On Feb. 15, the NHL will host its annual Stadium Series Games at a really unique and, frankly, awesome location.
The Colorado Avalanche will host the LA Kings at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy.
The Stadium Series has been played previously at several landmark stadiums in its six years of existence. In 2014, the series kicked off with a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and then two games in Yankee Stadium.
This is part of an initiative by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to build a unique partnership with the military. There have also been talks that the New York Rangers are working on having a game at Mitchie Stadium on the campus of the United States Military Academy.
Colorado Avalanche General Manager and hockey legend Joe Sakic said, “We are grateful for the chance to honor our military and our local U.S. service academy with a special event.”
Another benefit of the game is to highlight the Air Force Academy hockey team. In homage to its own history, the team started playing outdoors as a club team. As it built its reputation over the years, the Falcons have made the NCAA Tournament seven times. Three times they have made it to the Elite 8. What is even more impressive is that Air Force can’t recruit like other schools. (no Canadians or Europeans).
The NHL is going all out with pregame fan spaces, which will have interactive activities for everyone. Fans will be able to meet NHL legends, create their own hockey card, take a look at the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and other activities. The highlight of the pregame festivities will definitely be the Stanley Cup. The iconic trophy will be on display, and fans will have the chance to see the Cup up close and personal.
In preparation for the event, the Avalanche sent forward Gabriel Landeskog to be a ‘Cadet for a Day.”
Landeskog took the time to tour the Academy, try out a flight simulator, take in the school’s athletic facilities, and most importantly, spend time with the cadets.
When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.
Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.
It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.
His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.
“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”
As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.
“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.
That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.
“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.
Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.
“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.
He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”
It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.
“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.
Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.
Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.
The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.
Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.
The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.
Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.
When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.
Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.
But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”
But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”
It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.
“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.
Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”
Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.
“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”
Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”
After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.
In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.
After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.
In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.
And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.
For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.
“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”
More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.
The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.
John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.
Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.
“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”
Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.
But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.
The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”
Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.
Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.
In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.
Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.
“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.
Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.
One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.
Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.
The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.
The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.
Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.
Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.
They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.
Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”
From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.
1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.
2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.
Darryl during his days as a teacher.
3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.
4. What values were stressed at home?
My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.
Darryl at his first duty station
Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).
Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).
5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?
Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.
James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.
6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?
The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)
I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.
An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.
Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.
Faculty picture for the school yearbook.
7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?
Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.
8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?
“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.
“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.
“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.
Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com
Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”
9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?
I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.
Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.
I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.
Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.
Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.
My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.
Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.
Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com
Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com
Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com
Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com
Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com
10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?
Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.
I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.
Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.
I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.
Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.
Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”
Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.
The nominee to lead U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) told lawmakers Dec. 4, 2018, that the unrelenting pace of operations may force the elite organization to pass some missions off to conventional combat units.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process to assume command of SOCOM, said he believes it has an “adequate” number of personnel but needs to avoid taking on missions that conventional forces are capable of handling.
“Special Operations Command should only do those missions that are suited for Special Operations Command, and those missions that can be adjusted to conventional forces should go to those conventional forces,” he said.
Currently, special operations forces are responsible for conducting U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere and handling missions such as combating weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, from Special Operations Task Force-East, watches Afghan Commandos, from 2nd Commando Kandak, while patrolling a village in Dand Patan district during an operation.
(US Army photo)
The elite, multi-service SOCOM, made up of about 70,000 service members, also is slated to play a significant role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, which focuses on near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Clarke whether there is a clear delineation within the Defense Department between SOCOM and conventional missions.
Clarke said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “has been very clear … that SOCOM should be specific to SOCOM missions, so I don’t think there is any issue of delineation within the Department of Defense with that.”
Hirono then asked whether the U.S. military needs to do a better job adhering to the policy of assigning SOCOM-specific and conventional missions.
“The publishing of the National Defense Strategy and relooking at the prioritization of the force has given us a very good opportunity to relook at all of our deployments, look where the forces are and make sure that SOCOM forces are, in fact, dedicated to the missions that are most important and are specific to special operations forces,” Clarke said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said recent proposals to leave SOCOM out of the proposed 5 percent cut to the DoD’s budget would not guarantee that the command would not suffer.
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha Soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army Commandos, 2nd Company, 3rd Special Operations Kandak conduct clearance of Mandozai village, Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
“At a time of tight budgets, when some in the administration are already talking about cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense budget, many people say, ‘But that’s OK, because since the Special Operations Command is bearing so much of the fight, it will be fully funded,’ ” he said. “Can you talk about your dependence on the rest of the conventional military and how our special operations forces fight with them, and why stable, predictable and increasing funding for those conventional forces is so important for Special Operations Command?”
Clarke replied that SOCOM relies heavily on conventional forces from every branch of service.
“Especially for longer-term operations, we need the support of the services,” he said. ” … Special Operations Command is made up of the services. Much of the recruitment, much of the force, is actually started in the conventional force and actually came up through the ranks, and they were identified as some of the best of breed in that particular service in which they served, and they raised their hand and volunteered for special operations.”
