Reservists called up for active duty will soon qualify for increased Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits if they meet certain requirements.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” was passed by Congress and signed into law in August 2017. The Forever GI Bill expands education benefits for some members of the Reserve effective Aug. 1, 2018.
VA may now consider more reservist service as qualifying time towards eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including:
Major disasters or emergencies, as authorized under section 12304a of title 10, U.S. Code
Pre-planned missions of up to 365 days in support of combatant commands, as authorized under section 12304b of title 10, U.S. Code
The service must occur on or after June 30, 2008. The benefits are payable for a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018.
It’s important to note that serving time under title 10, U.S.C. 12304a or 12304b doesn’t automatically qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has a minimum service requirement of at least 90 days, although periods of service for separate missions can be combined to meet the 90-day threshold.
Here are some examples to help you understand this provision of the Forever GI Bill:
A reservist was called up to active duty and served in Afghanistan for one year in 2002. Then he or she was called up for three months in 2004, two months in 2005, and three months in 2010 under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a.
Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act allows more Reserve service to qualify for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Prior to Aug. 1, 2018, those three months under 12304a were not creditable active duty service, so the person was eligible for the 60 percent tier with 17 months of creditable service. Now, thanks to this new provision of the Forever GI Bill/Colmery Act, the three months of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a can be added. The reservist now has 20 months of qualifying service and would be eligible for the 70 percent tier.
Or, let’s say a reservist had only 90 days of service under title 10, U.S. Code 12304a. He or she wouldn’t have qualified at all. With this law change, the reservist now has qualifying active duty and would be eligible for the 40 percent tier.
If you haven’t explored your options to use your education benefits, you can start by visiting the GI Bill Comparison tool. You can see how to maximize your education value and look up the college, training school, or even apprenticeship program you’re interested in attending. You can also see how much your GI Bill benefits will cover and if you’d have any out of pocket expenses.
If you have any questions, please call 1–888-GI-BILL-1 (1–888–442–4551). If you use the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), the Federal number is 711. You can also visit the Forever GI Bill page.
Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service delivers GI Bill® education benefits to Veterans, service members, and their families. Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped millions of Veterans pay for college, graduate school, and training programs.
Featured image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders, and Democratic Members of the House join representatives from Veterans’ Service Organizations at an enrollment ceremony for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act.
That’s it, pretty freakin’ simple. Why then do so many people literally forget how to breathe when lifting? It’s involuntary. You would die without sweet, sweet oxygen pouring into your face holes constantly.
When you are about to squat 2x your body weight, or even just your body weight, the number one risk to injury is structural damage, be that muscular or skeletal. The most efficient way to prevent injury from occurring is to brace and contract all non-moving body parts. It’s called the Valsalva maneuver.
Common other breathing methods such as exhaling on the concentric and inhale on the eccentric are problematic for lifting heavy weights.
In order to inhale or exhale, we need to engage the diaphragm and other breathing muscles to draw in air or release it. This means that the body needs to do two separate things while lifting; breath and lift.
This is problematic for a few reasons.
There is no room for wiggle with 584+ lbs on your back. The breathe and brace is the only option here.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)
Most people aren’t coordinated enough to successfully do this for every rep of every set at the proper cadence.
With two different processes going on, you aren’t able to actually recruit the maximum amount of muscle possible.
If certain muscles of the core aren’t fully contracted, they are at higher risk for injury during the movement. This is a bit of a domino effect, especially if you tend to breathe into your shoulders or belly. Some of those muscles that should be used for the lift may end up sitting the rep out from confusion as to what they should be doing exactly.
If something in your form goes awry, a muscle that isn’t “paying attention” to the lift may jump in at the wrong moment and get pulled. This happens with muscles between the ribs often.
HOW to Deadlift & Squat Correctly: Breathing, Abdominal Bracing & Total Tension (Ft. Cody Lefever)
Perform the rep in its entirety until you are back to the starting position. Check out these other articles for specifics on perfect form for the main lifts.
The complete bench press checklist
5 steps to back squat perfection
5 steps to deadlift perfection
Don’t exhale until the weight is safely on the ground when deadlifting. That’s your rest position, not the top.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
4. Exhale and repeat
Lift using the Valsalva maneuver to protect your spine and allow for the maximal transfer of force in whatever movement you are doing.
When you are doing lighter exercises or the big exercises at lighter weight the Valsalva isn’t necessary. You can, in these cases use the other method described above. The Valsalva is the big gun that you bring out when you make it to the final boss level. Generally, it’s only needed for your main lifts for each workout like squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.
