Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the Taliban controlling more territory and American forces reaching a five-year high in terms of dropped ordnance last month. That is what Congress was told in testimony Oct. 31 by the man tasked with overseeing the effort in that country.


According to a report by the Washington Times, John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that the Afghan National Army has lost 4,000 troops, and 5,000 Afghan policemen have also dropped from the ranks. The decline in Afghan forces comes as armed clashes are on the rise.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” Sopko said. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

Sopko also complained that the military was classifying some important information that had exposed wasteful spending. One of the more egregious cases included the expenditure of $500 million for Italian planes that were unable to operate in Afghanistan. The presence of “ghost” soldiers, whose paychecks are pocketed by senior officers, is also a problem.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

From January 1 to August 23 of this year, 10 Americans have been killed and 48 wounded during operations in Afghanistan. That figure does not include the death of Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, who was killed in a crash on Friday.

According to iCasualties.org, 2404 Americans have died during Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support. Since President Trump took office, U.S. forces have taken a more aggressive posture, including the first combat use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb.

Featured Image: Afghan agents with the National Interdiction Unit participate in the grand opening ceremony for the new Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan Headquarters Compound June 17, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of CNP-A, U.S. Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet Chester, US Army ‘Bulldog Brigade’ mascot

Care for military working dogs and government-owned animals is not taken lightly in the military; and there are many quality control measures in place to ensure these service animals are getting the care they deserve to accomplish their mission.

Spc. Tank Chester, English bulldog and mascot for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog,” 1st Armored Division (Rotational) had surgery to fix a condition called entropion, which occurs when the eyelids roll in, irritating the eye, at Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea, Feb. 20, 2019.


“Certain breeds will get this condition (entropion) due to having excess skin on their face, so when the eyelids roll in, the hair on their eyelids is irritating the eyelid or actually the eyeball and they tear up a lot,” said Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, 65th Medical Brigade. “In Chester’s case, he’s got extra skin folds, so he has water eyes, the water gets down in the skin folds, and it creates a moist environment, which results in bacterial and fungal infections.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Spc. Naquan Stokes, a native of Ocala, FL, veterinary technician with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, preps Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

U.S. Army dog handlers and animal control officers spend a lot of time working with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to coordinate care for military service animals like Chester due to the diverse operational requirements placed on these animals.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, gives two-thumbs up signifying a successful entropion correction procedure for Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

“Taking care of Chester is a lot like having your own dog, except for there’s more time invested in him because that’s my purpose, just like if he was one of my soldiers,” said Cpl. Mitchell Duncan, a native of New York, animal control officer with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “It’s my job to make sure that he’s taken care of and since he’s a government-owned animal there are certain procedures we must follow. He’s required to have monthly visits to the vet, and he’s required to maintain a certain weight and health standard. Prior to becoming his handler, I received training from the veterinary technicians which covered everything from emergency care to daily standard maintenance.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, conducts an entropion correction procedure for Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

Chester’s entropion surgery was a success and it is the second one he’s endured since he and the Bulldog Brigade arrived to the Republic of Korea in the fall of 2018. Fortunately for Chester, his health and welfare are not only important to Duncan and the Bulldog Brigade, but also one of the biggest reasons why Curry has chosen to serve.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Spc. Tank Chester, English bulldog and mascot for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog,” 1st Armored Division, is sedated in preparation for an entropion correction surgery.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

“Dogs like Chester and the working dogs are why I do what I do,” he said. They’re just unique animals. They represent the unit, and if I can spend the day helping Chester feel better, or helping a working dog complete his job and save soldiers’ lives, then that’s a great day for me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Cockpit voice recording captures pilots’ attempts to save Lion Air 737 Max plane

The pilots of the doomed Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea October 2018 frantically searched the aircraft’s manual to try to find a way to keep the plane under control before the crash, cockpit voice recordings show.

The first officer reported a “flight control problem” two minutes into the flight, and the captain then asked him to check a handbook that contained procedures for abnormal events, the recordings showed, according to a report from Reuters.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane then spent nine minutes pushing its nose down, with the first officer unable to control the plane, as the captain desperately searched the handbook for a solution.


The plane then crashed into the sea, killing all 189 people on board.

