The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System is seeking a contractor to offer on-site contracted residential services for approximately one hundred homeless veterans per day. The Contractor shall rapidly stabilize veterans of the program through treatment, addressing mental health, physical health, substance abuse and other psychosocial problems.
Vets Advocacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Campus, is helping to amplify the search for a contractor to help provide services.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there are 3,878 veterans who lack a “fixed, regular, or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in Los Angeles County. While the number of homeless people in L.A. has been on the rise in the past year, the good news is that the number of homeless veterans “stayed essentially flat” (and even declined in the year before.
The reason for this trend is credited largely to financial assistance from the government.
“In the past, homelessness was largely viewed as an economic problem,” Dr. Jack Tsai, an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at Yale University, told The Defense Post. “But due to deinstitutionalization of those with severe mental illness and the increasing visibility of homelessness in large cities, homelessness really has become a public health problem and one closely related to mental illness.”
The Defense Post goes on to say, “Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness due to combat-related injury or illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or sexual trauma while in service, according to the National Coalition to End Homelessness. These traumas, if untreated, can result in substance abuse which affects a person’s ability to earn a stable income and increases the risk of homelessness.”
This contract will provide services to 100 veterans who may be of the following eligible homeless veteran populations: males, over the age of 55, or high priority veterans with acutely elevated suicide risk factors.
Offers are due Dec. 23, 2019. The contract will be for a base and three one-year option periods beginning on or about March 1, 2020. Anyone interested can view the complete solicitation here.
There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.
As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.
The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.
It’s not an understatement to say that there is a bunch of math you’ll need to do on the fly. Hope you’re well-versed in trigonometry.
(U.S. Army photo by Lori Egan)
The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.
To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.
All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.
If only there were a unit, typically a company sized element within a Combat Aviation Brigade, that has spent years mastering the art… Oh well…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)
These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.
Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.
Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.
And while we can’t prove this whole ridiculous and tragic event was thanks to Pvt. Karl of the Russian Federation, I mean, come on, it obviously was.
Alongside “selling armed missiles to civilian scrapyards,” here are eight other deadly shenanigans Karl will try to get his comrades wrapped up in as well as how any rational person should respond:
8. Setting up an illegal gambling ring with the Russian mafia
Sure, games of chance are always rigged in the house’s favor, but setting up an underground franchise purchased from the Russian Mafia is a really good way of ending up underground, courtesy of the Russian Mafia, KARL!
7. Taunting paratroopers on their holiday
The Soviet airborne corps had an official holiday on August 2 every year, and the Russian Federation has seen fit to unofficially continue the tradition. But engaging with drunken paratroopers celebrating their own importance is a good way to get turned into a lawn dart, KARL! (As a TV reporter learned in 2017.)
6. Trying to distill liquor in a lead-lined still
Yup, bootlegging is a profitable business. But since no one here has metallurgy or distillery experience, and since lead poisoning will make you go blind, maybe we should stick to just buying vodka, KARL!
5. Selling your winter uniforms every summer
Winter coats are valuable and selling them is an easy way to get some quick cash. But since we’re enlisted soldiers in a country that stretches into the Arctic Circle, maybe we should hold onto them, KARL!
4. Selling weapons and food that “fell off the books” to preppers
So many people are preparing for the apocalypse, and old Soviet stockpiles are popular with them. The modern Russian stuff has to be even better, right? Sure, but getting into the international arms black market probably has some downsides, KARL!
3. Modifying your issued weapons for “enhanced lethality”
Maybe, maybe, maybe if anyone around here had armorer experience, this could be a good idea. But since you can’t even open a soda without cutting your hand open, packing more powder into the ammo casings or adjusting the mechanism for faster full-auto capability sounds like a good way for our boom sticks to actually go boom, KARL!
2. Going in halvsies for a Soviet-made car (only 25% interest!)
Seriously, Karl. This would be a bad deal for a decent, almost new, imported-from-Germany car. And since you can barely drive for more than five minutes after a bar or footlocker of liquor is opened, we could get the same result faster if we just doused you in gasoline and gave you a lighter, KARL!.
