The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years - We Are The Mighty
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The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

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History’s 20 coolest floating fortresses

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who get the appeal of floating fortresses, bristling with guns and missiles and all manner of things awesome – and those who drive Priuses. There is no middle ground. And if there were, most of the ships on this list would turn it into a giant, smoking crater.


Yes, there’s definitely something about a big military ship that takes us back to the most primal part of ourselves. There’s a bit of romance to that part; maybe a bit of the old idealist, who appreciates the aesthetic appeal of naval warfare. Maybe it’s the risk-taker, the gambler who understands that all that lay between sailor and sea is one well-placed shot to the stern.  Maybe it’s just the fact that big guns are cool, and ships carry the biggest guns of them all.

But no matter what the appeal, you would have to be of a pretty small group not to find something to love about these cool military surface ships. And if you’re one of those people, please park your Prius on the beach…we’re working up a firing solution… Vote up the coolest military surface ships below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section!

The Coolest (Military) Surface Ships Ever

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NASCAR drivers are racing for their military friends and family this July 4th weekend

Look for the names of active military units and installations on race car windshields during Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway. In a show of appreciation for the United States Armed Forces, NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will replace the “XFINITY” logo with those of the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, the USS New York (LPD-21) and other military units and installations from all five branches. (Yes, NASCAR remembered the Coast Guard.)


The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Someone has to. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

NASCAR: An American Salute is an expression of respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend the United States. Last month, NASCAR together with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams honored 40 fallen service members with 600 Miles of Remembrance, a similar tribute during Memorial Day Weekend. Unlike many other major sporting events and leagues who “honor” the Armed Forces and those who serve, NASCAR is not being paid by the U.S. military to do so.

“NASCAR’s long-standing tradition of honoring the U.S. Armed Forces will never waver – it is woven into the fabric of our sport,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR’s chief operating officer. “We have a unique opportunity to pay tribute to the military units and bases integral to preserving our country’s freedom.”

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 LoudMouth Exhaust Ford, will sport the USS Comstock in Subway’s Firecracker 250.

“It’s really an honor to drive with the USS Comstock on the LoudMouth Exhaust Ford Mustang this weekend. Getting to know Jesse [Iwuji– Naval Academy graduate, surface warfare officer, and one of his fellow NASCAR drivers] has been really cool,” Wallace said. “It’s also pretty cool that the Comstock was the ship he most recently served on, to go along with the fact he’s racing in the KN West Series.”

Several teams have direct connections to the units displayed on their race cars. Driver Brendan Gaughan’s windshield will read “23RD STS,” representing the U.S. Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron from Hurlburt Field in Florida. Gaughan is one of a handful of civilians recognized as an Honorary Member of the Combat Control Association.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers conduct air traffic control, fire support and command, control, and communications in covert or austere environments. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Elliott Sadler’s windshield will recognize Fort Campbell for JR Motorsports employee Lee Langley, who served for six years at the Army base as an infantry team leader in the 101st Airborne. Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones both work with Hope 4 Warriors and will honor 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, respectively, from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Justin Allgaier will honor the U.S. Air Force 469th Flight Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. One of Allgaier friends is Major Robert Harms, one of the pilots serving in that unit.

“I always look forward to getting a chance to pay homage those who serve our country at Daytona each year,” Allgaier said. “This year there’s a personal tie for me as I get to display the squadron of one of my friends. We love that we’re able to support our military, but a sticker or event will never be enough to give them all the credit they deserve.”

Daytona will also host Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 and will recognize three recipients of the Medal of Honor:  Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell and Captain Florent Groberg,.

The Subway Firecracker 250 starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 starts at 7:45 ET.

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5.11 Rolltop Pack Gucci-ed up in MultiCam Black

5.11 Tactical has been building gear for military personnel, law enforcement officers, and PMC/PSC contractors for years now (and of course for adventurer- and gun-carryin’ type civvies as well). We’ve received word they just released a new, limited edition version of its rolltop boxpack — in Multicam. But what sets it apart is that this time it’s in Multicam Black. MultiCam Black is pretty damned sexy if you ask us.


Go ahead, ask us.

The color will surely excite some (MC Black has become a defacto Gucciflage over the last year or so) and the pack itself will give others that tingly sensation — but there will be a few who piss and moan about it. Special operations forces, military security and three-letter agency types have been drooling over this pattern for their operational kit for a few years now.