Three sources discussed the contents of the plane’s cockpit voice recorder with Reuters, in the first time that such information, which is part of an ongoing investigation into the crash, has been made public.

The investigation has taken on new significance after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 people on board.

Lion Air Cockpit Voice Recorder Reveals Pilots’ Frantic Search For Fix | TODAY

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The French air-accident investigation agency BEA said the two crashes showed “clear similarities,” and Boeing is introducing a software upgrade to its new anti-stall system that has come under scrutiny after the two crashes.

The preliminary report into the Lion Air crash mentioned the Boeing system as well as other factors, including the airline’s maintenance.

A source told Reuters that someone mentioned the plane’s airspeed on the cockpit voice recording, and a second source said one of the plane’s indicators showed a problem on the captain’s display but not the first officer’s.

The preliminary report showed that the plane’s computer kept pushing the nose of the plane down using the trim system, which is a system that usually adjusts the aircraft to keep it on course.

A source told Reuters that the trim system was not mentioned in the recording, just the airspeed and altitude of the plane. “They didn’t seem to know the trim was moving down,” the source said.

A crew that flew the same plane the evening before had the same problem with the plane’s nose but ran through three checklists to solve the problem, the preliminary report showed.

The plane was treated on the ground, and the report says the previous crew believed the issue was resolved.

Bloomberg reported on March 19, 2019, that an off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit of that flight fixed a malfunction that allowed the plane to land safely.

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, many countries have grounded the 737 Max, including China, which has a higher number of the aircraft than any other nation. The US was the most recent country to ground the plane.

Boeing declined to comment to Reuters because of the ongoing investigation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran arrests editor, journalist over cartoon mocking Khamenei

The editor in chief and a social-media administrator of Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency were detained last week over a cartoon deemed insulting to the country’s leadership.

The cartoon, which appeared to mock Iran’s highest authority, was reportedly removed from ILNA’s Telegram channel shortly after being posted.

ILNA’s editor in chief, Masud Heydari, has been released on bail but the news agency’s Telegram administrator Hamid Haghjoo remains in detention. It is not clear if the two have been charged.


Tehran’s Prosecutor Ali Alghasi Mehr said on April 27 that an investigation has been launched into the affair.

“Immediately after the publishing of the insulting image, it was ordered to be removed from the channel,” Alghasi Mehr was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

“The [person in charge] of ILNA and the administrator of the Telegram channel were both arrested on the evening of [April 23],” he added.

ILNA has denied any affiliation with the “disrespectful” cartoon while accusing its opponents of having faked the news agency’s logo and falsely accused it of publishing the cartoon.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

gdb.rferl.org

The cartoon mocks those promoting fake treatments to ward off the coronavirus, including drinking camel urine and inserting violet oil in the anus, under the guise of Islamic medicine.

It appeared to suggest that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is supportive of such measures, depicting him as a nurse who is calling for silence.

Hard Hit By Coronavirus

Iran has been one of the hardest hit countries in the Middle East by the coronavirus pandemic. It has officially recorded more than 91,000 confirmed cases and just over 5,800 deaths, though critics believe those numbers may be far higher given the lack of transparency and media freedom in the country.

A man who had posted online a video of himself drinking a glass of camel urine was detained last week after the video went viral and many Iranians mocked him on social media.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Iranian authorities should immediately drop their investigations into Heydari and Haghjoo and let them work freely.

“At a time when prisons are petri dishes for the COVID-19 virus, Iranian authorities should cease locking up journalists for trivial offenses like allegedly sharing a cartoon,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in an April 27 statement.

“Hamid Haghjoo should be released immediately, and authorities should drop any investigation into him, Masud Heydari, and all other journalists at the Iranian Labor News Agency [ILNA],” he added.

Criticism of Khamenei is a red line in the Islamic republic where the Iranian leader has the last say in all state matters.

Iranian leaders have called on citizens to follow health protocols and social-distancing measures aimed at containing the deadly outbreak that has killed over 5,800 and infected more than 91,000 Iranians, according to official figures. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

Iran ranks 170th on Reporters Without Borders 2020 Press Freedom Index.

