Arizona Legion College Dates and Locations

Below are the currently scheduled class offerings. To apply, email notice with your desired location requested on application found at http://azlegion.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Arizona_Legion_College_information_and_Application_FY2020.pdf

If your own Post/Unit/Squadron location is listed and you haven’t heard about the class coming your way, please inquire with your Post Commander/Adjutant for details.

Area C

September 6 – 8, 2019

Verde Valley Post #25,
480 S. Calvary Way, Cottonwood, AZ

Area A

January 24 – 26, 2020


John P. Burns Post #36 5845 E. 22nd St, Tucson, AZ

Area B

April 24 – 26, 2020

Luke-Greenway Post # 1 364 N. 7th Ave. Phoenix, AZ

Kickball with the AZ Guard Families!

We are out and about again! Me and our young man Antonio manning the booth!

20 September, 2019 08:15

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, September 20, 2019 which is National Fried Rice Day, National Gibberish Day, National Concussion Awareness Day and National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Today/This Weekend in Legion History:

  • Sept. 20, 1944: The 26th American Legion National Convention passes Resolution 138, primarily as a plan to educate and enthuse World War II veterans about the organization they are rapidly joining. Summarized as “at least two weeks” of an “intensive course of study for selected World War I and World War II Legionnaires,” the first actual American Legion College, with a class of 63, would not begin until 1946 at the national headquarters in Indianapolis. By 1954, American Legion departments are conducting their own Legion Colleges, which become the preferred method of leadership training, and the national program is suspended. Forty-five years later, national American Legion College is resurrected and continues today.
  • Sept. 21, 1937: The American Legion National Convention Parade in New York City draws national media coverage and lasts nearly 18 hours. More than 250,000 marchers and spectators line up for the event.

Today in History:

  • 1565: Spanish forces under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés capture the French Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline, near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. The French, commanded by Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, lost 135 men in the first instance of colonial warfare between European powers in America. Most of those killed were massacred on the order of Aviles, who allegedly had the slain hanged on trees beside the inscription “Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics.” Laudonniere and some 40 other Huguenots escaped.
  • On the evening of September 20, 1777, near Paoli, Pennsylvania, General Charles Grey and nearly 5,000 British soldiers launch a surprise attack on a small regiment of Patriot troops commanded by General Anthony Wayne in what becomes known as the Paoli Massacre. Not wanting to lose the element of surprise, Grey ordered his troops to empty their muskets and to use only bayonets or swords to attack the sleeping Americans under the cover of darkness.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Military Times: VA concedes its debt collection systems leave veterans confused, frustrated
By:Leo Shane III   14 hours ago
387
Veterans Affairs officials acknowledged to lawmakers that the department’s debt collection practices remain “too clunky and too confusing” to ensure families aren’t left in financial jeopardy. And they promised additional reforms within the next year.
“We are too often fragmented, uncoordinated and highly variable in our processes,” said Jon Rychalski, chief financial officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday. “Frankly, we have a way to go before we can declare success.”
Last fiscal year, VA overpayments to veterans totaled roughly $1.6 billion, on par with mistakes in previous years.
The cases include mistakes in disability payouts after beneficiary information is updated, payments that conflict with other federal benefits like drill pay, changes in college enrollment that lower GI Bill eligibility, and simple math errors by department employees.
Officials from Veterans Education Success said one in four recipients of GI Bill benefits face some time of overpayment-related debt.
The department sent out more than 600,000 debt collection notices to veterans and their families in fiscal 2018 in an effort to recover the money. Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said too often they hear from veterans who face significant financial hardship as a result of those actions, even when they incur the debt through no fault of their own.
“VA has a lot of work ahead to reduce the number of overpayments sent to veterans,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H. “Receiving these notices of balance due can prove particularly burdensome to veterans living on fixed incomes.”
VA has changed policies in recent years that required withholding future checks until the debt was fully repaid, instead opting for automatic 12-month repayment plans to ease the burden.
But lawmakers and outside advocates said in many cases the debt — which often tops $2,500, according to committee statistics — is still too large to comfortably deduct from monthly payouts.
“The resultant debts owed by veterans often cause severe financial hardships for veterans and their families,” said Shane Liermann, deputy national legislative director for benefits at Disabled American Veterans.
“In many cases, the burden of repaying these debts can negatively impact a veteran’s quality of life, put them at risk of homelessness and affect their access to VA health care.”
Lawmakers pressed VA on making hardship waivers for debt collection easier to obtain, and for broader use of VA’s authority to wipe out the debt completely.
Rychalski said officials have to balance their responsibility to taxpayers to recover overpayments with veterans’ financial health, but said the department is reviewing how cases are handled to see if systemic changes are needed.
He said within the next year he expects VA to offer a new online portal where veterans can monitor any outstanding debts, and new department policies to minimize the number of debt notices sent to veterans from various sub-agencies within VA.
The department is also targeting a new online debt payment system within the next three years. Rychalski acknowledged that timeline is slower than many would like, but said the process will require coordinating a host of aging computer systems.
Lawmakers urged more speed on the solutions.
“The clock is running,” Pappas said. “Every day this isn’t enacted is a day where a veteran is potentially put in dire financial straits.”

