Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

A new program offsets costs associated with remote education for military kids.

Army Emergency Relief announced the financial assistance program earlier this year after evaluating the needs of Army families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It provides up to $500 per family to defray the costs of supplies purchased for students in K-12. The program is retroactive to March, when many schools started going offline.


Examples of items covered under this program are “traditional educational materials such as pens, paper, and books as well as educational technology including computers, tablets, and software,” according to the AER website. Assistance may be provided as a zero-interest loan, grant, or combination.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of AER, said the idea for the program came after a discussion with partners from sister relief societies about COVID-19 support for military families. Eligible soldiers can apply for assistance directly on the AER website.

“We have an online application and that’s the first place to start. Once we work the assistance case — usually 12-24 hours, depending on how complicated it is and several other situations — we then send an electronic funds transfer from our bank account directly to the soldier’s bank account,” he said.

Soldiers from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve who have been mobilized in support of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply, but they must go through their chain of command.

“The chain of command can validate their status, as in they are mobilized in support of COVID-19, and then work it back in through the electronic process,” Mason said.

All of the new COVID-19 related programs created by AER — of which there are roughly three dozen — will exist at least until the end of the year, Mason said, and new programs are constantly being added as needs come to light. To date, AER has distributed 2,000 in COVID-19 assistance, and Mason hopes more soldiers will request support.

“What keeps me up at night is that there is some need out there and it isn’t coming to us, either because of a communication problem or they are experiencing something that we haven’t thought of. We’ll always look at exceptions to a policy, so just because you go to our website and it isn’t there, don’t let that stop you. Come on in,” Mason said.

The most common ranks requesting AER assistance are E5s and E6s, but soldiers of any rank are eligible. And Mason is aware that service members can be hesitant to ask for help, which is why AER put a direct access program in place almost four years ago to achieve multiple objectives.

“It [the direct access program] allows soldiers to come to AER without chain of command involvement. It was really two reasons: One, it was the stigma, that survey data supports about asking for help, and secondly it was to get soldiers to come to us and not go to predatory lenders.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19/ to apply for assistance and to learn about additional AER programs.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Saudi Arabia has been buying a lot of weapons in recent years. So much so that a recent purchase of 17 Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawks went by almost unnoticed. What’s most interesting about this sale, though, is not just the fact that the Saudis have acquired some very versatile helicopters, but rather who the Blackhawks were bought for.


Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during the Gowen Thunder open house and air show at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, Oct. 14, 2017. Saudi Arabia recently purchased 17 UH-60M Blackhawks for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

According to a Lockheed Martin brochure, the UH-60M has a crew of four and can hold 11 troops. It has a cruising speed of 151 knots and can haul 9,000 pounds of cargo on an external hook. Versions of the UH-60 have handled everything from packing weapons to medevac missions to firefighting.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
A UH-60 Blackhawk flies overhead during an exercise at Tactical Base Gamberi. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

The Saudi military has six armed services: The Royal Saudi Land Forces, the Royal Saudi Navi, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Two of these services will split the 17 Blackhawks: The Saudi Arabia National Guard is buying eight, while the other nine will go to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces.

The Saudi Arabia National Guard is nothing like the U.S. National Guard. In the United States, the National Guard does everything from disaster relief to fighting in combat alongside active forces. It serves both the state and federal governments. The Saudi Arabia National Guard, conversely, is meant to protect the Saudi Royal Family from coups. It is very likely that the eight Blackhawks they’re acquiring will be used as troop transports.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
A pair of U.S. Army MH-60M Blackhawks fly in formation with a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. There is a chance that the nine Blackhawks being purchased by the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces could be equipped with some of the same technologies in the MH-60s used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

The Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces, on the other hand, are elite troops with the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Saudi Arabia’s regular army. The Royal Saudi Land Forces website states that personnel who join the Airborne Special Security Forces are “qualified to carry out the most intricate and sensitive missions and complete them with highest speed, swift movement, and maximum accuracy.” The nine Blackhawks going to this elite unit are likely to be used for troop transport missions, but they could very well have modifications similar to those used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Nightstalkers.

