Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.
By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.
“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”
Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.
The legislative amendment was sponsored by Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who successfully got the same amendment through the committee in November, only to see it stripped from the bill by House lawmakers a month later.
The latest language still has to be considered by the full Senate and then be sent once more to the House for approval.
The VA won’t comment on the lawmakers’ actions on medical marijuana, but its website quotes a report by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and Glenna Rousseau of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, dismissing marijuana as useful in treating veterans.
“Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD,” the report states. “Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”
The federal government in 2014 approved a study on medical marijuana to be conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit research center. But the research hasn’t yet been completed.
But while the markets may have seen violent swings in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave, the longer-term political ramifications of a Brexit are interesting to consider, too.
Earlier in the day, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted that the Brexit is “the most significant political risk the world has experienced since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
When asked to explain what he meant by that comparison, Bremmer told Business Insider in an email: “Yes it’s a significant shock for the near term. But it’s the tipping point it reflects longer term that really matters. Much, much more G-Zero.”
The term “G-Zero world,” coined by Bremmer and political scientist David F. Gordon, refers to a power-vacuum world in which “major powers set aside aspirations for global leadership – alone, coordinated, or otherwise – and look primarily inward for their policy priorities.”
In this kind of environment, global governance institutions become confrontational hotspots, and, as a result, economic growth and efficiency slows.
As for the Brexit, it has “enormous long-term and structural impact” and “critically undermines the Transatlantic Alliance – the most important alliance in the postwar era,” Bremmer said.
It “sharply weakens and probably leads to eventual disintegration of the UK” and “also ends further EU integration,” he said, “while the Brits need to be maximally punished by EU countries to ensure there isn’t a path for further exit.”
For what it’s worth, Bremmer isn’t the only one who warned of long-term political ramifications of a Brexit, including less EU integration going forward.
Ahead of the Brexit vote, a Citi Global Economics research team led by Ebrahim Rahbari, Willem Buiter, and Tina M. Fordham expressed similar sentiments in a note:
“We are very skeptical that the Eurozone and EU would respond to Brexit with attempts to deepen integration in the near-term. … Opposition to further European integration is fairly widespread across EU countries, both north and south and both debtor and creditor countries. We would therefore mostly expect a ‘freeze’ in terms of integration even though some areas may well see further headway (e.g. for existing initiatives in various areas, including banking union, capital markets union or energy union or some movement towards a Eurozone chamber in the European Parliament).”
Similarly, earlier in the week, a Deutsche Bank research team argued that in light of upcoming European elections and ongoing large-scale economic and political challenges like the migrant crisis, Europe is unlikely to see deeper coordination:
“Beyond the immediate risk events of the Brexit referendum and Spain election, geopolitical agenda remains in focus. This backdrop makes policy progress very unlikely as domestic politics drive the agenda [leading to] limited room for country-level structural reform [and] little progress toward EU or eurozone reform or integration.”
The team added that “policy uncertainty is and will remain high,” and noted that policy uncertainty in Europe is now around 2011-12 levels comparable to those during the height of the eurozone crisis.
Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.
Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)
Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.
VA disability increase
Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.
Other federal retirees and beneficiaries
Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.
For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.
Largest COLA bump in years
This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.
The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.
In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.
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This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The role of the Dustoff is sacred, enshrined in both the relationship between medical personnel and their patients as well as treaties that underlie the Law of Armed Conflict, but the practical concerns of providing medical care to troops under fire will be sorely tested in a war with a modern foe.
An Army air ambulance picks up a simulated Marine casualty during a 2018 exercise in Romania.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)
Currently, the U.S. and most of its allies — as well as many of its greatest rivals — enjoy nearly unquestioned air superiority in their areas of operations and responsibility. So, a commander of a modern military force, whether they’re Italian, French, Chinese, or American, can request a medical evacuation with near certainty that the wounded or sick person can be picked up quickly.
Even in active theaters of war like Afghanistan, wounded personnel can often be delivered to advanced medical care within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury when medical intervention will make the biggest difference between life and death, recovery, and permanent disability.
But the advanced medical capabilities available across NATO and in Russian and Chinese forces rely on an evacuation infrastructure built for uncontested environments, where the worst threat to aircraft comes from IEDs and machine gun fire.
In a new paper from RAND Europe, defense analyst Marta Kepe dovetails recent speeches from military leaders, war game results, and scholarly work. They all point to a conflict wherein troops may have to wait days or longer for evacuation, meaning that providing care at the point of injury, possibly while still under threat of enemy attack, will be the only real chance for life-saving intervention.