A number of journalists and cartoonists have been arrested in past years and charged with security crimes that are often brought against intellectuals and dissidents.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How ‘battlefield acupuncture’ helps Air Force Ravens stay in the fight

Dressed in a gi with a purple belt, the flight crew chief with the 89th Maintenance Group then takes turns with the ABU-clad Ravens executing a fireman’s carry followed in rapid succession by throwing the opponent to the mat and a ground-grappling technique to wrench hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and forearms in a direction they were never designed to move.


Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Tech Sgt. Jessie Sosa demonstrates a jiu-jitsu throw for Senior Airman Anthony Vallejos. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

They repeat the succession of moves, fine-tuning technique, until the desired effect on the opponent is achieved – pain and complete submission.

When Sosa, an instructor and competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, asks his students if they had any questions, a Raven poses a query not directly related to close-quarters hand-to-hand combat.

“What are those things in you ears?”

It gives Sosa a chance to explain another technique that allows him to absorb the strain and pain of competitive combat without the use of a pain medication that may change his operational status to “Duties Not Including Flying” (DNIF)– Battlefield acupuncture.

The five small gold needles in each of Sosa’s ears ensure his pain is under control prior to performing aircraft maintenance, pre-flight checks, and loading of C-40 and C-32 aircraft used to transport the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the First Lady and other government agency heads, dignitaries, and diplomats from Joint Base Andrews to overseas destinations.

Read Also: These Army docs are revolutionizing pain management – especially for burns

“We plan to support the Air Force’s initiative to complement western medicine with acupuncture care for service men and women in accordance with the May 2010 Pain Management Task Force objective and recommendation 4.2.1. Through this objective/recommendation, the Pain Management Task Force sought to enhance care to our DoD and VA beneficiaries by fostering this specific goal: “Incorporate integrative and alternative therapeutic modalities into a patient centered plan of care,” said Dr. Stephen Burns, Air Force Acupuncture Program.

Performing his mission can often inflict as much pain as a jiu jitsu match.

“The wear and tear of being a crew chief on the C-40 comes from the long hours crossing over the pond, which is roughly around eight or nine hours sitting in the seat,” said Sosa. “You don’t have a lot of mobility in those seats, so a lot of strain in your lower back.”

“The cargo space is limited. When we carry high-profile passengers, such as the Vice President, they bring a lot of communications gear with them. You’re crouched over in a cargo compartment loading all these heavy Pelican cases. It’s like Tetris, maximizing that space you have a lot of (physical) strain and you tend to pull your back muscles or your quads from doing all that labor working in the cramped cargo compartment.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Tech Sgt. Jessie Sosa performs a preflight check on the C-40 used to transport government officials and dignitaries at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Western medicine would often dictate the prescribing of drugs, such as muscle relaxers or opioids, to control such severe back pain. However, those medications, which can alter mental capacity and judgment, would immediately disqualify Sosa from operational flight status, especially considering the importance of his passengers and cargo.

When Sosa’s work aches were combined with the pain of participating in combat sports, like wrestling and jiu jitsu, over-the-counter remedies offer little relief.

“I did yoga, Epsom salt baths, tried Bengay, any type of lotion that would help loosen up the muscle aches that I had. There’s nothing that worked,” said Sosa. “I can’t be drugged up while I’m working on Air Force Two, or teaching, because it blurs my vision. Being a mechanic you don’t want to have blurry vision on a mission. So basically, I just stay away from medications.”

Then Sosa discovered Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) through a co-worker who often used it for relief from strained joints and back pain while doing Cross-fit workouts.

Sosa sought out Dr. Thomas Piazza, a 22-year Air Force physician, who is now the director of the Air Force Acupuncture Program at the JBA Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, for a consultation.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
A patient’s ear after five needles were inserted by former Air Force Colonel, Dr. Stephen Burns, during a Battlefield Acupuncture training session. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“The first time I met Piazza, he really analyzed my body and really understood how much stress my body went through,” said Sosa. “He recommended Battlefield Acupuncture and said that it would definitely help me maintain my body and I’d still be able to do what I love to do … The first time I did Battlefield Acupuncture, it worked immediately on my lower back. So instead of being DNIF, I was able to take a mission the next day and fly overseas for eight hours and accomplish my mission without pain.”