The Hill: Negotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates

BYREBECCA KHEEL -09/19/19 11:34 AM EDT

House and Senate negotiators officially kicked off talks Thursday to reconcile their versions of the annual defense policy bill with several thorny debates looming over them.
Chief among them is how to deal with Pentagon funding that has been tapped for President Trump’s border wall.
Negotiators will also wrangle with an amendment meant to block Trump from taking military action against Iran, a provision that has received renewed attention as Trump debates how to respond to attacks on Saudi oil facilities.
Ahead of the first official meeting — dubbed the “pass the gavel” meeting — the leaders of the Armed Services committees would not indicate where they will land on those and other issues.
“I appreciate the questions, but we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to have an outcome here at this press conference, in part because we don’t know what that outcome is yet,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told reporters. “That’s the nature of a conference committee.”
Smith was speaking to reporters alongside Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senate Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).
Though Thursday marked the first formal meeting of the conference committee, staffers and key lawmakers have been talking behind the scenes for months.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it was taking $3.6 billion from 127 military construction projects to build 175 miles of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in line with Trump’s emergency declaration at the beginning of the year.
The Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would replace that $3.6 billion, while the House’s would not.
A school of thought has emerged ahead of the NDAA negotiations that the issue is an appropriations issue not an authorization one since the projects losing money to the wall are authorized for five years regardless.
As such, questions have emerged over whether negotiators will decide to be silent on the issue altogether, kicking the fight exclusively to the government funding bill.
Smith said Thursday no decision has been made on how to handle backfilling the military construction funds.
Despite the controversial issues facing negotiators, the committee leaders expressed hope they could continue the 58-year streak of getting the NDAA signed into law.
“All four of us are determined to do everything we possibly can to make it 59,” Thornberry said. “This is not just policy differences and so forth. There are flesh and blood men and women serving our country right now all over the world who are affected by the decisions we make, as well as adversaries and allies that are watching what we do.”
In addition to the border wall and Iran, lawmakers will need to find compromises on issues ranging from U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen to Trump’s transgender military ban to Pentagon funds being used at Trump-owned properties.
Defense News: Space Force price tag clouds decision to formally launch, despite White House push
By:Joe Gould   21 hours ago
135
WASHINGTON ― A key legal change the Trump administration is seeking would enshrine a U.S. Space Force as a separate branch of the military next year ― but it could cost billions more upfront than what the Senate had planned.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., an ally of the president, indicated Tuesday he was leaning toward the move after Vice President Mike Pence personally lobbied him to include the new force under Title 10, the section of United States code that organizes the U.S. military.
“The president is very strong on wanting to have it and wanting to do it immediately and wanting to do it, obviously, before the election ― and we’re going to try and get that done,” Inhofe said about legislation to create a new Space Force.
On Tuesday, Pence spoke at the Senate Republican caucus’ weekly lunch and met with Inhofe afterward ― ahead of the formal start of negotiations Thursday between the House and Senate over their competing versions of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, a massive defense policy bill.
But Inhofe remained concerned with the potential for massive added costs and how they would be absorbed by the bill because of how the costs are scored by the Congressional Budget Office, the agency tasked with estimating costs associated with legislative proposals.
CBO estimated the administration’s Space Force proposal would add $800 million to $1.3 billion in annual costs, and between $1.1 billion and $3 billion in one-time costs.
But, according to CBO’s analysis, the Senate bill doesn’t incur those costs because it doesn’t take a key step: declaring the new service into being. Instead, the Senate set a number of conditions and a one-year timeline for the Pentagon to start building the Space Force, all aimed at cutting costs and requiring the Pentagon prove it has a vision for the new branch.
Crucially, the Senate proposal would restructure certain organizations and personnel of the Air Force into the Space Force and would not authorize new military billets or civilian hires. That’s not a distinction made by the House bill.
“The problem we have with that is if [the NDAA amends] Title 10, you have a CBO scoring problem of $3.9 billion. We’re not very excited about that figure,” Inhofe said. “It’s not going to cost that, we all know that, so what’s the rush? But there seems to be one.”
“The president wants to [establish a Space Force] that leaves no doubt in anybody’s mind that we’re ahead of Russia and China, we’re concerned about space, and we are at the top,” Inhofe said. “If we have [the Title 10 change] as part of the bill, it will accomplish that ― but it’s my problem to make that part of the bill.”
For Trump, Space Force has grown from an aside in a 2018 speech to a serious push ― which military leaders say is needed to protect the U.S. space assets vital to military communications, navigation and intelligence. Trump in August reestablished the combatant command U.S. Space Command, with approval from Congress.
Space Force, if approved by the legislative body, would be the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947. It would be the smallest service by far, with between 15,000 and 20,000 members.
To Todd Harrison, an influential space and budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the focus on Title 10 and the cost differences are overblown because they’re difficult to accurately extrapolate from the legislative language. Plus, a compromise bill might add the new service under Title 10 but easily skirt costs by keeping the Senate’s ban on new civilian and military hires, he said.
“The ramp-up rate is not well-defined in either bill,” Harrison said. “The Senate bill makes Air Force Space Command into Space Force with other elements to be added later, and the [House bill] creates a Space Force, but it’s not well-defined what goes in it either. It think it’s an academic distinction in terms of how they are scored.”