A representative for Sikorsky pointed WATM to the company’s website on the UH-60 when asked for comment. Either way, the Saudis have acquired a number of highly versatile helicopters that have served a number of countries very successfully over the years. Exactly what the Saudis intend to do with these choppers remains to be seen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump reportedly thought N. Korea would ‘pull out’ — so he beat them to it

President Donald Trump took North Korea’s recent provocative statements into account when he canceled his planned summit with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. Trump believed Kim would cancel the meeting first, US officials said, according to NBC News.

“There was no hint of this yesterday,” a US official familiar with the summit preparations told NBC News on May 25, 2018.


Trump reportedly began seriously considering withdrawing from the summit on May 23, 2018, and consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, and national security adviser John Bolton. The president also spoke with defense secretary Jim Mattis on May 24, 2018.

Trump eventually released a letter addressed to Kim on May 24, 2018, citing what he described as Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in its recent public statements. North Korea sent out heated missives in response to controversial remarks from Pence and Bolton on the fate of the North Korean regime.

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According to a Washington Post report, Trump was reportedly worried that North Korea would back out of the meeting first, and in an effort to prevent the US from looking desperate, he beat them to the punch.

“I was very much looking foward to being there with you,” Trump said in the letter.

Trump’s abrupt decision took lawmakers and allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, by surprise. It also contradicted a letter from the State Department on the constructive talks Pompeo was having with other Asian leaders ahead of the summit, which was sent nearly two hours before Trump’s letter to Kim.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
President Donald Trump andu00a0South Korean President Moon Jae-in

Pompeo has taken a prime role in US-North Korean diplomatic relations, after he traveled to North Korea and helped secure the release of three Korean-American prisoners. But according to some US officials, Bolton, who is viewed as a hawkish policy advisor, clashed with some of Pompeo’s ideas and floated the notion of scuttling the Trump-Kim meeting.

Following Trump’s decision, North Korean officials released a statement saying they were still willing to meet with the US to “resolve issues anytime and in any format.”

“I want to conclude that President Trump’s stance on the North-US summit does not meet the world’s desire for peace and stability both in the world and on the Korean Peninsula,” a North Korean official said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new approach to health is changing the lives of veterans

Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.

Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.

All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

U.S. charges six Russian military officers with ‘destructive’ global hacking campaign

The United States has charged six Russian military officers with a “destructive,” global criminal cyber-campaign that included the worldwide distribution of destructive malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

The indictment, announced by the Justice Department on October 19, also accuses the men of hacking French elections, the Seoul Olympics, and an international organization investigating Russia’s use of a deadly nerve agent.


The charges are the latest in a series of cybercriminal indictments leveled by the United States against Russian state and nonstate actors.

The six Russian nationals are all alleged to be officers in a unit of the Russian military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, which the United States in 2018 accused of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Convention two years earlier.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady called the officers’ campaigns “the most destructive and costly cyberattacks in history.”

“No country has weaponized its cyber-capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” according to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.

Also on October 19, Britain’s Foreign Office said GRU hackers had targeted organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials declined to give specific details about these attacks or say whether they were successful, but said they had targeted the Olympics’ organizers, logistics suppliers, and sponsors.

“The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said

The United States received help in its years-long investigation of the GRU officers from foreign governments as well as some of the largest U.S. companies, including Google, Cisco, Facebook, and Twitter, the Justice Department said in its statement.

Even though the United States is unlikely to ever bring the men to justice, the charges essentially prevent the men from traveling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.

The six men indicted are Yury Andrienko, Sergei Detistov, Pavel Frolov, Anatoly Kovalev, Artyom Ochichenko, and Pyotr Pliskin.

They are charged with developing NotPetya, the malware that spread globally in 2017, causing upwards of billion in damages and impairing critical medical services in western Pennsylvania.

They are also blamed for the cyberattacks against a series of Ukrainian targets from December 2015 through 2016, including the nation’s power grid and Finance Ministry, and cyberattacks against the Georgian parliament in 2019.