Battlefield Acupuncture, which was developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, is a specific subset of the traditional acupuncture found in Eastern medicine. Small, semi-permanent, gold needles are applied to five points in each ear to provide effective and rapid pain management.

See Also: 17 photos that show the pain of MPs getting Tazed and maced

According to Piazza, Battlefield Acupuncture works because the majority of the sensory nerve connections from the body culminate in specific areas in the brain, which are in close proximity to the sensory fibers coming from the ears. The entire body, and its organs, has corresponding points mapped on our ears. Inserting a needle in a particular point on the ear will activate the nerves in its corresponding part of the body and alleviate pain.

The procedure has been greeted enthusiastically by the military not only because of its results, but also the ease of application, portability and training in its use.

“BFA, in its elegant simplicity, has been designed so that many people can use it,” said Piazza, who coordinates and performs BFA training across the military.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Tech. Sgt. Jessie Sosa receives a Battlefield Acupuncture treatment from Dr. Thomas Piazza. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“The technique is standardized, and everybody’s learning the same thing. It’s made a huge difference in the spread of Battlefield Acupuncture across the services. It only takes about four hours to train an individual. Approximately half is slideshow instruction, and about half is hands-on practicing with artificial ears, and, when circumstances allow, we have live volunteer patients come in so they can get the hands-on skills,” he added.

According to Dr. Stephen Burns, a 27-year Air Force veteran also working at the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, the needles can be administered quickly and remain in for days while the patient returns to work with minimal discomfort.

“Generally speaking, we put a needle in and have the first-time patient walk around to make sure there are no side effects,” said Burns. “Even then, we can do a complete treatment in less than 10 minutes. If the personnel are really practiced, and the patient’s gotten many treatments, you are able to treat a person in two or three minutes. They (acupuncture treatments) have very profound effects for about 80, 85 percent of patients. They will usually reduce their pain by at least 50 percent. And it may last for a few days or sometimes weeks, sometimes longer.”

Now Read: This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

In the approximately 10,000 BFA treatments the doctors of the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center have performed, Piazza estimates that side effects occur in a very small percentage of patients.

“Euphoria is our most common side effect and it occurs around 5 percent of the time. Emotional response, ear irritation, and wooziness/dizziness occur a little less than 5 percent of the time and nausea, passing out (needle reaction), and worsening symptoms occur less than 2 percent of the time,” said Piazza. “Longer-term problems, such as infection, are extremely rare, much less than 1 percent.”

According to Burns, the effectiveness of BFA is not only the pain relief for patients, but also how it positively impacts manning and readiness.

“Say I have somebody that has migraine headaches and they have to pull guard duty, if I give this guy narcotics, he can’t work, he can’t use his weapon. But if I can put ear needles in him, and he feels like, “I feel great. I can go to work. I’m not drowsy,” then that’s a huge force multiplier,” said Burns.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Dr. Thomas Piazza holds a single gold needle used in the application of Battlefield Acupuncture for the relief of pain. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

 The needles, which are about one millimeter long with a flat disc on the end, come in a strip of eight in preloaded plastic applicators. The small size enables trained personnel to not only administer BFA treatments in a clinical setting but also in the field, hence the name – Battlefield Acupuncture.

“You can carry enough treatments for five, 10, 15 people in your BDUs,” said Burns. This has sparked interest in BFA within the community of Battlefield Airmen and other special forces, who see the treatment as way to maintain combat effectiveness.

If a team member is injured in combat and drugs to control pain must be administered, it may not only take the casualty out of the fight, but also one or more team members who must monitor and help remove the casualty.

During a training session with special-forces personnel, Burns was asked about just such a scenario.

“Right before the break somebody said, ‘Hey, Doc. Sometimes somebody gets shot and we have to put a tourniquet on him. When you put the tourniquet on him, after about a minute or two, they hurt so badly that somebody has to give that guy narcotics and then you got to watch him and make sure he’s breathing. Would this work?'”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Students practice the application of Battlefield Acupuncture on each other and their instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

 “So I had them come back after the break with tourniquets,” said Burns. “I said, ‘Let’s try it and see.’

