Beginning in early August, the US Marines aboard the USS Wasp have conducted airstrikes against ISIS’ Libyan stronghold of Sirte from the Mediterranean. This has forced the group to retreat to a point where the Marines can now use the big guns: AH-1W SuperCobra attack choppers.
While drones and Harrier jump jets launched from the deck of the USS Wasp helicopter carrier had been attacking ISIS targets in Libya for weeks, the use of the SuperCobra represents a change in tactics.
Because helicopters can hover, loiter, and maneuver easily, they are ideal for seeking out hidden targets in urban areas. ISIS has been forced to retreat as Libyan and US forces drive the group into the “densest, most built-up part” of Sirte, a Defense Department official told The Washington Post. The birthplace of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte is an important port city in the divided nation.
The SuperCobra attack choppers are guided by US Special Forces on the ground in Libya along with other allied and Libyan forces aligned with the Government of National Accord, a UN-backed government that has requested US assistance in riding the country of ISIS.
Sirte’s position in the Mediterranean means it could be a staging point for ISIS looking to mount attacks in Europe. The power vacuum left over from the death of Gaddafi in 2011, as well as internal disagreements in Libya, has caused the country to become a hub of crime and human trafficking.
Though Libya remains divided, the ousting of ISIS can only be a good thing for the country’s stability. A recent statement from US Africom said only a few hundred or so ISIS fighters remained in Libya.
Rear Adm. Victorino G. Mercado, hands his wife, Suzane, the national ensign he received during his retirement ceremony in front of USS Halsey (DDG 97).
This is the advice I wish I had been privy to. The dynamics of marriage don’t suddenly change the day of retirement, rather, there is a period of anticipation that leads up to the finality of the transition. In much the same way that we address the stresses of pre-deployment, we should be discussing the stress that comes during pre-retirement.
It’s so complicated
Perhaps I should phrase this as what I didn’t know about the medical retirement process, because that is the one we endured. It is humiliating. Soldiers who have been told their entire career to push through the pain are suddenly being treated with suspicion as if they are trying to milk the government for every penny they can when really, all they want, or mine wanted, was to stay in and serve.
I went to every appointment I was able to attend. This isn’t realistic for all spouses, but in my unique line of work I was able to work my schedule around his. If you are able to, I highly recommend it. Things happen in those appointments where your soldier needs an advocate and a voice of encouragement that the temporary suck is worth the process.
The medical documents were an outright mess. According to the file, my husband had an abnormal pap-smear a few years back. Yes, a pap-smear. A mess!
They required hours of pouring over to make sure that they were correct and then hours more of appealing diagnoses that weren’t correct. This is when you, the spouse, begin to discover your new role of caregiver. It’s not an easy one and as a nurse recently told me it’s important to remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself and stick with it.
Your soldier needs to know you’re in this, too, and that you’ll be standing at the other side, just like he/she needed to know when they stepped on the plane to deploy.
The information they give you at the transition readiness seminar isn’t always up to date
Take notes and do the research. Double check everything you are told. Document and start a file folder. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same advice we are given as we begin the pre-deployment process.
I went to the transition readiness seminar with my spouse to take notes. Part of the reason he was medically retired was due to memory loss related to a TBI. One of my new roles was to take notes and help him remember what was discussed.
Spouses are encouraged to attend these meetings, but as the only spouse in attendance I discovered some of the advice that given out was to our disadvantage. I listened as soldiers were told how to navigate around their benefits in order to payout the minimum amount to spouses if the marriage didn’t work out.
What I wish we had been told was not how to screw our spouses, but rather how to love and support one another through one of the more difficult transitions of our lives.
It may not be the best time to buy a house
A lot of couples start dreaming about their retirement home. For some of them, like us, it’s their first home purchase. Look, retirement is a big stressor all on its own. Buying a home might be a stressor you can put off but if not, here are a few tips from Forbes on how to buy a house while also avoiding a break up.
As a newly retired military family, if you are buying a house locate realtors and mortgage companies who have walked through the process with previous veterans from service to retirement. It’s a complicated system finding financing while in transition, one that requires a few experts in your corner. Some friends have had success moving the family months prior to the actual retirement while others have had to live with family until all the needed paperwork to move forward is available.