Military Times: Why failure to reintegrate tens of thousands of ex-Taliban fighters is dangerous
By:Diana Stancy Correll   17 hours ago
78
Failure to reintegrate former Taliban fighters and other combatants in Afghanistan could prompt them to join terrorist organizations like the Islamic State, according to a new watchdog report.
“If ex-combatants are not accepted by their communities or are unable to find a new livelihood, they may be vulnerable to recruitment by criminal groups or terrorist organizations like the Islamic State Khorasan, the local branch of the Islamic State active in eastern Afghanistan,” the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report released Thursday.
This is just one of multiple issues plaguing reintegration efforts of approximately 60,000 full-time Taliban fighters and 90,000 seasonal fighters in Afghanistan — efforts that have proven ineffective in the past.
Since 2002, the U.S. has poured approximately $65 million into a series of reintegration programs. But none of them “succeeded in enabling any significant number of ex-combatants to socially and economically rejoin civil society,” the report said.
“Programs specifically targeting Taliban insurgents did not weaken the insurgency to any substantial degree or contribute meaningfully to parallel reconciliation efforts,” SIGAR’s report said.
Reintegrating the Taliban and other combatants in a cornerstone to securing sustainable peace in Afghanistan, according to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan.
Additionally, he said Thursday at a United States Institute for Peace event that previous reintegration efforts have fallen flat because of the absence of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that addresses the reintegration of former fighters.
“Without this [agreement], if fighters join a reintegration program, they and their families face enormous risks of retribution,” Sopko said. “And during a war, it’s very difficult if not impossible [at] times to provide protection for them. That risk of retribution — and insecurity more generally — was a key reason that past reintegration programs did not succeed in Afghanistan.”
As a result, SIGAR recommends that the U.S. hold off on backing a reintegration effort until a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban is secured that takes into account reintegrating former combatants. Even so, Congress should organize plans for reintegration right away, rather than waiting until discussions to conclude.
The watchdog also recommended the U.S. not support a reintegration program unless violence drops in Afghanistan, and until proper oversight is implemented.
However, even if a peace deal is arranged, Sopko warned there still could be problems. For example, Afghanistan’s suffering economy and 23 percent unemployment rate could pose challenges to reintegration.
“For fighters to come in from the cold and rejoin society, they will need access to a stable job, or they then may return to fighting or enter one of Afghanistan’s many more profitable, but illicit economic sectors, such as organized crime, kidnapping, and narcotics trafficking,” Sopko said.
Another factor to consider is the segment of more than 2.7 million Afghan refugees who are now primarily in Pakistan or Iran. In the aftermath of a potential peace agreement, these refugees would likely return to Afghanistan, placing an additional burden on Afghanistan’s job market.
“Adding tens of thousands of armed Taliban soldiers as well as their families and supporters to the mix would only exacerbate the challenge,” Sopko said.
Such an economic situation could provide a recruitment opportunity for terrorist groups like IS-K, Sopko said.
SIGAR also said reintegration efforts must also focus on other militants from state-aligned militias and other groups. Not doing so would inspire the Taliban to reject reintegration efforts, SIGAR warned.
Given these challenges, SIGAR recommended that the U.S. install a head agency or office to spearhead these efforts. A lack of such an institution has contributed to confusion about reintegration goals, the report said.
The watchdog also noted successful reintegration will depend on economic support from the U.S. and others among the donor community who are partnering with the World Bank to arrange financial and technical support for Afghanistan and its economy. Proper oversight must couple such support, the report cautioned.
Peace negotiations between the U.S., Taliban, and Afghan government have been put on the back burner after President Donald Trump called off a covert meeting with the Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David.
Trump said that he canceled the meeting after a U.S. soldier and 11 others were killed in a Taliban car bomb attack, and has since said negotiations with the Taliban are “dead.”
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who has spearheaded peace negotiations for more than a year, is slated to provide a classified briefing to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. He is also expected to provide a public hearing later on Thursday.
In addition to a review of thousands of pages of public and private documents and academic material, SIGAR’s report was based off of 51 interviews with current and former U.S., Afghan, and other government officials and academics. The report was launched 14 months ago, Sopko said.

