Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

When military members and their families begin contemplating retirement locations after active service, LA doesn’t typically come up as a possibility. But the veteran led leadership of the city is aiming to change that. 

Retired Navy Captain Larry Vasquez was originally from New York before becoming a pilot for the Navy. After spending half of his 30 years in service stationed in California, there was nowhere else he wanted to be. 

Inspired by the movie Top Gun, Vasquez knew he wanted to be a pilot in the Navy from an early age. He received his commission in 1988 and retired in 2018. “I was the first in my family to graduate from college and next thing you know, I am in Navy flight school. It was hard and a tough couple of years but I was able to qualify to be helicopter pilot,” Vasquez said. He also shared his vivid memories of responding after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and the impact it had on his life and service going forward. 

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

Vasquez currently serves as the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. What sets this office apart is that Mayor Eric Garcetti was an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. His deputy Mayor is still serving in the Navy Reserves. “This opportunity presented itself but I don’t know if I would be here if my mayor was not a veteran,” Vasquez explained. He was brought onto the team in 2018. “It demonstrates to me that he is committed to veterans…for me this is really about understanding the veteran space and I didn’t know before I got here that we have the largest concentration of veterans in the country.”

In 2013 the mayor created the Office of Veteran Affairs, the first for the city since World War II. The goal of the office is to work collaboratively with other government agencies and organizations in order to strongly advocate for veterans and their needs. “I don’t think I have it all right and I don’t think anyone ever will,” Vasquez shared. But with leadership commitment and an established council of military veterans advising the mayor and his administration, they are on their way to bridging the divide and creating meaningful solutions for veteran related issues. 

Since the Mayor has taken office, his administration has been able to house 11,000 homeless veterans. This is done through a range of partnerships and programs aimed to support the veterans in wrap-around care they desperately need for success. By working directly with the VA they were able to coordinate a 14,000 bed housing facility for veterans. 

The city and its administration is also committed to tackling issues like employment, where they are working with the Call of Duty Foundation to build on the mayor’s promise to connect 10,000 veterans with employment. They met that goal in 2017 and will aim for 22,000 by the end of the mayor’s term in 2022. With the Super Bowl and Olympics coming to LA, the administration is admanent that veterans benefit from it. “We want to make sure that veterans have a voice, especially veteran-owned small businesses,” Vasquez explained. 

For those who are skeptical about California having high ratings from being veteran friendly, they’d be surprised. Irvine was number two in WalletHub’s list of big cities, which is a neighboring city to Los Angeles. High ratings in health care, employment and quality of life were among the reasons for the rating. 

When asked what the biggest lesson learned from the military was, Vasquez was quick to answer. “Never quit,” he stated. “One thing the military taught me and the mindset to have is that it is a can’t fail mission…You have to be able to pivot, flex and go to other options.” He went on to explain that a misconception of veterans is that they are rigid, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Vasquez highlighted the fact that veterans are lifelong learners and will always give you 100 percent, all they need is to be valued and have a shared mission. 

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Vasquez with World War II veteran Sidney Walton on his 100th birthday

For veterans looking to settle down and transition out of military service, Los Angeles wants you. The mayor and his administration want your talent, values and commitment to excellence as a citizen and resident of their city. In return, Vasquez and the others on the team remain dedicated to ensuring that the heroes that are ready to come home, have everything they need to do it well. 

Articles

Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why China will soon have a secret base in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has seen a lot of fighting since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. The Soviets ended up building bases in the war-torn country. So did the United States, which has been in Afghanistan since October 2001. Now, the Chinese Communists are reportedly building a base in northeastern Afghanistan, giving them a foothold in Central Asia.


According to a report by Eurasianet.org, the base is being built for the Afghan Armed Forces. Both Chinese and Afghan sources denied these reports, but Fergana News, which broke the story originally, confirmed that the base is being built in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan. On the other side of Tajikistan, further to the east, is the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
The green area of this map shows the Badakhshan region, divided between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. (Wikimedia Commons map by Wereldburger758)

But why would the Chinese be helping the Afghans build a base? There’s no altruism at play here. As was the case with Tibet, there has been a long-running separatist movement in Xinjiang, which was taken into China in the 1700s. Uygur separatists have since carried out a number of terrorist attacks to try to win independence for the region.

