What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges - We Are The Mighty
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What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
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Unfortunately, all too often I am asked what members should do if they are discharged with something besides an honorable discharge (like general, other-than-honorable, etc.). First, let us address the different types of discharges:

Honorable Discharge

If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time by exceeding standards for performance and personal conduct, they will be discharged from the military honorably. An honorable military discharge is a form of administrative discharge.

General Discharge

If a service member’s performance is satisfactory but the individual failed to meet all expectations of conduct for military members, the discharge is considered a general discharge. To receive a general discharge from the military, there has to be some form of nonjudicial punishment to correct unacceptable military behavior. A general military discharge is a form of administrative discharge. 

Other-Than-Honorable Conditions Discharge

The most severe type of military administrative discharge is the other-than-honorable conditions. Some examples of actions that could lead to an other-than-honorable discharge include security violations, use of violence, conviction by a civilian court with a sentence including prison time, or being found guilty of adultery in a divorce hearing (this list is not a definitive list; these are only examples). In most cases, veterans who receive an other-than-honorable discharge cannot re-enlist in the Armed Forces or reserves, except under very rare circumstances. Veterans benefits are not usually available to those discharged through this type of discharge.

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

The bad conduct discharge is only passed on to enlisted military members and is given by a court-martial due to punishment for bad conduct. A bad conduct discharge is often preceded by time in military prison. Virtually all veteran’s benefits are forfeited if discharged due to bad conduct. 

Dishonorable Discharge

If the military considers a service member’s actions to be reprehensible, the general court-martial can determine if a dishonorable discharge is in order. Murder and sexual assault are examples of situations which would result in a dishonorable discharge. If someone is dishonorably discharged from the military, they are not allowed to own firearms, according to U.S. federal law. Military members who receive a dishonorable discharge forfeit all military and veterans benefits and may have a difficult time finding work in the civilian sector.

Officer Discharge

Commissioned officers cannot receive bad conduct discharges or a dishonorable discharge, nor can they be reduced in rank by a court-martial. If an officer is discharged by a general court-martial, they receive a dismissal notice, which is the same as a dishonorable discharge.

Now, what does one do when they exit the service and are looking for a position?

Typically the simple answer is to not bring up the type of discharge that was given: employers don’t often know to ask this and the type of discharge should be used as a reference only. Due to legal issues surrounding Equal Employment Opportunities and related laws, one should be cautious in the interview process regardless. It is generally illegal to ask which type of discharge a military veteran received, unless it is to ask whether or not an applicant received an honorable or general discharge (veteran’s preference is a different story). You can compare this to asking if one is a U.S. citizen in the interview process.

Employers should note that even if the veteran did not receive one of these types of discharges, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were discharged for poor conduct (it could have been a medical discharge or other administrative discharge). Typical questions include branch of military service, the period of service, rank at time of separation, type of training, leadership, work experience, qualifications and certifications. Not discharge.

If an employer asks for a DD-214 and they notice the type of discharge:

The member must be prepared to answer the questions. They should have their “elevator pitch” about their career progression, and be prepared to provide references of character if needed. Note that government positions are more likely to ask for your DD-214 and inquire further on this area than a typical civilian employee.

There are various situations where you may be eligible to apply to have your military discharge upgraded. You must apply to have your discharge upgraded by downloading DD Form 293 – Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces, submit the form to the Discharge Review Board within 15 years of your discharge and WAIT. If your discharge was over 15 years ago, you must request a change to your military records. 

The short answer here is to not get yourself in a position where you are receiving a discharge that is unfavorable (despite medical or other conditions). If this does happen to you, then it is best to seek positions where it is not the priority item to be asked, and really think about those roles outside the government where you would benefit. Also note that if drugs or convictions were involved, this does add an extra layer to your career endeavor.

No matter how you exit the military, take the industry leading readiness quiz to see how prepared you are for civilian life. Transition Readiness Quiz.

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Army Chinook cargo helo to fly for 100 years

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
U.S. Army soldiers wait as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter approaches them for a hook up of an M777A2 howitzer at Forward Operating Base Hadrian in Afghanistan | DoD photo by Cpl. Mark Doran, U.S. Army


The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things.

The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s – allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.

“Our primary goal is maintaining the CH-47F’s relevance to the warfighter,” Army officials said in a special statement to Scout Warrior.