Stripes: New AFRICOM chief in Niger to assess security in volatile western Africa

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 19, 2019
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Africa Command’s Gen. Stephen Townsend met with American troops in Niger on Thursday during a visit to assess security in the West Africa region, which is grappling to counter several Islamic militant groups.

Townsend’s visit to Niger, his first since he took over as head of AFRICOM in July, came in the midst of a 90-day review ordered by Defense Secretary Mark Esper into whether the U.S. should hold force levels on the African continent steady or make additional cuts.

U.S. troops are training with their Nigerien counterparts in a country that has proven dangerous but remains central to the military’s strategy in the region.

“Niger has been a willing and engaged partner in the fight against violent extremist organizations,” Townsend said. “Niger is committed to building its defense capacity and containing and degrading terrorist networks in Africa.”

An ambush in which militants killed four U.S. soldiers in October 2017 brought intense scrutiny to operations in the country and raised questions about the purpose of the American mission. While the U.S. has scaled back some of its operations and shifted more of its focus to higher level unit training rather than joint combat patrols in Niger, there are still risks. In June, American troops escaped serious injury when the U.S. military vehicle they were traveling in hit a roadside bomb.

Despite the dangers, the U.S. appears committed to keeping forces in Niger for the long haul.

In August, the U.S. Air Force began flying surveillance aircraft out of a new base in central Niger that has been years in the making. Known as Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, the site is expected to improve intelligence gathering in the region.
AFRICOM has said operations there will expand over time.

“Nigerien Air Base 201 will ultimately possess an ability to support an array of aircraft and missions to include added ISR options,” AFRICOM said in a statement, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. The capabilities that the base eventually will have “will benefit the entire region,” Townsend said.

Townsend’s visit, which included meetings with senior Nigerien defense officials and the country’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, was part of a tour through the region. Earlier in the week, he held talks with officials in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.

Numerous extremist groups, including Nigeria-based Boko Haram, have brought instability to West Africa, including the Lake Chad basin region, which includes parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

ISIS-West Africa has also become a top security concern for AFRICOM since it broke away from Boko Haram three years ago. That group routinely launches cross-border attacks in Niger.

While extremist groups in West Africa don’t pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland now, military officials worry they could, if left unchecked.

Ambassador Eric P. Whitaker said the U.S. will continue to train and equip Nigerien forces to counter regional threats.