Russia has tense relations with both countries, having invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Russia is also backing separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Justice Department said the men were also behind a series of international spear-phishing campaigns, including against the political party of French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the International Olympic Committee in 2017 and 2018, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Spear-phishing is an e-mail or electronic communications scam targeting a a specific individual, organization, or business with the intent to steal data for malicious purposes or install malware on a targeted user’s computer.

The attack on the OPCW came just a month after Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.

The British authorities and OPCW confirmed the Skripals had been poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok. Britain accused two GRU officers of carrying out the attack.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Medal of Honor recipient Ronald Shurer dies at 41, remembered for how he lived

On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.


Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.

9/11 changed them.

In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.

Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.

The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.

But he didn’t stop.

Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.

He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

upload.wikimedia.org

In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.

On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.

On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

www.army.mil

Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”

www.instagram.com

Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week…”

Two days later he was gone.

Shurer was the embodiment of devotion, courage and sacrifice. He leaves behind his wife, two children, and a devastated country that is forever grateful for his service.


Articles

Female Marine reaches end of first phase of MARSOC course

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
US Marine Corps photo


The first Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit female Marines had one woman make it to the end of the first phase, MARSOC officials confirmed this week.

A female corporal stayed in the 19-day course until its completion at the end of August, but did not have the minimum academic and physical training scores needed to make it to the second phase, MARSOC spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler told Military.com.

The Marine, who has not been publicly identified, plans to re-attempt the assessment and selection (AS) phase when the next cycle begins early in the new year, he said. Marines trying out for MARSOC are given up to three attempts to make it through the first phase, as long as they are not limited by remaining time in service or time in their current rank, and there are enough “boat spaces” in the course to accommodate them.

The AS phase began Aug. 11 with two female Marines. The other woman, a staff sergeant, departed the course a day in after failing to complete a timed ruck march within the required time. It’s not clear if the staff sergeant plans to re-attempt the course. Thirty-one male Marines had also washed out of the grueling course before the first week was out.

According to MARSOC promotional materials, Marines must be able to complete a 12-mile march carrying a pack weighing more than 45 pounds within three hours to pass the first phase of AS. Participants are also required to tread water for 15 minutes, to swim 300 meters in their camouflage utility uniforms in under 13 minutes, and to get top scores on regular physical fitness tests, in addition to achieving passing scores on various classroom exercises.

“Each event has a minimum passing number,” Mannweiler said.

MARSOC officials are no longer providing specifics about which events or disciplines female participants wash out on, Mannweiler said, noting that the command does not publicize that information when male Marines wash out of AS.

“We don’t want to discourage women who have the talent and the capability,” he said. “I don’t want that to be the barrier for the first women graduating.”

Both female AS participants came from administrative military occupational specialties. They were permitted to participate in MARSOC AS following a decision by Defense Secretary Ash Carter late last year to open all military jobs to women, including those in infantry and special operations units.

Earlier this year, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, told Military.com the command had leaned into the new reality by having recruiters notify eligible female Marines of the opportunity to apply for special operations.

While the opportunity is still available, Mannweiler said, MARSOC does not currently have any other female Marines committed to participating in the next AS course.

Those who do make it through the first AS phase must then pass a second, more secretive and intensive three-week AS phase. Upon successful passage of AS Phase II, Marines are invited to participate in the high-intensity nine-month individual training course, which covers the entire spectrum of Marine Corps special operations, including special reconnaissance, irregular warfare, survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE), urban operations, and more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


Articles

Here are the issues to watch for during NBC and IAVA’s Commander-in-Chief Forum

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses


Tonight NBC and IAVA are hosting the first-ever “Commander-in-Chief Forum” in the hangar bay of the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan. The forum will not be a debate, but rather a hybrid “town hall” event, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appearing separately in back-to-back 30-minute segments to answer questions posed by NBC personality Matt Lauer. The forum airs tonight at 8 PM EDT. (Check local listings for the NBC/MSNBC station in your area.)

The military community — particularly the active duty community — has a unique stake in the outcome of this election since the Constitution makes the President of the United States the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military and give him or her the power to take the nation to war. As a result, servicemembers would be well advised to exercise their right to vote and to be as informed as possible while doing so.