Take the case of war with North Korea, a much “easier” hypothetical conflict than one with China or Russia. While North Korea lacks advanced air defense assets and electronic warfare assets, that simply means that they can’t jam all communications and they likely can’t shoot down fifth-generation fighters.
But medevacs rely on helicopters that, by and large, are susceptible to North Korean air defenses. Fly too high and they can be targeted and destroyed by nearly any surface-to air missile that North Korea has. Fly too low and infantrymen with RPGs and machine guns can potentially kill them.
An M113 ambulance drives through the Kuwaiti desert during a demonstration.
And that’s before the helicopters’ traditional escorts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64 Apaches that’re armed to the teeth, are tasked for more urgent missions, like taking out air defense and artillery sites.
All this combines to form a battlefield where command teams will need to use ground ambulances and standard vehicles to get their wounded far from the front lines before they can be picked up, tying up assets needed for the advance, taxing supply lines that now have competing traffic, and extending the time between injury and treatment.
Some battlefields, meanwhile, might be underground where it’s nearly impossible to quickly communicate with the surface or with air assets. People wounded while fighting for control of cave networks or underground bunker systems would need to be carried out on foot, then evacuated in ground vehicles to pickup sites, and then flown to hospitals.
The hospital ship USNS Mercy pulls into port.
(U.S. Military Sealift Command Sarah Buford)
And the closest hospitals might be ships far offshore since role 3 and 4 hospitals on land take time to construct and are vulnerable to attack. While deliberately targeting a hospital is illegal, there’s no guarantee that the treaties would be honored by enemy commanders (Remember, Russia’s annexations of South Ossetia and Crimea were violations of international law, as were China’s cyber attacks and territory seizures in the Pacific).
But China and Russia would be worse since they have the assets necessary to shutdown American communication networks, making it impossible for ground commanders to call for medical aid. They’re also more likely to be able to pinpoint signal sources, making it risky for a platoon leader to call for medical aid for wounded troops.
And China and Russia’s air forces and air defenses, while not quite as large as America’s, are much more potent and well-trained that Iran or North Korea’s. They could likely hold out for months or years while inflicting heavy casualties to American air assets, preventing the establishment of a permissive medevac capability for even longer.
Air Force special operators render simulated medical aid during an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2017. The ability for non-medical personnel to render aid under fire is expected to become more important in the coming years.
There is good news, though. The U.S. military has acknowledged these shortcomings and is trying to lay the framework for what a medical corps in a contested environment should look like.
The Army is expanding it’s “Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” or TC3, program where combat lifesavers are trained in military first aid. DARPA is working on autonomous or remotely piloted pods that can fly medical capsules with supplies in or casualty evacuation capsules out without risking flight crews. The Marine Corps already has an experimental autonomous helicopter for logistics.
They could also be more dispersed. Instead of building a few large hospitals with large staffs on easily targeted installations, surgical teams and other care providers could operate in small groups. That way, if one or two teams are destroyed or forced to retreat, there would still be a few groups providing medical care.
In addition to more dispersed and forward-positioned medical personnel, there’s room for expanding the medical capabilities of non-medical personnel.
Historically, those types of rotations have been limited to medics and other specialized troops. Medical personnel, meanwhile, would see an increased number of rotations into civilian trauma centers in the U.S. and allied countries.
But the most important aspect of medical care under fire in tomorrow’s war will be the same as it is today: Achieve and maintain fire superiority. The best way to open a window to evacuate your own personnel is by killing everyone on the enemy side wounding your troops and trying to prevent it.
Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.
Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.
Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.
“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.
“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.
This isn’t the first time troops and veterans have rushed head-first into danger to aid civilians. During the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October, many veterans risked their lives to bring innocent people to safety and treated their wounds. In 2015, two Marines overpowered a gunman on a train in France. There are many examples of troops and veterans going above and beyond for citizens; but today, Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy, this one goes out to you.
Around 7:40 a.m. Dec. 18, an Amtrak train took a turn too fast, going 80 mph (129 kph) in a 30 mph (48 kph) zone, and derailed, plunging into the Southbound I-5 outside of Tacoma, Washington. On the scene was Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just next to the derailment site.
“I saw many people that were just paralyzed with fear and I don’t blame them at all. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation to watch unfold.” He tells KCPQ of Dupont, Washington. “The train is going south and I’m just kind of driving, just driving, and I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it hits the concrete walls on the side and when it hits the walls — the walls kind of exploded— and the train just falls off. I see the train fall and it kind of falls on itself… and it hits three vehicles that were in front of me — a semi, an F-150, and a Kia Soul.”
