A 200-strong force of U.S. special operators, led by the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, recently arrived in Iraq. Until now, the bulk of U.S. efforts against the terror organization have been through aerial operations, bombing and air support for Kurdish and Iraqi forces on the ground. The United States now has this significant ground combat force in the country, the first combat troops on Iraqi soil since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2011.
Taking a page from General Stanley McChrystal’s special operations playbook from the Iraq War circa 2004-2006, today’s operators established internal intelligence networks to tackle the ISIS networks working against Iraqi and American forces. This strategy led to the death of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s (what would become ISIS) most notorious leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006. Now, the strategy has led to the capture of a “significant” ISIS operative in Iraq and is currently questioning him for intelligence information.
This isn’t the first time an ISIS (or Daesh, as the group loathes to be called) fighter has been captured but it is the first time a “significant” member of the terror group has been captured. It is also the first time the “network vs. network” strategy yielded such a result – just weeks after it was was raised. The high value detainee has not been identified. The “key operative” has been moved to Irbil, in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, where, eventually he will be handed over to Iraqi authorities.
The ground force is known as a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” at the Pentagon, and their missions will include intelligence gathering through raids on ISIS strongholds, grabbing papers, hard drives, and capturing operatives. The presence of the U.S. special operators also gives the United States the ability to conduct hostage rescue raids. These raids will continue and will look like the May 2015 raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, the ISIS oil minister, along with mobile phones, laptops, and other intel.
The exact timing of the latest raid was not disclosed.
U.S. Army Delta Force soldier Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed by enemy gunfire during a raid to rescue 70 hostages from an ISIS compound in Iraq in 2015. His death was the first American combat fatality since the U.S. returned to Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Having served as a Navy SEAL for almost a decade, Mike Donnelly, founder of The CBD Path, knows what it means to put mileage on your body. Passionate about fitness recovery and the veteran community, Donnelly was motivated to start a wellness brand with a mission to offer superior quality CBD products that assist others on their journey to a happier and healthier life.
For Donnelly, the choice to explore owning a CBD business just made sense.
“I’ve met a lot of veterans who have a lot of issues from the last 20 years of war. I started hearing that a lot of the guys had started taking CBD, and were seeing really good results,” he said.
So he and his wife Claudia, co-founder of The CBD Path, spent the better part of a year researching CBD, how it interacts with the body, and whether it might be effective against some of the issues veterans experience.
“We talked with veterans who were taking it routinely, and every one of them said that it improved their quality of life. I have a friend who had part of his leg cut off and was in a really bad place. He swears the day he got on CBD, it saved his life,” Donnelly said.
(Military Families Magazine)
What is CBD?
Recently, CBD has seen a surge in research regarding its potential use in several neuropsychiatric conditions. CBD is a non-psychotomimetic cannabinoid that’s found in cannabis plants. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production, sale, and consumption of hemp and hemp-derived compounds like CBD provided the plant is tested by a third party and is proven to contain under 0.3% THC.
The research from JACM is the first of its kind to study the clinical benefits of CBD for patients who have PTSD. Eleven adult patients participated in the study. CBD was given in a flexible dosing regimen to patients diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed mental healthcare worker. The study lasted eight weeks, and PTSD symptom severity was assessed every four weeks by patient-completed PTSD checklist questionnaires, compiled from the current DSM-5.
From the total sample of 11 patients, 91% saw a decrease in their PTSD symptom severity. This was evidenced by a lower DMS-5 score at eight weeks compared to baseline scores. The mean total score decreased by 28% after eight consecutive weeks of treatment with CBD.
What about VA benefits?
Since the research surrounding CBD is still so new, the knowledge base about its benefits remains murky. Veterans like Donnelly find themselves increasingly frustrated with the legal hurdles surrounding CBD and medical marijuana, even as bipartisan support for legalizing the drug continues to grow.