Here’s a quick look at some of the issues that will likely come up during the event:

1. Defense budget

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill last year that would have stopped the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completed comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II. (The tests never happened.) (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth)

The defense budget is a complex beast, worth over $600 billion in annual spending (as measured by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act). Wrapped into that are the costs of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the acquisition programs for defense systems (aka “program of record”), manpower funding, and ancillary items like child care and spouse employment. But look for tonight’s discussion to be centered around the issue of “sequestration,” the law passed in 2012 as a deficit reduction measure that wound up targeting the Pentagon more than any other part of the government as a way to yield the desired outcome. The result, which threatens to cut DoD’s budget by nearly 25 percent over the next eight years, has been blamed for harming military readiness in myriad ways, including gutting the number of troops on active duty and creating the need for squadrons to “cannibalize” scrapped airplanes in order to stay airworthy.

Watch for Trump to call for an end to sequestration with the assertion that the necessary deficit reductions can be met by elimination of government waste. For her part, Clinton is likely to avoid committing to ending sequestration, instead focusing on how America needs to be more judicious about when and where troops should be deployed.

2. Vet healthcare

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Hospital corpsmen help Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, a surgeon, into his scrubs during a Pacific Partnership. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

This has been a hot-button topic during the campaign season to date and is sure to dominate a large portion of the discussion tonight. The VA has been plaqued by scandals in recent years — everything from long wait times that resulted in vet patient deaths to claims backlogs in the hundred of thousands — and Secretary Bob McDonald, who was brought in because of his corporate business experience, has been frustrated by the slow pace of change within the agency even as he touts the accomplishments that have occured on his watch.

Solutions for the VA’s woes are incredibly complex and don’t make for good television, so watch for Lauer to admininster the litmus test to the candidates in the form of a question around how each of them feels about privatization, which is basically a plan to outsource many if not all of the functions to private medical entities. (A “Commission on Care” recently released a report that said privatization was a bad idea cost-wise and that vets who tried it hated it because they felt lost in the system.) Trump initially said he supported privatization but has since softened that position, favoring it only “when it makes sense.” Clinton is against privatization.

A possible x-factor on this topic is that Trump recently called VA Secretary McDonald “a political hack.” While Lauer probably won’t directly ask him whether he stands by that, watch for a more-cryptic version of that question.

3. Vet suicides

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This topic is a subset of the one above. The latest statistics released by DoD are that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Last year the Clay Hunt Act was passed by Congress to combat this trend, and it aims to do so in 3 major ways: Improve the quality of mental health care, improve access to quality mental health care, and to increase the number of mental health care providers.

4. Foreign policy (and war against ISIS)

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

Trump has used the threat of ISIS as a centerpiece of his campaign, claiming that the group’s rise is a function of President Obama’s perceived weakness across the world stage. Clinton, on the other hand, primarily as a function of her recent experience as Secretary of State, tends to be very granular in her answers when asked what the U.S. should do to combat the Islamic State.

This topic as much as any other illustrates the contrast between the candidates. Watch for Trump to avoid details and instead state in general terms how we have to be tougher and how he’ll take care of the problem very quickly and Clinton to get into the weeds, which, in turn, will give Trump fuel for his thesis that, for all of her knowledge, she’s failed to keep America safer during her time in government. Trump has stated that he’s unwilling to topple Syrian president Assad, while Clinton has said she is willing to do that.

The other threat Lauer might introduce is the one posed by China, especially in light of recent saber rattling in the western Pacific and President Obama’s poor treatment, protocol-wise, at the G-8 Summit. Trump has been very aggressive with his anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail, particularly around trade practices and currency devaluation, so expect him to be similarly oriented tonight.

5. Vet education

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
(Photo: U.S. Army, Capt. Kyle Key)

This topic will most certainly take the form of a question about how the candidates feel about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the comprehensive education benefit made into law in 2009 that was expanded to cover spouses and dependents and has proved to be expensive as a result. As lawmakers continue to fight budget battles on the Hill, some have recently made feints toward narrowing the extent of the GI Bill, and those efforts have been met with stiff resistance from IAVA and other veteran service organizations.