“I couldn’t afford to be scared, I couldn’t afford to be shocked. I had to do what I am called to do and focus and channel that and help these people around me get to safety as best as possible.”
He grabbed what gear he had in his truck — tourniquets and a CPR mask — and rushed to the teetering train cars. He and another volunteer climbed on a damaged semi-truck to reach survivors. They carried people who were ejected from the train to safety, away from the highway. Next, he noticed a woman dangling out of a train. Her daughter was trying to bring her back in so McCoy picked her up and brought her to a safe spot.
Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy saved 15 people before the police and firefighters arrived.
Rob Riggle is no stranger to We Are the Mighty — and it’s no secret that we’re big fans of his. But it’s not just the fact that he’s a hilarious, self-made comedian with a background of service with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, it’s also because he’s a genuine, charitable guy.
This year, he’s back at it once again. Beginning June 1, Riggle is hosting yet another Big Slick Celebrity Weekend to raise money for Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy. Last year, Riggle and his supporting cast of celebrities from all walks of life helped raise over $1.7 million dollars for the award-winning hospital.
It all started in 2010 when Riggle called on two other alumni of Shawnee Mission South High School: Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis. Over the course of 9 short weeks, the three put together a weekend chock full of events to raise money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Dubbed the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, their very first run earned over $120,000 for the hospital.
(Big Slick Celebrity Weekend)
Since then, things have gotten bigger and better than ever. The three called on other celebrities, including Will Ferrel, Weird Al Yankovic, Olivia Wilde, James Van Der Beek, and many more, to come help grow the event to make an even bigger impact — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
This year, the crew has plenty of fun in store. It all starts on the afternoon of Friday, June 1 when celebrities take the field to play a game of softball. After that, players from the Major League step in — the Oakland Athletics are taking on the Kansas City Royals. Each ticket to the MLB game sold includes a $5 donation to Big Slick.
Then, the following day, the festivities continue as celebs hit the lanes for a bowling tournament. Finally, Saturday night is capped off with a party and auction where they’ll put up some great items, all sold to the benefit of Children’s Mercy.
Children’s Mercy has been repeatedly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.” They’ve been helping treat the sick and supporting medical research since 1897 and, with your help, they can keep offering the very best in care to kids across both Kansas and Missouri.
To learn more about the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend 2018, check out their website. To get a glimpse into the fun-filled weekend, check out this clip from last year’s event!
On June 19, 1944, the United States crippled Imperial Japanese naval aviation at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Japan was determined to halt America’s march through the Pacific and had laid a large trap near the Marianas Islands to cripple American naval forces and tip the war in the Pacific to their favor. In June 1944, Japanese forces stashed thousands of planes on land bases and placed a large fleet as bait.
It was to be a gamble for the Japanese no matter what but it’s impossible that Jisaburo knew just how badly the next two days would go for him and the rest of the Japanese forces. The Japanese chose this engagement as the “decisive battle” and pitted all serviceable ships and planes in range into the fight in order to break the back of the American amphibious forces.
But problems for Japan began before the battle. On June 15, an American sub spotted the Japanese fleet headed toward the islands, allowing the U.S. commanders to favorably redistribute their forces for the massive surface and aerial fight to come.
The Japanese won the intel battle on the morning of June 19, learning of the American fleet’s location first and getting their planes aloft to fight it. Nothing else went well for them.
All told, America destroyed well over 500 aircraft, sank five ships (including three carriers), and protected the invasion forces at Saipan. The engagement cost the U.S. over 100 sailors and aircraft as well as a battleship, but so weakened the Japanese navy that it was seen as a sort of second Midway, permanently tipping the balance of power even further in America’s direction.
When a Russian destroyer came close to colliding with a US Navy warship on June 7, 2019, Russian sailors were spotted sunbathing on the deck. A retired Russian admiral says there’s nothing weird about that.
Russian Admiral Valentin Selivanov, a military analyst who previously served as the chief of staff of the Russian Navy, told Russian media on June 10, 2019, that there’s nothing wrong with relaxing topside when you’re not at war. “There is a time for war, and a time for sunbathing,” the admiral explained.
On June 7, 2019, the US Navy accused the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov of taking a run at the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Philippine Sea. The two ships narrowly missed one another as the Russian destroyer came within 100 feet of the US warship.