Federal jobs become off-limits for veterans who use CBD, even if they reside in one of the 34 states that have an active, legal medical marijuana program. Currently, the VA maintains that veterans will not be denied benefits because of marijuana use, including their disability payments.
The Donnellys hope that will change soon. In addition to reaching out to several veteran organizations to collaborate with them to get the word out about CBD, The CBD Path also has a plethora of educational information linked on the site.
“Veterans need a lot of education and guidance about CBD, so we try to show them how and when to take our products. We have a quiz to help them understand what’s the best product for them,” Claudia, who manages the site’s social media presence, said.
IAVA is a non-partisan advocacy group that works to ensure post-9/11 veterans have their voices heard. Travis Horr, director of Government Affairs for IAVA, said that the organization is very aware of the issues and questions veterans have concerning CBD. In fact, 88% of IAVA members support additional research into cannabis and CBD, and 81% support the legalization of medical cannabis, according to Horr.
The organization’s official stance supports the use of CBD and medical cannabis by veterans where it is legal.
“Many veterans suffer from chronic pain and mental health injuries. We believe more research should be done into treating those injuries with cannabis and CBD,” Horr said.
IAVA supports the Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S.179/H.R. 712) to ensure that research happens at Veterans Affairs. Legislation passed out of the House VA Committee in March. More information regarding IAVA’s Policy Agency can be found here.
As the federal government continues to explore how CBD might be helpful, Donnelly and his team at The CBD Path are confident that, eventually, the VA will catch up to what many veterans already know.
“We believe it’s just like any other vitamin, a supplement to add to your toolbox, to manage stress, level off anxiety, and maintain good sleep patterns,” Donnelly said.
The April 2 attack in Garissa, Kenya, was the deadliest and most heinous atrocity the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab has ever committed.
Gunmen from Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa stormed a university campus in the city, killing 147 people after an hours-long siege. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in which 224 people were killed.
The terrorist attack demonstrates an ongoing security threat in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and it shows how jihadist groups can remain dangerous even as they lose territory and leadership.
On Twitter, Colby College political science professor Laura Seay noted the extraordinary sacrifice it requires for a family to even send someone to college in a place so much closer to Kenya’s arid and impoverished eastern desert frontier than it is to just about any of its major cities.
“Today’s loss is immeasurable,” she tweeted.
Al Shabaab didn’t just choose the softest of targets; it attacked a place where it could wipe out as many young, promising, and educated people as it possibly could.
In the Westgate Mall attack in September of 2013, Shabaab struck at the heart of Kenyan business and trade, attacking Nairobi’s famed status as east Africa’s cosmopolitan crossroads. The Garissa attack was even deadlier and perhaps even grimmer in its messaging. Shabaab struck Kenyan society where they knew it would hurt the most.
The Garissa attack is shocking for yet another reason. Al Shabaab has repeatedly struck outside of its safe haven in southern Somalia over the past year, carrying out a series of gun attacks around the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya, that killed over 60 people during the summer of 2014.
It’s retained its external attack capabilities and command structure despite suffering what would seem to be a series of debilitating setbacks. In January, the former head of Shabaab internal intelligence, who had earlier surrendered himself to Somali authorities, publicly denounced terrorism and urged his former colleagues to lay down their arms.
A September 2014 drone strike killed Ahmed Godane, Shabaab’s domineering leader and one of the most-wanted terrorists in Africa. Another drone strike on March 18 killed Adnan Garaar, the head of Shabaab’s external operations and the mastermind of the Westgate attack.
But Shabaab has forged a new model for how declining terrorist groups can remain dangerous, as analyst Clint Watts argued in a World Politics Review article published just before the Garissa massacre.
Shabaab has done nothing but splinter, vacate territory, and lose top leadership since ruling over most of Somalia and nearly all of its capital, Mogadishu, in 2010. Even so, Watts observes that “a sizeable military coalition is still fighting in the Horn of Africa more than four years after the group’s zenith,” a reference to an ongoing African Union military mission in Somalia in which Kenya is a longtime participant.