For us, one word off on the VA paperwork nearly made us homeless. After driving for four days, we were two hours away before we got the call that we had a place to move into. If you are considering buying a house while transitioning out of the military read this first: 5 Home Purchase Considerations For Your Military Consideration.
Experience prepping for deployments can help you in prepping for retirement
We all go into our first deployment with an idea of what it will look like; retirement is similar. I pictured lunch dates, Pinterest DIY projects, and shared household responsibilities. Our careers were about to take off, my husband with his dream of culinary school and mine as a full-time writer. Reality has a way of knocking you down a few notches.
I want you to dream. You need to dream. A year and a half out we seem to finally be getting the hang of communicating how we each need help and tackling the household responsibilities in a way that works. But none of it looks quite like we pictured. As we adjust to the reality of our new normal, we are learning to communicate more openly, to listen more fully and to forgive the missteps along the way.
There are a lot of emotions that go into prepping for deployments and there are a lot of emotions that come with the transition from military to civilian life. Be ready to be honest with one another along the way. Hold each other up because the period of your life doesn’t have to break you, it can be the moment that solidifies you as a couple.
The time has come! Long anticipated, missile-blasting, hole-frying, zip-zapping laser weapon technology is upon us. Yep, the U.S. Army officially has a 60-kilowatt-class blaster thanks to Robert Afzal, who leads Lockheed Martin’s advanced laser systems program, and his team.
Straight out of an H.G. Wells novel, the blaster is the most powerful laser weapon on the planet; its targeting dome, laser generator, and power and control hardware are reliable and light-weight enough to be mounted on tactical vehicles. This means the Heat-Ray – I mean blaster – is built for war.
Heat-Ray in action, but you already knew that, you lover of classical literature, you! (Artwork for a 1906 Belgian edition by the Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corréa of the book The War of the Worlds.)
Afzul spent a large part of his career leading the development and integration of lasers into space probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center before beginning to work with Lockheed in 2008. Among his many contributions, he notably developed the flight lasers for the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on the ICESat Mission and designed the laser on Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER mission — and, perhaps most importantly, he helped develop the Alexandrite laser for tattoo removal (thank the Gods!).
The first laser was created in the 1960s by Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, by using a cylinder of synthetic ruby with silver coated ends and a high power-power flash lamp. Since then, laser technology has made leaps and bounds. We can now scan, print, cut, weld, and illuminate our way through life via laser technology but it wasn’t until recently that an actual “Death Ray” style weapon was disclosed to the public invented.
Thwarted efforts have primarily been due to three itty-bitty details: the need for very large solid-state batteries, impractical assembly dimensions, and light diffusion — beam quality is the difference between bright lights and explosions. #Science.
The difficulty in turning lights into weapons is making sure that the laser’s level of horsepower can melt metal at a relevant distance. Even though chemical lasers could do the trick, they call for cumbersome and awkward mixtures. Meanwhile electrically powered solid-state lasers don’t have enough power.
When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.
Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.
“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.
It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.
The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.
Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.
That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.
“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.
“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.
Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.
“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”
In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.
Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.
Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.
“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.
While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.
That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.
The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.
The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.
Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.
That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”
Iran’s latest attempt to put a satellite in space in spite of US opposition ended in failure, an Iranian defense ministry official told state media, Reuters reported Sunday.
“It was launched with success and … we have reached most our aims … but the ‘Zafar’ satellite did not reach orbit as planned,” the official told state television Sunday.
The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.
In January 2019, the Iranian rocket carrying the satellite into space failed to reach the “necessary speed” during the third stage of flight, a senior telecommunications official told state media, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The US has criticized Iran’s efforts, arguing that its satellite program is a cover for the development of long-range ballistic missile technology.
President Donald Trump has said that Iran’s space program could help it “pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability.” Iran argues that the Simorgh rocket is nothing more than a satellite launch vehicle.
In February of last year, Iran made another attempt. Iran’s foreign minister revealed in an interview with NBC News that it failed as well. He added that his country was looking into the possibility of sabotage after a New York Times report suggested the US could be behind the failures.