1. Hitting on the wife of that pro-military Russian oligarch who came on a morale tour
Yeah, she’s at least a 10. And yes, she’s way closer to our ages than she is to her husband’s. But that does not make this a good idea. She made her choice, and she chose a man who could kill the both of us in a courthouse while surrounded by police and never get arrested, KARL!
Editor’s Note: This story was first published on TheConversation.com in May 2018. It does not discuss the most recent development in the region, but is still a great guide to the state of tensions between the two countries.
After Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally pull back from the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time. The Israelis retaliated by targeting Iranian forces and positions in Syria. That attack, which killed 23 people, was the biggest Israeli assault on Iranian positions in Syria since the civil war there started in 2011.
For a moment, it looked like two of the Middle East’s major political and military players to the verge of a full-scale military conflict. An Israeli-Iranian war could throw the Middle East into one of its most destructive clashes in modern history, one that could polarise the world’s powers, dragging in the US, a reliable ally of Israel, and Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and hence Iran’s strategic ally. And yet, neither has so far chosen to escalate further. Why?
For its part, Iran knows that its capacity to strike back is limited. But more than that, the two countries’ history and military development makes an explosive conflict unlikely.
While Israel has openly clashed with its Arab neighbors before — notably Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — it has never engaged in a direct military showdown with Iran. In fact, it’s easy to forget now that before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel enjoyed a close relationship. They were the US’s two main Middle Eastern allies, and Iranian oil was delivered to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Things only changed when the Iranian Shah was ousted in 1979; after that, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed Israel a “foe of Islam” and cut off all ties with it.
Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
But then came the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. This grueling conflict had a huge impact on Iran’s military doctrine, and the experience of it underpins the country’s geopolitical and national security concerns to this day. The reality of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compelled the Iranian government to prioritiZe a more defensive foreign policy; where it participates in other conflicts, it usually prefers to do so via proxies rather than by direct military action.
As a result, to the extent Israel considers Iran a major existential threat today, it’s particularly worried about Iranian involvement in other Middle Eastern conflicts. It has more than once fought Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, most recently in 2006. And while the protracted conflict in Yemen, for example, is in many ways a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iranian-backed forces could use Yemeni territory to strike Israeli targets.
But even if a conflict erupted on one of these fronts, there’d be another calculation to factor in: the two countries’ very different military assets.
The bulk of Iran’s arms stockpile is domestically developed and manufactured, its own-brand rockets and missiles tested in the field mostly by Hezbollah. But in recent years, Iran has also been procuring weapons and technical expertise from nations antagonistic toward the West: China, Russia, and possibly (in nuclear form) North Korea.
Israel’s main strength is its exceptional military power. Its weapons systems include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defence shields, extremely precise defence tools that can pulverise perhaps more than 90% of hostile missiles in mid-air.
Israel also commands air power unrivalled in the Middle East; it recently took possession of the US-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which it is augmenting with its own technology. On top of all this, in 2016, the US agreed to increase its military aid to Israel to US.8 billion a year until 2028.
IAF F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israeli Air Force, 2016.
And yet, Israel too is less than confident about the consequences of an conflict with Iran. However formidable its strategic and technological edge, it’s still unable to fully mend political and diplomatic fences with many of its Arab neighbours. It lives in hostile surroundings, constantly vulnerable to attack on almost all fronts. A major war with another heavily armed power is the last thing it needs.
At arm’s length
One advantage Iran does have is its array of proxies and non-state allies, which allow it to project hard power far closer to Israel than it would want to send regular forces. It has a valuable ally in Hamas, which controls Gaza; in Lebanon, Hezbollah could be prepared to assist if necessary. It could also exploit Sunni/Shia splits across the Middle East to secure the support of Shia volunteer armies. And since Saddam Hussein’s fall, Iran has been hugely influential in Iraq, which is struggling to establish a political order that can accommodate Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis.