Proper Breathing Technique for Weightlifting | Valsalva Maneuver
As the Marine Corps continues to adjust fire in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has ordered a halt to Physical Fitness Tests (PFTs) across the Corps until further notice. Despite testing being suspended, however, Marines are still expected to stay in fighting shape.
Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.
“Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.” General Berger wrote.
The forthcoming MARADMIN, or Marine Administrative Message, will likely provide further guidance upon its release, including when Marines can expect to commence testing again.
The Marine Corps PFT, which consists of three timed events, is one of two fitness tests the Marine Corps uses to assess the physical readiness of each Marine. The PFT consists of dead hang pull ups (which can be substituted for push ups), crunches, and a three mile run. Because Marines do their crunches with a spotter that both holds their knees and keeps tally of the repetitions, it may have been deemed impossible to effectively practice social distancing during the execution of the test. Other events do not necessarily include such close proximity to other Marines, but may still have resulted in unnecessary exposure.
The military as a whole has been taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of service members, their families, and civilian DoD personnel. Recently, all members of the military were ordered to wear cloth masks in circumstances that don’t allow for social distancing, and everyone on base, regardless of whether they are military or civilian, are expected to wear masks when in close proximity with others.
Despite multiple overlapping initiatives, the military has seen a sharp rise in the number of infected service members in recent weeks, many of which hail from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thus far, nearly 700 Sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group has been ordered to remain at sea for the time being in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the readiness of America’s rapid response to any potential threats.
Marines have played an active role in numerous DoD efforts relating to COVID-19, including a small detachment of Marines deployed to Guam to support the recovery of the Roosevelt’s crew. Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment made headlines around the world last week when they sprinted life-saving oxygen tanks to ambulances waiting to transfer COVID-19 patients that were stuck waiting in traffic.
As we have explained in posts we have published recently, F-117s continue to zip through the Nevada skies despite being officially retired in 2008. Actually, the iconic stealth jet is doing probably much more than “just flying around”. The most recent sightings have seen the aircraft actively taking part in seemingly complex missions, flying the aggressor role alongside 57th Wing F-16s as The War Zonereported just a few days ago.
Anyway, it’s certain that some F-117s have been retired once for all. In November 2014, we spotted an F-117 fuselage being transported on a truck trailer was seen back on Nov. 14, 2017. More recently, on Aug. 16, 2019 at 4:09 PM aviation expert and photographer Chris McGreevy spotted another fuselage being hauled by a truck along Columbia Way (Ave. M) near the joint military/civilian use Palmdale Regional Airport outside Palmdale, California. While we don’t know where the first F-117 ended, we know everything about the latter one: nicknamed “Unexpected Guest”, the aircraft in question was #803 (82-0803), an F-117 that entered active service in 1984, flew 78 combat missions (the most of any Nighthawk) starting from Panama’s “Just Cause” operation and was retired in 2007 after logging 4,673 Flight Hours.
Peace Through Strength: F-117 Display at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
The “Unexpected Guest” was prepared for public display at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, through an operation dubbed Operation Nighthawk Landing. The interesting video was released for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Dec. 7, 2019, during the Reagan Foundation and Institute’s annual Reagan National Defense Forum. It includes footage of the F-117 stealth jets throughout their career, from the era when they flew under the cover of darkness at Tonopah, when an early form of biometric scanner called the Identimat built by Stellar Systems was used, to their last days of official operations before “retirement” (or something like that….). Long live the Stealth Jet!!
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.
While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.
4. Swords are useless against guns
Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.
We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.
But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers. (Image via GIPHY)
3. You can’t really practice with it
Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”
Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.
Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks… (Image via GIPHY)
2. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force
Everything works fine when a Jedi uses a lightsaber. Supposedly, they’ve had years of training to get to the proficiency they display in the films.
Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.
And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting… (Image via GIPHY)
1. There’s no safety
Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.
If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.
But they’re still cool… I guess… (Image via GIPHY)
Three B-2 Spirits and approximately 200 airmen completed their first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment, Aug. 15 through Sept. 27, 2018.
Although bombers regularly rotate throughout the Indo-Pacific, this marked the first deployment of B-2 Spirits to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. “The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”
Despite the deployment taking place in the middle of hurricane season, the B-2 pilots accomplished hundreds of local and long-duration sorties and regional training. Each mission focused on displaying the bomber’s flexible global-strike capability and the United States’ commitment to supporting global security.
One of the key integrations involved the B-2s and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 154th Wing under the Hawaii Air National Guard. Like the B-2, the F-22 is virtually invisible to threats. This makes them the perfect match for escorting the stealth bomber and providing situational awareness. The training helped polish the cohesion between the pilots.
“The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander. “Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future.”