The Army’s conventional forces have taken responsibility for training and advising conventional forces, standing up six Security Force Assistance Brigades to help establish, instruct, and enable conventional forces in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, the mission to train foreign militaries fell to Army Special Forces. Special Forces units now focus on training foreign commando units.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.
The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.
Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.
Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)
The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.
On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.
Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.
In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.
In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.
Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.
The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”
But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.
The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.
5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.
British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.
The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.
Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.
Finding a job is a daunting and sometimes difficult task after separating from the military. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Hiring Our Heroes provides a variety of tools such as a resume builder, a corporate fellowship program and a career planning tool, along with several hiring events across the U.S each year.
Career Summits are meant to help veterans improve their chances of obtaining a job by providing training programs and job fairs around the country.
The Hiring Our Heroes Resume Engine is a resume building tool used to help civilian employers understand skills learned in the military. Veterans can better explain their skills to potential employers by using this system.
Hiring Our Heroes helps Veterans and military personnel translate skills, build resumes and find employment after they leave service.
Hiring Our Heroes provides a guide to help veterans understand the resources available in their search for a job. Much like the military, the transition process requires a strategic plan, an assessment of resources, and a lot of work. The VET Roadmap breaks the military-to-civilian transition process into three simple actions, helps a veteran navigate the transition process which is continuous, and identifies best-in-class resources.
Veteran Fellowship Program
The Veteran Fellowship Program is a six week long paid internship with businesses in Maryland, and Washington D.C. Veterans have the opportunity to work and learn valuable skills from these businesses. Additionally, the fellowship program helps veterans with their resume and interview skills.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.
When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.
“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.
All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.
“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.
Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.
“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.
Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.
“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.
“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.
The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.
“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.
In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.
“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”
Guardsmen from the Utah Army National Guard implemented a policy of doing physical exercise prior to using the bathroom at the organization’s headquarters in Draper, Utah.
“Soldiers will perform one [Army Combat Fitness Test] leg tuck (LTK) to enter and/or exit,” a sign read in front of both female and male bathrooms.
The new rule, which the Utah Guard says will not be strictly enforced, was given by its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Eric Anderson. A public affairs officer for the Utah Guard said the directive is not intended to be a serious mandate and is purely for motivational purposes.
“One of the weaknesses we noticed in our soldiers is the leg tuck,” Maj. DJ Gibb said to Insider. “We just had a couple of these pull-up bars in our work-out areas.”
The sign is intended to be a friendly prompt that “when [soldiers] get a chance, [they] should,” Gibb said, referring to the leg tuck.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
The purpose of the loose rule was to motivate its soldiers to pass the ACFT, the Army’s newest physical assessment test. Soldiers are expected to take two ACFT assessments by this month, and the Army will officially begin administering on-the-record tests starting October 2020.
The ACFT is comprised of six separate, timed events ranging from deadlifts to a two-mile run. The leg tuck, one of the events, requires soldiers to “complete as many … as possible in two minutes” on a pull-up bar as they “maintain a relative vertical posture while moving the hips and knees up and down without excessive swinging or kipping.”
“The LTK assesses the strength of the Soldiers grip, arm, shoulder and trunk muscles,” the Army says on its website. “These muscles assist Soldiers in load carriage and in avoiding injuries to the back.”
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
The ACFT is slated to replace the Army’s antiquated Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The APFT consisted of a timed two-mile run, push-ups, and sit-ups and has been in use by the Army since 1980. Critics assailed the APFT for not adequately measuring the combat readiness of a soldier, and calls for a revamped test prompted the Army to research newer methods of assessing physical fitness.
Despite some concerns in the military community about the new ACFT, namely potential injuries and costs of the program, Gibb said the Utah Guard was “confident” that the new standards will continue to be met.
“I think we do put an emphasis on the readiness of our soldiers, and it’s attributed to little things like this,” Gibb said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.
Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.
Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.
The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.
Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.
“The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.
But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.
Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.
Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.
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The Navy just took delivery of the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier on Wednesday, the service said in a news release.
The future USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) finished acceptance trials under the shipbuilder, Newport News Shipbuilding, on May 26. Soon after those trials, which tested and verified the ship’s basic motor functions, the Navy officially picked up the ship from the builder, representing the first newly-designed aircraft carrier for the service since 1975.
The Navy plans to officially commission the Ford into the fleet sometime this summer.
The Ford is packed with plenty of new technology and upgrades, like a beefier nuclear power plant that can handle lasers and railguns. It also has a larger flight deck with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, which can handle more wear and tear from launching jets off the deck than older steam-powered systems.
“Over the last several years, thousands of people have had a hand in delivering Ford to the Navy — designing, building and testing the Navy’s newest, most capable, most advanced warship,” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a statement. “Without a doubt, we would not be here without the hard work and dedication of those from the program office, our engineering teams and those who performed and oversaw construction of this incredible warship. It is because of them that Ford performed so well during acceptance trials, as noted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey.”
Besides being the most advanced ship ever built, it’s also the most expensive: The final tally to build it came just shy of $13 billion. Still, with it’s high-tech gear, the Navy expects to save about $4 billion on this ship over its lifetime since it has more automation and better systems.
Correction: A previous version of this article said the Ford was the first new carrier for the Navy since 1975. It is the first newly-designed carrier.