Student Veterans will continue to receive their GI Bill benefits under S. 3503, which President Trump signed into law March 21.
The law enables VA to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students having to take courses online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The law gives VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This allows for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from resident training to online training.
Thanks to the law, GI Bill students will continue receiving the same monthly housing allowance (MHA) payments they received for resident training until Dec. 21, or until the school resumes in-person classes.
In the wake of COVID-19, thousands of students nationwide have been converted to distance learning as many educational institutions are transitioning to technology-based lesson delivery.
“I commend President Trump and Congress for their work on this important law,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It will give Veteran students certainty as they continue their education.”
Students receiving GI Bill benefits are not required to take any action. Benefits will continue automatically. VA will work closely with schools to ensure accurately certified enrollments and timely processing. Updates will be provided to students via direct email campaigns and social media regarding VA’s effort to implement these new changes.
Students with specific questions can contact the Education Call Center at: 888-442-4551 between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday.
“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement to KREM in Washington.
An all-hands effort is underway to find a Marine believed to have gone overboard Aug. 8 during routine operations off the coast of the Philippines.
The Marine, who was aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was reported overboard at 9:40 a.m. The incident occurred in the Sulu Sea, according to a Marine Corps news release.
A search and rescue swimmer aboard USS Chosin (CG 65) stands by in preparation for an underway replenishment with USNS John Ericsson.
(U.S. Navy photo by FC2 Andrew Albin)
The Marine’s family has been notified, but the service is withholding his or her identification while the search is ongoing.
The ship’s crew immediately responded to the situation by launching a search-and-rescue operation. Navy, Marine Corps, and Philippine ships and aircraft are all involved in the search, which will continue “until every option has been exhausted,” according to a post on the 13th MEU’s Facebook page.
“As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and the Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers,” Col. Chandler Nelms, the MEU’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine.”
A P-8 Poseidon flies over the ocean.
Multiple searches have been conducted aboard the ship to locate the missing Marine as round-the-clock rescue operations continue in the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait, according to the news release. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft and Philippine coast guard vessels have expanded the search area, covering roughly 3,000 square nautical miles.
“It is an all-hands effort to find our missing Marine,” Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, head of Amphibious Squadron One and commander of the search-and-rescue operation, said in a statement. “All of our Sailors, Marines, and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search-and-rescue operation.”
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group deployed last month from San Diego with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, becoming the first ARG to deploy from the continental United States with Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters aboard. The Essex is en route to the U.S. 5th Fleet, where the Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter may participate in combat operations in the Middle East for the first time.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @Militarydotcom on Twitter.
Marines are heading back to Helmand province, Afghanistan this spring for an advisory mission that will put them back in the thick of the fight between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces.
In preparation for the upcoming mission, the 300-man contingent of Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest spent a day honing foreign weapons skills to familiarize themselves with the arms the Afghans use every day. On Jan. 17, the Marines practiced firing two well-known Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons: the PK general-purpose machine gun and AK-47 rifle, according to a news release from II Marine Expeditionary Force by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins.
Hopkins noted in the release that these weapons are used by both allies and enemies in the region, making it important for the Marines to understand them and their use.
“We want these Marines to familiarize themselves with weapons they might find down range,” Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Scott, the foreign weapons chief instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, said in a statement. “They need to be able to talk intelligently about them to their foreign security force, and that’ll help them build rapport and hopefully help them become successful in the long run.”
The weapons course also included live-fire ranges with weapons systems more familiar to Marines: the Mk-19 machine gun and the 60mm mortar.
Before the Marines deploy, they will also train with hired Afghan roleplayers–a mainstay of military cultural training.
“I find it… inspirational that I get to help and be a part of the step that gets Marines back into Afghanistan,” Sgt. Hayden Chrestmen, a machine gun instructor with the Division Combat Skills Center, said in the release “As an Afghanistan veteran, it’s extremely important they know how to operate these weapon systems because they’re protecting their brothers to the left and right of them.”
Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.
Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.
Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.
Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today’s growing technology industry.