“Our goal is to enable Niger’s defense and security forces to develop and sustain a professional force and contribute to peacekeeping efforts,” Whitaker said.

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Sad tidings, the passing of Ariel Rodriguez Sr., Post 2

Beloved, it is my sad duty to report tonight’s passing of Ariel Rodriguez Sr. Please lend your prayers and thoughts for the Rodriguez family through these days.
Surrounded by family on the evening before cancer treatment was to begin, he will be missed by many like me who were privileged to grow under his mentorship. Further information will follow.
Blessings,
Angel

18 September, 2019 08:05

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, September 18, 2019 which is First Love Day, National Cheeseburger Day, National Respect Day and Rice Krispies Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • Sept. 18, 1927: More than 20,000 American Legion members make their way to Paris for what is not officially considered the 9th National Convention (although a program calling it a national convention is printed and distributed) but is regarded as a “pilgrimage” on the 10th anniversary of U.S. entry into the Great War.
  • Sept. 18, 1930: Star singer Rudy Vallee leads the Maine American Legion delegation in a parade at the National Convention in Boston. An NBC radio broadcast of the parade reaches approximately 50 million listeners nationwide. An estimated 150,000 attend the convention, which at the time ranks as the largest convention of any kind in U.S. history.
  • Sept. 18, 1938: Paramount releases the 60-minute feature film “Sons of the Legion,” featuring such future stars as Donald O’Connor (“Singin in the Rain”) and William Frawley (Fred Mertz in TV’s “I Love Lucy”), about a group of young men who cannot start a Sons of The American Legion squadron in their local post because they discover their father received a dishonorable discharge.

This Day in History:

  • On September 18, 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Military.com: VA’s $900 Million Caregiver Program Bogged Down by Bad Data, IT Issues, GAO Finds

17 Sep 2019
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
Inaccurate data kept by the Department of Veterans Affairs on its staff for the Family Caregiver Program and delays in the technology infrastructure needed to expand the program are hampering an effort to include the caregivers of injured veterans from World War II through Vietnam, a government watchdog agency has found.
The Government Accountability Office released a report Monday noting that the number of staff supporting the Family Caregiver Program at VA medical centers does not match the data kept by the program office — an inaccuracy that prevents the VA from fully understanding the number of personnel that will be needed as the program grows.
The GAO also found that delays in implementing a new information technology system needed to support the program mean the expansion, mandated by Congress, is not expected for at least a year.
"The initial replacement for the Caregiver Application Tracker is not expected until late October 2019. Further, despite this initial deployment and additional releases expected through the summer of 2020, the department has not yet fully committed to a date by which it will certify that the new IT system fully supports the program," GAO analysts noted in the report.
VA officials said earlier this year that they did not expect the required technology infrastructure to be ready until mid- to late-2020.
The VA missed a progress deadline on building the needed system on Oct. 1, 2018, and the department will not be able to certify the system by Oct. 1, 2019, as required by Congress. This means that caregivers of veterans from the Vietnam War and earlier will not be able to apply as expected starting Oct. 1.
And it’s unclear whether the system will even be ready by Oct. 1, 2020.
"Until the system is implemented and certified, the expansion of eligibility for the Family Caregiver Program will be delayed," the report states.
The VA Mission Act of 2018 mandated that the VA create and certify the IT system for the expansion. Congress inserted the requirement into the law to prevent similar problems to those seen last year when thousands of veterans didn’t receive housing payments related to the Forever GI Bill because of technology system challenges and an aging technology infrastructure at VA.
By law, applications were to be phased in with Vietnam War and earlier veterans eligible first. Those who served from May 1975 through Sept. 11, 2001, are to become eligible two years later.
According to the VA, more than 38,000 caregivers have been helped by the program since it was established in 2011 to provide compensation and benefits for the primary caregivers of severely injured post-9/11 service members.
The program costs more than $900 million a year.

