, says major general

The U.S. Army has no current plans to replace its Cold-War era AH-64 Apache, a still-lethal attack helicopter that the service plans to fly into combat for at least another three decades, according to the head of Army aviation.

“Right now, it’s an incredibly capable aircraft that we know we are going to be flying well into the 40s,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, who commands the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience Sept. 5, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Aviation Hot Topic event.


Gayler’s comments on the future of the AH-64 offer a new perspective on the Army’s evolving Future Vertical Lift program. FVL is the third priority under the Army’s bold new modernization plan, and until now Army leaders have focused on talking about the program’s goals of building a new long-range assault aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and an armed reconnaissance aircraft — leaving the future of the AH-64 an open question.

Senior Army leaders continually hammer away that the service’s modernization vision is to begin fielding a new fleet of combat platforms and aircraft by 2028 that will replace the Cold War “Big Five:” the M1 tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk, Apache, and Patriot air defense system.

“Does it mean you now have to have a replacement for the AH-64? I would say somewhere in the future, absolutely, 64s will no longer be in the inventory, just like [UH-1] Hueys are no longer in the inventory … they have a lifespan,” Gayler said. “But the timing of what replaces it and the affordability what replaces it has yet to be seen.”

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

The new armed reconnaissance aircraft, or ARA, is designed to take on a burden that AH-64 has long shouldered, Gayler said.

“What that armed reconnaissance aircraft is designed to do is replace an AH-64 used as a reconnaissance and security platform in an armed reconnaissance squadron,” Gayler said. “That aircraft was not designed to do that, therefore that’s why we are pursuing something does it optimized for that mission.”

For the long range assault aircraft, the Army selected two firms to develop demonstrators in 2014. Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter created the V-280 Valor, which completed its first test flight in December 2017. Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, a medium-lift chopper based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The FVL family will also include an advanced unmanned aerial system to deliver targeting data to long range precision fires and launch electronic attacks on enemy radar systems.

Future Vertical Lift is competing with five other modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.

To be successful, Army aviation leaders have to focus on “what you can afford to do and prioritize where you have greatest need,” Gayler said, pointing to the ARA and “long range assault aircraft.”

“That Apache is still very, very capable … made more capable by the armed reconnaissance aircraft that complements it and the long range assault aircraft that further enables it to be successful,” Gayler said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.


The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.

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A 1st Infantry Division tank in Germany in world War II. Maj. Gen. Terry Allen left the 1st Inf. Div. to command the 104th Inf. Div., a unit which quickly proved itself after arriving in France in 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Murray Shub)

One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.

According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.

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American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Tunisia was a formative experience for Maj. Gen. Terry Allen who took lessons from the battlefield there to the 104th Infantry Division. (Dept. of Defense photo)

After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.

And some of those night assaults were conducted with only cold steel bayonets and the explosive fire of hand grenades.

Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.

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The bayonet has served the U.S. from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan, but was especially useful in World War I. (Photo: U.S. Defense Visual Information Center)

During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.

The three men took out one position with grenades and an artillery position with the rockets, only using rifle fire to take out a sniper and machine gun position who spotted them before they could attack. Bolton was wounded a second time while returning to U.S. lines and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.

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104th Infantry Division soldiers drive a captured German tank in 1944 after painting it with U.S. markings. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A midnight attack on Lucherbourg went south when the Americans were spotted immediately after crossing a river, but the men pressed on anyways, seizing four houses at the edge of town and holding them against enemy counterattacks, including armored assaults, all night and the following day.

Then-Maj. Gen. Joseph “Lightning Joe” Collins praised the men for their daring and success during the campaign:

The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River.  I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.

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German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

On Oct. 23, 1944, the division deployed to the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, the longest single battle in which America ever fought.

The 104th later took part in Operation Grenade, the late-February 1945 crossing of the Roer River and the drive into the heart of Germany as well as the March 22 crossing of the Rhine. Over the following week, they captured important strategic points like airfields and created blocking positions to stop the escape of Nazi units.

On April 11, the division arrived at Nordhausen, Germany, and found a German concentration camp with 6,000 survivors and 5,000 corpses. The inmates of the camp had been forced to manufacture V-2 bombs until the American approach forced the Germans to withdraw.

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This is the underground facility in Germany where prisoners of the concentration camp near Nordhausen were forced to create V-2 rockets for German use against the Allies. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.

The Timberwolves were scheduled to take part in the invasions of the Japanese home islands as part of Operations Olympic and Coronet. The operations were made unnecessary by Japan’s surrender on Sep. 2, 1945.

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A memorial plaque for the 104th Infantry Division in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Tim1965 CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 104th is now a training unit in the Army Reserve. It still proudly carries the names “Timberwolves” and “Nightfighters.”