MSSA is an 18-week program that provides transitioning service members and veterans with intensive training for high-paying careers in tech fields like database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, server and cloud administration, and cybersecurity administration. Essentially, it draws on military service members’ skill sets to quickly assess, analyze, and fix a situation with the resources at hand while remaining calm and focused, this time in the virtual world. It’s a role for which they’ve already proven themselves well-suited.
“I feel like I have so many new opportunities at my fingertips and I have the ability contribute the Microsoft mission now,” says Brown.
Enrolled service members take the course as their duty assignment, either on base or at a local community campus, spending the 18 weeks receiving both classroom and hands-on training in tech products and skills. They also prep for interviews and work with Microsoft mentors to ready them for a career in the technology industry. The program boasts a graduation rate of over 90% and upon completion, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its more than 280 hiring partners.
A new community for vets in tech
For Brown, MSSA translated to a total of 14 interviews with Microsoft. From those interviews, she received seven job offers, ultimately choosing to parlay her experience in USMC as an intelligence analyst into a security analyst in Microsoft’s own Cyber Defense Operations Center.
Just as important, though, she’s found a new sense of camaraderie with her co-workers in the tech industry, something she feared her exit from the Marines would force her to give up. She credits MSSA and Microsoft with building that community and introducing her to it.
“It has been easier to adjust to corporate world than I would have expected and I know it’s because of Microsoft being so amazing and because there are so many former military personnel where I work,” says Brown.
Job satisfaction, new purpose and a strong civilian community – it’s a vision of your future that’s worth the fight.
Just two weeks after American forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, Jack Leroy Tueller, one of those Americans, was taking sniper fire with the rest of his unit. Tueller played the sniper a beautiful song from his trumpet.
He was orphaned at age five, but before World War II, Jack Tueller would play first-chair trumpet in the Brigham Young University orchestra. After going to war as a pilot, his trumpet skills would serve him well, along with at least one German soldier and both their families.
Jack Tueller served in the Army Air Forces in the European Theater, flying more than 100 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. After the war, he became a missilier in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and would serve in Korea and Vietnam as well. But his most memorable military moment would always be a night in Normandy when the power of music risked — and saved — his life.
It was a dark, rainy night in Northern France when then-Capt. Tueller decided to play his trumpet for everyone within earshot. The only problem was that not everyone in the area would be very receptive to a song in the dead of night — especially not the sniper trying to shoot him dead.
That wasn’t about to deter a man like Tueller, who took his trumpet on every combat mission. If he was ever shot down, he wanted to use it to play songs in the POW camps.
Tueller had been grounded for the night. His unit already cleared most of the area of snipers, but there was one left. Tueller’s commander told him not to play that night because at least one sniper was still operating in the area. The sniper had a sound aimer, which meant he didn’t have to to see his target, only hear it.
But the pilot insisted. He needed a way to relieve his own stress. His commander told him, “it’s your funeral.”
Jack Tueller thought to himself that the sniper, suddenly being on the losing end of World War II in Europe, was probably as scared and lonely as he was. And so he decided to play a German love song on the trumpet, Lili Marlene, and let the melody flow through Normandy’s apple orchards and into the European night.
The airman played the song all the way through and nothing happened.
Listen to Tueller, who would live on to be a Colonel in the Air Force after the war, play his version of the tune in the video below (58 seconds in).
The very next morning a U.S. Army Jeep leading a group of captured Wehrmacht soldiers approached Tueller and his cohorts. The military policemen told Capt. Tueller that one of the POWs, who was on their way to England, wanted to know who was playing the trumpet the night before.
The captured German, just 19 years old, burst into tears and into the song Tueller played the night before. In broken English, the man told Tueller he thought about his fiancée and his entire family when he heard his trumpet — and he couldn’t fire. It was the song he and his fiancée loved and sang together. The man stuck out his hand.
Captain Jack Tueller shook the hand of his captured enemy.
“He was no enemy,” Tueller says, looking back. “He was scared kid, like me. We were both doing what we were told to do. I had no hatred for him.”
Jack Tueller died in 2016 in his native state of Utah at age 95, still playing the same trumpet he carried on all of his World War II air sorties.