The latest model, called the Chinook F helicopter, represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.

Able to travel at speeds up to 170 knots, the Chinook has a range of 400 nautical miles and can reach altitudes greater than 18,000-feet. Its high-altitude performance capability has been a substantial enabling factor in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

The aircraft is 52-feet long, 18-feet high and able to take off with 50,000 pounds. The helicopter can fly with a loaded weight of 26,000 pounds. In addition, the aircraft can mount at least three machine guns; one from each window and another from the back cargo opening.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
RAF Chinook HC2 (military registration ZA682) displaying at Kemble Air Day 2008, Kemble Airport, Gloucestershire, England. | Photo by Adrian Pingstone

The Chinook F is in the process of receiving a number of enhancements to its digital cockpit called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS, such improved avionics, digital displays, Line Replacement Units, navigational technology, multi-mode radios, software and emerging systems referred to as pilot-vehicle interface. Pilot-vehicle interface involves improved computing technology where faster processor and new software are able to better organize and display information to the crew, allowing them to make informed decisions faster.

By 2018, the Army plans to have a pure fleet of 440 F-model Chinooks. By 2020, the Army plans to field a new “Block 2” upgraded Chinook F which will increase the aircraft’s ability to function in what’s called “high-hot” conditions of 6,000 feet/95-degrees Fahrenheit where lower air pressure makes it more difficult to operate and maneuver a helicopter.

The Block 2 Chinook will also be engineered to accommodate a larger take-off maximum weight of 54,000 pounds, allowing it to sling-load the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle underneath. This provides the Army with what it calls a “mounted maneuver” capability wherein it can reposition vehicles and other key combat-relevant assets around the battlefield in a tactically-significant manner without need to drive on roads. This will be particularly helpful in places such as Afghanistan where mountainous terrain and lacking infrastructure can make combat necessary movements much more challenged.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
An Army CH-47 helicopter attached to the 159th Aviation Regiment lifts a Naval Special Warfare 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) during a maritime external air transportation system training exercise. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robyn Gerstenslager

The Block 2 Chinook will also receive a 20-percent more powerful Honeywell T55-715 engine, according to a report from Aviation Week.

The Chinook F is also in the process of getting new rotorblades engineered with composites and other materials designed to give the helicopter an additional 4,000 pounds of lift capability, Army officials explained.

Another key upgrade to the helicopter is a technology called Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System, or COOLS, which places rollers on the floor of the airframe designed to quickly on and off-load pallets of equipment and supplies.  This technology also has the added benefit of increasing ballistic protection on the helicopter by better protecting it from small arms fire.

“The COOLS system has been added to the current production configuration and continues to be retrofitted to the existing F fleet. We have completed approximately 50-percent of the retrofit efforts. Since its fielding we made very minor design changes to improve maintainability.

The helicopter will also get improved gun-mounts and crew chief seating, along with a new vibration control system.

“We are finalizing design efforts on an improved vibration control system that, in testing, has produced significant reduction in vibration levels in the cockpit area,” the Army statement said.

The F-model includes an automated flight system enabling the aircraft to fly and avoid obstacles in the event that a pilot is injured.

Additional adjustments include the use of a more monolithic airframe engineered to replace many of the rivets build into the aircraft, Army officials said.

“The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. In addition, the program office has conducted an in depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,” the statement said.

The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, service officials said.

Protecting Helicopters

The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, called ATIRCM, — a high-tech laser jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching missile. The system fires a multi-band heat laser to intercept the missile and throw it off course,

ATIRCM has been fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet.

Chinooks are also equipped with a combat-proven protective technology called Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS; this uses an ultraviolet sensor to locate approaching enemy fire before sending out a flare to divert the incoming fire from its course.

Finally, over the years there have been several efforts to engineer a small-arms detection system designed to locate the source of incoming enemy small-arms fire to better protect the aircraft and crew.

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Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new B-21 said to be tested sooner than expected

The Air Force has announced that its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, will be headed to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California for testing.


Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, the commander of the 412th Test Wing, put the endless speculation as to where the B-21 would be heading to rest during comments at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference, according to The Drive.

“For the first time ever, I would like to publicly announce that the B-21 will be tested at Edwards Air Force Base … Edwards has been the home of bomber test and now we also can publicly release that the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” Schaefer said.