A B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment is parked on the flightline Sept. 26, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The 154th Wing also supported the B-2 with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron’s KC-135 Stratotankers. Although the B-2 is capable of flying approximately 6,000 miles without refueling, the KC-135s provided aerial refueling for long-duration missions.
“The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable,” Adcock said. “Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
In addition to air operations, the deployment also focused on hot-pit refueling. During this technique, the pilots land and continue to run the B-2’s engines while fuels distribution technicians refuel the aircraft. The pilots are immediately able to take off again with a full tank and maximize the amount of time they are in the air versus on the ground. One B-2 conducted hot-pit refueling at Wake Island, a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific, west of Honolulu, Sept. 14, 2018.
Finally, weapons load crews exercised loading BDU-50s, inert 500 pound non-explosive practice bombs, into B-2 bomb bays on the JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam flightline.
“This weapons load is the first stepping stone to loading live munitions from this location,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons section chief. “Furthermore, it provides pilots and load crews valuable training necessary to accomplish future BTF missions.”
From air to ground support, the first Bomber Task Force deployment to Hawaii has allowed each member to determine what it would take to operate the B-2 from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam and execute strategic deterrence, global strike, and combat support at any time.
“I am very proud of every airman that was a member of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron,” Adcock said. “We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges.”
The Air Force is set to acquire new wings for its A-10 Thunderbolts in order to keep the vaunted attack aircraft in operation until the 2030s.
The Air Force told Congress in 2017 that 110 of its 283 A-10s were at risk of being permanently grounded unless money was apportioned to restart production and rewing the remaining planes.
The service has already paid to replace the wings on 173 of its A-10s, but Boeing, which originally built the wings, has since shut down production, and the Air Force didn’t have funding for new wings for the remainder — 40 of which would have to be grounded by 2021, according to CNN. Those aircraft are still flying with wings from the late 1970s, according to Aviation Week.
The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump in March 2018, included $103 million requested by the Air Force to fund the rewinging. That is enough to cover the production of four new sets of wings, but going forward, Boeing might not be supplying them.
The program is considered a “new start,” and under it, the new wings will come with a higher price, as engineers work through the hiccups of the design phase.
Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, mentioned that the service was looking for a new partner on the A-10 early 2018.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said in January 2018. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”
Because of the potential for A-10s to be grounded if they don’t get new wings, “acquisition is being expedited to the maximum extent possible,” according to a draft request for proposal for A-10 wings, issued in February 2018.
US Air Force
According to the anticipated schedule included in the draft request, a final request is expected by April 3, 2018, a proposal due date on June 5, 2018, and the awarding of the contract by the end of the March 2019. (The 2019 fiscal year runs from October 2018 to September 2019.)
The service has committed to maintaining six of the nine A-10 squadrons it has, but the contract will ultimately determine how many wings the service can actually buy, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week, saying “the majority of the A-10 fleet will fly and fight for the foreseeable future.”
The hard-fighting A-10 emerged in 2017 from a debate between lawmakers and the Air Force over whether it would stay in service, and in recent years it has seen duty all over the world.
It was a workhorse in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, releasing 13,856 weapons between Aug. 8, 2014 and mid-2016 — second only to the F-15E Strike Eagle, which released 14,995 weapons over the same period.
The Thunderbolt has also seen duty in Afghanistan, where the government requested the A-10 return in late 2017. A squadron of 12 A-10s arrived in the country in January 2018, where it has taken part in an intensified air campaign against militants in the country — in particular the Taliban and its drug-producing facilities.
US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski
The venerable aircraft will soon face competition closer to home however, with comparison testing between it and the F-35— the plane originally meant to replace the A-10 — happening as soon as summer 2018, when the F-35 is scheduled for testing in close-air-support and reconnaissance operations.
Congress has said that the Air Force cannot shed any A-10s until that evaluation takes place. But whatever the results, the Thunderbolt looks likely to have vocal supporters.
“If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10,” Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France told The Aviationist. “Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well.”
“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden told Scout Warrior. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful, calculated, and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”
“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson, the Air Force secretary, told lawmakers in December 2017.
We love supporting veteran-owned businesses, especially when they give back to the community. Yesterday, Redline Steel founder and owner Colin Wayne took to Instagram with superstar Megan Fox to announce that this Memorial Day, they’ll be donating $2M worth of products to the military community. Keep reading to find how to claim yours.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAa15AQhLVr/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Colin Wayne on Instagram: “@meganfox / @redlinesteel and I partnered up to create a Memorial Piece and plan to donate over M in product for the month of May to…”
Colin Wayne on Instagram: “@meganfox / @redlinesteel and I partnered up to create a Memorial Piece and plan to donate over M in product
While this offer sounds extreme, serving the military community is embedded in who Wayne is. WATM sat down with Colin to talk about everything from his military career, his close encounter with death in Afghanistan, his pivot to creating home decor, lessons in entrepreneurship and what this community means to him.