Military Times: Senior VA leaders disciplined after ant infestation at nursing home
By: Leo Shane III   17 hours ago
1.1K
Veterans Affairs officials are disciplining nine department workers — including the regional director for three southeastern states — in response to ant-infested conditions at a department-run community center in Georgia uncovered earlier this month.
Officials have also promoted the head of the VA medical center in Charleston, S.C., to take over as acting regional director immediately and lead reform efforts at facilities across that part of the department’s health network.
“What happened at (the community center) was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility,” Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said in a statement. “Transparency and accountability are key principles at VA, and they will guide our efforts in this regard.”
Last week, lawmakers reacted with horror at local news reports that at least three patients suffered injuries from numerous insect bites at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center near Atlanta. The family of one veteran (who later died from unrelated causes) said their complaints about the conditions were met with apathy from center staff.
Among the staff disciplined for the incident Tuesday were Leslie Wiggins, Veterans Integrated Service Network 7 director, who was placed on “immediate administrative leave.” The VISN Chief Medical Officer was also assigned to administrative duties, pending a review of safety issues in the network
Seven staff connected to the infested facility and the Atlanta VA Medical Center were also moved into non-patient care positions, pending job reviews.
The news comes amid a series of high-profile, unsettling medical problems at VA hospitals in recent weeks. Last month, a former VA pathologist in Arkansas was charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of former patients. Officials in West Virginia are also investigating a series of suspicious patient deaths at a VA medical center there.
Days after that news became public, officials announced they had opened an investigation into a series of sexual assault claims at another West Virginia medical center.
VA officials have insisted that they are moving quickly on all of the incidents to ensure patient safety is not compromised.
Last week, in a statement to local news, officials at the Atlanta VA Health Care System said that the convalescent care center underwent a full cleaning following the revelations of insect problems.
VISN 7 covers facilities in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

Military.com: Iran Warns US of Response to Any Action over Saudi Attack

18 Sep 2019
The Canadian Press
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran warned the U.S. that any action taken against it following an attack on Saudi oil installations will "immediately" be met with a response from Tehran, its state-run news agency reported Wednesday, further raising Mideast tensions.
Iran’s president and foreign minister also may skip next week’s high-level meetings at the United Nations as the U.S. has yet to issue them visas, IRNA reported.
The U.N. meeting had been considered as an opportunity for direct talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Donald Trump amid a summer of heightened tensions and attacks in the wake of America’s unilateral withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers a year ago.
However, the recent attack in Saudi Arabia and hardening comments from Iran suggest such talks are increasingly unlikely.
Related: Trump: It Looks Like Iran Hit Saudis, No Military Option Yet
Iran sent a note through Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, IRNA reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.
"If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran’s answer immediately," IRNA quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran’s response wouldn’t be limited to the source of the threat, without elaborating.
IRNA separately reported Wednesday that Iran’s first delegation for the annual U.N. event had not left Iran due to not having visas. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to travel to New York on Friday, with Rouhani following behind Monday, according to the agency.
As the host of the U.N.’s headquarters, the U.S. is mandated to offer world leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings there. But as tensions have risen, the U.S. has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Zarif.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to Saudi Arabia for meetings after Saturday’s attack on a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant. Saudi officials separately planned to share information about the weapons used in the attack they allege are Iranian.
Saudi Arabia also said on Wednesday that it joined a U.S.-led coalition to secure the Mideast’s waterways amid threats from Iran after an attack targeting its crucial oil industry, while Rouhani told the kingdom it should see the attack as a warning to end its yearslong war in Yemen.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack. The U.S. accuses Iran of being behind the assault, while Saudi Arabia already has said "Iranian weaponry" was used. Iran denies that.
"Almost certainly it’s Iranian-backed," Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC. "We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region."
The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement Wednesday morning quoting an unnamed official saying the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct.
Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom already have joined the mission.
"The kingdom’s accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade," the news agency said.
Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet, declined to comment on the Saudi announcement, saying it "would be inappropriate to comment on the status of individual nations and the nature of any potential support."
The coalition aims to secure the broader Persian Gulf region. It includes surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s oil travels, and the Bab el-Mandeb, another narrow strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden off Yemen and East Africa. Smaller patrol boats and other craft will be available for rapid response. The plan also allows for nations to escort their own ships through the region.
The U.S. blames Iran for the apparent limpet mine explosions on four vessels in May and another two in June sailing in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz, something Iran denies being behind. Iran also seized a British-flagged oil tanker and another based in the United Arab Emirates.
In Tehran, Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the attack as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognized government.
Rouhani said Yemenis "did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the Sanaa bazaar," mentioning the Saudi-led coalition’s widely criticized airstrikes.
He added that Iran does not want conflict in the region, but it was the Saudi-led coalition that "waged the war in the region and ruined Yemen."
"They attacked an industrial centre to warn you. Learn the lesson from the warning," he said, portraying the Houthis as responsible for the drone strikes.
Wednesday’s announcements comes after Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said late Tuesday that more than half of the country’s daily crude oil production that was knocked out by an attack had been recovered and that production capacity at its targeted plants would be fully restored by the end of the month.
Pompeo was due to land in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, where he was scheduled to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pompeo later will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to meet with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Both nations are U.S. allies and have been fighting against the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015.
The Saudi military planned to speak to journalists Wednesday in Riyadh to discuss the investigation into Saturday’s attack "and present material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement." It did not elaborate.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that U.S. military experts were in Saudi Arabia working with their counterparts to "do the forensics on the attack" — gleaning evidence that could help build a convincing case for where the weapons originated.
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office announced experts from his nation would be travelling to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom shed light " on the origin and methods" of the attacks. France has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to the tensions between Iran and the U.S., so any conclusion they draw could be used to show what a third-party assessed happened.