The general’s remarks appeared to confirm that the B-21 will be headed for operational testing sooner than some had previously believed. There are no known images of the B-21, although concept art does exist.

Also read: ‘Sneaky McBombFace’ and other discarded B-21 names

The level of secrecy surrounding the B-21 is so intense that Congress doesn’t even know much about it. Previous reports speculated that the testing would be at the Air Force’s infamous Area 51 facility.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Area 51. (Photo by Simon Johansson)

The Drive reporter Tyler Rogoway said that he noticed a number of changes to the base during his last visit to Edwards. “It was clear that the South Base installation was undergoing a major transition,” he said.

“The USAF’s B-52 and B-1 bomber test units had relocated to the expansive primary apron and South Base had been vacated, aside from the B-2 test unit, so that it could be prepared for a shadowy new program.”

Related: Podcast: Name the B-21 and the OV-10 Bronco is back

Edwards Air Force Base has unique facilities that would help the testing and development of stealth aircraft, such as the Raider, and is the headquarters of the Air Force’s Test Center and Test Pilot School. Edwards is also the home of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

The B-21 will phase out the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Air Force announced in February 2018.

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This female amputee led French commandos behind Nazi lines

One of the Allies’ most heroic spies was an amputee turned down by the State Department because of her leg amputation who served with both the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, coordinating resistance attacks and other operations in Nazi-occupied Europe.


Virginia Hall lost her left leg in a hunting accident while serving in the American embassy in Turkey. She ordered a wooden a prosthetic that she named “Cuthbert.” and practiced with it to ensure she could do nearly everything with it that she had done with two legs.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
A painting depicts Virginia Hall of the OSS transmitting intelligence on the German war machine from inside occupied France to Allied forces. (Painting: CIA by Jeffrey W. Bass)

Despite her efforts, the State Department turned Hall down when she requested to take the oral exam needed for her to become a diplomat.

She then returned to France and, when Germany invaded Poland, joined the French Army as an ambulance driver and learned how the Nazis were treating Jewish people in Poland. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she escaped to London and was quickly recruited into the SOE.

The SOE sent her to France as its first female operative in the country. Hall worked from the city of Lyon as a spy posing as a writer for an American newspaper. While in Southern France, she helped establish safe drop zones for the insertion of British agents and supplies for resistance fighters.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
This is a forged identification document for Marcelle Montagne, an alias of Virginia Hall. (Photo: Department of Defense)

The Gestapo began focusing on the region and had orders to hunt “La Dame Qui Boite,” the “Limping Lady.” Hall and her co-conspirators fled in 1942 over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. When she reported to the SOE that “Cuthbert” was giving her trouble in the mountains, headquarters told her, “If Cuthbert is giving you difficulty, have him eliminated.”

What was she supposed to do? Shoot her leg again?

Hall was arrested in Spain because she lacked papers, but a letter smuggled to the American consul there got her released six weeks later. She continued working for the SOE in Madrid but thought she was being coddled in such a safe mission.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
A memorandum from OSS Gen. Bill Donovan suggesting that President Harry Truman present Virginia Hall’s Distinguished Service Cross personally. Hall requested a small ceremony with Donovan instead. (Photos: National Archives)

She wrote to the headquarters, “I am living pleasantly and wasting time. It isn’t worthwhile and after all, my neck is my own. If I am willing to get a crick in it, I think that’s my prerogative.”

After returning to London, Hall attended training as a radio operator with the SOE and was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Her OBE medal was granted by King George VI in 1943.

But in early 1944, Hall learned that America had stood up its own spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services. She immediately volunteered for OSS service in occupied France.

The Americans got her a ride into France on a British torpedo boat and she went undercover as an elderly milkmaid. She was probably the only elderly milkmaid in the country who coordinated parachute drops, reported German troop movements, and snuck across the country while transmitting Nazi military secrets via a suitcase radio.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Virginia Hall receives the Distinguished Service Cross from OSS Ben. Bill Donovan. (Photo: CIA Archives)

Using supplies inserted into the drop zones she had selected, Hall trained and armed three battalions of French resistance fighters and prepared them for D-Day. When the Allies launched Operation Overlord and came across the channel, her forces launched a series of attacks to disrupt the Germans and help the liberators.

Fighters operating under Hall’s direction derailed trains, sabotaged bridges, destroyed rail and telephone lines, and killed and captured hundreds of Germans.

