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.
Many celebrities use their influence to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about. Something as simple as a social media post or attending an event can bring support and attention for an organization. For the military veteran community, celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Bob Hope have used their influence so much that it becomes part of their lifestyle.
But there are many other superstars who have gone above and beyond in supporting troops, although most people have no idea. Here are 11 superstars you probably didn’t know were passionate about supporting veterans.
1. Kathy Griffin
The multi Emmy award winning actress and comedian has been a long time supporter of the troops performing on USO tours, hosting VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, and offering veterans free backstage tickets to her shows. She has been awarded recognition for her commitment in supporting the troops.
2. Jared Allen
Jared Allen is a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and current player for the Chicago Bears. He was so inspired by his interaction with troops on a USO tour that he created the non-profit Homes for Wounded Warriors which builds and remodels homes for wounded warriors.
3. Judd Apatow
The award winning comedy writer/producer has many well known credits including “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “Bridesmaids,” and HBO’s “Girls.” What many don’t know is his passion in supporting troops by performing stand up comedy to raise money for wounded warriors, sending gifts to troops, and hiring veterans to work on his productions.
Owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince partnered his entertainment powerhouse with the Armed Forces Entertainment to organize an annual Tribute to the Troops since 2003. Prior to the show each year, he has WWE wrestlers and employees visit military bases and hospitals.
In addition to performing for the troops, the Grammy award-winning singer organized a fundraiser supporting a military charity, and invited many of her celebrity friends.
10. Barry Zito
The Cy Young award-winning pitcher founded the non-profit Strikeouts for Troops in 2005, which provides financial support to wounded warriors. He also flies out a group of veterans to watch spring training every year.
President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is considering shaking up the White House’s foreign-policy team, giving him more latitude to access and control the Department of Homeland Security and other defense agencies, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.
Citing two anonymous officials, The Times said McMaster could undo changes the Trump administration made during its first days in office.
Among those changes under consideration, according to The Times:
Bringing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back into a cabinet-level committee.
Rejoining the Homeland Security Council with the National Security Council. Their initial separation was seen as a way to limit the power of Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last week.
It was unclear whether McMaster would attempt any changes that would affect the standing of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was given a seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee. That move alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers because of Bannon’s lack of experience in foreign policy.
With Flynn out of the picture, McMaster, who has bipartisan and military support, may head both security councils. But one senior official who supported Bannon’s role told The Times it wouldn’t change under any reorganization.
Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week that while McMaster had full autonomy to organize his staff, Trump would have to approve any changes to Bannon’s status.
Critics of Bannon’s seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee have been calling for his removal. Mike Mullen, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed “grave concern” over Bannon’s position.
“Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized,” Mullen said in an NPR interview published on Wednesday.
“Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” he said.
The Pentagon released a list March 18, 2019, of hundreds of military construction projects worldwide totaling nearly $6.8 billion, many of which could be delayed or have funds diverted to fund the southern border wall.
The release of the list by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to the Senate Armed Services Committee came a day after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on Sunday network talk shows to state that there was no existing list of projects facing cancellation and “it could be a while” before one was delivered to Congress.
The list was first made public by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, ranking member on Senate Armed Services, on March 18, 2019, and later released by the Pentagon.
According to an accompanying statement, the list is a complete accounting of all projects still unawarded as of Dec. 31, 2018. Not everything on the list is eligible for reallocation; only projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, qualify, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects can be touched, officials said.
“The appearance of any project within the pool does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used to source section 2808 projects,” the Pentagon said in the statement.
“We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall,” said Reed, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, in a statement. “And now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result.”
The fact sheet accompanying the list held out the possibility that none of the targeted military construction projects “would be delayed or cancelled” if Congress passed the requested 0 billion defense budget by the Oct. 1 deadline for the start of fiscal year 2020.
Under the national emergency declared at the southern border by President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2019, the administration has been seeking an initial .6 billion from military construction projects to fund additional construction of the wall.
Another possible .6 billion from military construction for the wall was included in a .2 billion “emergency fund” that was part of the administration’s overall 0 billion request for next fiscal year.
In his statement, Reed charged that Trump was “planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.”
President Donal Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
He said the funding would “come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our Armed Forces who rely on them.”
The existence of the list and its release has been a source of controversy since Trump declared a national emergency Feb. 15, 2019, after Congress rejected his request for .7 billion for the wall, resulting in a 35-day partial government shutdown.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the budget March 14, 2019, Shanahan agreed to the requests of several senators for the list of military construction projects. He said the list would be provided by the end of the day, but phoned Reed later to say the list would not be forthcoming.
A spokesman for Shanahan told Military.com March 15, 2019, that the list was still being worked on and would be provided to the “appropriate government officials.”