Each side blamed the other for the incident; however, the US Navy released photos and videos to support its version of events.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
In one video, at least two Russian sailors were seen sunbathing shirtless on the helicopter pad. One sailor is sitting down, and pants aren’t immediately visible, although the video isn’t particularly clear.
“Our vessel is on the move in the open sea,” Selivanov told the Russian government’s Sputnik news agency, adding, “The seamen and officers have had lunch. They are on their after-lunch break, glad to be serving in the south. Sure, if one was sunbathing, then dozens were. And yes, you have to be undressed to sunbathe.”
The sunbathing Russian sailors has been interpreted a couple of different ways.
The New York Times noted the sailors and argued that this behavior could suggest that “the Russian vessel was not on high alert at the time and was not engaged in a planned provocation.”
The Russian statement on the incident claimed that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian destroyer and the “crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville, right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Were the Russian warship seriously concerned about the possibility of a collision, there would have likely been an all-hands response. The lack of such a response and the presence of Russian sailors calmly sunbathing on the deck could signal that the Russian destroyer was not the reactive party in this incident.
It is difficult to know for certain what was going on aboard the Russian ship, but US naval experts have already cast doubt on Russia’s narrative, with one telling Business Insider that the USS Chancellorsville had the right of way and accusing the Russian warship of acting in a “dangerous” fashion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We all have that civilian ‘friend’ who says they would have joined the military, but they were too weak had other plans. The more you talk about your achievements and stories, the more they feel the urge to one-up you. So, why don’t you invite that Jodie-looking POS, in the most tactful way, to a light P.T. session and make him wish he was never born show him how the world works.
Once you’ve convinced the wannabe warrior to join you in PT, try employing the these, the most challenging, nausea-inducing exercises, to defend the honor of your branch and country once and for all. This list was made to slay bodies, so stay hydrated.
Burpees are a staff NCO favorite for a reason: they’ll smoke most people within a few sets. You could be waiting in line to do a urinalysis, and First Sergeant will still challenge you to a few just because he’s bored.
Give your victim workout partner the benefit of a brief period of instruction by nonchalantly explaining it’s just push up followed by a jump. Simple enough, right? Well, if service members find these challenging, a civilian won’t last long at all. Give ’em hell.
Busting out the battle ropes — though I’ve heard them called by other names — will give them the false sense of hope that you’re moving onto something easy. Do as many variations as you feel necessary and make it look effortless. Keeping your bearing here will destroy their ego much more profoundly.
The dumbbell bear crawl is self-explanatory: it’s a bear crawl, but with weights. Travel, on all fours, across an area and back while holding a pair of dumbbells. The distance traveled should be proportionate to the length that they ran their mouth about ‘going to college instead.’
It feels even better as a veteran to counter that condescending statement with, “Funny. I did both without student loans thanks to the G.I. Bill.”
Mike Tyson, in his prime, was a force to be reckoned with — in and out of the boxing ring. His training consisted of waking up at 4 am to do a 3-5 mile jog, followed by breakfast, a 10-12 round spar, and calisthenics. Then, he’d eat lunch, do six more rounds of sparring, squeeze in some bag work, slip bag, jump rope, pad work, and speed bag.
It’s not over yet. Then, Tyson would then do more calisthenics, shadow boxing, followed by even more calisthenics, a quick dinner, and some time on the exercise bike as a cool down before studying his upcoming opponents or watching training footage.
So, grab that pencil-necked Melvin you brought to the gym and make him do the following pyramid exercise, inspired by the titan himself.
Tell me again why you could have joined but didn’t?
U.S. National Archives
Run. Run ’til the sun gets tired
Odds are that Mr. Stolen-Valor-Waiting-to-Happen has already quit but if, by some miracle, they’re still alive, take them on a run. Not just any run, but the longest run they’ve ever done. Give them a false sense of hope whenever they ask ‘how much further?’ by saying ‘we’re almost done.’
Little do they realize you’re not running to a place, you’re running until they quit.
In February 2017, a Russian spy ship was spotted off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. That ship was named the Viktor Leonov, named for one of Russia’s most storied heroes – twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union. He also received the Order of Lenin and two Orders of the Red Banner, all for outstanding bravery.
As a young sailor, Leonov began his career in the Red Navy’s submarine service. Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union forever altered his career. He became a Naval Scout performing special reconnaissance, a Soviet frogman, sabotaging Nazi ships and troop movements along the coastlines — some 50 missions in the first year of the Eastern Front alone.