Iran tried again in August, but the rocket apparently exploded on the launchpad.
In denying US culpability, Trump inexplicably tweeted out an image of the scorched Iranian launchpad from a classified briefing, a photo that appeared to have come from one of the US’ most secretive spy satellites.
After the second failed test, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR that this is a “trial and error” situation, explaining that “eventually they’re going to get it right.”
Iran managed to put a satellite into orbit in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but lately their efforts have been unsuccessful.
Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.
According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.
“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.
The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”
“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”
By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.
“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”
From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.
“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.
However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.
Russia’s 3rd-generation battle tank will feature a new version of explosive reactive armor (ERA) capable of resisting widely used Western anti-tank weapons, a source at a leading Russian heavy machinery company told Nikolai Novichkov of IHS Jane’s 360.
The unnamed source at the Russian Tractor Plants, which develops armor for the country’s tanks, told Jane’s that the T-14 Armata battle tank will feature a radically redesigned ERA system that has “no known world equivalents”.
“The new ERA can resist anti-tank gun shells adopted by NATO countries, including the state-of-the-art APFSDS DM53 and DM63 developed by Rheinmetall [and] anti-tank ground missiles with high-explosive anti-tank warheads,” the source told Jane’s.
An ERA uses two plates of armor that sandwich an inner explosive liner on the outside of a vehicle. When a penetrating projectile hits the outer face plate, the explosive liner detonates. This detonation disrupts the enemy projectile by both shifting the plate armor, lowering the incoming projectile’s velocity, and by changing the impact angle of the projectile.
These shifts means the incoming projectile has to penetrate a larger amount of armor, lowering its overall effectiveness.
In addition to the ERA, the Armata will feature an Afganit active protection complex, a system that uses Doppler radar to detect incoming projectiles like rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles. Once detected, the active defense launches an interceptor rocket that destroys the incoming projectile.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta Online notes that this protection could hypothetically allow the Armata to survive an attack from a US Apache helicopter. But the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office takes a more modest view of the tank’s supposed capabilities and concludes that the Afganit system would most likely be capable of defending the tank only from “shaped-charged grenades, antitank missiles, and subcaliber projectiles.”
The Armata is also equipped with counter-mine defenses and a suite of high-resolution video cameras. These cameras would allow the Armata operators to have full 360-degree awareness around the body of the vehicle.
The first deliveries of the T-14 started trials with the Russian military in February and March. According to Interfax, large deliveries of the tank will start in 2017 to 2018.
“Awesome Sh-t my Drill Sergeant Said” started as a fun Facebook page for sharing fun basic training stories, but it grew to be much more. The page started by soldier Dan Caddy has grown exponentially even beyond social media, literally saved the lives of soldiers, and inspired a new book, to be released on Tuesday.
“Basic training is an experience no one forgets,” Caddy told WATM in an email. “[Soldiers] hate it while they are there and then miss it when they are gone and are able to look back on it. ASMDSS gives them a way to connect back to that time through the stories posted and the interaction with our Drill Sergeant Admins.”
Following a deployment to Afghanistan, Caddy, 32, started passing around basic training stories with his Army buddies over email. He soon realized he was on to something.
“I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time, and all the stress and pressure I had been feeling had been pushed away,” Caddy told WATM. “Later that day I spent a lot of time reflecting on the impact my Drill Sergeants had on me, the lessons taught, and how what I learned from them still guides me to this day.”
He started a Facebook page, which went from zero to 700 likes fairly quickly. Then it exploded to 22,000 in a week, according to Caddy.
While his Facebook page — which now has more than 800,000 fans — shares hilarious stories of drill sergeants at their best, his new book features even more stories, many of which have never been shared before. And instead of just a mish-mash of basic training anecdotes, Caddy also writes handy explanations of basic training life, from a drill sergeant “shark attack” to the very serious mission that soldiers face after training: deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, fans of the page will get plenty of gems and hilarious one-liners, such as, “Privates, all I do is eat gunpowder and run” and “I’m going to levitate and fall asleep inside your soul.”
And then there’s this: “I can shower, feed myself, feed a baby, and make a baby all in under ten minutes. You knuckleheads sure as sh-t can eat a goddamn meal in ten minutes.”