WATM: Alright man. First question: Tell us how your military career started. Like the early stuff.
Wayne: It started with JROTC. And you know, most people would say it’s kind of nerdy, my brother — even he was a nerdy guy — but I loved, I did the Raider team because it was the Army side and I genuinely enjoyed it. I gave up sports to do all of that and a lot of my friends. I was criticized to a degree on that, but it was a tight knit bond. It was a good culture. We had a solid program. We had Colonel Walker, he was the O6 and then we had a first Sergeant Jones. Great examples, great leadership and that was kind of the early adaptive days of joining the military was through that.
I actually dropped out of high school and got my GED. I got held back in first grade, so I did first grade twice. I was already kind of older in my class. And then I got kicked out of my mom’s house. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I didn’t listen. I was stubborn by nature. And so she’d ground me and I’d just walk out the front door and be like, ‘Okay, mom,’ and just do whatever I wanted. The first thing that I ever had as a kid was, “I’ll do it myself.” And that’s was literally my first sentence ever that I put together is what my mom says was, “I’ll do it myself.” And so I’ve always had that mentality of that exact statement.
WATM: You dropped out of high school?
Wayne: I got kicked out of my mom’s, moved in with my dad. I was mid-junior year and I ended up going from block schedule to seven periods and it was going to hold me back an entire year. We didn’t find that out until midway through the semester. And at this point, I was just about to be 17. I didn’t want to be 19 years old and graduate high school. That sounds horrible. I didn’t like school as it was. And so I convinced my parents to emancipate me and ended up getting my GED and joining the military a few days after my 17th birthday.
Wayne: I enlisted as Military Police in 2006. When I graduated from AIT, for the military police school, OSUT training, I came back to my unit and I remember the first thing, me and my brother were both in the same unit. It was 128 Military Police Company. And we had a unit that was deployed to Iraq at that time. And this was in ’07 and there they were there from ’07 to ’08, but they needed a backfill — they had to backfill 10 slots. They needed 10 MPs and five medics. He was a medic. I was an MP. We both volunteered to go backfill, basically people that were severely wounded and injured.
That’s one of the first things that I remember as kind of an early private, volunteering to go to that. They ended up, I don’t know, maybe they pulled from another battalion to make up that info strength, but we ended up not going. And I ended up transitioning to another battalion and going to Egypt for Operation Brightstar about six months later.
That was an incredible deployment to Cairo, West Egypt. Civilian clothes the whole time. And I did a cruise on the Nile River, got to see the Sphinx, got to see the pyramids. We went shopping in some of the plazas there. We had to have Egyptian police escorts. And there’s a platoon of those guys, but we definitely stood out like a sore thumb. We still had to wear high and tights and shades. We definitely looked like we did not belong there.
WATM: Hilarious. Not to jump ahead here, but I do want to get to the Redline stuff. Was Afghanistan your next deployment?
Wayne: No, Iraq. Iraq in ’09 and ’10. And then Afghanistan 2012.
WATM: And you were wounded in Combat? Can you tell us a a little bit more about your injury, recovery, some of the struggles that you had and how that changed you.
Wayne: Yes. It was May 3, 2012 and I was in the Paktika province, which is right near Pakistan. And it was, I would say it’s another traditional day. Spring fighting had just started a couple of months before that March. At that point, I was at a base called FOB Boris, which has been shut down. Our base got overran twice, to kind of paint a picture, with Taliban, literally on the inside of our base. We got rocketed. May 3 in particular, we had at least three or four IDF attacks prior to this point, so it was kind of just happening throughout the entire day.
I was in the gym and I heard the IDF alarm siren going off. And my thinking was, ‘I’m in a concrete structure,’ and you don’t have long — you’ve got seconds to make a decision. ‘Okay. I’m not outside. I’m in somewhat of a secured location.’ It’s a small gym. It’s literally the size of half of a single wide trailer, to kind of give you perspective. You could easily throw a tennis ball and hit the other wall with very little effort. And so I started running to the middle of the gym because there was two big open wood doors and so I just went to the middle. There was concrete on all sides, except the roof. The roof was just a normal structured roof, no concrete. My thinking really, really quick was, ‘Hey, if this explodes, shrapnel is going to come, I’ve got to get away from the weakest points, which are the doors.’ And so I ran and it was essentially a direct impact on me. I ran right where the rocket exploded and it was like three and a half feet from me.