Shabaab has kept itself intact by retreating into the southern Somali wilderness and refocusing its efforts around large-scale attacks rather than holding or governing massive swaths of territory. Just a week before the Garissa attack, Shabaab killed over 20 people during a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu, including a Somali diplomat.
Even after years of decline, Shabaab has a remote safe haven that’s preserved its ability to pull off large-scale attacks in multiple countries in consecutive weeks.
More worrying is Shabaab’s deep network in neighboring Kenya, which is home to a sizable Somali minority as well as refugees from Somalia’s devastating famine, which had killed over a quarter-million people by 2013 and was greatly exacerbated by Shabaab’s refusal to allow aid groups into areas it controlled.
As Caroline Hellyer wrote for Al Jazeera two weeks before the Garissa attack, Shabaab’s relationship with a “hardline underground group” called al-Hijra gives it a ready-made network in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing it to recruit extremist elements well beyond Somalia.
One grim upshot of the Garissa attack is that it demonstrates Shabaab’s broad operational capabilities in Kenya, East Africa’s cultural, economic, and political leader and a US strategic ally. The region doesn’t have to deal with a Shabaab-ruled Somalia — but it may have swapped that problem for a Shabaab that has even greater ambitions to strike outside of its diminished Somali safe haven.
The promised investigation into the circumstances of the recent, devastating Navy collisions has turned up zero evidence that cyber attacks disabled either the USS Fitzgerald or USS John S. McCain.
Navy Adm. John Richardson said in an all-hands call streamed live on Facebook Aug. 30 that, despite the Navy giving an “amazing amount of attention” to the postulate that cyber attacks were behind the collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain, the investigation has found no evidence of such claimed attacks.
“We’ve given that an amazing amount of attention,” Richardson said. “It is sort of a reality of our current situation that part of any kind of investigation or inspection is going to have to take a look at the computer, the cyber, the information warfare aspects of our business. We’re doing that with these inspections as well, but to date, the inspections that we have done show that there is no evidence of any kind of cyber intrusion.”
“We’ll continue to look deeper and deeper but I just want to assure you that, to date, there’s been nothing that we’ve found to point to that,” Richardson said.
Richardson said in a tweet Aug. 21 that there may have been indications of cyber intrusion, but said the Navy would continue looking into that possibility. With his recent all-hands call, Richardson has all but foreclosed completely the potential for a discovery of a cyber intrusion involved in the collisions of the Navy vessels.
2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
The statement effectively puts to rest the enormous amount of speculation in security circles about whether cyber attacks were in any way involved in disrupting the navigational systems of these two Navy vessels, but even in the beginning other experts suspected that negligence was a far more likely explanation.
“The balance of the evidence still leads me to believe that it was crew negligence as the most likely explanation — and I hate to say that because I hate to think that the Navy fleet was negligent,” University of Texas at Austin aerospace professor Todd Humphreys told USA Today.
The Air Force plans to fire off new prototype ICBMs in the early 2020s as part of a long-range plan to engineer and deploy next-generation, high-tech intercontinental ballistic missiles with improved range, durability, targeting technology and overall lethality, service officials said.
The service is already making initial technological progress on design work and “systems engineering” for a new arsenal of ICBMs to serve well into the 2070s – called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD.
Northrop Grumman and Boeing teams were recently awarded Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction deals from the Air Force as part of a longer-term developmental trajectory aimed at developing, testing, firing and ultimately deploying new ICBMs.
Overall, the Air Force plans to build as many as 400 new GBSD weapons to modernize the arsenal and replace the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman IIIs.
The new weapons will be engineered with improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems and command and control systems, compared to the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have upgraded circuitry and be built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability, developers said.
Initial subsystem prototypes are included within the scope of the current Boeing and Northrop deals, Col. Heath Collins, System Program Manager, GBSD, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“Over the next three years, the GBSD prime contractors will develop and test those prototypes to demonstrate technical and integration design maturity. In the end, these prototypes will burn down risk early to ensure successful execution of the next acquisition phase,” Collins said.
