This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump's gold star family call - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

Florida Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she was with the wife of a fallen Special Forces soldier when the woman received a phone call from President Donald Trump. Wilson claims the president had some insensitive words for the grieving young woman.


“He said to the wife, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into,’ ” said Wilson. “How insensitive can you be?”

The call was to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger with three other soldiers on Oct. 4. The couple had two children and were expecting a third.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Sergeant La David Johnson and three other soldiers were killed in action in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

President Trump denied the accusation via Twitter, while the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the call as “respectful” and “sympathetic” but asserted that no recordings of the calls exist.

Johnson’s mother, who was also listening to the call, then stepped into the media spotlight by affirming Wilson’s story.

The White House has since criticized the Florida Congresswoman for politicizing the practice of calling Gold Star Families on the event that their loved one was killed in action. But President Trump opened himself to criticism on this issue as well, by falsely claiming that his predecessors never did anything like it

Enter former Marine Gen. John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff.

Read: Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

President Trump told reporters President Obama  never called then-Gen. Kelly when the General’s son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The White House claims Kelly was on hand for Trump’s call to Johnson and saw the conversation as “respectful” and appropriate.”

On Oct. 19, Kelly himself took the podium during the White House Press Briefing to explain to reporters what happens when American troop are killed in action, how the remains are transported, how the family is notified, and who sends their condolences.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

Kelly set the record straight with how Presidents send their condolences and how it should be done. He confirmed that President Obama did not call his family – not as a criticism, just a fact. And Kelly advised Trump against calling too.

“I recommended that he not do it,” Kelly said. “It is just not the phone call they’re looking forward to. … It’s not a negative thing.”

When Trump decided to call he asked Kelly how to make the call and what to say. He told the president there’s no way he would ever understand how to make that call.

“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.

As he continued, Kelly emotionally recalled what Gen. Joseph Dunford, the casualty officer assigned to the Kelly family, told him when Kelly’s son was killed in action.

“He [Kelly’s son] knew what he was getting into… he knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war,” Kelly recalled. “When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
U.S. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, left, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stand at attention. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Related: This is why John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Kelly then lashed out at Rep. Wilson for tarnishing what he believed was one more formerly sacred institution in America. He said he had to go walk among “the finest men and women on this earth. … You can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.”

Watch the full press briefing below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps5ttDzWBaY
MIGHTY CULTURE

Op tempo is killing our troops… and their families

In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.


The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?

How much is it really costing us?

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

Their lives

Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.

This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.

According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.

Their families

At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:

DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).

Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?

Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.

Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.

Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.

Their mental well-being

The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.

Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.

With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

The way forward

Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.

Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Facebook is trying to weed out terrorists on its pages

Facebook is using artificial intelligence software and thousands of employees to weed out terrorism-related content, according to the company’s head of global counterterrorism policy.


In an interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published Thursday, Brian Fishman said that Facebook had 4,500 employees in community operations working to get rid of terrorism-related and other offensive content, with plans to expand that team by 3,000.

The company is also using artificial intelligence to flag offending content, which humans can then review.

“We still think human beings are critical because computers are not very good yet at understanding nuanced context when it comes to terrorism,” Fishman said. “For example, there are instances in which people are putting up a piece of ISIS propaganda, but they’re condemning ISIS. You’ve seen this in CVE [countering violent extremism] types of context. We want to allow that counter speech.”

Facebook is also using photo and video-matching technology, which can, for example, find propaganda from ISIS and place it in a database, which allows the company to quickly recognize those images if a user on the platform posts it.

“There are all sorts of complications to implementing this, but overall the technique is effective,” Fishman said. “Facebook is not a good repository for that kind of material for these guys anymore, and they know it.”

You can read the full interview here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Veteran earns her college degree at 62

Army Veteran Kathleen Cashaw will celebrate her 62nd birthday this summer. She is also celebrating this summer for another reason – earning her college degree. With the support from Butler VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Cashaw has achieved her goal of completing her Associates of Arts Degree as a medical assistant at Butler Community College.