A U.S. attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 in the country’s north on Feb. 8, and the regime came roaring back with airstrikes of its own on rebel forces near Damascus.
The airstrikes from Assad killed 21 and injured 125, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Feb. 8.
The U.S. responded with artillery, tanks, and rocket fire.
In the exchange, no U.S. forces were reported hurt or killed, but 500 of Assad’s were said to be engaged, many wounded, and 100 dead.
“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
The pro-Assad forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017.”
But Syrian state media characterized the event differently, saying the U.S. had bombed “popular local forces fighting” ISIS, and that it was a U.S. “attempt to support terrorism.” The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn’t support the regime a terrorist.
Though some of the anti-Assad resistance has become entwined with Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, the U.S. vets the groups it works with and maintains that the SDF are moderate rebels who were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS.
Syria wants the U.S. out, but it won’t go without a fight
Syria’s air offensive on rebel-held areas near Damascus has been going on for days, with local reports claiming that airstrikes from the Syrian government and Russia killed scores of civilians.
Activists and first responders said that at least 55 people were killed after the airstrikes on Feb. 6.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December 2017, the recent rash of renewed strikes shows they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.
In January 2018, Syria vowed that it would eject U.S. troops from the country, but since then the U.S. announced plans to stay there long enough to counter Iran’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began a more vocal campaign of accusing Syria and Russia of using chemical weapons in the conflict.
The Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, service members, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers a Comedy Bootcamp for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities. These three veterans are alumni of the Comedy Bootcamp program and have been given the unique opportunity to perform their standup routines at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. Backed by veteran headliners PJ Walsh and Dion Flynn, the alumni put on a great show for their New York audience and proudly represented the armed services on the big stage.
Spirit 03 is a revered name in the AFSOC community, often spoken of in hushed and pained tones. It was the call sign of the last AC-130 gunship shot down in combat.
The story of Spirit 03, whilst sad, was also one of heroism — the kind you’d find in the US Air Force Special Operations Command community. It was a story of American airmen putting the lives of their brothers in arms engaged in grueling ground combat above their own.
The city of Khafji before the battle
(Photograph by Charles G Crow)
On January 29, 1991, over 2000 Iraqi troops under the direction of Saddam Hussein streamed into the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji in an attempt to draw American, British, and Saudi forces into a costly urban battle which would tie up Coalition troops until the Iraqi military had time to reorganize and get themselves back in the fight.
Just days before Khafji fell, American surveillance jets had detected large columns of mechanized Iraqi units pouring through Kuwait’s border in a mad dash towards the city. Though the warning was passed on, Coalition commanders were far more focused on the aerial campaign, which had seen the virtual annihilation of the Iraqi Air Force.
Thus, Khafji fell… but it wouldn’t be long until Saudi forces scrambled to action, barreling towards their seized city to drive the occupiers out. American and British aerial units were soon called into the fight, and in record time, engines were turning and burning at airbases within reach of Khafji while ground crew rushed around arming jets for the impending fight.
Among the aerial order of battle was a group of US Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunships — converted C-130 tactical transport aircraft that were armed to the teeth with a pair of 20 mm M61Vulcan rotary cannons, an L60 Bofors 40 mm cannon, and a 105 mm M102 howitzer. These Spectres, based out of Florida, were eager to be turned loose, planning on adding any Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles they caught around Khafji to their kill tallies.
On the 29th, Iraqi mechanized units moved towards the city under the cover of night, repeatedly engaging Saudi elements set up to screen inbound enemy ground forces coming in from Kuwait. The Spectres were already in the air, racing towards the fight and running through checklists in preparation for the destruction they were about to dish out on Saddam’s armored column.
Within minutes of appearing on station, the AC-130s leapt into action, tearing into the Iraqi column with impunity. What the enemy forces had failed to realize was that Spectres — living up to their name — operated exclusively at night so that they were harder to visually identify and track, and the gunners aboard these aircraft were incredibly comfortable with that. Spectres began flying race track patterns in the sky, banking their left wing tip towards the ground as their cannons opened up.