The Chinese are moving materials for the base construction through Tajikistan and, reportedly, Chinese troops have been delivering humanitarian supplies to local villages along the way. But there is also a distinct chance that this could turn into more than just building a base for the Afghan government.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Afghan commandos from the Sixth Commando Kandak wait for two Mi-17 helicopters to land as they practice infiltration techniques using the Afghan National Army Air Corps Mi-17Õs on April 1, 2010 at Camp Morehead in the outer regions of Kabul. The training was in preparation for future air assault missions needed in order to disrupt insurgent activity and bring stability to the population and the region. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Quillen)

The Russian newspaper Izvestiya noted that China’s approach could be similar to that used by Russia in Syria. First, they’ll create working relationships with local and national Afghan government officials. Once they’ve established themselves in the country, they’ll have a new base from which to deploy troops and conduct air strikes against the Uygur, should the need arise.

The Chinese are reportedly providing arms, uniforms, and equipment for this base. As such, there is a good chance that advisors from the People’s Liberation Army will turn up to help the Afghan military learn how to use the new weapons — while also keeping any potential Uygur rebellion in check.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Taliban agree to the ‘framework’ of a peace deal

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.

Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.


In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.

That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”

In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”

The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”

“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.

Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.

The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.

“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”

He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”

Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.

Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.

Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS-inspired terror suspect injures himself with pipe bomb in NYC

The New York City Police Department had one man in custody Dec. 11 after responding to a bombing in one of New York City’s busiest transit hubs.


An explosion rippled through a passageway connecting the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations at about 7:30 a.m. local time, the police said. Three people in addition to the suspect suffered minor injuries, the police said. By around 10:20 a.m., the NYPD declared Port Authority had reopened.

“This was an attempted terrorist attack,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said. “Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Bill de Blasio’s inauguration as NYC Public Advocate, 2010. (Photograph by William Alatriste)

The police identified the suspect as Akayed Ullah, whom they described as a 27-year-old Bangladeshi male. Bill Bratton, the former NYPD commissioner, told MSNBC’s Lisa Daftari the suspect was believed to have acted in the name of ISIS. The police did not confirm that information at a press conference later the morning of Dec. 11.

The police said Ullah was wearing an improvised low-tech device, based on a pipe bomb, that was affixed to him via a combination of velcro and belt ties. He was transported to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan after the incident, the police said. Sources told the New York Post that he told investigators he made the explosive device at the electrical company where he works.

De Blasio said there were no other specific or credible threats against New York City. New York’s official emergency-notification channel earlier had reported police activity at Port Authority, the massive transit hub at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Shortly after reports of an explosion surfaced, photos emerged on social media apparently showing a police bomb-squad truck arriving at the scene. Videos from the area showed dozens of armed police officers and several ambulances rushing to the scene.

 

A photo of the suspect, injured.

“There was a stampede up the stairs to get out,” Diego Fernandez, a commuter at Port Authority, told Reuters. “Everybody was scared and running and shouting.”

New York City most recently suffered a terrorist attack on October 31, when a man drove a rented truck down a pedestrian trail on the Manhattan’s west side, killing eight and injuring nearly a dozen others.

Read More: This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

On Monday, the Port Authority Bus Terminal was evacuated, the streets around the terminal were closed, and subway lines were rerouted around both Port Authority and the connecting Times Square stop. Find information about train delays and rerouting here.

In 2016, the terminal saw a more than quarter of a million daily trips at the terminal.

Articles

This organization matches homeless pets with vets who need them

Every day, countless men and women who served in the armed forces return home from war with wounds that are invisible — most never reach out to seek help.


As new mental health treatments are developed, many don’t want to be placed on a cocktail of medication they can’t pronounce and put them in a fog. That’s where an organization called Mutual Rescue can help.

David Whitman and Carol Novello created a national animal-welfare initiative that aims to connect loving and homeless pets with people who are in need of specialized care.

“Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, Scout saved my life,” said Josh Marino, an Iraq war vet. “He put me on a different path. He gave me the confidence to try to come back from all the adversity that I was feeling.”

Check out Mutual Rescue‘s video for Josh Scout’s uplifting story of how animals can rescue their owners.

(Mutual Rescue, YouTube)

Related: SOCOM wants drugs to turn its K9s into super dogs

Articles

Sailor accused of spying for China, Taiwan cuts deal with feds

The U.S. Navy abandoned efforts to convict a Taiwan-born Navy officer of spying for China or Taiwan, striking a plea deal on May 4 that instead that portrays him as arrogant and willing to reveal military secrets to impress women.


The agreement was a marked retreat from last year’s accusations that Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. gave or attempted to give classified information to representatives of a foreign government.

But it still appears to end the impressive military career of a man who came to America at 14. joined the staff of an assistant secretary of the Navy in Washington, and later was assigned to a unit in Hawaii that flies spy planes.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Then Lt. Lin about Navy vessel. (Photo from UNSI.org)

, 40, now faces dismissal from the Navy and up to 36 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for early June.