“The Vocational Rehabilitation staff at Butler VA always gave me encouragement. I had doubts about completing the degree, but the VA staff always directed me to the positive of completing the program rather than the negative thoughts that I was having. Like being too old. I knew I had potential. I knew that it was in myself.”


Vocational Rehabilitation at Butler VA assists Veterans to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable jobs. Employment services such as job training, employment-seeking skills, resume development, and other work-readiness assistance is available for Veterans to achieve their employment goals.

“I cannot thank the staff in Vocational Rehabilitation enough. They were instrumental in my success and I have been given confidence to continue my education for a Bachelor of Science degree, my ultimate ‘Bucket List.”

“Messed” up but moved on

Middle child of a hard-working illiterate father and a strict mother who instilled the importance of education, Cashaw did what neither her parents nor her two siblings ever did: Enroll in college. But her degree pursuits at Tuskegee University and Howard University began and ended within a year.

“I messed up in college.”

She enlisted in the Army and in 1986 joined the Mississippi National Guard. She also took jobs in customer service and in making ice cream machines in one factory and automotive parts in another.

“My father didn’t think I would ever go back to college,” Cashaw said. A disabled Veteran, she volunteered at Butler VA while making the dean’s list and the president’s list at Butler Community College. “For my age, I completed it. Finally.”

Vocational Rehabilitation: “If you want to succeed, you will.”

Kathleen encourages other Veterans to reach out to Vocational Rehabilitation for support and assistance. Her other advice: “You are never too old to pursue your dreams. If you really want to succeed you will. It takes hard work, but never succumb to the negative, look for the positive.”

Her education has changed her life. “It has made me more confident. “Now, there are things that I can do.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.

Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).


This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

Articles

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

Articles

The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fears of a US missile strike forced Russia’s navy to leave Syria

President Donald Trump’s threat to bomb Syria despite Russia’s ally ship and protection of Syrian forces has yielded an immediate and tangible result — Russian warships docked in Syria have left port for fear for their safety.

“This is normal practice” when there is the threat of an attack, Vladimir Shamanov, the head of Russia’s defense committee in its lower house of parliament, told Russian media.


Satellite images on April 11, 2018, captured 11 ships leaving, including a submarine and some offensive ships, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s threat. With the ships at sea, and moving, they can better situate themselves to avoid fighting on land, and spread themselves out.

As the ships were in port, a single pass of a few US bombers could have easily decimated the fleet.

Trump’s threat scrambles Russia, Syria’s militaries

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Russia announced it will pull the bulk of its troops from Syria starting March 15, in a process that could take up to 5 months.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation photo)

Trump’s promised military strike on Syria has yet to materialize, though the US, its allies, Syria, and Russia all seem to have moved their assets around in preparation for battle.

Syria relocated its air assets to Russian bases, likely to put them under Russian protection, and the US has dispatched an aircraft carrier to the region.

According to Dimitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russia and Eurasian studies, Russia has also flown in aircraft that specialize in anti-submarine warfare, as speculation that the US or its allies might fire submarine-launched missiles at Syrian targets builds.

While Trump has done nothing militarily to respond to the recent chemical weapons attack the US blames on Syrian forces, the president has rallied US allies and Russia on the defensive by promising action Moscow can’t hope to stop.

“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said. Due to the extreme risk of war escalating into a nuclear conflict between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers, and the fact that “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.”

Trump will reportedly warn Russia before the strike, but does Putin trust him?

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria.
(U.S. Navy photo)

A report from Russian media said that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid Russian casualties in a US strike on Syria, and that the US would inform Russia of the targets before the strike. The Kremlin’s spokesperson also said that Russia and the US had actively been using an established hotline to avoid military clashes.

Russia’s move to send their ships from port may reveal that they don’t know really know what’s going on, and either can’t predict or can’t trust how Trump will approach the strike.

Russia “really did not respect Obama and felt that they had not figured out US foreign policy,” Gorenburg said. “From that point of view, dealing with Trump is a little bit more fraught.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 striking photos from 2019 of the US military in action

The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.

Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.

The following 11 photos, many of which were also Department of Defense favorites, were the ones we chose.