5.11 Tactical takes a beating sometimes (as a company, we mean) for having its gear built overseas, and we understand that. We’re as pro “Made in the USA” as you can possibly get, but we’re also realists who try to be pragmatic about gear.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
(Photo from 5.11 Tactical)

Lots of of reputable companies have their kit built in foreign lands where sweat smells funny and the food makes your guts rumble the first few times you eat it — and much of the equipment they make is worth using. When it comes to packs, bags, and plate carriers, 5.11 makes good stuff.

Besides, the ladies of Siam and Cathay are hawt.

Reminder: At the risk of sounding orgulous, this is just a gear porn notification — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

The 5.11 “Covert Boxpack” is water- and weather-resistant (note, not -proof) and it’s built of 1680 ballistic polyester (the sames stuff they build tool belts with). It’s a rolltop model, with a dorsal pocket to access things you need in a hurry (primary or secondary handgun depending on your needs, spare mags, rin-no-tama, etc.) and a ventral pocket that’ll hold a ballistic panel.

What, you don’t roll every day with an extra mag or six and a trusty set of rin-no-tama?

Side pockets with elastic retention loops zipper down the sides and a bottom pouch can be used to sequester an IFAK, electronic gear, or whatever else you need to have compartmentalized.

The laptop pouch inside can be accessed through the rolltop or in through the zippered back. It features padded, reinforced shoulder straps and a slide-adjusting sternum strap, and their signature lined eye-pro pocket up top.

The description of the new pack reads largely the same as the regular version. We’ve copied that below from the actual product page. You can watch the manufacturer’s video detailing the original versions features below.

Take a few minutes to check it out. Some of our wretched minions have carried these things. They’re good to go.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

PURPOSE BUILT:

The Limited Edition Multicam Black Covert Boxpack is engineered for speed, agility, and dependability in any environment. A slide-adjusting sternum strap and reinforced padded shoulder straps ensure a stable and comfortable carry when you’re on the move, and the roomy TacTec™ main compartment is designed to remain covert but allow fast access to your sidearm or backup. A water resistant finish keeps your gear dry in wet climates, dual side zip pockets are ideal for accessories or a hydration bottle, and internal elastic retention straps allow secure storage for additional magazines.

OVERVIEW:

All-weather roll top backpack

Multicam Black™ exterior

Multiple externally-accessible pockets

Dual size zip pockets with internal elastic retention

Slide adjusting sternum strap

Reinforced padded shoulder straps

Bottom pocket for general storage

SPECIFICATIONS:

1680D ballistic polyester

Water resistant finish

Authentic YKK® zippers

Durable Duraflex® hardware

Imported

We picked this video because it’s labeled in Russian, which reminds us of Timka, but don’t worry, it’s narrated in English.

The link to find the MC Black version of this is: http://www.511tactical.com/multicam-black-8482-covert-boxpack.html.

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Opinion: Why Lt. Gen. McMaster is the right choice for Trump

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.


President Donald Trump just named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his next national security adviser.

The 54-year-old Army officer is the epitome of the warrior-scholar, and he’s as well known for his heroics in battle as he is for his intellectual pursuits.

Also read: Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

Though former national security adviser Michael Flynn was rather controversial — the retired general peddled conspiracy theories and ultimately resigned because of his ties to Russia — I don’t suspect anything other than professionalism and solid advice being given to the president by McMaster.

Here’s why.

He commands a great deal of respect among his troops.

Much like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was revered by his troops while serving as a general in the Marine Corps, McMaster has earned a great deal of respect from soldiers. That’s because his career has been marked by personal heroism, excellent leadership, and his tendency to buck traditional ways of thinking.

As a captain during the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster made a name for himself during the Battle of 73 Easting. Though his tank unit was vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi Republican Guard, he didn’t lose a single tank in the engagement, while the Iraqis lost nearly 80. His valor and leadership that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery.

Then there was his leadership during the Iraq War, during which he was one of the first commanders to use counterinsurgency tactics. Before President George W. Bush authorized a troop “surge” that pushed US forces to protect the population and win over Iraqi civilians, it was McMaster who demonstrated it could work in the city of Tal Afar.

He’s far from a being a ‘yes’ man.