Following this initial 3-year developmental phase, the Air Force plan an Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and eventual deployment.
Much attention has been focused on nuclear deterrence and the need for the US to modernize its arsenal, particularly in light of recent North Korean threats. Senior nuclear weapons developers have told Scout Warrior that upgraded guidance packages, durability and new targeting technology are all among areas of current developmental emphasis.
While, quite naturally, many of the details of the emerging new ICBMs are not available for discussion for security reasons, Collins did elaborate a bit on the systems engineering strategy being employed by Air Force developers.
Collins, an engineer himself, explained that the current acquisition strategy prioritizes model-based systems engineering designed to expedite technological development.
“Our approach to systems engineering leverages the power of 21st century technology to allow the program office to better “Own the Technical Baseline” through a spectrum of tools, models and simulations in a collaborative and interactive data environment,” Collins said.
The strategy, Collins explained, is intended the Air Force to better manage program and technical complexity through digital traceability and aggregation.
“This provides a single source of truth across the weapon system design, and allows a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the architecture and design,” he said.
The new ICBMs will be deployed roughly within the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total, dispersed areas across three different sites span 33,600 miles, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota and Great Falls, Montana.
The Air Force plans to award the single EMD contract in late fiscal year 2020.
Excerpts from the previous report HERE:
If one were to passively reflect upon the seemingly limitless explosive power to instantly destroy, vaporize or incinerate cities, countries and massive swaths of territory or people — images of quiet, flowing green meadows, peaceful celebratory gatherings or melodious sounds of chirping birds might not immediately come to mind.
After all, lethal destructive weaponry does not, by any means, appear to be synonymous with peace, tranquility and collective happiness. However, it is precisely the prospect of massive violence which engenders the possibility of peace. Nuclear weapons therefore, in some unambiguous sense, can be interpreted as being the antithesis of themselves; simply put – potential for mass violence creates peace – thus the conceptual thrust of nuclear deterrence.
It is within this conceptual framework, designed to save millions of lives, prevent major great-power war and ensure the safety of entire populations, that the U.S. Air Force is now vigorously pursuing a new arsenal of land-fired, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs.
A Pentagon statement said the General asked reporters to imagine what the world was like in the six years preceding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “In those six years, the world in conflict killed somewhere between 60 million and 80 million people,” he said. “That’s about 33,000 people a day, a million people a month.”
The world has seen bloody conflicts — Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom were awful, but nowhere near the level of carnage the world had experienced, he said.
“The submarines are the most survivable element of it; the ICBMs are the most ready; the bombers are the most flexible,” he said. “When you put those pieces together, it gives our nation the ability to withstand any attack and respond if we are attacked, which means we won’t be attacked.”
Military movies can often remind Veterans of their service. They can also bring up painful memories of the past.
Air Force Veteran and Silver Star recipient John Pighini is someone who knows both sides of this issue. He recently worked as a technical adviser on a major motion picture that showcased the bravery of service members, but also brought up a painful past. These movies can sometimes show Veterans dealing with their own struggles: anger, paranoia, edginess, regret and survivor’s guilt.
Pighini saw those struggles on the big screen after working on the movie. “It feels like they take post-traumatic stress and they set it right in your lap,” he said. “Don’t go to this movie and not take a handkerchief or tissues with you. You will not make it through.”
PTSD in Veterans
These are the feelings Pighini knows all too well. He served as a pararescueman during Vietnam, which led to his role on the movie as a technical adviser. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, pararescue specialists rescue and medically treat downed military personnel all over the world. These highly trained experts take part in every aspect of the mission and are skilled parachutists, scuba divers and rock climbers, and they are even arctic-trained in order to access any environment to save a life when called.