“We put the tourniquets on and after about 30 seconds he says, ‘Yeah. That’s starting to hurt pretty good.’ After about a minute he’s like, ‘I can barely move my hands. This is killing me. I don’t think I could even grab a weapon’.

“We put in a needle and then the next needle in. I said ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘I don’t … That’s different. Wow.’ He’s starting to move his hands. I said, ‘Okay. Next needle, next needle.’ About 10 seconds apart, ‘Holy cow.’ He starts laughing and says, ‘Give me a weapon I think I could fire it.’ They showed themselves that, yeah, this could work.”

Despite the treatment’s name, the Air Force Surgeon General considers Battlefield Acupuncture a force readiness asset across all career fields. As such, BFA is a key component in the implementation of an Integrated Medicine approach throughout the force.

Now Read: The best martial arts for self defense, according to a SEAL

“The concept of integrative medicine is a philosophy based in traditional western medicine, but bringing in some techniques that we would consider alternative,” said Maj. Luanne Danes, a biomedical services corps fellow in the Air Force Surgeon General’s office. Her primary mission during her yearlong fellowship is to advance Integrative Medicine and Battlefield Acupuncture in the Air Force.

“The purpose of Battlefield Acupuncture is to provide another avenue for effective pain management. Something other than pills, like opioids. The benefit is that it’s non-addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms. It’s very quick, painless, safe and effective. So, very much a better option instead of opioids. The surgeon general, congress, all of the DOD is trying to reduce our dependence and reliance on opioids,” said Danes.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Maj. Luanne Danes is a biomedical services fellow at the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General’s office at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Reducing the dependence on narcotics, like Percocet, different opioids, those type of medicines, will absolutely benefit the aircrew fields, because that’s all downtime. If you are injured, and we need to put you on an opioid for pain management, that takes you out of rotation. You’re not going to fly until we get you fixed again, and we get you off of those opioids. With Battlefield Acupuncture, we can utilize the technique instead of the opioids and get you up flying again much more quickly.”

Sosa is living proof of the advantages of BFA to force readiness as he not only stays on the job aboard Air Force Two, but also continues to train the Ravens who provide security for his aircraft in jiu jitsu to complement their already formidable skill set.

“Ravens usually train for outside environments. Guarding the jet outside, but on Air Force Two, the Ravens are required to be inside and outside, so the jiu jitsu training is focused mostly on indoor, confined environments that will help them subdue a person that’s trying to damage the aircraft or hurt the personnel around them,” said Sosa.

While the close-combat training adds to the capabilities of the young Ravens, Sosa’s use of Battlefield Acupuncture is also teaching them that there is a way to manage pain while remaining mission ready.

“I’ve put my body through a lot; a lot of tournaments and a lot of flight hours sitting in one seat for eight hours,” said Sosa. “I am a huge believer in battlefield acupuncture because it definitely helps me stay in the fight.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Questions surround crash of special operations helicopter in Iraq

Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.


CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.

In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”

The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.

The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

(US Army photo)

Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.

This latest crash brings the total of serious U.S. military aircraft accidents this year to at least 14.

The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.

In 2015, a MH-60M Black Hawk crashed on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship near Okinawa, Japan, injuring seven; more recently, in August 2017, a 160th SOAR’s MH-60 crashed off Yemen killing one soldier.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

52 years later, rock legend remembers time in Army

While marching back and forth on a hot Kentucky asphalt parade field in the spring of 1967, musical lyrics began to dance around inside John Fogerty’s head —

“It’s been an awful long time since I been home …”

What he recently described as a kind of transcendental meditation, or delirium, would sweep over him during those long hours marching at Fort Knox, a delirium that afforded him time to think about his life, and his dreams —

“But you won’t catch me goin’ back down there alone …”


More than 50 years later, Fogerty is celebrating a half-century of powerful rock music he has created, music that critics often agree helped shape the mindset of many young men and women during and after the Vietnam War era. Before there was Credence Clearwater Revival, however, there was a 20-year-old man trying to make his way on a very different path.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Quite possibly his only military photo, rocker John Fogerty poses in his Army uniform in 1967 prior to becoming a supply clerk.