Under the emergency, Trump was seeking a total of about .2 billion for the wall, including .6 billion from military construction.
Both the Senate and the House have now passed a “motion of disapproval” against the national emergency and Trump last Friday signed a veto of the motion, the first veto of his presidency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has scheduled a March 26, 2019 vote to override the veto, although it appears that both the House and the Senate lacked the two-thirds majority necessary to override.
On CBS’ “Face The Nation” program March 17, 2019, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, charged that the White House was withholding the list to avoid possible Republican defections in the House override vote next week.
In his statement March 18, 2019, Reed made a similar suggestion.
“Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the President’s veto,” Reed said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.
The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.
The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).
On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.
That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.
The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
Osama bin Laden’s undated letter to the American people is one of 113 documents declassified by the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.
The letter, seized in the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout, begins: “To the American people, peace be upon those who follow the righteous track.”
The document is part of a second batch translated and released by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The first set of papers was declassified in May 2015.
In the four-page letter, bin Laden writes:
The way for change and freeing yourselves from the pressure of lobbyists is not through the Republican or the Democratic parties, but through undertaking a great revolution for freedom … It does not only include improvement of your economic situation and ensure your security, but more importantly, helps him in making a rational decision to save humanity from the harmful [greenhouse] gases that threaten its destiny.
For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.
The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.
The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.
Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.
The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.
Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.
“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”
Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.
“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”
The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.
The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.
When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.
While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.
“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in question show on June 7, 2018, contained broad talk of improving Russia’s economy and of the coming Russia-hosted World Cup — but also some ominous warnings about World War III.
Putin frequently frames his country as resisting Western aggression designed to hold back Russia, often citing Western sanctions.
The US and other Western countries sanctioned the Russian economy in 2014 over its illegal annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea.
Asked about those sanctions on June 7, 2018, Putin said they were “because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor.”
“It is clear to us that we have to defend our interests and to do so consistently, not boorishly or rudely, in both the sphere of the economy and of defense,” Putin said. “The pressure will end when our partners will be persuaded that the methods they are using are ineffective, counterproductive, and harmful to all.”
Asked whether “nonstop” sanctions could lead to World War III, Putin pulled an Albert Einstein quote to deliver a dark warning.
“‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,'” he said, NBC News reports.
“A third world war could be the end of civilization,” Putin went on, saying the high stakes “should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilization.”
Perhaps more than any other country, Russia has the nuclear capability to end the world. With about 7,000 nuclear weapons making up the world’s most diverse and destructive nuclear arsenal, Putin could unilaterally decide to embark on a civilization-ending war.
Additionally, by annexing Crimea, Putin changed land borders in Europe by force. In peacetime, that most recently happened in the run-up to World War II.
But Putin also gave a nod to the force keeping his nuclear and military ambitions in check: mutually assured destruction. Basically, if Putin decides to let nukes fly, the US is sure to respond in kind, destroying Russia as well.
“The threat of mutual destruction has always restrained participants of the international arena, prevented leading military powers from making hasty moves, and compelled participants to respect each other,” he said.
Putin then said the US withdrawing from a ballistic-missile defense treaty would make Russia “respond.”
So far, Putin’s response has included building what experts call a nuclear “doomsday device,” an underwater torpedo that could render large tranches of the world uninhabitable for decades.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
Jawana attributes her pork-free diet to growing up with a vegan mother. Having to endure PB and J’s for two weeks to avoid the ham-heavy Army training menu, Jawana was in need of a good meal. Even though her mom is vegan, she roasted a chicken for Jawana to welcome her home.
Beer Can Roasted Chicken w/ Pommes Puree and Mushroom Sauce
Inspired by Jawana’s mom’s roasted chicken
8-10 lb. roasting chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tbs sweet paprika
1/2 tbs smoked paprika
1/2 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs onion powder
1/2 tbs garlic powder
3/4 tbs rosemary
1 (16 oz) can of favorite beer
1 lb yukon gold potatoes (peeled)
1 lb russet potatoes (peeled)
1 stick butter (room temp)
1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
flat leaf parsley for garnish
1 tbs butter
3 cloves garlic (minced)
8 oz. cremini mushrooms
8 oz. shitaki mushrooms
8 oz. enoki mushrooms
8 oz. morels (all sliced)
if you cant find morels, up the other qualities to 12 oz.
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup armagnac (or cognac)
1 tb orange zest
1 ts saffron
Prepare the chicken by patting dry with paper towel, rubbing with olive oil and applying spices liberally and evenly to the bird. Once spiced, situate chicken onto opened beer can and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for four hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Once at temp, cook chicken at 350° for 1 hour and roast at 375° for 15 minutes to crisp skin. Let chicken rest for at least 10 mins.
