Student Veterans will continue to receive their GI Bill benefits under S. 3503, which President Trump signed into law March 21.
The law enables VA to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students having to take courses online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The law gives VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This allows for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from resident training to online training.
Thanks to the law, GI Bill students will continue receiving the same monthly housing allowance (MHA) payments they received for resident training until Dec. 21, or until the school resumes in-person classes.
In the wake of COVID-19, thousands of students nationwide have been converted to distance learning as many educational institutions are transitioning to technology-based lesson delivery.
“I commend President Trump and Congress for their work on this important law,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It will give Veteran students certainty as they continue their education.”
Students receiving GI Bill benefits are not required to take any action. Benefits will continue automatically. VA will work closely with schools to ensure accurately certified enrollments and timely processing. Updates will be provided to students via direct email campaigns and social media regarding VA’s effort to implement these new changes.
Students with specific questions can contact the Education Call Center at: 888-442-4551 between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday.
Denmark and its autonomous Arctic island of Greenland have signed an agreement to clean up U.S. military installations that were left to rust in the pristine landscape after the Cold War.
The deal earmarks 180 million kroner ($29 million) over six years for the cleanup. Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and Danish Environment Minister Esben Lunde Larsen finalized it in Copenhagen on Jan. 11.
Lunde Larsen said a Denmark-Greenland steering group will decide when and where to start the cleanup.
A 1951 deal between Copenhagen and Washington allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in Greenland. The agreement didn’t specify who would be responsible for cleanup.
Lunde Larsen and Kielsen singled out areas south of Nuuk, the Greenland capital on the west coast, and Tasiilaq on the east coast, where there are defunct buildings, abandoned vehicles, and empty fuel barrels littered along runways used by Americans for the North Atlantic air ferry route during World War II. U.S. planes touched down in Greenland on their way to war in Europe and North Africa.
The deal between Denmark and Greenland doesn’t cover a U.S. facility that is still in use or, for instance, Camp Century, an under-ice missile project abandoned in 1966 because the cap began to crush the camp. A separate deal from February 2017 between Denmark and Greenland is monitoring and gauging the never-completed launch site for nuclear missiles under the surface of the massive ice cap.
“I am pleased that we can work together to do the cleaning,” Kielsen said, adding Greenland for long had wished to remove junk from American activities.
U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin spoke via video conference from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on April 19, 2017, confirming that Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists launched a chemical attack against Iraqi forces in Mosul four days earlier.
The U.S. military has confirmed that the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group launched a chemical offensive against advancing Iraqi forces in the flashpoint city of Mosul over the weekend.
Iraqi security sources reported on April 15 that Daesh terrorists had fired missiles loaded with chlorine at the then-freshly-liberated neighborhood of al-Abar in west Mosul, causing respiratory problems for at least seven troops.
Major General Martin, the commanding general of the so-called Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command–Operation Inherent Resolve, said via videoconference from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad that the chemical attack had been launched but had caused no fatalities.
“The Iraqi security forces…were in vicinity of one of the strikes,” Martin told reporters, adding, “They were taken back for the appropriate level of medical care… Nobody’s been [fatally] impacted. Nobody’s died.”
Martin, however, said that the agent used in the attack had not been identified “at this time.”
“We have sent it back for testing but we’re still waiting for the outcomes,” he said.
According to Iraq’s Federal Police, Daesh also hit two other districts of western Mosul, namely Urouba and Bab al-Jadid, with chemical attacks on April 15.
Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you were too smart to engage in the Black Friday madness. But regardless of whether you’re killing time standing in line at the store or hiding out in the bathroom to get away from your crazy aunts, here are 13 memes to keep you occupied:
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.
Please help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
Forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continue to make progress. However, the environment in Iraq and Syria is complex and the defeat-ISIS forces require continued support, coalition officials said Aug. 15, 2018.
Army Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, spoke to Pentagon reporters about progress being made against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He spoke via satellite from Baghdad.