Wash Examiner: Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were the ‘ground zero’ of the opioid crisis: Study
by Cassidy Morrison
| September 17, 2019 04:03 PM

Veterans who were stationed in Afghan and Iraqi war zones after the 9/11 terror attacks have been hit hardest by the opioid crisis, according to new research.
Veterans of the global war on terrorism are experiencing an opioid epidemic nearly twice as severe as the one plaguing civilians, according to a new study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers affiliated with the University of Connecticut, University of Georgia, and San Diego State University concluded that combat veterans who were deployed after the 9/11 attacks have an opioid abuse rate about seven times higher than civilians who have never served in a combat zone.
“While grim national statistics about the ‘worst drug overdose epidemic in history’ are increasingly well known to the American public, far less well known is that combat veterans constitute a population at ground zero of this crisis,” the authors concluded.
They found that veterans not only deal with chronic pain that has to be treated when they return from war zones, but also post-traumatic stress that sometimes leads to drug use as a coping mechanism.
Many cases of prescription opioid and heroin abuse arise from treating chronic pain from serious injuries, but the study’s authors say that veterans didn’t even have to be in the line of fire everyday to show an increased risk of opiate abuse and post-traumatic stress.
The Department of Defense saw the problem coming early on, and mandated annual random drug testing in 2002 for all military service members. The drug testing panel did not include prescription opioids until 2005, however, when the epidemic was well underway.
Veterans Affairs has cut the number of prescriptions for opioids since 2012 by almost half, due primarily to increased prescription costs for patients, but researchers behind the study say veterans could be turning to heroin to replace prescription opioids that are now too expensive to fill.
The Defense Department promotes non-drug treatments for chronic pain, including acupuncture and yoga, but another treatment is gaining in popularity — medical marijuana.
The study, which has not undergone peer review, notes that states that have legalized medical marijuana and opened dispensaries have seen lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. But marijuana is still a Schedule I drug along with heroin and ecstasy thanks in part to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who, in early 2018, nixed Obama-era policies of non-interference with state laws that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use.
The paper’s authors say that medical marijuana "may provide an alternative, less addictive, and less unhealthy means of treating pain," but the Sessions memo may have inadvertently hurt efforts to treat veterans effectively and safely.

Stripes: Pressured to speed returns, the US military says South Korea can have 15 bases now

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 18, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military wants to set the record straight as it faces South Korean pressure to expedite the handover of bases as part of a drawn-out relocation plan.

U.S. Forces Korea is ready to turn over more than half of the bases now, including parts of Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, the command said Wednesday in a rare public display of frustration.

South Korea “recently announced that it desired to expedite the return process of 26 U.S. military installations,” USFK said. “Fifteen of the 26 U.S. military installations, including four sites specifically requested for transfer at the earliest possible date … have been vacated, closed and available for transfer to the (South Korean) government.”

“Two parcels of Yongsan Garrison have been vacated, closed and available for transfer since 2014 with another three parcels since summer 2019 for a total of five parcels available now,” it added.

The statement came amid concerns of a widening rift in the longstanding U.S.-South Korean alliance after Seoul ended a U.S.-based military intelligence sharing pact with Japan.