If the subject comes up, and it certainly should, watch for both candidates to strongly support the GI Bill.

6. Vet employment

As important as getting vets the education opportunities they deserve is providing them with rewarding jobs in keeping with their experience and talents. Michele Obama and Jill Biden founded “Hire Our Heroes,” an intiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has created awareness if not actual jobs. Clinton has said she supports government programs aimed at assisting veterans, and Trump generally answers questions on the subject with the claim that he will bring jobs back from overseas, which will benefit all Americans, including veterans.

7. Homeland defense/immigration

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses
With the help of an interpreter, Capt. Jason Brezler addresses a group of schoolchildren in Now Zad, Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Immigration isn’t necessarily a veteran topic, except as it deals with the 6,000 Afghan interpreters who worked closely with our troops during the war and now would like to immigrate to the United States with their families because they fear for their safety in their homeland. These Afghans — supported by the veterans who fought alongside them — have faced roadblocks in obtaining visas to enter America.

While this topic most likely won’t come up tonight during the CiC Forum, it would be interesting to see how each candidate responds between now and the election.

Wildcards:

Clinton: Benghazi, private email server and classified documents, smashed Blackberrys . . .

Trump: McCain “not a hero,” Purple Heart gaff, Khan (Gold Star) family kerfuffle, Saddam the awesome terrorist fighter . . .

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urther CiC Forum prep reading here.

Have your opinion thrown into the mix tonight by taking the #MilitaryVotesMatter poll. #MilitaryVotesMatter is powered by MilitaryOneClick teamed up with We Are The Mighty, Doctrine Man, Got Your Six and a handful of influencers who want to provide a non-partisan confidential opportunity for the military and veteran community to have their voices heard by sharing where they currently stand in the presidential election.  The poll is short and straightforward collecting information about which state they will vote in, what branch of service they are affiliated with, their current military status, and the candidate they intend to vote for.

Go to militaryvotesmatter.com/poll to take the poll now.
Further CiC Forum prep reading here.
And stay informed all the way to the election by regularly checking out WATM’s #DefendYourVote page here.
MIGHTY TRENDING

The CIA’s poison dart gun nearly brought down the whole agency

Hollywood spies often have a myriad of amazing devices at their disposal for getting rid of bad guys in a clandestine way. It turns out, occasionally so do real spies.


Exhibit A: the CIA’s “undetectable” poison dart gun that near silently shot frozen darts comprised of an unspecified, undetectable poison. The individual hit reportedly would at most just feel something like a mosquito bite as the dart penetrated their skin. It would then quickly melt and the poison would do its work, leaving the victim dead of an apparent heart attack, with no detectable evidence of the poison remaining.

The weapon was revealed as part of a broader Senate investigation into intelligence and covert action abuses by the Agency. The disclosure of the full gamut of activities and devices caused Senator Frank Church (D-ID) to conclude that the CIA had become a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.”

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Air rifle with tranquilizer dart — not CIA-issue (that we know of…). (Image via the website of the President of the Russian Federation)

Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s game-changing article in The New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974, which relayed assassination attempts and covert activities to subvert both foreign governments as well as American antiwar and other dissidents, the Senate formed the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities in 1975.

Chaired by Senator Church, during its two years of hearings, the Church Committee, as it came to be known, published 14 reports on a variety of abuses by the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA), as well as others.

Also read: This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

These included routinely opening (and resealing) US citizens’ mail since 1952, misusing tax information to target domestic dissidents, and conducting domestic, electronic surveillance of peace and black power activists.

In addition, for the CIA, this also included developing weapons such as “a pistol [that] can fire a poison dart 328 feet, kill a man before he knows he has been hit, and leave no clue as to what killed him.”

Part of a program named MK Naomi, established for conducting and managing bacteriological warfare, the poison dart gun was just one of many experiments by the agency, which also included pesticides to ravage crops and on one occasion, using the NYC subway to test out a “trial model” of a biological warfare attack.