Meanwhile, place all potatoes into a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook potatoes for 45 mins or until a potato falls cleanly off of a fork. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste and enough half and half to cream the potatoes with a wooden spoon.
Prepare the mushroom sauce by sautéing garlic in butter in a saucepan. Once sweated(about 5 mins) add all of the mushrooms and sauté for 8 mins or until the mushrooms are soft. Then add the armagnac and orange zest and flambé by catching flame with the alcohol and let ignite until alcohol is burnt off. Once reduced by 1/2 add the half and half and saffron and let cook for 15 mins.
Carve chicken into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 legs. To serve place pommes puree on plate, topped with selected chicken piece and mushroom sauce. Garnish with parsley.
A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.
The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).
The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.
Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans
Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”
In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.
The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.
“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.
According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.
Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has apparently survived a bloody coup attempt that has left over 160 people dead, over a thousand injured, and over 2800 military personnel detained. Massive protests by Erdogan supporters, who were rallied by an address by the Turkish President on FaceTime, helped thwart the coup. The coup was condemned by many elements in Turkey, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Among events Friday night and Saturday were the shutdown of power for Incirlik Air Base, where the 39th Air Base Wing is deployed. British, Saudi, and German forces are operating from the air base, which is less than 70 miles from the Syrian border. That is a convenient locale for operations against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice Saturday that left 84 people dead.
Air operations from Incirlik ordered to stop, although aircraft currently flying missions were allowed to land. American troops have not been threatened, although the apparent blockade of Incirlik, which has gone to THREATCON DELTA in the wake of the coup, is not a good sign. Nor is the FAA shutting down flights to and from Turkey. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the United States reportedly has many as 50 “special stores” located at Incirlik, adding to the stakes at Incirlik.
Erdogan in the past has not exactly been a friend to the United States. One of the more notorious incidents came early in his rule as prime minister, in 2003, when he suddenly denied permission for the 4th Infantry Division to land in Turkey and attack into northern Iraq during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lately, during his rule, he has shown a decided pattern of suppressing dissent, including seizing control of newspapers, throwing people in prison for “insulting” him, and drawing charges of both acting like a dictator and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIS.
Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is residing in the United States after falling out with the Turkish President in 2013 over a corruption scandal and the closure of schools run by his group, Hizmet. According to reports, Gulen is a true moderate Moslem and a supporter of democracy, interfaith dialogue, and education.
With the failure of this coup, Erdogan will move to ensure that there will not be a chance to launch a more successful one. The Turkish president has declared the attempted coup a “gift from god” and has vowed to use it as a pretext to “cleanse our army” and said the elements who took part in the coup are guilty of “treason” and vowed they will “pay a heavy price” for trying to topple his regime.
The effects of this coup will reverberate through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East. Turkey will likely slide further into an Islamist regime, one that becomes increasingly repressive as Erdogan asserts his rule in Turkey.
The suicide vehicle reportedly hit a military convoy near Kandahar Airfield, a major US base in Afghanistan, according to a provincial spokesperson in a Stars and Stripes report.
The soldiers, who are reportedly in stable condition, are receiving care from US medical facilities, the Military Times reported. No coalition forces were killed after the attack, the Military Times reported.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, in addition to other attacks on Nov. 13, according to multiple reports. In western Farah province, eight Afghan police officers were reportedly killed in their sleep, after insurgents wearing night-vision goggles ambushed them in their beds.
President Donald Trump recently increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, where the US has been at war for 16 years. At least 15,000 US troops are deployed in the country, with plans to send more, according to US officials.
Army reservists deployed to Europe were wrongly denied housing allowance payments, subjected to humiliating criminal investigations, and forced into debt by the service after the Army “willfully disregarded” its own policies to refuse benefits owed, according to a federal court complaint.
The complaint, filed in April 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, accuses the Army of “gross negligence,” saying it caused financial and professional damage by intentionally denying benefits it should have paid.
The lawsuit also says the soldiers faced threats that “jeopardized their careers and security clearances by flagging them as subjects to fraud or larceny investigations.”
The dispute began in 2016 after reservist soldiers deployed to Europe and received benefits authorized by the Army, which included basic housing allowance, or BAH, for their stateside homes. They also received overseas housing allowance, or OHA, in Europe after being ordered by the Army to live off post because of a lack of available housing.
The benefit is spelled out in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, which govern how allowances are paid: “A Service member called/ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation is authorized primary residence-based BAH/OHA beginning on the first active duty day . . . This rate continues for the duration of the tour.” Army regulations reiterate the policy.
Months into their respective deployments, the finance office at U.S. Army Europe decided the benefits should no longer be paid, said Patrick Hughes, the Washington attorney representing the seven soldiers who filed the lawsuit.
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Nina Hill declined to comment on the case, citing “ongoing litigation.”