WATM: Oh %*#.
Wayne: Right. So you know how big the concrete cylinders that they have, those concrete blocks, like a traditional one. They’re not wide, but it was a direct impact on the corner of that building, right in the middle, dead center. And it was right under that corner structure. It took out a quarter of the wall, right at the very top corner and you can see shrapnel and the roof was caved in. And if it would have been a couple of inches lower, because you’ve got to think, the concrete barrier’s only like 15 inches.
If it wouldn’t have hit that, it would have been literally a direct impact right where I was running to. And so I just say it’s through the grace of God I survived and was shielded. And I sustained nerve damage at L1 through L3. And my back had to have lumbar block fusion surgery for it. I had shrapnel that went all the way through my leg and had to have six months of physical therapy for it. I have permanent tinnitus in my left ear and then treated for TBI. And then I was medevaced twice. The first time we were still under fire. And then we were also a fire support team as well. There’s about 85 people on the entire base. It’s pretty small. And we were returning fire as incoming rounds were coming in and two Black Hawks, just like you’d see on a movie, flew in while rounds are coming in, we’re shooting back at them.
And you know, obviously, I don’t know what the hell is going on. They ended up flying me through a Black Hawk, with priority to Bagram and then they did full CT scans and x-rays and all kinds of different testing there, to figure out what was going on. Come to find out the, I guess the, whoever the, what do they call them? Crew chiefs? Or the medics on the helicopter? They gave me too much morphine. And obviously I don’t remember any of that, but it depletes your white blood cell count and restricts your oxygen flow. And that’s what ended up happening. It took three days for that to recover back to normal rates without oxygen. And I had to do breathing treatments from all the dust and debris. To kind of paint a more vivid picture of the incident, I remember that I blacked out — I remember regaining consciousness. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I knew I was hit, but I didn’t know the impact. I could feel something dripping from my leg, but I couldn’t see it. It’s pitch black; we’re a blackout FOB. And I was yelling for a medic, but nobody would come.
And I think mentally what hurt the most is I was working out with a couple of battle buddies and they left. I was there by myself and it felt like, I would say realistically, like 20, 30 minutes, it definitely was not that long. But you know, when you’re going through that, it felt like eternity. I’m sitting in pain. I don’t know what’s going on. My ears are ringing. It’s just a crazy scenario. And you know, I remember yelling for a medic and ‘I’m hit,’ and I just kept saying it, ‘Medic, medic!’
And I couldn’t — I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t see anything. I literally couldn’t see anything. And then they came in, they had flashlights and I actually have the raid tower footage. One of those Raytheon towers that go up 107 feet, we have the actual footage of them carrying me out of the gym, so it’s kind of cool. They sent me the CD. They mailed it to me when I got home.
WATM: That’s kind of hilarious.
Wayne: And it says ‘Superman returns.’
WATM: It’s good that you can watch it.
Wayne: Yeah, I love it.
WATM:You pull that out at the parties?
Wayne: I think that helps mental fortitude to get past something like that. It’s one of those pivoting moments that you can either adapt and overcome it, or you’re going to let that absorb you. And that really defines you as a person, is how you adapt to that comfortability. Even openly talking about it. It doesn’t bother me. It’s just a chapter and we’re past it and I can block it off and keep going.
WATM: Did that end your Army career, at that moment?
Wayne: No, I came back and transitioned into recruiting and I really enjoyed my time in recruiting. I did a photoshoot with a local photographer, right when I got done doing my physical therapy. Started a Facebook page and it started to go viral, so I had over a hundred thousand followers in the first 30 days of having the page. And you know, I’m just a guy from Alabama. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I got a change of lifestyle discharge.
WATM: And at that point, had you considered bodybuilding and modeling?
Wayne: I didn’t know what to expect. I’ll be honest, but I was making about three times more than the Army was paying me. And I was just like, ‘Man.’ I didn’t know if it was going to be a career, but it was working and I was like, ‘Why not focus on this? This is really cool.’ Within the first six months, I had over a million followers across social media and I just kept leveraging that and growing it and then what a lot of people don’t know is I actually own five other pages within the fitness space on Facebook and have over 4.2 million followers on it.
And so I leveraged it to grow my personal brand. And so I started to understand the power of social media. If I could go back, I would have done things a little bit different. I would have put more of a focus into YouTube. But you know, it is what it is. Grew those pages and that helped leverage pretty much everything that I wanted from landing over 50 plus magazine covers. Covers with Iron Man, Muscle Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Muscle Health. I mean, even fashion magazines, like Vanity. Hype, in Europe. And for that, I did kind of a Gary Vaynerchuk approach of give, give, give, take.