In one particularly impressive move, Hall and her fighters blew up a bridge and ambushed the German convoy attempting to use it, killing 150 and capturing 500 of them.

As the war in Europe wound to a close, Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS approved the award of a Distinguished Service Cross to Hall and suggested to President Harry Truman that he pin it on her personally. Instead, Hall requested that the ceremony be kept private so that she could continue work in the clandestine service.

The administration agreed and Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS, pinned the medal on her in September 1945. She was the first civilian and only American woman to receive the award in World War II.

Hall continued to serve in the OSS and then the Central Intelligence Agency until her mandatory retirement at the age of 60 in 1966.

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Watch a US-led coalition airstrike destroy part of ISIS’ oil network near the Iraq-Syria border

While fighting in western Syria seems to have turned in favor of dictator Bashar Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia, US-led coalition strikes on ISIS continue in the eastern part of the country.


The terror group’s oil infrastructure remains a prime target, and a November 25 airstrike near Abu Kamal, close to the Iraqi border, went after several oil wellheads and a pump jack, an important piece of equipment for getting oil out of the ground.

Related: 7 coolest ways to blow up the enemy’s HQ

You can see a clip of the strike below.

The US-led coalition launched three strikes near Abu Kamal on November 25, destroying four oil wellheads and an oil pump jack.

That same day, slightly west of Abu Kamal in Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes reportedly destroyed three pieces of oil-refinement equipment, three oil-storage tanks, and an oil wellhead.

ISIS has relied heavily on oil revenue to finance its operations, and the US-led coalition has put special emphasis on attacking the infrastructure needed to get that oil out of the ground and to the market.

A few weeks after the November 25 airstrikes, coalition aircraft destroyed 168 oil-tanker trucks on the ground near Palmyra, in central Syria. That destruction cost the terrorist group about $2 million in revenue, according to Operation Inherent Resolve officials.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Makeshift oil refinery in Syria. (Rozh Ahmad/YouTube screen grab)

While the coalition has been able to target ISIS’ oil infrastructure, fighting positions, and other resources from the air, progress against the group on the ground in eastern Syria has been somewhat halting.

While efforts by Kurdish militants and their Arab partners in Syria to recapture Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city, have been bogged down in recent weeks, the coalition announced on December 12 that Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated 700 square miles of ISIS-controlled territory, retaking dozens of villages around the city, and were starting the next phase of their operation to isolate Raqqa.

These developments come after Syrian government forces, backed by Iran and Russia, retook the northwestern city of Aleppo, parts of which had been held by rebels for years.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Putin with president of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (Russian government photo)

That victory appears to have buoyed the outlook in Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus.

The recently reported outline of a deal being discussed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey would divide Syria into zones of influence for those countries, leaving Assad in power as president for at least a few years.

The purported deal appears after numerous fruitless attempts by the US and other western powers to broker a peace in Syria’s bloody, over five-year-long civil war — and may in part be inspired by Moscow’s desire to reassert itself on the world stage.

“It’s a very big prize for them if they can show they’re out there in front changing the world,” Sir Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, told Reuters. “We’ve all grown used to the United States doing that and had rather forgotten that Russia used to play at the same level.”

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Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

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).


What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

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.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

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.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

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.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

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.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

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

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Meet Musa the Sniper, scourge of ISIS in Kobani

One man got inside the heads of ISIS fighters, literally and figuratively, throughout the months-long Siege of Kobani. He was called Heval Hardem, a.k.a.: “Musa the Sniper.”


What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

“I walked for miles once just to kill a single ISIS fighter,” Musa told Kurdish media. “Before and after killing them, I knew who the ISIS fighters were and could identify them by the bullet.”

The bullet came from Musa’s signature weapon, a Russian-made Dragunov rifle, which gave him a deadly range of 400 meters.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

“I killed one with a bullet to the head while he was trying to run away,” he once boasted to the Daily Mail. “The others were easier because they could not run very fast.”