Despite the humorous nature of the Facebook page and the book, Caddy’s real passion is in giving back to the veteran community, to include a non-profit he started shortly after a soldier messaged his page with thoughts of suicide (his quick thinking and social media following saved the soldier’s life).
“ASMDSS has been able to use our reach to connect those who want to help with those in need,” Caddy told WATM. “For me the most amazing and life changing thing to come out of ASMDSS, beyond the laughs, was the creation of Battle in Distress.”
So what’s the funniest story Caddy has ever heard? The short version, he told WATM, was the Chinese private who convinced all his drill sergeants he didn’t have a proper grasp of English — a move that got him an easier time at basic training.
“[On] graduation day, he let the cat out of the bag too early that he was fluent in 9 languages and a DS overheard him. Chaos ensued,” Caddy told WATM, adding: “It was brilliant, but his fatal flaw was hubris.”
Even if people have limited knowledge of the military, Caddy believes they will still get something out of the book.
“Just yesterday I was reading a copy of the book at the bar at a restaurant and the bartender saw the title and asked if he could check it out,” Caddy told WATM. “He opened to the middle of the book and within five seconds was laughing before calling over other staff saying ‘YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS.’ The book was passed around between staff and customers for a good 15 minutes with everyone laughing and saying ‘I have to get this.’ None of them were military but the concept and the humor transcended it all and brightened up the day.”
Ahead of Memorial Day, theveteran-owned and led Florida Panthers hockey team held a Ceremonial Groundbreaking to celebrate the organization’s $65 million project to revitalize the Fort Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium with construction of the newly-named Baptist Health IcePlex, which will debut next summer as the team’s state-of-the-art 2-sheet practice and community ice facility. The revitalization of the community space is a massive step forward toward a future without a pandemic.
The private ceremony, which commenced with a presentation of the colors by Robert Bethel American Legion Post 220, was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis; Baptist Health Doctors Hospital and Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute CEO Javier Hernandez-Lichtl; and distinguished project and community partners who joined Florida Panthers Chairman, Owner & Governor Vincent J. Viola and wife Teresa Viola, and CEO & President Matt Caldwell for an exclusive first look at the future sports & entertainment complex.
Special guests Panthers General Manager Bill Zito, Head Coach Joel Quenneville, and Special Advisor to Panthers General Manager Robert Luongo received a warm send-off by guests before departing for Tampa ahead of tonight’s Game 6 against the Lightning.
War Memorial Auditorium has served as a pillar in our Fort Lauderdale community for more than 70 years, and its revitalization will bring new life to an important and iconic social hub.
Dean Trantalis, Mayor of Fort Lauderdale
Veterans taking care of their own
The venue itself is stewarded by Vincent Viola, a U.S. Army veteran and owner of the Florida Panthers. His father was a World War II veteran who served in the European theater. Vincent, following in his father’s footsteps, was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Army after graduating West Point in 1977. He completed Ranger school and served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.
The historic War Memorial Auditorium has been a home for sport and entertainment events since the 1950s. Throughout the years it has begun to show its age. However, the Florida Panthers are restoring the War Memorial to its former glory – and beyond. The new designs will have a never-before-seen ballroom-style concert hall seating 3,800 people. It will also have two NHL regulation-sized indoor ice rinks; one of which is dedicated to the community for public skating and to youth and adult hockey and figure skating programs. Additionally, it will have a sit-down indoor and outdoor restaurant, a new community fitness center and other upgrades facility-wide.
Matt Caldwell, President and CEO of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, is also an U.S. Army veteran and West Point graduate. He served as an officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom conducting combat operations. In Kosovo he conducted peacekeeping missions as well. He was decorated with a Bronze Star and the NATO Kosovo Military Medal.
We’re deeply committed to Broward County, and believe that the addition of this world-class sports & entertainment venue in the city of Fort Lauderdale will not only provide a unique and exciting opportunity for our players to connect with fans, but create a vibrant, centrally-located recreation destination where local families and members of the community can have fun and stay active. As we look to meet the demand of a rapidly-growing Florida hockey community, our youth hockey and hockey scholarship programming as part of this new facility will work to further diversity and inclusion by providing a younger, more diverse generation of local kids with increased access and exposure to the sport.