McMaster is the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and will call out a wrongheaded approach when he sees one. That tendency is something that junior officers love, but those maverick ways are not well-received by some of his fellow generals. Put simply: McMaster isn’t a political guy, unlike other officers who are trying to jockey for position and move up in their careers.

In 2003, for example, McMaster criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraq War plan that placed too much of an emphasis on technology. McMaster also pushed back on his boss’ refusal to admit an insurgency was starting to take hold in 2004.

He’s been held back in his career because of it — he was passed over two times for his first star — but it wasn’t due to incompetence. Instead, his fight to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general was seen as pure politics, and McMaster doesn’t like to play. He was eventually promoted in 2008, but that hasn’t made him any less outspoken.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
US Army photo

He’s a strategic thinker with a Ph.D.

McMaster has a lot in common with another famous general: David Petraeus.

In fact, he was one a select few officers that were in the Petraeus “brain trust” during the Iraq War.

McMaster is an expert on military strategy, counterinsurgency, and history. And he, like Petraeus, stands out among military officers, since both earned advanced degrees. McMaster holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation went far beyond the readership of just a few professors.

Titled “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster’s dissertation became an authoritative book on how the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Much of the book’s focus is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were heaped with criticism for failing to push back against President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” reads a review on Amazon.

Whether McMaster can transition well from the Army to the White House is the big question now, but he’s one of the best people Trump could have picked. And like Mattis, he’s not afraid to challenge the president’s views.

“He’s not just a great fighter, and not just a conscientious leader,” one Army officer told me of McMaster. “He’s also an intellectual, a historian and a forward-thinking planner who can see future trends without getting caught up in bandwagon strategic fads.”

That’s exactly the kind of person Trump needs.

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The Super Hornet just got its first kill against an enemy fighter

A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.


Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
A Polish Su-22 Fitter at the 2010 Royal International Air Tattoo. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.

Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory/Released)

There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.

The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
A fighter with the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the Navy uniforms issued in the brig

Navy Personnel Command has a new uniform for prisoners at all ashore correctional facilities, and it’s uni-service.

Wearing of the new uniform will be mandatory starting May 1, 2019, for all prisoners in pre-trial and post-trial confinement at Military Correctional Facilities (MCFs) run by the Navy, regardless of the prisoner’s service affiliation, the Navy said in a news release last week.

The new standardized prison uniform (SPU) also will likely save the Navy money, the release states. The costs associated with buying and maintaining service uniforms for a prisoner become a tremendous and unnecessary fiscal burden to the Navy and the taxpayer, the service said.


The new uniform will come in two colors, dependent on the prisoner’s legal status, the release states. Those in pre-trial confinement will get a chocolate-brown uniform, and those in post-trial confinement will get a tan uniform.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Neah Rau, corrections specialist, Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, models the new pre-trial standardized prisoner uniform.

(U.S. Navy photo by Yeoman 2nd Class John LeBaron)

Currently, prisoners at Navy MCFs wear their service utility uniforms, in line with the Navy’s theory that doing so helps maintain discipline and aids in rehabilitation.

“However, having prisoners wear their service uniform creates security and public safety challenges, such as difficulty in distinguishing staff from prisoners,” Jonathan Godwin, senior corrections program specialist with the Corrections and Programs Office of the Navy Personnel Command, said in a statement.

In addition, sentences often also involve total forfeiture of all pay and allowance, “and it is rare for a prisoner to return to active duty,” Godwin said.

The new standardized prison uniform (SPU) also will likely save the Navy money, the release states. The costs associated with buying and maintaining service uniforms for a prisoner become a tremendous and unnecessary fiscal burden to the Navy and the taxpayer, the service said.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Yeoman 2nd Class John LeBaron, corrections specialist, Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, models the new post-trial standardized prisoner uniform.

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Neah Rau)

According to the release, the cost for a service-specific military utility uniform with one pair of trousers and a top is about . Add a fleece jacket, and the cost exceeds 0.

The new SPU top and trousers will cost approximately .50, the release states. Add a belt, buckle, ball cap and watch cap, and the price is about . With a jacket, the complete price to clothe a prisoner will be about .

“In addition to the enhancement of correctional security, improved public safety and significant fiscal savings, the wearing of the new SPU will produce numerous benefits across a wide range of Navy corrections operations,” Godwin said. “These include an SPU with a neat and professional look, an easier-to-maintain and care-for uniform, and less wear and tear on equipment, i.e. washing machines and dryers, and less cleaning supplies, i.e. laundry detergent.”