On Sep. 16, 1975, then CIA Director William Colby testified before the committee, which also included Senators Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), John Tower (R-TX), Walter Mondale (D-MN), Gary Hart (D-CO), Howard Baker (R-TN), Philip Hart (D-MI), Charles Mathias (R-MD), Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Richard Schweiker (R-PN) and Robert Morgan (D-NC).

Related: Why this light machine gun was the worst standard-issue weapon ever

The director gave remarkable testimony regarding the development of “toxic agents” at a laboratory at Fort Detrick, MD. Notably, Director Colby testified that only “limited records” remained of these activities, even though the program spanned from 1952-1970.

Among the director’s many extraordinary statements were these from his prepared remarks:

— The specific subject today concerns CIA’s involvement in the development of bacteriological warfare materials . . . retention of an amount of shellfish toxin, and CIA’s use and investigation of various chemicals and drugs

— The need for such capabilities was tied to . . . the development of two different types of suicide pills to be used in the event of capture [during WWII] and a successful operation using biological warfare materials to incapacitate a Nazi leader temporarily

— A . . . memo of 1967 identified . . . [the range of] project activity: maintenance of a stockpile of temporarily incapacitating and lethal agents . . . assessment and maintenance of biological and chemical dissemination systems . . . [and] adaptation and testing of a dart device for clandestine and imperceptible inoculation with biological warfare or chemical warfare agents

— The only application of this [shellfish] toxin was in the U-2 flight over the U.S.S.R in May 1960 [Gary Powers flight]

— Various dissemination devices, such as a fountain pen dart launcher and an engine head bolt designed to release a substance when heated [were developed]

— A large amount of Agency attention was given to the problem of incapacitating guard dogs

— Work was also done on temporary human incapacitation techniques . . . to incapacitate captives before they could render themselves incapable of talking, or . . . take retaliatory action

— Success was never achieved [for the temporarily incapacitating dart system] since a larger amount of an incapacitating agent is required to safely inactivate a human than of a lethal agent . . . to kill him

— Though specific accounting for each agent . . . is not on hand, DOD records indicate that the materials were, in fact, destroyed in 1970 by SOD personnel, except for the 11 grams [of shellfish toxin]. . . plus the 8 milligrams [of cobra venom, both found in a vault]

— A complete inventory . . . was taken . . . consisted of . . . materials and delivery systems . . . lethal materials, incapacitants, narcotics, hallucinogenic drugs, irritants and riot control agents, herbicides, animal control materials and many common chemicals

Former CIA employee Mary Embree discusses a similar weapon — the infamous heart attack gun, which was first made public during the Church Committee hearings in 1975.

Continued reading: This ingenious 1911 pistol modification turns it into a dart gun

Upon further questioning by the senators, Colby described how the poison dart gun worked:

The Chairman: Does this pistol fire the dart?

Mr. Colby: Yes . . . The round thing at the top is obviously the sight, the rest of it is practically a normal .45 . . . However, it works by electricity. There is a battery in the handle.

The Chairman: So that . . . it fires silently?

Mr. Colby: Almost silently. . . .

The Chairman: And the dart itself, when it strikes the target, does the target know?

Mr. Colby: That depends . . . .There are different kinds of these flechettes [darts] . . . and a special one was developed which potentially would . . . enter the target without perception. . . .

The Chairman: Is it not true . . that the effort not only involved designing a gun . . . but also the toxin itself would not appear in the autopsy?

Mr. Colby: Yes; so there was no way of perceiving that the target was hit . . . .

Senator Tower: Turning to the dart gun, was it ever employed for any purpose by the Agency?

Mr. Colby: I think merely experiments . . . I do not know of any actual use. There is no record of any actual use.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief is poised to assist all service members during pandemic

Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.


Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.

AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.

Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.

“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.

There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.

As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.

AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.

He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.

“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.

To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A short history of America’s only tank factory

President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.

The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.

The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.


“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.

Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.

World War II

The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.

The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.

Korean War

An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.

Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.

‘Supertank’

The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.

The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.

Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.

In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.

Trump’s tanks

General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.

The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.

In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.

Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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