Matt Caldwell, President & CEO of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club
Joint ops with the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County
The War Memorial is located on the 93-acre Holiday Park at the western end of Fort Lauderdale. It is dedicated to Broward County’s veterans and serves all members of the community. In addition to the recreational programs, the facility will also be home to the Florida Panthers Foundation’s Youth Hockey Scholarship program in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County.
The Baptist Health IcePlex was also announced as the future home of the Florida Panthers Foundation Youth Hockey Scholarship Program during a special jersey presentation introducing the Scholarship’s first young recipients. Created in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County to increase access, inclusion, and diverse representation within the sport of hockey in South Florida, the Scholarship Program will cover the full cost of skating and hockey training, equipment, practice clinics, and more for each of the 10 selected boys & girls, ages 7-10, throughout their entire hockey journey.
Recently, the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator on April 1, 2021.
Charity Navigator has awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County the coveted “4-star rating out of 4-stars” for the tenth consecutive year. This is the highest possible rating awarded by Charity Navigator and indicates that BGCBC is strong financially and committed to accountability and transparency when it comes to our organization…Only 3% of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator received at least 10 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that BGCBC has continued to outperform most other charities in America.
To receive the latest project and construction updates, please visit FTLWarMemorial.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @FTLWarMemorial.
The end of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move does not always mean that you’re having your household goods delivered immediately. Thankfully, the military offers some free storage with each move. But what happens when your free government storage ends?
Last summer, my family PCS’d from Europe to the US. We decided to renovate our house before moving in, and so we moved in with my mother “temporarily.” In August.
Our household goods arrived in September, and so our 90 days of temporary storage began. When the 90 days was up, my husband requested, and was granted, an extension for another 90 days. Which ended a bit ago. And we’re still at my mother’s house.
After evaluating all the options, my husband decided that our best choice was to keep our household goods in their current storage location, but start paying for the storage ourselves. In this type of situation, the military still retains responsibility for the final delivery fees, which makes this option attractive.
After approximately 4,276 emails back and forth between the company who has our storage shipment, the personal property people, the transportation management people, and the legal services office, we were told that in order to “move” (not move) our items from government storage to personal storage, we would have to have the shipment inspected. The price for the inspection is based upon weight; ours is somewhere in the $900 range.
We asked a lot of questions about who is responsible for the items at which point in the process, and got a lot of conflicting answers and a lot of “well, the rules keep changing” type of answers.
Then, we had to decide what type of insurance we wanted on the items in storage: the free basic coverage or additional coverage for an additional cost. There was a lot of back and forth about whether which insurance choice required inspection, but it seemed we were paying for an inspection anyway, so I never did get all the details about that issue.
Which brings us to today, when many questions were answered and even more questions were developed.
We were told to show up at the warehouse at 9 am to inspect our shipment. When we arrived, we were taken to a corner of the warehouse with 11 of our 15 crates staged. We repeatedly asked “how does this liability thing work?” and “At what point the process do we file a claim for damages that occurred prior to today?” but didn’t get a lot of answers. We also didn’t get any instructions.
Our very nice crew started uncrating our items. Anything that was in a box or a wrapped tub, we noted any damages to the carton, and all furniture was unwrapped and inspected. The moving company rep was making notes and we were making notes and discussing which damage was new and how much was old moving damage or just normal wear and tear of life. I took some pictures of damage that was notable, and I thought things were going pretty well. Items were being re-crated as we went, and the process was smooth and organized.
After lunch, someone in the company decided that the process wasn’t moving fast enough, so they simultaneously added an extra crew member and instructed them to “just get everything unpacked.” I should have put my foot down right then, but I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the chaos that ensued. Instead of taking things out, inspecting what needed to be inspected, and then putting things back, it became a mad rush to empty the remaining 8 crates onto the warehouse floor. I did occasionally ask, “Um, how is this going to work?” and was repeatedly reassured that they had a plan.