Yet even with all this influence at its disposal, Iran would clearly prefer not to end up escalating a military conflict with Israel. Aside from the military implications, to do so would squander what moral and diplomatic support it’s gathered since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
So for now, both sides are being cautious. Israel’s recent airstrikes targeted raid on military installations, not individuals — an acknowledgement that a heavy casualties might put Iran under pressure to retaliate. Meanwhile, Iran’s domestic debate on whether and how to respond is still rumbling, with progressives insisting the nuclear deal must be safeguarded while their hawkish countrymen would prefer a more confrontational stance. The government has yet to decide which road to take.
But whatever happens in the immediate future, Israel and Iran remain bitter foes, both heavily armed and tied up in a mess of geopolitical interests. Were a war to break out between them, they would gravely damage each other, but neither is likely to rise as the ultimate victor. That both seem to be fully aware of this reality is perhaps the most important thing standing on the way of what could be a true catastrophe.
Investigators were searching for other possible explosive devices and stopping to search people and vehicles in Colombo on April 25, 2019, AP reported, four days after blasts ripped through hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.
Few people were outside in parts of the city while authorities searched locations near where the bombs went off, according to the AP. Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. local time.
Sri Lanka Bombings: What the Scale of the Attacks Tells Us | NYT News
Drones carrying explosives have previously been used by militant groups such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks.
But ISIS’ links to the attacks have not been proven, and authorities have blamed National Towheed Jamaat, a local extremist group that has not taken public responsibility. A high-level intelligence official told CNN that the group was planning another round of attacks in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan authorities said they believe an international network of extremists could have helped the group carry out the attacks.
Almost 60 people have been detained in relation to the bombings, while two brothers who are believed to have been involved in the bombings, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, were members of one of the city’s wealthiest families.
Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister said on April 24, 2019, that the country believes one of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.
In an October 2013, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, then the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United Kingdom, outlined sectors of the economy then being developed in Iraqi Kurdistan.
She discussed relevant prospects in the autonomous region’s oil and gas sector, as well as its tourism industry.
One particular area she outlined was referred to as “sites of conscience,” or “dark tourism.”
“I’m sure you know people visit Auschwitz as a way of discovering the history of the Nazis and what happened the Jewish community,” Rahman said. “This is apparently a sector of tourism worldwide that does very well.
“We want the world to know our story and what happened in Kurdistan, both positive and negative,” she added. “We want the world to know about the genocide, the chemical weapon bombardments, the torture, the executions.”
Rahman was referring to the Anfal, the genocidal campaign waged by the Saddam Hussein regime against Kurdistan in the late 1980s which killed 182,000 Kurds. One notably infamous incident of that period was the gassing and killing of 5,000 Kurdish civilians in a single day in the town of Halabja on the Iranian border.
The sites of these atrocities still exist. Amna Suraka, for example, was a headquarters of Iraqi intelligence during Saddam’s rule, where his regime applied the most brutal forms of torture against his Kurdish victims and “disappeared” many. It is now a museum.
Rather than destroy the site, which was known as Saddam’s ” House of Horrors,” the Kurdish authorities decided that preserving it as museum would commemorate those who were killed there, and as a stark reminder of the regime’s brutality against the Kurds.
A hall of mirrors in the complex consists of a staggering 182,000 shards of glass, one for each victim of the Anfal. Also in Halabja there is a memorial and museum to the gas attack.
In the wake of the Vietnam War, Hollywood didn’t give vets of the controversial conflict a good depiction. The Oscars went to movies like Deer Hunter or Platoon, which did a great job of showcasing the horrors of war, but often made troops appear to be ruthless, cold killers.
On the small screen, however, things were different. Famously, Tom Selleck’s portrayal of Thomas Magnum, a private investigator and former Navy officer, in Magnum, P.I. helped others see vets as tough and virtuous. But a show about motorcycle cops also helped showcase the good side of vets three years before Selleck assumed his iconic role.