26 year-old Musa the Sniper was born in Iran (or “Eastern Kurdistan”) and joined the Syrian Kurdish YPG three years ago. He fought in Kobani from the first day until the last, training others to be snipers when he wasn’t protecting Kurdish fighters on the ground. He was an essential part of the Kurdish fight against Daesh (what the Arabs call ISIS, an acronym of the group’s name in Arabic, which means “a bigot who imposes his views on others”) in Kobani. For four months, he moved continually from ruined house to ruined house house in the city, providing cover and killing as many enemy fighters as possible.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

In September 2014, ISIS fighters captured 350 Kurdish villages in the Northern Syrian area of Rojava, an area claimed by the Kurds since the start of the Syrian Civil War. The main city they captured was Kobani, a small city on the Turkish border. When the siege of Kobani picked up a lot of attention in the West, ISIS poured thousands of fighters into the area in an effort to show their superiority. Instead it became an example of tactical blunder, due mainly to the efforts of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to push ISIS from the town. American air strikes with aid from the Iraqi Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army helped dislodge ISIS. The biggest morale booster to the YPG fighters in Kobani, however, was Musa the Sniper.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

Musa is credited with hundreds of kills in Kobani alone. He was himself killed earlier this year in the Kobani region. An Italian volunteer for the Kurdish International Brigade of Rojava, a unit comprised of Western volunteers who are fighting ISIS in Syria, penned a memorial to Musa. In it, the Italian who identified himself as “Marcello” wrote the following:

In the city when we were few and DAESH [sic] was occupying most of the buildings, the sniper was king. The Chechen snipers limited the movement of comrades and caused many of them to fall martyrs. These were highly paid mercenaries coming from abroad to destroy us.

We could not even raise our heads with the fear of being struck by sniper fire. Then Hardem came. At that moment ‘Musa the sniper’ of Kobanê was born to strike back fear in waylyers’ hearts’.

If the snipers were kings in Kobanê, then Hardem was the Emperor. Every time a problem came up, Heval Hardem was the man to call first. He would fight day and night, and after a while DAESH learned about his feat. No Chechen sniper could defeat him, many of us are alive because of him.

If ever a true hero was born, that’s Hardem. Hero of Kobanê.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJusa7WPLOY

NOW: Meet the “Angel of Death” who’s trolling and killing ISIS fighters

OR: Meet the U.S. Military Veterans fighting ISIS

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey has to make its biggest decision since joining NATO

Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.


What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

Guess why.

Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.

The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.

No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.

Articles

This program helps turn troops into teachers

Troops to Teachers, a Department of Defense funded program, has been working to help service members transition to careers in education since 1993. The program is part of the Defense-Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or “DANTES,” which assists service members in acquiring degrees or certifications (or both), during and after their obligated service.


Through DANTES, service members can apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and tuition assistance, as well as get help understanding their VA education benefits.

Eligible DANTES users who utilize the Troops to Teachers program may qualify for additional funding — up to a $5,000 stipend or a $10,000 bonus.

Stipends may be used to pay for certifications, classes, or teaching license fees. Bonuses are awarded to those who’ve already completed their education and received certification and licensure; they are designed to be an incentive for teaching in high need or certain eligible schools.

“High need schools”, according to TTT, are schools in areas where 50 percent of the elementary or middle school or 40 percent of the high school receives free or reduced lunch. “Eligible” schools will have at least 30 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, have an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 13 percent or more, or be a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded school.

Service members awarded stipends or bonuses must either agree to teach full time in an eligible or high need school for three years, or must commit an additional three years to the military.

The Troops to Teachers program has several goals:

  • Reduce veteran unemployment.
  • Improve American education by providing motivated, experienced, and dedicated personnel for the nation’s classrooms.
  • Increase the number of male and minority teachers in today’s classrooms.
  • Address teacher shortage issues in K-12 schools that serve low-income families and in the critical subjects – math, science, special education, foreign language, and career-technical education.

TTT actively recruits service members from its program to teach in Native American “school[s] residing on or near a designated reservation, nation, village, Rancheria, pueblo, or community with a high population of indigenous students.”

In addition to financial assistance and job placement, TTT offers support to its participants through counseling and mentorship programs.

To date, TTT has awarded over $325,000 in stipends, nearly $2.5 million in bonuses, and helped place over 20,000 veterans into jobs.

Articles

VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges
Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

More from VAntage Point:

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Shia hits the fan: Understanding Iran’s role in the Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran was America’s original nemesis in the Middle East before Saddam’s Iraq stole the spotlight from 1990-2003. (Saddam and the Iranians, by the way, fought a bloody 8-year war against each other in the 1980s.) A casual observer might assume that the Islamic Republic of Iran must be best buddies with the infamous Islamic State (ISIS)…but no, they share a mutual hatred of each other.