“In Iraq, operations continue to secure areas across the country, as Iraq security forces locate, identify and destroy ISIS remnants,” Ryan said. “Last week alone, … operations across Iraq have resulted in the arrest of more than 50 suspected terrorists and the removal of 500 pounds of improvised explosive devices.”
Children stand outside their home in a village near Dashisha, Syria, July 19, 2018. Residents of local villages are enjoying an increased sense of freedom and security since the defeat of ISIS in the area. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
Progress in Iraq’s Anbar Province
Iraqi forces are moving in Anbar province, in the Hamrin Mountains and Samarra. Reconstruction efforts are ongoing with roads reopening in the north. Iraqi engineers “cleaned the main road between Salahuddin and Samarra of IEDs, making travel safer between the two cities,” he said.
In the Baghdad area, the ISF established central service coordination cells, a program designed to use military resources to enable local communities to restore basic infrastructure and services. “Initial efforts by the coordination cells include trash collection, road openings, maintenance of water facilities,” Ryan said.
Syrian Democratic Forces are preparing for the final assault on ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The SDF is reinforcing checkpoints and refining blocking positions ahead of clearance operations in Hajin, Ryan said.
Military operations, reconstruction in Syria
In Syria, too, reconstruction efforts go hand in hand with military operations. “In Raqqa, the internal security forces have destroyed more than 30 caches containing 500 pounds of explosives discovered during the clearance operations in the past weeks,” the colonel said.
ISIS remains a concern in both countries, the colonel said. “Make no mistake: The coalition is not talking victory or taking our foot off the gas in working with our partners,” he said.
Defeating ISIS, he said, will require a long-term effort.
“We cannot emphasize enough that the threat of losing the gains we have made is real, especially if we are not able to give the people a viable alternative to the ISIS problem,” Ryan said. “We continue to call on the international community to step up and ensure that conditions that gave rise to ISIS no longer exist in both Syria and Iraq.”
With more Chinese submarines roaming the Pacific and the Trump administration pushing US-made hardware, Japan is putting into play a new piece of gear that may give its subs an edge at sea and keep its defense firms afloat.
On Oct. 4, 2018, in the city of Kobe, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the Soryu-class diesel-electric attack sub Oryu, the 11th sub in the class and the first to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries.
The Oryu has a number of upgrades over previous Soryu-class boats, which are the biggest diesel-electric subs in the world, but the biggest change is the batteries.
The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.
Diesel-electric subs use power from their diesel engines to charge their batteries, which they switch to during operations or in combat situations in order to run quietly and avoid detection.
The lithium-ion batteries in the Oryu — which store about double the power of the lead-acid batteries they replace — extend the range and time the sub can spend underwater considerably.
Mitsubishi turned to Kyoto-based firm GS Yuasa to produce the new batteries.
The latter company said in February 2017 that Japan would be the first country in the world to equip diesel-electric attack subs with lithium-ion batteries, putting them on the final two boats in the Soryu class: the Oryu, designated SS 511, and its successor, designated SS 512.
Japanese officials at the launch of the JSMDF submarine Oryu, Oct. 4, 2018.
Previous Soryu-class subs used two Kawasaki diesel generators and two Kawasaki air-independent propulsion engines. (AIP allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.)
Both platforms have a top speed of 12 knots, or about 14 mph, on the surface and of 20 knots, or 23 mph, while submerged, according to Jane’s.
Soryu-class subs are outfitted with six tubes in their bow that can fire Japan’s Type 89 heavyweight torpedo. They can also fire UGM-84C Harpoon medium-range anti-ship missiles against targets on the surface.
Construction started on the 275-foot-long Oryu — which displaces 2,950 metric tons on the surface and 4,100 metric tons underwater — in March 2015. It’s expected to enter service with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in March 2020.
The Oryu’s launch comes as Japan’s military and defense industry face pressure from two vastly different sources.
The Trump administration has been pushing Japan to buy more US military hardware, which Trump sees as a way to cut the trade imbalance between the two countries.