During the day-long court-martial in Norfolk, admitted that he failed to disclose friendships with people in Taiwan’s military and connected to its government. He also conceded that he shared defense information with women he said he was trying to impress.

One of them is Janice Chen, an American registered in the U.S. as a foreign agent of Taiwan’s government, specifically the country’s Democratic Progressive Party.

said he and Chen often discussed news articles she emailed him about military affairs. He admitted that he shared classified information about the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

He also divulged secrets to a woman named “Katherine Wu,” whom he believed worked as a contractor for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She actually was an undercover FBI agent.

“I was trying to let her know that the military profession in the United States is an honorable and noble one,” told Cmdr. Robert Monahan, the military judge. said the military is less prestigious in Taiwan.

also had friends with other connections, including a woman living in China whom he met online, and a Chinese massage therapist who moved to Hawaii.

said he gave the massage therapist a “large sum of money” at one point, although he didn’t say why.

also admitted to lying to superiors about flying to Taiwan and planning to visit China. But he said he did it only to avoid the bureaucracy that a U.S. military official must endure when traveling to a foreign country.

“Sir, I was arrogant,” he told the judge.

A Navy press release about attendance at his naturalization ceremony in Hawaii in December 2008 said he was 14 when he and his family left Taiwan.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,'” was quoted as saying. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Massive cats have invaded these photos. You’re welcome

Man, military photographers take some great photos sometimes. Sand tables, missile launches, rifle ranges. So many great images of American might and military readiness. But they’re always missing something, and the Twitter user Military Giant Cats has figured it out.


Icelandpic.twitter.com/A9KVSCoM7x

twitter.com

Yeah, the pics were always missing giant cats. Giant, giant cats that welcome Marines home from long ruck marches. Or, maybe the Marines are marching there to attack the cat? Look, the context isn’t clear, but you would definitely buy a ticket if that was a movie, right?

BMD-2pic.twitter.com/zPFrfX9W0A

twitter.com

Come on, you would follow this cat into battle. You would face the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with swords, and send those goons to their lords, if this cat was leading the charge. And he’s so intense about it.

#DSEIpic.twitter.com/gG3JBfFZHZ

twitter.com

Not all cats take their duties so seriously. Some are plenty patriotic but don’t feel the need to pursue the enemy all the time. They take a little time to relax, to consider their past achievements. And more than likely, to bat around a few of the tiny humans walking around his armor.

HMS Astute (S119)pic.twitter.com/luQway607e

twitter.com

This cat is willing to brave the perils of the deep for your freedom. He will do battle with the Nautilus, he will spend weeks submerged. And if duty calls, he will claw his way through entire Russian fleets and survive on nothing but kelp to secure the seas for democracy.

BGM-109 Tomahawkpic.twitter.com/CMOU9gNxt3

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These cats are willing to do whatever it takes. When they attacked Syria, they launched Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and didn’t bat a single one out of the sky before it hit regime forces.

T-64BM Bulatpic.twitter.com/3EJGMZoe4r

twitter.com

And look at how happy they make the troops! Whether they’re chasing giant balls of yarn or drifting tanks during military exercises, the cats know how to put on a show.

SEPECAT Jaguarpic.twitter.com/h7uW37oIaX

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But this one is a horrible pilot.

To see more of these awesome creations, check out the Twitter stream here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to register for a free, virtual event for veterans using telehealth, sponsored by VA and USAA

VA Office of Connected Care to share solutions to enable veterans to receive the care they need

SAN ANTONIO – USAA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a free, Facebook Live event at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to discuss how VA telehealth technologies and initiatives are helping bring care to Veterans lacking necessary resources to connect with medical professionals. The use of telehealth services has risen significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Veterans in rural areas, or with limited broadband connectivity, accessing these services can be challenging.

“Veterans should have access to high quality VA health care regardless of where they choose to live,” said Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA’s National Synchronous Lead for Telehealth Services, and a participant in the virtual event. “We look forward to highlighting initiatives that have been created to increase access to care for Veterans everywhere.”

The use of VA telehealth has increased by 1,180% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 6, the VA provided more than 20,000 Digital Divide Consults enabling more than 12,000 Veterans to receive internet access or a video-enabled device for their care needs.

“Bridging the Digital Divide” will be hosted on USAA’s Facebook page for Veterans, their families and caretakers, and feature leaders from VA’s Office of Connected Care and Office of Rural Health. The discussion will highlight VA technologies that enable Veterans to receive care when they need it and regardless of where they live. The discussion also will cover what the VA is doing to address broadband connectivity issues and provide specific instructions on where Veterans and their families can go for assistance.