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How this one-armed Union soldier became ‘The Bravest Among the Brave’

Philip Kearny would have been better suited serving as a knight on a medieval battlefield than fighting in the age of gunpowder. Although he received an inheritance of around one million dollars in 1836, Kearny abandoned comfy civilian life and joined the army in search of glory.


Kearny savored war and was universally recognized for his reckless and heroic deeds, winning the French Cross of the Legion of Honor on two separate occasions. The loss of an arm in battle did not slow him down one bit, and, until his untimely death, his mere presence on the battlefield inspired the men under his command to phenomenal feats.

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Philip Kearny, Union Soldier.

Born into a wealthy family in 1815, Philip showed the first signs of his attributed rash behavior as a youth, terrifying his father with his wild horse riding stunts. While in college, his grandfather pleaded with the rambunctious boy to pursue a religious vocation.

Kearny wanted no part of this pious lifestyle, yearning instead for glory on the battlefield. He entered the U.S. Army in March of 1837 as a dragoon with the rank of lieutenant.

In 1839, he was permitted to travel “on special duty” to France to study cavalry tactics in Saumur. He accompanied the Duke of Orleans to North Africa as an aide-de-camp. The American lieutenant impressed his French allies, one account noting that, “I have often seen him charging the Arabs with his sword in one hand, his pistol in the other, and his reins in his teeth.”

For his gallantry and fortitude during these operations, the American was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor — he had to decline it due to holding rank in the U.S. Army.

He returned to the United States in the fall of 1840, and led a cavalry company during the U.S.-Mexican War. At the Battle of Churubusco, Kearny led a hell-for-leather charge to pursue retreating Mexican soldiers outside of Mexico City, spurring his horse over the enemy’s ramparts. Kearny’s men were forced to fall back when they overextended the pursuit.

A well-directed round of Mexican grapeshot crushed the bone of Kearny’s left arm between his shoulder and elbow. His gory figure managed to escape back to friendly lines, collapsing from the loss of blood and sheer exhaustion.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

Franklin Pierce, future president of the United States, then serving as a general, held Kearny’s head still as a surgeon amputated his mangled left arm. He was shipped back home to recover, received promotion, but sat out the remainder of the war. The pinned up left sleeve of his uniform became his trademark for the remainder of his military career.

Bored with uneventful frontier duty, Kearny resigned from the army in 1851. In 1859, he offered his services to Emperor Napoleon III. The one-armed American fought at the Battle of Solferino “in every charge that took place,” clenching the bridle of his horse in his teeth and wielding his sabre with his remaining arm.

For his gallantry, he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor for the second time, which he accepted.

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The tomb of Philip Kearny at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo via wiki user Jtesla16)

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he received an appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers in July of 1861. At the Battle of Chantilly in September of 1862, the noble soldier’s life came to an abrupt end. He stumbled into a Confederate picket line and was shot and instantly killed when he attempted to flee.

His luckless death was a shock to men on both sides of the conflict. The next day, in a show of respect, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Kearny’s body back to Union lines under a flag of truce. Upon receiving word of Kearny’s death, his old superior, Gen. Winfield Scott, exclaimed in a letter, “I look upon his fall, in the present great crisis of the war, as a national calamity [his own italics].”

Today a towering bronze statue of “the bravest among the brave” stands guard over the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

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This former Green Beret wants to fix the NFL

Green Beret Lt. Col. Brian Decker led a unit in Iraq. Then he was assigned to run the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program in North Carolina. He decided to improve the Army’s selection process and reduce the washout rate for men who made it through the initial screening.


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Decker wanted to develop tools that would allow the Army to identify soldiers who could make good decisions in chaotic situations and have the necessary devotion to teamwork. He overhauled a process that had been static since its launch in 1988 and introduced new standards that collected over 1,200 data points on each candidate, including physical and mental processes. After three years, Decker’s program had reduced the washout rate by 30%.

He met former Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski when the coach came to a Special Forces camp looking for training tips. That turned into an reciprocal invite to Browns camp. Team president Joe Banner was fascinated by Decker’s philosophy and convinced him to retire from the Army and join the team as a special advisor, in hopes that Decker’s analysis could help correct the NFL’s notorious 50% failure rate for first round draft picks.

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Decker ran the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program in North Carolina. | Ricky Rhodes

He kept the job even after the Browns fired that management team. Their successors kept him on and he spent a couple of years advising the team on its draft. How did that turn out?

ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham tells Decker’s story in a 3600-word profile that details Decker’s career and investigates how his football project has been going. It’s definitely worth a read.   

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