An AC-130H Spectre in-flight with its guns visible towards the right side of the picture
(US Air Force photograph by TSgt. Lee Schading)
Despite the AC-130s inflicting casualty after casualty, the resilient Iraqi invasion force continued to advance to Khafji and managed to briefly take over and lay claim to the city. American and Saudi ground combat units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Marine artillery and infantry elements responded in kind, and launched a blistering offensive against the Iraqis as night turned to day and the AC-130s returned to base to rearm, refuel and wait for nightfall to resume hunting.
On January 30th, Spirit 03, one of the AC-130s, was loaded for bear and launched with the intent of providing Marine forces with heavy-duty close air support. Spirit 03 arrived on station and started hacking away at targets. In the hours around dawn on the 31st, the AC-130s were recalled to base when radios lit up with numerous calls for fire support from the beleaguered Marines on the ground.
An Iraqi rocket battery needed to be dealt with quickly.
The crew of Spirit 03 took charge of the situation immediately, judging that they had enough fuel and ammunition left for a few more passes. Not quite out of the combat zone, the aircraft turned around and pointed its nose towards its new target. It was then that all hell broke loose. A lone shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile arced towards the AC-130, detonated and brought down the aircraft.
There were no survivors.
In the months and years that followed, the loss of Spirit 03 was investigated and then quickly hushed up. Some indicated that the official report blamed the crew for knowingly putting themselves in danger by continuing to fly in daylight, allowing themselves to be targeted.
Others knew that the story was vastly different—that the 14 men aboard the AC-130 knew that they were the only ones in the area able to provide the kind of fire support the Marines needed, and so paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to aid their brothers in arms.
In 1932, over 15,000 veterans and their family members who were camped out near Washington D.C. were forcefully evicted by the Army from the capital grounds and saw their camps burned and children attacked by orders from President Herbert Hoover and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
But why were so many veterans sleeping and marching near the Capitol building?
At the end of World War I, service members who were released from service were given tickets home and small sums of cash, usually about $60. This was roughly equivalent to two months’ pay for a young private or one month’s pay for a sergeant major.
Though this was the traditional severance package for a soldier at that time, many in America felt that it wasn’t a fitting reward for veterans of the “Great War” and public pressure, urged on by veterans organizations like the American Legion, caused Congress to debate bills that would make life easier for veterans.
The bill was warmly received by the public, but it’s cost was not. Implementation and payment would have cost 5 billion dollars and the Senate voted against it. The Senate voted against it again in 1921 after anti-Bonus speeches by then-President Warren G. Harding. In 1922, a new version of the bill, absent the options for an education grant or money towards a home or farm, was passed by the House and Senate but vetoed by Harding.
It was commonly known as the “Bonus Bill” and called for every U.S. veteran of World War I to receive a bonus based on their duration and type of service in World War I.
Veterans would receive a $1 for every day served in the United States and $1.25 for every day served while deployed overseas. Those entitled under the bill to $50 or less could draw their money at any time while others were issued a certificate for their payment which would come due in 1945, nearly 30 years after their wartime service.
Overall, the bill was popular despite the expected $4 billion cost that would be incurred and the long wait for most payments. The debate about a bonus for vets was seemingly over and remained quiet until 1932, almost three years after the Great Depression began.
Radio and news reports tracked their progress towards the capital and more veterans rushed to join them on the trains or meet up with them in the city. The number of veterans who reached the city was estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 men.
Many Washington elite were initially shocked and frightened by the arrival of the Bonus Army. The wife of Washington Post editor, Evalyn Walsh McLean, visited the camps with her son.
The two made a plan to get the men coffee, cigarettes, and sandwiches and began lobbying in support of the veterans. Glassford eventually became so popular with the vets that Camp Glassford was named in his honor.
Legislators debated the merits of paying the veterans early. Some argued that the veterans would quickly spend the money and so help re-invigorate the stagnant economy while others, supported by President Hoover, argued that the taxes necessary to raise the money would further slow recovery.
The House passed a bill supporting early payment but it was soundly defeated in the Senate.
A U.S. Army Reserve officer was among those killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29, was a captain in the Army Reserve and slain in the attack Sunday at an Orlando nightclub, Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman at the Defense Department, confirmed in an interview with Military.com.