Yeah, it’s all a bit complicated and messy, so strap in, and we’ll clear things up a bit.

Iran is a theocracy, meaning the country is governed by religious law. Rather than a single strongman dictator, Iran is ruled by a group of religious clerics who control the country’s “elected” leaders like former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 after religious fundamentalists overthrew the secular government of Shah Reza Pahlevi.

The Shah was a dictator, albeit one less brutal than the current regime, who came to power in 1954 with the help of the American CIA. It was a bad look for Uncle Sam, and many Iranians never forgot it.

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American hostages in Iran following the Islamist takeover of 1979.

(Source: Associated Press)

The Iranians are not Arabs like their neighbors to the west. Rather, they are Persians. Instead of Arabic, they speak a dialect of Persian called Farsi. The Iranians are predominantly Shia Muslims, whereas most Arabs are Sunni Muslims.

Theologically, Shias and Sunnis are akin to Protestants and Catholics in the Western world. 85-90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni and, while the world’s Shia are concentrated in Iran, there are Shia minorities throughout the Arab world. Iraq is unique because it has both an Arab majority and a Shia majority, giving Iran a prime opportunity for heavy influence there (check the news…)

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni jihadist groups, whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and many of the large militias in Iraq are Shia.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

(Source: Pew Research Center)

So the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs, and their leaders are fundamentalist Muslims but from the opposite branch of Islam than bin Laden and the Islamic State.

So what’s Iran’s game plan? In a nutshell, Iran wants to preserve and spread its “Islamic revolution” by boxing out the Sunni Arabs and supporting Shia groups across the Middle East (they also work with certain Sunni groups like Hamas.)

To dominate the Middle East, Iran’s leaders want to exploit the “Shia Crescent,” a network of Shia populations stretching from the Persian Gulf to Lebanon. Iran’s message to these Shia populations is “Big Brother Iran is here to save you from the Sunnis, the Israelis, and the Americans.”

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

(Source: Geographic Intelligence Services)

You can think of the fight against ISIS as World War II, with ISIS filling the role of Nazi Germany. During WWII, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union set aside their rivalries to defeat a common threat. The Defeat-ISIS campaign was similar in that Iran’s Shia coalition shared a mutual enemy with the American/Sunni alliance, even though the two sides weren’t officially partners.

But now, like in 1945, the old rivalries are back in play once again. On one side, Iran leads Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and other Shia factions in the region. Opposing them are the Sunni Arab countries aligned with the United States.

Fear and mistrust of Iran runs deep in countries like Saudi Arabia- so deep, in fact, that Saudi Arabia has reportedly made secret arrangements with Israel to counter the Iranian threat (that’s, uh, a plot twist…to put it mildly.) Iraq, with its Shia majority but close and complicated relationship with the United States, remains stuck in a tug-of-war between the rival coalitions.

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Alleged secret plan for Israeli aircraft to use Saudi airspace to strike Iran. Saudi Arabia publicly denies this.

(Source: Rick Francona)

Iran was once the great ancient empire of Persia, and there is more to modern Iran than its leaders’ ambitions. Iran has a population of over 80 million, and resentment toward the regime is widespread. Strict religious tyranny and a weak economy cause frequent protests which the Iranian regime suppresses with ruthless violence. It’s unclear if this unrest will eventually put the regime’s power in serious jeopardy.

Iran’s economic problems are driven in part by economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe. These sanctions, in turn, are imposed partly as a result of Iran’s nuclear program- a program which, the regime insists, is strictly for domestic energy production. Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons is concerning because an atomic Iran could lead its Sunni rivals to pursue their own nuclear weapons.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

Iranian protesters in 2009.

(Source: Getty Images)

Further Iranian vs. American bloodshed seems to have been averted in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but violence between the two countries is nothing new.

The infamous 1983 Beirut bombing, which killed 241 U.S. servicemen, was perpetrated by an Iranian suicide bomber and 1988’s “Operation Praying Mantis” pitted the U.S. Navy against the Iranian Navy in the largest American naval combat operation since WWII. The whole region remains a Game of Thrones-tier snake pit of conflicting loyalties, religious conflict, and political scheming.

Hopefully now, however, you better understand what led to the U.S. government ordering a drone strike on that guy who looked like Sean Connery.

What you need to know about other-than-honorable discharges

Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.

(Source: Getty Images)

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