Dr. Paula Schnurr, executive director for National Center for PTSD in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, started studying PTSD in 1984. She said Vietnam Veterans are still dealing with effects because the lack of support when they returned from deployment.
“Vietnam Veterans, like Veterans of earlier wars, were expected to come home and get on with their lives,” she said. Schnurr added the publicly opposed war made Vietnam Veterans’ transition hard to come home.
The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, completed in 1988 by the Research Triangle Institute, was pivotal for Veterans and the medical community. At the time, it was the most rigorous and comprehensive study on PTSD and other psychological problems for Vietnam Veterans readjusting to civilian life.
The study findings indicated about 30% of all male and 27% of female Vietnam theater Veterans had PTSD at some point during their lives. At the time, that equated to more than 970,000 Veterans. Additionally, about one half of the men and one third of the women who ever had PTSD still had it.
PTSD symptoms may increase with age after retiring from work, or from medical problems and lack of coping mechanisms.
Having a mission
Having a mission can help Veterans deal with PTSD. While working on a recent movie, Pighini recalled the struggles he still deals with–50 years after his Vietnam service.
“The early days, we didn’t know what we had,” he said. “As we get older, we become more melancholy. We’re not busy and we’re not out there on the firing line.”
While filmed in Thailand, Pighini said the smells from Southeast Asia raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Despite the flashbacks, Pighini said he hopes viewers realize the importance of putting a spotlight on PTSD. He added movies also depict the courageousness of military members. In the movie he worked on, the movie told the story of an Air Force pararescuemen who lived by their motto, “That others may live.”
“That means you lay it out,” Pighini said. “You do whatever you need to do to save a life. It’s the ethos we have. It’s what we live by. If you have to lay down your life or one of your limbs or whatever it is, you do it. It means everything.”
Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.
The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.
It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.
The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.
Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.
As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.
That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.
But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.
It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.
Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.
A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.
Complete with sword room.
Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.
It took him 50 years to complete the project.
Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:
[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Loveland Castle via Instagram
Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.
That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.
Military medical providers must first diagnose airmen, proving transition surgery is a medical necessity, just like any other treatment. In the Air Force, the airman’s closest unit commander holds all keys to transitioning while in the USAF, including requests for surgery, uniform and PT exemptions, and deployment needs.
The gender used in the airman’s personnel record will determine which gender regulations and facilities to use, meaning until the transition is complete, transgender airmen will continue to use their gender from birth.
They are still deployable as long as they are medically qualified.
After receiving a diagnosis of medical need, the airman will inform their unit commander.The commander has 90 days to respond to the request. The commanding officer, airman, and medical staff will set out a timeline for a transition plan that takes operational needs, morale, and readiness into account.
The transition is complete (in the eyes of the Air Force) when the medical staff informs the airman’s unit commander and the airman provides legal documentation (such an updated birth certificate and passport) reflecting the change.
Uniform dress and appearance requirements will adhere to the gender reflected in their personnel record. Any exceptions to policy requests regarding uniform wear during the transition should be in writing to their immediate commander.
Transgender applicants who want to join the military will still have to meet all the physical conditioning standards for their branch, gender, age, and MOS. They will use the facilities for the gender marker in their personnel record. They may be exempt from fitness assessments during the transition plan period but are still expected to participate in unit PT.
A history of gender dysphoria, transition surgery, or hormone therapy is still a disqualifying factor for joining the military unless the recruit has been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months. A doctor must confirm the recruit’s gender stability.
Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.
Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.
In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.
Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.
Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.
“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”
If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.
In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.
A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.
So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.
We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.
“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”
We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.
Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”
Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.
Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.
At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.
The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.
This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.
That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.
The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.
This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.
For the first time, Behrend was going to meet her 19-year-old biological sister, Crystal Boyd, who lives in Puyallup, Washington.
After training, Behrend anxiously waited until she was whisked off to the hotel for the meeting, which she said was surreal.
“I have been picturing this moment for a long time and for it to finally happen, I couldn’t be happier,” Behrend said. “We keep in touch through social media but we’re trying to make plans for me to meet our dad and have them meet my family.”