This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris)

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

2. A Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 fires flares over Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo., Sept. 24, 2019, during a training mission.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicole Rogge)

4. Marines use a fire hose to extinguish a fuel fire during live-burn training at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2019.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-At-Arms 1st Class Joseph Broyles)

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

6. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Vasquezninco provides security during small boat raid training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 10, 2019.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Morton)

8. Three MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters line the seawall at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as the sun rises over the St. Johns River on June 13, 2019.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Army Sgt. Henry Villarama)

9. Army paratroopers jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Bunker drop zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 14, 2019.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

10. An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, two Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs and two F-15 Eagles fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission over England, Sept. 16, 2019.

DoD pick

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

11. A service member jumps out of a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey during parachute training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled vets and retirees will get the biggest raise in 7 years

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.

It is the biggest Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) increase in seven years, equaling as much as $369 a month for those at the top of the retirement pay charts.


Each year military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities, VA Compensation and Pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Retirement pay increase

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.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

(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.

Keep up with military pay updates

Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How it feels for an airman to help rescue Thai kids from a cave

The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”

Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”

“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.


The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.

“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.

“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.

Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.

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Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.

Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.

The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.

Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.

The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.

The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.

The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.

Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.

“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”

There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.

In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.

“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.

Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.

“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”

“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The F-35A has just been deployed

Combat-ready F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighter aircraft arrived April 15 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, demonstrating U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European territorial integrity.


“The forward presence of F-35s support my priority of having ready and postured forces here in Europe,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S.European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.

“These aircraft, plus more importantly, the men and women who operate them, fortify the capacity and capability of our NATO Alliance.”

The aircraft are deployed from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will train with European-based allies.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

This long-planned deployment continues to galvanize the U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout Europe. The aircraft and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks.

The F-35A will also forward deploy to maximize training opportunities, strengthen the NATO alliance, and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.

Fifth-Generation Fighter

“This is an incredible opportunity for [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” said Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa.

“As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations.”

The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to Europe brings state-of-the-art sensors, interoperability, and a vast array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental territorial and air sovereignty rights of all nations.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen (Cropped))

The fighter provides unprecedented precision-attack capability against current and emerging threats with unmatched lethality, survivability, and interoperability.

The deployment was supported by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. Multiple refueling aircraft from four different bases provided more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe.

Additionally, C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft transported maintenance equipment and personnel to England.

Articles

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.


Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.

Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police, and a chief of surgery.

Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.

Former President Barack Obama originally appointed Shulkin as a VA undersecretary. By the end of the Obama administration, however, Shulkin had grown increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union and other groups defending bad employees’ supposed right to a government check even when they hurt veterans.

“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
President Donald Trump. DoD Photo by Maj. Randy Harris

Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The published data predates those new powers, and does not note which disciplinary actions were later overturned.

One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB.

Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald seemed to have so little grasp on firing employees that in August 2016, he said that he had fired 140,000 employees, a figure that made little sense since that would be nearly half the workforce.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Former Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo.

He said “you can’t fire your way to excellence” and blamed “negative news articles” for a morose culture, rather than the individuals perpetrating the misconduct described in those articles.

Though high-level hospital officials were affected, according to the data covering the first six months of the Trump administration, relatively few disciplinary actions occurred in the central offices where Washington bureaucrats work. Those employ fewer people than the hospitals, but repeated scandals have also shown such employees looking out for one another to preserve each others’ jobs.

There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.

The data does not include employees’ names, and does not show which employees were on new-employee probationary status. Employees can be fired much more easily during their first year.

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald. Photo from US Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the Obama administration, McDonald lamented that in the private sector “you cut a deal with the employee and you’re able to buy them out,” but said you cannot do that in government.

Yet VA repeatedly made five and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit after they threatened to gum up the works by appealing disciplinary actions. The department even allowed Hamlin to offer a low-level employee $300,000 to quit after she refused to help management retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed Hamlin’s arrest.

The agency paid more than $5 million in settlements to employees under McDonald, which had the effect of encouraging bad employees to relentlessly appeal and make unsupported charges of discrimination when they were targeted for discipline, in an often-successful attempt to convert punishment into reward.

Shulkin said he “will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged … and not as a matter of ordinary business.”

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