Fighting the Nazis, Leonov led missions that covertly took out anti-aircraft batteries, captured hundreds of prisoners, and even led a two-day march overland to capture Nazi gun emplacements and use them against other German artillery positions.
He landed at a Japanese airfield near the Korean port of Wonsan with a force of 140 men, led by a higher-ranking officer. The airfield, supposedly lightly defended, was actually manned by 3,500 Japanese defenders. Horribly outnumbered, 10 Spetsnaz officers were forced to surrender.
The commander of the Russian force asked to speak with the Japanese garrison commander. As the negotiations started, Leonov angrily interrupted, saying:
“We’ve been fighting in the West throughout the war and we have enough experience to assess our situation. We will not allow ourselves to be taken hostage! You will die like rats when we break out of here!”
He then pulled out a grenade and threatened to kill everyone, including his fellow Russian. The Japanese surrendered on the spot. The Russians captured 2,200 troops, three artillery batteries, five aircraft, and a lot of ammunition.
For that outburst, Senior Lieutenant Viktor Leonov received his second Gold Star Medal.
“You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.” – Anonymous
US Air Force Veteran Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, recently passed away at 83 years old. Over the years she wrapped her arms around more than 500,000 soldiers, according to the estimates of Army officials.
Initially, Laird volunteered to shake soldier’s hands. According to an interview with NBC’s Today Show, one soldier offered to give her a hug after she shook his hand. She went from handshakes to hugs from that moment on.
In 2003, she and Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing her mission: Laird was now officially authorized to hug every Fort Hood soldier departing or arriving. She was there with open arms – no matter the time, weather, how large or small of a group, family circumstances, or her own cancer diagnosis.
“[She] wanted to make sure someone here at home is interested and waiting for them to come home again,” Laird’s son Richard Dewee said.
Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, released a the following statement on Laird’s passing:
On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as “The Hug Lady.” She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed.
Laird’s niece Becky Triplett posted the following on her Facebook page:
“When I talked to her the last time, she had been invited to the Rachel Ray show. When I asked if she was going she said ‘No I don’t think so, it wouldn’t be fair to the soldier coming or going. They deserve that hug more.’ She left a very good legacy. RIP Aunt Betty.”
An online petition to name the Fort Hood Deployment Center in Elizabeth Laird’s honor can be found here.
The US military’s growing reliance on special-operations units from its service branches may be straining those forces to a breaking point.
The US currently has around 200,000 troops deployed abroad. Roughly 8,600 of them — about 4% — are special-forces operators. They are deployed on missions ranging from training and advising to assaults and raids against enemy positions.
As of the beginning of 2017, US operators were deployed to 70% of the worlds countries, according to US Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
The large number of deployments have officials in the Pentagon and Congress worried that members of the special-forces community may lose their edge on the battlefield.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voiced their concerns at the Special Operations Policy Forum November 15th in Washington, DC.
“I do worry about overuse of SOF,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referring to special-operations forces. “They are increasingly an organization of choice because SOF is very effective.”
“How many missions can you send them on? How many times can they do this? I think that’s what we don’t know,” added Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The operational tempo is so incredible,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The idea that you would have within six years, multiple deployments, some people every six months to deploy, that in and of itself causes lots of consequences,” he added. “And we haven’t seen a break in those deployments.”
Lawmakers have proposed a number of solutions. Among them are providing operators with more resources to deal with potential physical and mental-health issues; giving the train, advise, assist roles to more conventional units; and trying to delegate some of the diplomatic aspects of special-operations missions to diplomatic professionals, like those in the State Department.
The most obvious fix — increasing the amount of operators in the military — faces two problems. First, the US military is having difficulty bringing in new recruits, and second, simply adding more soldiers into the ranks of elite units may require lowering standards, which that could decrease their lethality.
“We cannot sacrifice quality for quantity,” said Reed. Nonetheless, lawmakers from both parties agree that increasing operator numbers is a good first step.
Some branches of the military are looking for ways to bring in more personnel as well. Last month, the Army announced it would be increasing bonuses for soldiers, and the force is likely to maintain some flexibility in its recruiting standards. (A report earlier this month cited an Army memo saying the force would offer waivers for some mental-health conditions; the Army disputed the report, saying the change was only administrative, and rescinded the memo.)
SOCOM is also reportedly investigating the possibility of using nutritional supplements, and perhaps even performance-enhancing drugs, to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits.
SOCOM leaders have emphasized that their units are still capable of conducting current operations and handling threats around the world. However, the fear of wear and tear is increasing, and most officials seem to agree that it is never to early to address the issue.