Once every crate was unpacked, the team decided to do a thorough search through the approximately 250 items, looking for 5 missing items. This is when I realized that my discomfort was not irrational – this was madness! The day was ending, we had 8 crates of stuff scattered across about 1000 square feet, with random things stacked this way and that, and about 10 items of furniture unwrapped but not yet inspected and additional items still wrapped. I’m not sure if it was the tone or the actual words, but the crew finally got the message that we were not happy. They pulled in additional crew members and everyone started frantically organizing and inspecting and (still!) looking for the missing items.
During this frenzy, it somehow became clear what was happening with regard to the inventorying. The crew wasn’t helping us inspect for damage to make a claim; they were inventorying the condition of items to cover their own liability. Any information being used for our claim needed to be coming from our notes. This makes perfect sense, in retrospect, but it would have been significantly more helpful to have known that BEFORE we started, not 7 1/2 hours into unpacking and repacking.
At 5 p.m., some guy who we’d not yet seen (despite having talked to at least 10 people) showed up and announced that the warehouse was closing for the evening and we’d have to come back tomorrow. Whoa, Nellie! Number one, we’re not available tomorrow. Number two, this is the sort of information that should have been shared at any point prior to now. Number three, the reason we’re in this situation is because someone in your company decided that the previous system wasn’t working and messed with it. I’m pretty irritated that has somehow become my problem.
After a few heated words, it became clear that we really didn’t have any choice but to return. Neither my husband or I can cancel our activities for tomorrow, so it was decided that the company would do their inspection, repack as much as possible, and leave out the items that we needed to inspect when I return on Friday.
On the way out, we checked with our office contact and asked a few more questions. It was at this point in time that we were told that we should have been making all those damage notes on the claim form. I asked where we got those and was informed that we should have been given them at the beginning of the day. She tracked down our forms and handed them over for us to transcribe all our notes before returning on Friday. It seems that our 70 days to claim damage starts with today’s inspection. Nice to know.
It feels like there is a lot more to say about this “process,” and I suspect I’ll be updating this as things evolve, but I want to get it all out to you while it is fresh in my head.
If you find yourself in a situation where your government storage ends before your storage needs end, be sure to explore all the other options. Hopefully, this will provide some insight into the option of keeping your items with the same company that is already storing them. It is by no means a complete or definitive guide, but our experiences that may help you do it better than we are.
Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.
Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.
Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.
The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.
But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.
Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.
Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.
Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.
“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”
Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”
But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.
Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.
The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.
“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”
Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.
He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.
“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”
Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for five suspects in the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a Nov. 15, 2018 statement, the Saudi public prosecutor said that 11 suspects had been indicted in Khashoggi’s death and that he had requested the death penalty for five of them. None of the suspects were named.
The spokesman for the public prosecutor said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no knowledge of the killing, Agence France-Presse reported. Crown Prince Mohammed functions as an absolute monarch in Saudi Arabia with control over courts and legislation.
The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, echoed that claim, telling a separate press conference on Nov. 15, 2018: “Absolutely, his royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue.” He added that “sometimes people exceed their authority,” without naming any names.
The five people who were recommended for the death penalty are charged with “ordering and committing the crime,” the public prosecutor said.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who criticized the rule of Crown Prince Mohammed in articles for The Washington Post, died inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. He held a US green card and lived near Washington, DC, for at least a year before his death.
How Khashoggi died, according to Saudi Arabia
The Saudi deputy public prosecutor, Shaalan al-Shaalan, told reporters on Nov. 15, 2018, that Khashoggi died from a lethal injection after a struggle inside the Saudi Consulate and that his body was dismembered and taken out of the consulate, according to Reuters.
The agents killed Khashoggi after “negotiations” for the journalist’s return to the kingdom failed, Shaalan said.
He added that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team that was dispatched to Istanbul to take Khashoggi home.
The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body are not known, Shaalan added.
Riyadh has changed its narrative of the death multiple times, having initially claimed that Khashoggi safely left the consulate shortly after he entered and then said weeks later that Khashoggi died in a fistfight as part of a “rogue operation.”
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said that the prosecutor’s Nov. 15, 2018 statement was not “satisfactory” and called for “the real perpetrators need to be revealed.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Cavusoglu said, according to the Associated Press: “I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory.”