(U.S. Army photo courtesy of Melissa DragichCordero)

“I was internationally unknown back then,” said Fogerty earlier this month, during a short break in his “John Fogerty: My 50-Year Trip” North American tour, including a stop in Louisville Sept. 20 to perform in the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center at Bourbon Beyond 2019.

As a war in Vietnam was beginning to ramp up in 1966, Fogerty walked into a recruiter’s office around the same time his draft number came up. Whether as a draftee or volunteer, he expected that he would be joining the military. When he left the recruiter’s office, he signed on with the U.S. Army Reserve as a supply clerk.

“I was on active duty for six months, but I was in the Reserves between 1966 and 1968,” said Fogerty.

Soon after enlisting, he went through basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Between his time at Fort Bragg and advanced individual training at the Quartermaster School in Fort Lee, Virginia, he found himself stationed at Fort Knox.

“It was pretty intense because this was right at the height of the Vietnam War,” said Fogerty. “Every young man’s clock was running pretty fast.”

As he talked about his time at Fort Knox, memories bubbled up to the surface.

“At various times, we had a kind of special guard duty for 24 hours straight,” said Fogerty. “We had to polish all our brass and our boots were highly spit-shined. Your uniform had to be perfect. We went to a different place where we were on for two hours and then off for about eight.”

He said one particular guard duty shift left a mark on him.

“After I had been there only about five or 10 minutes, I had just walked in, there were two or three guys crowded around this one wall. They were looking at Elvis Presley’s signature — It said, ‘Elvis Presley ’58,'” said Fogerty. “I wish I’d had a camera. Back in those days, we didn’t have phones with cameras in them.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

While on tour with Credence Clearwater Revival sometime between 1968 and 1972, John Fogerty wows the crowds at a concert.

(Baron Wolman photo courtesy of Melissa DragichCordero)

He remembered another time when he decided against going into Louisville on a weekend pass. That same weekend was Kentucky Derby weekend, and he gave a friend of his money to place a bet on a horse in the race — a horse named Damascus.

“I had given my friend but I was always conservative, so I wanted him to make the safest bet, which was for the horse to come in third,” said Fogerty.

Damascus did come in third, but Fogerty didn’t receive any prize money.

“He had bet on that horse to win,” said Fogerty, laughing.

Fogerty shares the Fort Knox alumni stage with another musical great — 1950s rocker Buddy Knox. While stationed at the installation in 1957, Knox was sent to the Ed Sullivan Show to perform two of his big hits at that time.

Fogerty remembered watching that show.

“I saw him on TV wearing his military uniform. He had a heck of a year in ’57. He was part of three different singles that each sold a million,” said Fogerty. “He was with a guy named Jimmy Bowen. On Jimmy Bowen’s record it reads, ‘Jimmy Bowen and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and you assume that was some backing band.

“Well, on Buddy Knox’s record, it reads, ‘Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and that meant the other person was Jimmy Bowen. [Buddy Knox] had one of the biggest careers of anybody, all in that year.”

While music has played a big role throughout Fogerty’s life, he said no matter how far he travels to perform for others, he is never far away from his military identity.

“Sometimes it shows up in ways you can identify, and you’re really proud of that, especially personal discipline,” said Fogerty. “At other times, it’s just part of what makes you you. I think almost anybody who’s been in the military realizes that there’s a certain amount of maturity you have. You can’t help it; you either shape up or ship out — most of us choose to shape up.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

John Fogerty takes a break to wipe down his guitar. He attributes his brief military service with teaching him about discipline and teamwork as well as influencing some of the music he has written over the past 50 years.

(Melissa DragichCordero)

His military experience is not one he shies away from admitting.

“Life is what it is so you can’t change it, but I certainly am proud of that time,” said Fogerty. “There’s a lot of insight that you learn about getting along with people and what is the mindset inside the military, and I’m not talking about people who make policy. I mean grunts like who I was who are cogs in the wheel.

“You really do learn how to discipline yourself and be part of a team that helps make things flow because that’s part of your job.”

Fogerty said his military identity also comes out from time to time in his songs. While the most famous of these is the hit “Fortunate Son,” there are others.