“USAA and the VA have worked together for years and believe it’s very important to make Veterans and their families aware of available resources and technology to receive the care they need in these challenging times,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA and moderator for the virtual event.

To learn more and register for this free, online event, visit the Facebook event page. For more information about the digital divide and ways to connect veterans to resources, read VA’s Digital Divide Fact Sheet. For more information about VA telehealth, visit the Connected Care website.

VA’s partnership with USAA does not imply endorsement of USAA or its products.

USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fort Benning hosts ‘Shark Tank’ style competition for changes to the base

On December 1st of 2020, Fort Benning launched a new type of platform. One where soldiers could bring their best ideas to the table and have them heard by the higher-ups. Known as the Maneuver Innovation Challenge, or MIC, the goal was to bring in great ideas that could help all involved, from soldiers, to the base as a whole, and the programs that help it run. It was put into action by Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning. 

Inspired in part by the TV show, Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, the MIC created a way for small voices to be heard in a big way. Maj. Gen. Donahoe served as a judge, along with Col. Matthew Scalia, Sgt. 1st Class Kendall Willridge, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McAuliffe, Dr. Jay Brimstin and Capt. Joseph Barnes.

The project was announced through a series of videos and social media posts, alerting people to sign up with their idea. 

“The best ideas are not going to come from some old, staid general. They’re gonna come from some young sergeant figuring out the next great solution. So join us in the Maneuver Innovation Program, and let’s figure out the next big idea,” – Donahoe said.

The MIP works like this: between Dec. 1st and Feb. 1, 2021, soldiers and civilians could pitch their ideas to the cause. Using an online platform, folks submitted their best ideas to the powers that be. A total of 23 ideas were collected online, ranging from functional apps, to improving tank camouflaging, to programs to help divorced, dual military couples.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

The team narrowed the ideas to four finalists, which were pitched live to judges on Feb. 4th. Those making the cut earned prizes in their own right, including:

• A four-day pass.

• Sitting as Donahoe’s guest(s) for a luncheon at MCoE headquarters.

• Official backing for a training course of their choice at Fort Benning, if enrollment qualifications are met. 

After the competition, a video was released on Twitter with the hashtag #shootmoveinnovate, announcing that the final four ideas would be put into action by integrating with facilities through TRADOC, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innovation program resources. 

The ideas included: streamlining policies for on-post housing, an app for maintaining digital accountability of soldiers during holiday block leave, and multiple variations for digital options for in/out-processing.

“They’re all winners, Donahoe said. “Clearly when you look at it, all good ideas.”

Articles

How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

So long to smocks? Army considers changes to 40-year-old maternity uniform

The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.

The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Army uniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.

The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.

“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.

The Marine Corps announced late last year that it is considering new long- and short-sleeve maternity shirts after the Air Force unveiled a new design of its own that offers more stretch and stain resistance.

Pregnant airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tested the new maternity shirts in 2018 to gather feedback from women at different stages of pregnancy to improve fit options.

Improved fit and function of maternity clothing items are overdue, said then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who explained that female service members have been forced to spend more money than men altering uniforms so they fit properly.

The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.

The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.

The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.

The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.

The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Another T-38 trainer has crashed in Texas

A T-38C Talon II trainer aircraft crashed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas on Sept. 11, 2018, marking the fourth accident for the aging aircraft in the past year.

The aircraft, a twin-engine, high-altitude supersonic jet and part of the 80th Flying Training Wing, crashed on Sept. 11, 2018, while taking off. The two pilots ejected safely and were taken to local medical facilities, the base said in a statement. Both pilots are said to be in stable condition.


Sept. 11, 2018’s incident follows another T-38 crash in mid-August 2018. The 71st Flying Training Wing aircraft crashed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Aug. 17, 2018, becoming the sixth aircraft the US Air Force lost to noncombat mishaps in 2018, according to The Drive.

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

A T-38C Talon used primarily by Air Education and Training Command for undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Steve White)

Another trainer jet crashed in May 2018 near Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both pilots were able to eject safely from the plane. And all three of these incidents were proceeded by a fatal crash in November 2017. Capt. Paul J. Barbour lost his life when his plane crashed near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, according to Military.com. The pilot’s ejection seat was not armed at the time of the crash.

The T-38 program, according to the US Air Force, is old, expensive, and outdated, a Congressional Research Service report from May 2018 explains, noting these jets are not well-suited for training future pilots for fifth-generation fighter and bomber operations.

The contract for the replacement T-X trainer has been delayed several times due to budget issues.

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

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