WATM: I’m just curious. What’d your Army buddies say about all this? Were they like, ‘Bro, what are you doing?’
Wayne: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what it was at the beginning until they saw, you get half a million followers within a few months and then a million, and then you start working with Under Armor and Nike and they’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ Everybody questioned it. Everybody questioned, ‘What the hell are you doing? How are you going to model in Alabama? That’s not a thing.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t really know, but it’s working, I’m doing the social media thing and I’m able to reach out, I can kind of cold call. I can establish a rapport.’ And I just kind of instinctively knew the inner workings of how to market and brand myself. And that’s without a coach and the highest level of education a GED. Just kind of started to understand the power of value and leveraged my value to get whatever it is that I wanted.
WATM: How was your physical journey into bodybuilding and modeling? Did you have issues with that? How did your combat injuries help you in that regard or make it even more challenging to find success?
Wayne: I would say 100% made it more challenging. I can’t do compression style training. And so a lot of it is adaptive, just HIIT style, high intensity interval, they call it, it’s like an 80s style. It’s like cut training, time under tension. I wanted to get lean, but also gain lean muscle at the same time. And so I just had to adapt and pivot my work training to kind of sustain the injuries and I didn’t want to make it worse than what it was. And so I’ve kind of just found my own routine and adapted and not put limitations with what I can and can’t do. There’s always a workaround.
WATM: Awesome. So how did you get into the steel business? And when did it occur to you that you thought I can add value to Red Line and start working on that front?
Wayne: I started Red Line in January of 2016, that’s officially when we started the LLC. Initially I just wanted to be a customer. I have a son, his name’s Carsyn. At the time, he was about four years old, loved baseball. He’s in T-ball, but absolutely loved baseball. And I reached out to a local shop and wanted to have a piece made and he reached back out and said ‘I’m backlogged about 10 to 12 weeks, but when we get caught up, I’ll let you know.’ And I said, ‘Okay, no worries.’ Ten minutes later, swear to God, 10 minutes later, he reached back out and says, ‘Holy shit, it’s Colin Wayne. I can’t believe it’s you!’ He said, ‘I can do this for you and have it done this week. And just let me know anything you want. I got you.’
And I pivoted the entire thing from, I said, without hesitation, ‘Maybe I can help you. And I do consulting, would love to kind of look at your business plan.’ And I spit out some information that kind of was like, ‘Look, man, I wanted to be a consumer. You didn’t have a followup sequence. You’re missing the mark. This is obviously an incredible product. I was willing to pay a premium for it for myself. You’re backlogged 10 to 12 weeks. There’s no way for very next day, and so that shifted the entire paradigm of my business plan. The plan for me was he already has the product, he has a preexisting business. He knows how to manufacture. He knows how to do CAD work. He already has the basics. I just need to come in here, create an infrastructure and help on the marketing backend. And so now, I had to figure out how in the hell to even run this machine. I didn’t have a clue and I still don’t really know, which is ironic because we have the largest customized steel manufacturing plant in the United States. And that was within three and a half years of an E-com business.
June 15th will be our four year anniversary of the website. We’ve shipped over four million products. We just hit our one millionth order about three weeks ago. And we’re about to hit 1.1 million projected probably Friday of this week. We have over 215,000 verified customer reviews on our website. And we’ve got over a billion, with a B, impressions for our business Redline Steel through paid ads.
WATM: That’s impressive. And you met the President?
Wayne: We attended the White House for Made in America week, which was really cool. Got a selfie with the president, which you probably saw on Fox News. And what was awesome, what I really, really appreciated a lot and it was kind of like an overwhelming feeling, just like when we hit our one millionth order, that was an overwhelming feeling, was President Trump, I tried to give him a flag and he wouldn’t take it. He wanted to buy one. And so that to me, yeah, that to me meant a lot because this was exactly what he said was, ‘If you donate the flag, it stays within the White House. But if I buy one, I can actually bring it with me.’ And so I don’t know, a month or two after the event, his administration reached out and said, ‘President Trump wanted to purchase a flag.’ And so we invoiced him, he paid it and we mailed him a flag. Then he actually wrote a letter. I asked him for a photo; he wrote us a letter that’s hanging up on my wall and he’s thanking me for the flag that he bought. That was a few months after the event. That was really cool. And what’s weird is as an entrepreneur, I’m always looking ahead. So it’s hard to reflect on what we’ve done and accomplished. Especially given the amount of time. Time is very valuable, but it almost becomes irrelevant because I’m so forward thinking that when I hit a hundred thousand orders, it was an overwhelming feeling. And that never took place again until three weeks ago, when we hit our one millionth. Even at 999,000, it didn’t sink in.