“I have a song called ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone.’ It’s a bit mysterious, but it comes from a guy who went through the military at a very emotional and volatile time in history,” said Fogerty. “And a lot of the songs that talk about, or are reflective of my personality — taking note of class structure or the inequality of the way society works — certainly, those are references to my time in the military.”

Some of the songs have a more direct tie to his military background —

“They came and took my dad away to serve some time, but it was me that paid the debt he left behind …”

A lesser-known hit penned by the man Rolling Stones magazine named the 40th Greatest Guitarist and 72nd Greatest Singer of all time, “Porterville” became the first song the Golliwogs released after they changed their name to Credence Clearwater Revival.

The song was conceived in the heat of central Kentucky, according to Fogerty, forged by a young soldier marching for countless hours on a 1-mile square asphalt parade field, dreaming of someday becoming a rock star.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is this a pandemic-proof career for military spouses?

The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.

Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.

Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.

“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.

Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.

“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”

She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.

“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”

Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.

“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.

Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.

“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.

The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.

“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.

Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.

She offers a message to anyone adapting to a different kind of virtual working environment during COVID-19.

“Give yourself some grace. Everyone is going through this together and most have kids and spouses home. Don’t require perfection from yourself,” she said.

Visit https://gosquaredaway.com to learn more about Squared Away’s career opportunities for military spouses and services for businesses.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment began in an unusual way, and it appears to be part of efforts to make the service less predictable.


In a break from the norm, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group deployed immediately after completing a final certification exercise instead of first returning to the carrier’s home port.

Carrier Strike Group 10, a formidable naval force consisting of the Eisenhower, two cruisers, three destroyers and more than 6,000 sailors, set sail on deployment right after completing the Composite Unit Training Exercise, the Navy announced Thursday.

“Upon the successful completion of C2X, strike groups are certified and postured to deploy at any time,” US 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Insider.

“IKE’s timeline for departure was demonstrative of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” she continued. “There is no one size fits all policy; operations at sea routinely flex for a variety of reasons.”

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Eisenhower in the Atlantic.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket

At times, the Navy has adjusted deployments in response to unexpected problems.

For example, when the USS Harry S. Truman suffered an electrical malfunction in August, its strike group deployed without it, forming a surface action group instead.

As the Truman underwent repairs, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier sent to deter Iran, had its deployment extended — one of several extensions that allowed the Lincoln to set a record for longest carrier deployment since the Cold War.

But the Eisenhower’s latest deployment, as The Virginian-Pilot notes, appears to be a part of the Navy’s efforts to implement dynamic force employment, which the Navy argues makes the fleet much less predictable and strengthens deterrence against potential adversaries.

The Truman executed the first DFE deployment in 2018, when it sailed into the North Atlantic and Arctic shortly after returning from the Mediterranean.

After that deployment, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said: “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

It is unclear where the Eisenhower is currently headed.

“The sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a statement.

“Carrier Strike Groups,” he said, “are visible and powerful symbols of US commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

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

Articles

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Artillery would be critical in a war with Russia

Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.


The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.

“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also read: This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”

Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
An M109 Paladin gun crew with B Battery, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.

“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.

Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.

“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.

“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”

Related: That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.

In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.

ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”

The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.

“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.

Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”

In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.

The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.

More: This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.

The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.

An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.

“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.

Articles

This is how more vets will be able to cash in on education benefits

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached initial agreement on the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade, removing a 15-year time limit to tap into benefits and boosting money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.


The deal being announced early July 13 is a sweeping effort to fill coverage gaps in the post-9/11 GI Bill amid a rapidly changing job market. Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or the cash amount for private college students similar to the value of a scholarship at a state college — the bill gives veterans added flexibility to enroll in college later in life. Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses.

The Associated Press obtained details of the agreement in advance of a formal bill introduction July 13.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif., praised the bill as a major effort to modernize the GI Bill, better positioning veterans for jobs after their service in a technologically sophisticated US military.

“It’s really about training the workforce in a post-9/11 GI Bill world,” he told The Associated Press. “Veterans are being locked out of a whole new economy.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo from US Congress.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, the bill’s lead sponsor, said he would schedule a committee vote next week. Pledging more VA reforms to come, McCarthy said the full House will act quickly, describing the bill as just the “first phase to get the whole VA system working again.”