The Pentagon plans to release more details about Brown’s service record on Tuesday, according to Smith.
Brown was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while a student at Florida AM University.
“We are especially saddened by the news that one of the victims was part of the FAMU family,” the university said in a statement.
“29-year-old Antonio Davon Brown was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach, Florida and a member of ROTC during his time on the Hill. He graduated from FAMU in 2008 and is being remembered fondly by classmates and fellow alumni on social media. We will continue to update you about plans for a memorial or service of remembrance for alumnus Brown,” it said.
“In the meantime, the Florida AM University community stands with the entire Orlando community in the wake of tragedy,” the university said. “Our thoughts, and prayers for peace, are with everyone in central Florida and across this nation.”
The gunman was identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin. While he was apparently acting alone, he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead, including the gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, and another 53 injured. Several remain critically injured.
The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday morning at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community and lasted until around 5 a.m., when a SWAT team raided the building.
The shooting is also the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda militants crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.
One Twitter user said she and Brown served in the same ROTC class and that he served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I can hardly breathe,” she tweeted. “I never thought any one of us from Class of 08 would die young. We all came back from war safely.
“He killed my friend, my battle buddy,” she said of the shooter. “CPT Antonio Brown survived Iraq and Afghanistan to die like this.”
She went on to describe an incident during her senior year. After she was unsuspectingly dropped from her parents’ health insurance, she got sick with the flu and passed out during class. Brown and his roommate carried her to his car and drove her four hours from Tallahassee to Fort Stewart, Georgia, so she could receive treatment from the Army.
“Antonio saved my life when no one else could be bothered to care,” she said.
National veterans nonprofit The Mission Continues is launching a new program that positions veterans to be catalysts for long-term change and positive impact in communities facing daunting challenges. The inaugural Mass Deployment program will send hundreds of veterans and volunteers to participate in a week-long service engagement that will jump-start a long-lasting transformation in a city or community identified with a particularly high level of need.
For the first-ever event of its kind – dubbed Operation Motown Muster – The Mission Continues will bring more than 75 military veterans to Detroit to partner with more than 200 local veterans and community volunteers. Following Operation Motown Muster, The Mission Continues will maintain a sustained veteran volunteer presence in Detroit over the next several years to continuously support local nonprofits invested in revitalizing local neighborhoods.
“With the skills, leadership and experience they cultivated in the military, veterans are uniquely positioned to help accelerate Detroit’s comeback,” said Spencer Kympton, U.S. Army veteran and president of The Mission Continues. “We’re looking forward to an impactful week of service that will make a difference for the people who continue to call Detroit home and that will inspire others to take action and make a long-term positive impact in the community.”
Home to nearly 700,000 residents — many of whom are already hard at work shaping the future of their city — Detroit was a prime location for The Mission Continues’ inaugural Mass Deployment. During Operation Motown Muster, The Mission Continues veterans and local volunteers will add much-needed capacity to local organizations that are carrying on Detroit’s revitalization efforts. Projects planned for Operation Motown Muster include:
Refurbishing facilities at Central High School and Priest Elementary School to foster a safe and inviting environment for students to learn and the community to congregate.
Beautifying parks and future green spaces in the Osborn neighborhood, creating much-needed safe play spaces in a community that is home to one of Detroit’s highest concentrations of young people.
Converting vacant lots and portions of the Chene Ferry Market into clean, vibrant spaces for community events and an urban farm to help restore the once-thriving working-class neighborhood.
The Mission Continues has operations across the country that engage veteran volunteers every day to have a deep impact on critical challenges facing underserved communities. Veterans participate in operations by serving with The Mission Continues either as a member of a Service Platoon, undertaking regular service missions that leverage veterans’ skills and leadership to make a positive impact, or as an individual The Mission Continues Fellow, embedding as a skilled volunteer with one of the operation’s nonprofit partners for a period of six months.
Operation Motown Muster is happening from June 25-29. To learn more about The Mission Continues’ programs and opportunities to get involved, visit www.missioncontinues.org.