I’m a pretty, I would say a pretty dominant, strong-willed character, kind of an alpha, but I teared up, bro. I’m not going to lie. It was such an overwhelming, like, ‘Oh my God.’ Because I wanted this so bad. So I set, I’m really, really big on goal orientation and like setting something and you follow through with it. And so last year my goal was to hit that one million benchmark and I didn’t. Mentally, it really messed with me, man. I was upset at myself. I felt like a let down. I told my customers, I was kind of prophesying it. I was telling employees, man, we’re going to hit this and we didn’t hit it. I think that I have to kind of what I call being from Alabama, that fixated mentality of I don’t care if we’re up a hundred to zero, we missed the field goal. We missed this tackle. We missed these core principles, this KPI, what can we do to improve and sustain that growth? If we mess up, what can we do to not have that again? It’s kind of that AAR that goes into effect on a mass scale.
When you think about it, a million orders within that three year benchmark as an online business is very, very, very rare. You’re at that one of one tenth of a percent, but to me, it’s so realistic that it should have happened a while back. And so I lose track of that time and you don’t really appreciate what it is until you finally hit it.
WATM: How did you move past that? Improved comms? Leadership? Something different?
Wayne: We hired a recruiting firm, and I know that that was a pivoting moment for us when we actually invested into very, very solid leadership. My goal is to step down as the CEO within the next 18 to 24 months. I’ve never really publicly talked about it, but I’m big on passion and what’s in the best interest of the business. And so I would rather be the dumbest guy in the room and have other people very strong at what they do in those positions. And so hiring a recruiting firm to bring on talent that are very, very vetted has definitely played a significant role.
The challenge for me, most of the time has been, I can oversell and we can’t manufacture and produce product fast enough. I guess you could call it a rich man’s problem.
It’s been a challenge because I don’t want a bad customer journey experience, but at the same time, you want cashflow to keep up with the fixed and variable expenses. And so it’s a very thin line of balance between the two and running a lot of different departments at a business that’s scaling 30, 40 times year over year. We have an incredible team that’s been able to implement what is actually needed and applying an ERP system and looking at ways to advance our business so much further than what it currently is. So that the next four to five years we transition to that billion dollar valuation at that three, 400 million EBITDA. I think investing in the right leadership and then from the military stance, I would say, I was a Staff Sergeant, so I was kind of rounded for leaders. I liked the leaders that led from the front. I was fortunate enough to have compadre leaders that you can learn from and some great leaders, ones that you would genuinely walk into battle with and feel very comfortable that they have your sticks.
Applying that to my business in the sense that I’m not going to step on their toes, I trust their judgment calls. So I’ve allowed them to run those departments and essentially there’s a chain of command and they work through that. And that’s how we operate here. I’m not here to tell your department how you do it, go to your department head. And from there, you’ll follow the chain.
With COVID, we had to pivot our business model. So mid-March, I think it was actually exactly March 15. It was on a Sunday, somewhere right around there. I was driving to work. I had something on my heart to give back to the medical staff. My step-mom passed away earlier in the year and she did 35 years as a registered nurse. And we had a nurse piece, a stethoscope with the shape of a heart and it said, ‘Nurse life,’ in it. And so that was our first product and it kind of evolved from there. I did a live stream on Redline’s page and I said, ‘I want to give a thousand of these away for free.’ The response was incredible. Within about 30 to 45 minutes, we were completely sold out and started to see a massive demand and just requests for other items. So we pivoted to an entire give back collection.
That was on Sunday. I came in Monday when my team was here and I said, ‘Look, every day this week, we’re going to create a product category and we’re going to launch it.’ The first day, we launched, we ended up launching 19 products in total from military and all first responders to even mail carriers, even airline. And then we went into more recently with teacher appreciation day. We launched a teacher apple and now with Memorial Day, we have a fallen soldier Memorial piece that we’re going to release.
WATM: What’s the why behind that?
Wayne: One, I’m a humanitarian. I love to give back. I really do. I genuinely do. But from a business side that allowed free cashflow to sustain the business so that I didn’t have to furlough any of my employees. And then to take it a step further, we ended up putting in a purchase order of over 250,000 units through a local company and source them to cut the pieces for us. And that ended up giving them over 1400 working hours for their employees that would have gotten furloughed. So it’s not just the impact within Redline. We also helped hundreds of families across North Alabama sustain a job and working hours.
WATM: You’re doing amazing things, Colin. Thanks for your time.
Wayne: It’s been an incredible journey, man. I’m excited for what happens next. Thank you.