He added: “Those who gave the order, the real perpetrators need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way.”
Saudi officials have repeatedly tried to distance its leadership, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed, from the killing. There is increasing evidence, however, suggesting that people with close ties to the crown prince were involved in Khashoggi’s death.
That general has since been named by The New York Times as Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, who was promoted to Saudi intelligence in 2017.
Riyadh wants the audio of Khashoggi’s last moments
The Saudi prosecutor on Nov. 15, 2018, added that the office had “submitted formal requests to brotherly authorities in Turkey” for evidence in Khashoggi’s death, including a purported audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments that Turkish officials have repeatedly mentioned since October 2018.
The prosecutor added that Saudi Arabia was “still awaiting a response to these requests.”
Erdogan said in early November 2018 that he “passed on” the tape to the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country’s intelligence agents heard the recording, but France said it never received it. Britain and Germany declined to comment.
CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly heard the recording during a visit to Ankara in October 2018 but was not allowed to bring it back to the US.
A former Marine Corps drill instructor was “drunk on power” and targeted three Muslim recruits for abuse, prosecutors said at the opening of his court-martial on charges including cruelty and maltreatment.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix punched, choked, and kicked recruits at the Marine Corps’ training center at Parris Island, South Carolina, prosecutors said Oct. 31, according to multiple news outlets.
“You will learn the accused is drunk on power,” prosecutor Capt. Corey Weilert told the eight-person jury hearing the case at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling Marine Corps base in North Carolina.
After a confrontation in March 2016 when Felix slapped his face, 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, fell three stories to his death, investigators said. Siddiqui’s death was declared suicide, but since then Marine Corps officials have said they uncovered widespread hazing of recruits and young drill instructors and identified up to 20 people possibly tied to misconduct.
A commanding officer at Parris Island who was fired amid allegations of misconduct after Siddiqui’s death also faces a court-martial. Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon is charged with making false statements, failing to heed an order and other charges. He will face court-martial at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, but no trial date has been set.
Mentions of Siddiqui’s death are being limited by Judge Lt. Col. Michael Libretto to testimony addressing an obstruction charge facing Felix. Prosecutors say Felix told recruits not to talk about the incident outside of the unit, The Island Packet of Hilton Head, South Carolina, reported.
Felix also faces three counts of maltreatment toward Siddiqui and the two other Muslim recruits, as well as nine counts of violating an order, making a false statement, and being drunk and disorderly.
One of the Muslim recruits, 21-year-old Rekan Hawez, who came from Kurdistan to the US as a baby, testified that Felix began hazing him after finding out he was a Kurd, The Island Packet reported.
Hawez, who was other-than-honorably discharged in June 2016, said that Felix routinely called him “Kurdish,” “ISIS” and “terrorist,” The Island Packet reported.
Hawez said that one night Felix made his entire platoon drink multiple glasses of chocolate milk before exercises, and when one recruit vomited, Felix made another recruit drink the vomit, The Island Packet reported.
Hawez also said Felix forced his platoon into a laundry room to perform exercises on a different night, and at one point, forced him to get into an industrial dryer.
“Hey ISIS, get in the dryer,” Felix allegedly told Hawez, The Island Packet reported.
Ameer Bourmeche, now a 23-year-old lance corporal at Camp Pendleton in California, said he was roused awake in the middle of the night in July 2015 by shouts of “Where’s the terrorist?” He said Felix and another drill instructor, Sgt. Michael Eldridge, marched him to the barracks shower room, where Felix elbowed him in the chin. They smelled of alcohol, Bourmeche testified.
Eldridge also was charged, but he is cooperating with the prosecution and is expected to face less-severe punishment, The Washington Post reported.
Bourmeche said Felix and Eldridge ordered him to do push-ups and other exercises in the shower, then told him to climb into an industrial-size clothes dryer. He said they turned on the dryer with him inside three separate times. Each time, the drill instructors asked whether he renounced Islam. The third time, Bourmeche said, he told them he was no longer a Muslim.
Defense counselor Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clay Bridges told jurors that testimony by Bourmeche and other recruits are boot camp stories that have been conflated, are contradictory and “blown out of proportion.”