The Army Reserve and National Guard officers, who were dispatched to Europe for contingency operations, are seeking to restore their benefits and abolish Army-imposed debts that have been levied.
Over the past two years, Hughes said, soldiers have seen entire paychecks wiped out through wage garnishments as the Army seeks to collect on debts that range from $13,000 to $94,000.
Investigated, reprimanded, indebted
Hundreds of reservists could have been affected by the Army’s actions, Hughes said.
The court is expected to respond to the complaint within 30 days. If it’s accepted as the proper venue, the soldiers will move to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit that other reservists could join.
“You do need power in numbers to get action to be taken in these situations. We are trying to address it at a massive scale,” Hughes said. “This an effort to resolve the issue in its entirety for everyone.”
In some cases, soldiers were issued general officer reprimands, which are often considered career-killers.
Col. Bradley Wolfing, one of the plaintiffs in the case, successfully appealed his reprimand, which was the result of being “erroneously placed under investigation by the Army’s CID, and ultimately punished for BAH fraud on or about March 24, 2017,” the complaint says.
A grade determination review board determined Wolfing satisfactorily served as a colonel and was allowed to retire as such, the complaint states.
In conjunction with that ruling, Defense Financing and Accounting Services reviewed the case and “concluded that the Army’s decision to ignore (the Joint Federal Travel Regulation) and deny COL Wolfing his primary residence location BAH entitlement was erroneous.”
That conclusion will likely factor into any future litigation.
“This DFAS opinion is of great significance, because its analysis is applicable to virtually all of those affected by the Army’s primary residence location BAH entitlement denial,” the complaint says.
Still, the Army continues to garnish soldiers’ wages, a move the complaint says “amounts to gross negligence.” The Army indebted Wolfing for $94,000.
In 2016, the Army launched criminal investigations into the reservists who received the benefits that the Army itself had authorized when the reservists were mobilized.
“Basically, I was criminally processed, all because they are saying I shouldn’t (have been) collecting BAH for my Connecticut residence. I was stunned,” said Capt. Tim Kibodeaux, an intelligence officer with 27 years in the National Guard.
Criminal Investigation Command agents fingerprinted him and took his mug shot for their records during the investigation.
The Army levied a $50,000 debt on Kibodeaux for BAH payments it says he wasn’t entitled to and has repeatedly garnished his wages, the soldiers’ complaint says. Meanwhile, he hasn’t received about $16,000 in owed benefits.
The six other service members in the complaint are in similar situations.
“My credit has been completely ruined,” Kibodeaux said. “I am disgusted at this point. We think about 340 people were affected by this.”
At least 140 soldiers were snared in the BAH investigation in Europe, according to the complaint, which cites information relayed by the Criminal Investigation Command.
Given the high numbers of reservists who have been rotating through Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve — the campaign to deter Russian aggression in the region — the lawsuit says that the numbers are likely much higher. If the complaint grows, millions of dollars could be at stake in future litigation.
One concern now, Kibodeaux said, is that lower-ranking reservists could have been intimidated into silence and may be unaware that their rights to certain benefits have been violated.
“Several Plaintiffs were informed through their chain-of-command that any future inquiries into this issue would be met with negative consequences, and that the denial of the housing entitlement was a final decision,” the complaint says.
Kibodeaux said he and his colleagues never received a clear explanation from the Army why benefits were taken away or why they were subjected to criminal investigations.
During the probe, Kibodeaux said, he told Army finance officials about the regulation that allowed for the allowance. He said the Army investigators told him they didn’t recognize the policy, which for decades has allowed reservists on deployment overseas to receive BAH for their home of record.
(Photo by Timothy Hale)
“They said, ‘We don’t go by that. We go by the active duty one,'” Kibodeaux said.
When Kibodeaux pointed out the military’s regulations governing allowances for reservists to a criminal investigator, the agent’s response was, “We just do what finance tells us to do,” Kibodeaux said.
In recent years, the military has struggled to interpret federal regulations dealing with living allowances.
In 2013, a reinterpretation of overarching State Department regulations by the Defense Department put nearly 700 civilians in debt by cutting off their housing allowances. Special waivers were required to eliminate debts that in some cases reached six figures.
Europe-based reservists have also been affected by new interpretations of long-standing regulations. In 2013, the Army decided to stop paying BAH to reservists who lived in Germany and deployed on Army missions in other parts of Germany that were hours away from their home.
The Army, which imposed debts on about 10 soldiers at the time, never fully explained its legal rationale for changing the rules.
Service members and civilians who have gotten caught up in benefits disputes have complained that there is little internal recourse in a one-on-one fight with the military bureaucracy over benefits. And the idea of taking on the federal government in a lengthy court fight also is daunting and costly.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.