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

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A third US carrier is steaming its way towards North Korea

Two U.S. aircraft carriers that are to train together in the Sea of Japan might be joined by a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing from a U.S.naval base, according to a Japanese press report.


The USS Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson are to conduct joint exercises June 1 with a convoy from Japan’s maritime self-defense forces, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

A Japanese government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the drills. The newspaper reported the aim of the exercise is to deter North Korea, following repeated launches of ballistic missiles.

Japan deployed the helicopter carrier JS Hyuga from Maizuru base in Kyoto the morning of May 31.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter flies near the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Danielle A. Brandt)

The Ronald Reagan traveled separately to the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea in South Korea, by sailing through the Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu.

The Carl Vinson previously trained with the South Korean military in late April, and the Ronald Reagan completed a routine inspection on May 16.

The Ronald Reagan then conducted flight training near southern Japan before heading out to areas closer to North Korea from its home port of Yokosuka, according to the report.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) pulls into Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet headquarters. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford)

A Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier traveling from Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State could join the aircraft carriers, or be stationed in another area of the Pacific, but an exercise involving all three U.S. aircraft carriers would be unprecedented, the Yomiuri reported.

Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Wednesday the state’s “highest leadership,” Kim Jong Un, can order the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time and place in response to what it claims are U.S. “threats” that include joint drills with U.S. allies in the region.

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These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.


Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepare to fire an AT4 rocket launcher at an insurgent position during a firefight in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.

That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.

According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)

But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.

Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,

Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Blue Water’ Navy veterans are fighting for Agent Orange benefits

On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

A lawsuit that Wells and a team of appellant attorneys had argued Dec. 7, 2018, before a full panel of judges on the appeals court had resulted in a stunning 9-2 victory for roughly 70,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.


For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.

Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.

Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.

Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.

Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.

In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”

Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.

For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.

Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.

With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.

Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.

The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.

“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.

Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.

Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”

By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.

Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.

Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.

“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.

Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”

Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.

“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Navy SEAL could be the next top spy

Joseph Maguire was, until very recently, the U.S. Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. This was a fitting position, because, in a past life, Maguire was Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, a Navy SEAL and former commander of SEAL Team Two, bringing American counterterrorism policy home to the bad guys. Now, he’s temporarily taken over the Office of Director of National Intelligence.


Not only did Maguire command one of the teams to take the storied moniker SEAL Team Two, he also would one day command the entire Naval Special Warfare Command based in San Diego, Calif. From there, he oversaw eight Navy SEAL teams, three special boat teams, and their support units, just short of 10,000 people at a time when the United States was engaged in two wars abroad and U.S. special operators were finally beginning to infiltrate and destroy the insurgent networks operating inside Iraq.

But even after his 36 years in the Navy came to a close, he didn’t stop serving the special warfare community. He put his command and administration skills to work, helping the warfighters affected by the wars he oversaw.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

One of Maguire’s first post-military jobs was as President and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit that specializes in helping special operators and their families get help funding their college tuition. The foundation also works to help the families of fallen warriors in the special operations community get an education by providing scholarships of their own, as well as grants and educational counseling. Maguire is not just a brass hat – he knows a thing or two about getting an education through hard work. He didn’t go to Annapolis, he went to Manhattan College, a small liberal arts college in his NYC hometown.

During his career, he also attended the Naval Postgraduate School and became a Harvard National Security Fellow, where he no doubt brought his hands-on experience in keeping America secure to the cohort.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

What you’ll read about Maguire is that his assignment to the post of acting Director of National Intelligence comes “as a surprise to the intelligence community.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean Maguire isn’t qualified to hold the post, only that his ascendance to acting DNI was unexpected. Besides his national security fellowship, the former SEAL and Vice Admiral has worked at the National Counterterrorism Center as Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning from 2007 to 2010. This means he was a part of National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group that entire time.

But just because he’s acting in the post of DNI doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll stay there. Many temporary appointments have been very temporary in recent weeks, including the former acting Secretary of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only combat jumps US troops have made since 9/11

It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.

Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.


It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.

The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)

Objective Rhino

Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.

There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

​Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.

(U.S. Army)

Objective Serpent

The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.

The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)

Operation Northern Delay

In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.

This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!

(U.S. Army)

Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan

Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.

RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.

This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.

We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.