Russia says a fighter jet intercepted two U.S. military surveillance planes in the Black Sea — the latest in a series of midair encounters between U.S., NATO, and Russian forces.
Military officials told the state TASS news agency on August 5 that the Su-27 jet met the U.S. planes in international waters in the Black Sea.
“The Russian fighter jet crew approached the aircraft at a safe distance and identified them as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and an R-8A Poseidon, the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft,” the Defense Ministry said.
There was no immediate confirmation of the incident from U.S. or NATO officials, though civilian radar-tracking sites showed U.S. aircraft in the Black Sea region on August 5, not far from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Crimea was forcibly annexed by Russian in 2014, a move that few foreign countries have recognized. The peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and multiple military installations.
U.S. and NATO jets routinely intercept Russian surveillance and strategic bomber aircraft off NATO member countries and U.S. airspace over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The vast majority of incidents are routine and considered nonthreatening.
In May, a NATO official told RFE/RL that Russian military aircraft activity in the Black Sea and other parts of Europe had increased since 2014.
Last year, the official said that NATO aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe.
“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”
In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.
Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.
If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.
Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.
“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.
“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.
As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.
“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.
“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”
Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.
Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.
“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”
“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”
Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.
“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”
Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.
But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.
“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”
The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).
Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:
21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 3.57
Political participation: 2.22
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 2.65
20. Azerbaijan — 2.65
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50
Functioning of government: 2.14
Political participation: 3.33
Political culture: 3.75
Civil liberties: 3.53
19. Afghanistan — 2.55
Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50
Functioning of government: 1.14
Political participation: 2.78
Political culture: 2.50
Civil liberties: 3.82
18. Iran — 2.45
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 3.21
Political participation: 4.44
Political culture: 3.13
Civil liberties: 1.47
17. Eritrea — 2.37
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 2.14
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 6.88
Civil liberties: 1.18
16. Laos — 2.37
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83
Functioning of government: 2.86
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 1.47
15. Burundi — 2.33
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 0.43
Political participation: 3.89
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 2.35
14. Libya — 2.32
Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00
Functioning of government: 0.36
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 5.63
Civil liberties: 2.94
13. Sudan — 2.15
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 1.79
Political participation: 2.78
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 1.18
12. Yemen — 2.07
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 0.00
Political participation: 4.44
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 0.88
11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)
In our upcoming issue, we recapped our top picks for interesting and innovative products in the RECOIL Best of SHOT 2020 awards. The awards themselves were provided, in part, by the company behind this installment of Veteran Vices: Green Feet Brewing.
For those unfamiliar, the symbol of Green Feet has been the calling card of Air Force combat rescue since Vietnam. The HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters used by combat rescue units at that time would touch down in muddy rice paddies, leaving impressions in the mud that looked like footprints. Scott Peterson, owner and operator of Green Feet Brewing, spent nearly three decades in the USAF combat rescue community as a Flight Engineer on MH-53J Pave Low and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. In 28 years of service, he’s deployed “too many times to count,” but cites one of his most rewarding deployments bring a trip to Afghanistan as part of a Combat Search and Rescue crew.
His professional interest in beer started as a home brewing process. Says Peterson, “I … loved the process and creativity that making beer allows. In 2012, I called my wife from Afghanistan and asked her if she wanted to open a brewery.” Eight years later, the Petersons continue to man the Green Feet tap room. Located in an aging industrial park just outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, home to an Air Force Rescue Squadron, it’s easy to miss. But once inside, the cozy space, VIP locker wall, and the sprinkling of military certificates and decorations creates an atmosphere that’s part barracks rec room, part Cheers bar. “We had a nice following of USAF Rescue folks from the local community to help us out,” he says. “That community is a small, but very loyal community and wanted to see one of their own succeed.”
In this same vein, Green Feet Brewing also gives back to the community that has supported them over the years. They donate primarily to the That Others May Live foundation, which provides immediate tragedy assistance, scholarships for the children, and other critical support for familiar of Air Force Rescue units who are killed or severely wounded in operational or training missions. Green Feet also supports Wreaths Across America, an organization local to them in Tucson, Arizona. Wreaths Across America is dedicated to helping lay wreaths on veterans’ graves at Christmas.
At time of writing, Green Feet Brewing is strictly a local operation. They distribute to some other tap rooms and businesses around the city of Tucson, but aren’t available outside of that area. If you find yourself passing through, stop in, grab a pint, and raise one up for those who sacrifice their health and well-being That Others May Live …
UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”
It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.
Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.
“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”
Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.
Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.
But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”
But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.
Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.
In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.
“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”
Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.
Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.
“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”
And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.
“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”
The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.
“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”