“I’ve been extremely excited but I knew it would happen sometime. I just didn’t know when,” Boyd said. “Throughout the time I’ve known her, she’s gone through so much and watching her overcome everything right in front of my eyes, in person here at the DoD Warrior Games, is an honor. She’s always had the strength and now she’s going out and doing what we all knew she could do. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)
Boyd said she also can’t wait to meet Behrend’s family. “We’ve already talked about me visiting her and her family in Texas,” she said. “I’m excited to meet my nieces.”
Call to Service
Claiming Gilford, Connecticut, and Bradenton, Florida, as her hometowns, Behrend, 24, said she grew up moving around as a kid. She was adopted when she was four years old by an Army Ranger.
“My brother and I were adopted because when my biological dad got back from Desert Shield/Desert Storm, he wasn’t really the same person. So my mom spilt with him pretty rapidly to get us out of the situation,” she said. “As my mom told me about him, I was like, ‘I need to meet him. This is half of me. I don’t know who he is.’ We somehow got in contact with him. I think through his sister randomly. I talked to him for two hours that night and found out I had a sister.”
“Our dad told me about her and our brother while growing up, so I always knew about her. I just didn’t know her. She actually got in contact with me. I never knew how to find her so I just waited,” Boyd said.
Behrend said she’s tried to meet up with her sister a few times throughout the years, but it’s been difficult since she has been in the Air Force for the past six years.
Behrend said she joined the Air Force as a communications signals analyst because of her family’s military legacy. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “My grandfather served during the Vietnam era. My biological father was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. My adopted dad was a Ranger down in Panama for the Panama crisis. It’s just something our family does.”
When Behrend reconnected with her biological dad, she said they had that military bond. “It was an immediate, talk about everything bond,” she said. “I can call him and say, ‘This is going on; what do I do?’ He tries; we’ve been working on rebuilding that relationship. He said he will always be thankful that someone was able to come in and step into our lives to make sure we’re OK.”
In 2015, Behrend had a surgical complication that resulted in reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She said the neurological disorder impacts her involuntary functions such as temperature control, blood pressure, heart rate, pain, inflammation, swelling and other functions that a person doesn’t actively control. When she runs, she said she feels like her leg will go out from under her.
(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)
“It causes a lot of pain, instability and weakness in my right leg,” she said. “I also had a spinal injury from a car accident so it messes with my left one too.”
Her sister has epilepsy. Behrend said her disability is rare but since both of their disabilities are neurological, it’s an extra bond they can share and talk about.
Behrend has two little children as well as her sister to keep her motivated. “I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that if something happens, you just stop your entire life,” she said. “It’s not what life it about. Life it experiences. I don’t even see them as positive or negative anymore. Just experience it. It pushes me in one way or another but I grow.”
She encourages others to push themselves as well. “It doesn’t matter how early or late something happens or what he magnitude is. As long as you do it with all of your heart and you put everything you have into it, no matter what, it’s going to work,” she said passionately.
“Just because you have some kind of disability doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it,” Boyd said. “You can’t allow it to stop you from doing the things you want to do and the things you want to do. Even with obstacles, you can overcome whatever you truly put your mind to. Neither Karah nor I let our disorders define us. It’s a part of us, but it is not us.”
DoD Warrior Games
So far at these Warrior Games, Behrend has earned gold medals in her disability category in the women’s discus and shot put competitions. She broke a record in shot put in her category.
Boyd said she’s inspired not only by her sister but by the athletes at her first games.
“Watching everyone here inspires me,” she said. “These athletes decided to serve our nation, and even after they’ve been injured in some way they still continue to serve by inspiring everyone around them.”
Boyd added, “Even though you have a disability, it doesn’t define you. With a good support system, anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it, give some effort and trust those around you, things will start moving. Don’t forget things take time. Don’t stress if things don’t happen as fast as you want them to.”