Japan, which has tried hard to court Trump, has beefed up its purchases of US-made gear. Tokyo spent about .5 billion through the US’s Foreign Military Sales program in the most recent fiscal year, after never spending more than about 0 million a year through fiscal year 2011, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
Those acquisitions have helped Japan get sophisticated US hardware but have been of little benefit for Japan’s defense industry, which has struggled to export its own wares. Additional purchases from the US are likely to leave Japanese firms with fewer orders.
Facing pressure from US military imports and with Chinese and South Korean firms gaining an edge in commercial shipbuilding, subs are the only outlet left for Japanese heavy industry, which has specialized technology and strong shipbuilding infrastructure, according to Nikkei.
A Chinese Shang-class (Type 093) nuclear-powered attack sub in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands, January 2018.
(Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)
The Oryu also launches amid rising tensions in the East and South China Seas, where a number of countries have challenged Beijing’s expansive claims and aggressive behavior.
China has put “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the Pentagon said in 2018. Beijing can now deploy 56 subs — 47 of which are believed to be diesel or diesel-electric attack boats. That force is only expected to grow.
Of particular concern for Tokyo is Chinese submarine activity in the East China Sea, around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan controls but China claims.
In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the islands — the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub in that area. The presence of a concealed sub was seen by Japan as a much more serious threat than the presence of surface ships, and Tokyo lodged a protest with China.
Japan is using its own subs to challenge Beijing.
In September 2018, JMSDF Oyashio-class attack sub Kuroshiro joined other Japanese warships for exercises in the South China Sea — the first time a Japanese sub had done drills there, the Defense Ministry said.
The drills, done away from islands that China has built military outposts on, involved the Japanese sub trying to evade detection.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A barber wears a face covering while cutting hair at the barber shop on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, April 10, 2020.
When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.
“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”
Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”
In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”
Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.
The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.
“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”
I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv
Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.
Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.
The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.
In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.
The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.
“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.
An Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sickened 32 people, including three health workers, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO declared a new Ebola outbreak on May 8, 2018. That same day, the White House’s senior director for global health security, Timothy Ziemer, stepped down from his position. Rear Adm. Ziemer was the official in charge of leading the response to global pandemic disease, but nobody is taking over his role.
Ziemer is considered by some to be one of the most effective public health officials the US has had, but the Post reported he was “basically pushed out.”
Fighting an outbreak before it gets worse
The reported cases of Ebola so far are in a town called Bikoro in the Equateur province of the DRC. Of the cases, two have been confirmed, 18 are probable, and 12 are suspected. There have been 18 deaths.
But the outbreak may be worse than it seems, a WHO official told Stat, since it may have started earlier and spread further than has been reported. The cases so far have been on a lake port, which means it’s possible an infected person could have traveled to a larger city. The infected healthcare workers could have spread the disease as well.
A team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is helping coordinate responses on the ground in the DRC, according to a statement from the organization.
“MSF has worked alongside the Congolese authorities in the past to care for patients suffering from Ebola and bring outbreaks under control. At the moment, there is an experienced MSF team in Bikoro, made up of medics, water and sanitation experts, health promoters, logisticians, and an epidemiologist,” Julien Raickman, MSF head of the mission in the DRC, said in the statement.
A dangerous virus with pandemic potential
Ebola’s potential to spread rapidly is the reason it’s essential to have dedicated officials coordinating a response to an outbreak — before it turns into a deadly epidemic or pandemic.
The disease is a viral hemmorhagic fever that was first discovered in 1976 in Yambuku, Zaire, now the DRC. Fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, with an average fatality rate around 50%.
(CDC / Dr. Lyle Conrad)
Generally, Ebola outbreaks begin when humans encounter an infected animal. The disease spreads between humans through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Symptoms usually begin with fever, weakness, soreness, and headache. These are often followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, organ failure, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak infected more than 28,600 and killed more than 11,300. In its wake, there has been significant research conducted on a potential Ebola vaccine. The WHO is planning to approve deployment of that experimental vaccine soon, but it’s not yet clear how effective it will be.
The current risk of Ebola spreading to nearby countries is moderate, based on the WHO’s assessment.
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”