“We’ll move it out this month,” McCarthy said.

Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he would introduce a companion bill, while Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the panel’s senior Democrat, said he was “encouraged” by the bipartisan plan. Veterans’ issues have been one of the few areas on which Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have found some common ground, as they remain sharply divided on health care, tax reform, and other issues.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
US National Guard photo by Master Sgt. William Wiseman

Kristofer Goldsmith, 31, says he believes it would benefit many former service members who, like himself, aren’t ready to immediately enroll in college after military service. Goldsmith served in the US Army as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, reaching the rank of sergeant, but returned home to constant nightmares and other PTSD symptoms. He was kicked out of the military with a general discharge after a suicide attempt, barring him from receiving GI benefits.

Now an assistant director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America, Goldsmith advocates for veterans with PTSD and is appealing his discharge status. He’s heading to Columbia University in the fall.

“I feel extremely lucky I have found my passion in veterans’ advocacy,” Goldsmith said. “But I’ve taken out tens of thousands of dollars to go to school. GI benefits are something service members earn while they serve. They shouldn’t lose it just because they aren’t transitioning back the way the government wants.”

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Army Photo by Staff Sgt. James Burroughs

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom. The bill is backed by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, which says hundreds of thousands of former service members stand to gain from the new array of benefits.

“This is going to be a big win,” said Patrick Murray, associate director at VFW.

The legislation combines 18 separate House bills, also providing full GI Bill eligibility to Purple Heart recipients. Previously, those individuals had to serve at least three years. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Tech.

The bill hasn’t been free of controversy.

A draft plan circulated by Roe’s committee in April drew fire after it initially proposed paying for the $3 billion cost of upgraded benefits over 10 years by reducing service members’ monthly pay by $100 per month. Veterans’ groups sharply criticized that plan as an unfair “tax on troops,” noting that Army privates typically earn less than $1,500 per month.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

“The GI Bill is a cost of war, and Congress needs to pay for it as long as we are at war,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA’s founder and CEO.

The latest proposal would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years.

Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Rep. Tim Walz, the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a bill co-sponsor, praised the plan, saying it will “improve the lives of future generations of veterans … without asking our troops or American taxpayers to pay more.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hundreds of troops on border shifted to California

Hundreds of troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona have been moved to California to support border patrol agents securing the border against the thousands of Central American migrants camped nearby.

“In coordination with CBP, it was determined that forces including military police, engineering and logistics units could be shifted from Texas and Arizona to support the CBP requirements in California,” US Northern Command told Business Insider, confirming an earlier report from The Washington Post.

“Approximately 300 service members have been repositioned to California over the past few days.”


In November 2018, there were 2,800 troops in Texas, 1,500 in Arizona, and another 1,500 in California. Over a period of several weeks, the active-duty military personnel deployed to these states ran over 60,000 feet of concertina (razor) wire.

Now, after the recent shift, there are 2,400 troops in Texas, 1,400 in Arizona, and 1,800 in California. The total number of active-duty troops at the border has decreased by about 200, dropping from 5,800 to 5,600, NORTHCOM explained to Business Insider, noting that changes are the result of mission assessments carried out in coordination with CBP.

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

While the number of troops deployed to the southern border has decreased, the number of troops serving in California is on the rise. Thousands of migrants have been pouring into Tijuana, which is where more than 5,000 migrants, possibly many more, are camped.

Border patrol agents clashed with hundreds of migrants Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, one of the largest and busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexico border, after what began as a peaceful protest meant to call attention to the plight of asylum seekers turned into a mad and chaotic dash.

Some migrants attempted to enter the US illegally by forcing their way through and over barricades while others threw rocks at US border agents after they overwhelmed Mexican authorities. The crowd of migrants was driven back by rubber pullets and tear gas.

More than one hundred migrants have been arrested by authorities in the US and Mexico. Many of those who have been detained face deportation, meaning that their weeks-long journey to the US will end where it began.

The role of US troops at the border has been in debate over the past few weeks, with critics of the president calling the deployment a waste of time, resources, and manpower.

While active-duty troops deployed to the border were initially limited to laying razor wire, the White House recently authorized US troops to use force, including lethal force if necessary, to defend CBP agents against violence.

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

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