CHiPs featured two California Highway Patrol officers, Jon Baker and Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, as played by Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, respectively. Wilcox got into acting after serving in the Marine Corps for three years, reaching the rank of sergeant and serving for 13 months in Vietnam as an artilleryman. Estrada previously played a small role as the pilot of a F4F Wildcat in the movie Midway.
CHiPs star Larry Wilcox was a Marine artilleryman who served in Vietnam.
Throughout the show, Baker would occasionally mention his service in Vietnam, including during a third-season episode where he and Ponch had to skydive in order to catch drug smugglers in the act. Wilcox’s portrayal of Baker stands out — because he didn’t play a PTSD-riddled derelict (a popular trend in movies at the time), but instead a productive member of society. In fact, Baker often ended up being more by-the-books in comparison to the flamboyant Ponch.
Wilcox starred in the series ‘CHiPs’ for five seasons and in a 1999 TV reunion movie.
The show lasted for six seasons on NBC, with Wilcox playing Baker for five of those. Most of the cast returned for a reunion movie in 1999. By then, Baker had been promoted to captain. Baker, incidentally, was not the only character to portray a Vietnam-era vet. Robert Pine (the father of Chris Pine) played Joe Getraer, the long-suffering sergeant and Navy veteran. Arthur Grossman was also a service vet.
After CHiPs, Wilcox became a producer and continued to act. Today, you can stream CHiPs for free on Amazon Prime.
If you want to take a quick stroll down memory lane, watch the opening and closing credits below.
It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference Oct. 26, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is confident the U.S. military can protect the homeland and fulfill its alliance commitments today, but he must also look at the long-term competitive advantage and that causes concern.
He said the competitive advantage the U.S. military had a decade ago has eroded. “This is why our focus is very much on making sure we get the right balance between today’s capabilities and tomorrow’s capabilities so we can maintain that competitive advantage,” Dunford said.
Strategic alliances provide strength
The greatest advantage the United States has — the center of gravity, he said — is the system of alliances and partners America maintains around the world.
“That is what I would describe as our strategic source of strength,” he said.
This network is at the heart of the U.S. defense and security strategy, Dunford said. “We really revalidated, I think, what our threat assessors have known for many years, is that that network of allies and partners is truly unique to the United States of America and it is truly something that makes us different,” the general said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes the global strategic environment during a presentation at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 26, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
A related aspect is the U.S. ability to project and maintain power “when and where necessary to advance our national interests,” Dunford said.
“We have had a competitive advantage on being able to go virtually any place in the world,” he said, “and deliver the men and women and materiel and equipment, and put it together in that capability and be able to accomplish the mission.”
This is what is at the heart of great power competition, the general said. “When Russia and China look at us, I think they also recognize that it is our network of allies and partners that makes us strong,” he said.
Challenges posed by Russia, China
Broadly, Russia is doing what it can to undermine the North Atlantic Alliance and China is doing what it can to separate the United States from its Pacific allies. Strategically, Russia and China are working to sow doubt about the United States’ commitment to allies. Operationally, these two countries are developing capabilities to counter the U.S. advantages. These are the seeds to the anti-access/area denial capabilities the countries are developing. “I prefer to look at this problem less as them defending against us and more as what we need to do to assure our ability to project power where necessary to advance our interests,” Dunford said.
These are real threats and include maritime capabilities, offensive cyber capabilities, electromagnetic spectrum, anti-space capabilities, and modernization of the nuclear enterprise and strike capabilities. These capabilities are aimed at hitting areas of vulnerability in the American military or in striking at the seams between the warfighting domains.
“In order for us to be successful as the U.S. military, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace,” the chairman said.
This requires a more flexible strategy, he said. During the Cold War, the existential threat to the United States emanated from the Soviet Union and strategy concentrated on that. Twenty years ago, this was different. The National Security Strategy of 1998 didn’t address nations threatening the U.S. homeland.
“To the extent that we talked about terrorism in 1998, we talked about the possible linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” Dunford said. “For the most part, what we talked about were regional challenges that could be addressed regionally with coherent action within a region, not transregional challenges.”
Transregional threats are a fact of life today and must be addressed, the general said. “What I’m suggesting to you, is in addition to the competitive advantage having eroded, the character of war has fundamentally changed in my regard in two ways,” he said. “Number one, I believe any conflict … is going to be transregional — meaning, it’s going to cut across multiple geographic areas, and in our case, multiple combatant commanders.”
Another characteristic of the character of war today is speed and speed of change, he said. “If you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be very uncomfortable being involved in information technology today,” the general said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be uncomfortable with the profession of arms today because of the pace of change. It’s virtually every aspect of our profession is changing at a rate that far exceeds any other time in my career.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
He noted that when he entered the military in 1977, the tactics he used with his first platoon would have been familiar to veterans of World War II or the Korean War. The equipment and tactics really hadn’t changed much in 40 years.
But take a lieutenant from 2000 and put that person in a platoon “and there’s virtually nothing in that organization that hasn’t changed in the past 16 or 17 years,” Dunford said. “This has profound impacts on our equipment, our training, the education of our people.”
This leads, he said, to the necessity of global integration. “When we think about the employment of the U.S. military, number one we’ve got to be informed by the fact that we have great power competition and we’re going to have to address that globally,” he said.
The Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one, he said.
“China is a global challenge” as well, Dunford added.
American plans have historically zeroed-in on a specific geographic area as a contingency, the general said. “Our development of plans is more about the process of planning and developing a common understanding and having the flexibility to deal with the problem as it arises than it is with a predictable tool that assumes things will unfold a certain way in a contingency,” he said. “So we’ve had to change our planning from a focus on a narrow geographic area to the development of global campaign plans that actually look at these problem sets in a global context. When we think about contingency planning, we have to think about contingencies that might unfold in a global context.”
This has profound implications for resource allocation, Dunford said. Forces are a limited resource and must be parceled out with the global environment in mind. “The way we prioritize and allocate forces has kind of changed from a bottom-up to a top-down process as a result of focusing on the strategy with an inventory that is not what it was relative to the challenges we faced back in the 1990s,” he said.
In the past, the defense secretary’s means of establishing priorities came through total obligation authority. The secretary would assign a portion of the budget to each one of the service departments and the services would develop capabilities informed by general standards of interoperability. At the time, this meant the American military had sufficient forces that would allow it to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Because the competitive advantage has eroded, in my judgment, the secretary is going to have to be much more focused on the guidance he gives,” Dunford said. “He not only has to prioritize the allocation of resources as we execute the budget, but he’s got to five, seven or 10 years before that, make sure that the collective efforts of the services to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow are going to result in us having a competitive advantage on the backside.”
This fundamentally changes the force development/force design process, he said. “This is not changing because of a change in personalities. It’s not changing because different leaders are in place,” the general said. “It’s changing because the character of war has changed, the strategic environment … within which we are operating today and expect to be operating in five to seven years from now, will change. Frankly, were we to not change the fundamental processes that we have in place inside the department, we would not be able to maintain a competitive advantage five or seven years from now.”
In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.
One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”
Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.
“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.
“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”
He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.
“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”
And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?
“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”
Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.
“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”
Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.
(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)
At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.
Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.
“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.
Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.
“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”
Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.
Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.
(Army CIO G6 photo)
A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.
Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.
“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”
To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.
“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.
“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.
It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.
So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.
“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”
“The Great War” was named for its size, not the experience of fighting it. Troops lived and slept in the mud and rubble, they fought through heavy machine gun fire and poison gas to roll back Imperial Germany’s occupation of France. About 2.8 million American men and women would serve overseas before the war ended. Here’s a quick peek at what life was like for them:
Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.
The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.
Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.
Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.
But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”
The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”
“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.
Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”
If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.