The allies also are gearing up for defense cost-sharing negotiations that are likely to be contentious since President Donald Trump has demanded that the South sharply increase its contribution.

Both sides have insisted they remain committed to the alliance, which stems from the 1950-53 Korean War, despite the differences.

“As a testament to our U.S.-(South Korean) alliance, USFK remains committed to returning installations as expeditiously as possible to (South Korean) government control,” in accordance with relevant agreements, the USFK press release said.

When asked about the statement, a South Korean military official told Stars and Stripes that the 15 bases are still the subject of negotiations over environmental concerns “so they haven’t been handed over to the Republic of Korea yet.”

The plan to move most American forces from bases in Seoul and near the border with North Korea stems from agreements reached in the early 2000s, but it was frequently delayed due to construction problems and quality-control issues.

South Korea has paid for most of the nearly $11 billion expansion of Camp Humphreys, a former helicopter outpost south of Seoul, into theshiny new home for the main military headquarters and more than 30,000 American troops, families and civilian employees.
Yongsan, a sprawling base in the heart of Seoul that had served as military headquarters since the war, has been shrinking from within by closing many facilities as the bulk of the population has moved to Humphreys and other southern hubs.

However, the transition process has been slow in large part because of disputes over dealing with polluted soil and other environmental concerns as the land is returned. The status of forces agreement between the two countries essentially throws the burden of paying for any clean-up on South Korea.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s presidential office said it would redouble efforts for the early return of the 26 bases, including Yongsan.

That prompted media reports speculating that President Moon Jae-in was seeking to complete the relocation before his six-year term ends in 2022.
“We’re correcting the record,” USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters said Wednesday. “The perception is that USFK is holding up the process when the reality is we’ve already got 15 of 26 bases and five parcels of Yongsan that are ready to be turned over to the (South Korean) government.”

The remaining 11 still house troops who can’t be moved until facilities are ready. “You can’t move somebody to a place that doesn’t exist or is being built,” he said.

Four installations on South Korea’s wish list have been closed for years, including Camp Eagle and Camp Long that have been available since December 2010; the Shea Range parcel located at Camp Hovey since October 2012; and parcels of Camp Market since February 2015, according to USFK.

Seoul also stated its intent “to initiate the return process of Yongsan within this year,” it said.

South Koreans have long been eager to regain control of Yongsan, which was originally on the outskirts of an impoverished Seoul but has become prime real estate since the South Korean capital has grown into one of Asia’s most prosperous cities.

The tree-lined base is expected to eventually be transformed into a park similar to New York City’s Central Park.

The population on the Army garrison has dropped from a peak of more than 25,000 to just over 5,000 after the relocation to Humphreys. The last major unit will move after the new hospital on Humphreys opens in mid-November, allowing the medical facility on Yongsan to close.

Seoul and Washington also have agreed to move the Combined Forces Command to Humphreys instead of keeping it in Seoul as had been originally expected.

Garrison officials recently outlined plans for closing most facilities by the end of the year and ending on-post family housing by July 2020 but said the transition process is expected to take a few more years.

“As we vacate and close areas, we will be barricading those areas. There’s no change to the perimeter, the actual footprint” in the meantime, garrison commander Col. Monica Washington said during an Aug. 29 town hall-style meeting.

The Hill: House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall

BY REBECCA KHEEL – 09/17/19 07:02 PM EDT
The House on Tuesday rejected a Republican motion on replacing military construction funding President Trump is dipping into for his border wall as the chamber moved to officially start negotiations with the Senate on the annual defense policy bill.
The House voted 198-219, largely along party lines, against a Republican “motion to instruct” negotiators to support backfilling $3.6 billion in military construction funds. The vote followed the House agreeing by unanimous consent to start negotiations with the Senate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The minority party typically offers motions to instruct in an attempt to message.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, argued the motion would “ensure that, as we continue to argue about border security and a whole variety of other issues, that our troops do not suffer as a result of that argument.”
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it was taking $3.6 billion from 127 military construction projects to build 175 miles of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, in line with Trump’s emergency declaration at the beginning of the year.
The Senate’s version of the NDAA includes $3.6 billion to backfill what’s being used for the wall, but the House’s does not.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called the Republican motion “irrelevant” since the projects losing money are already authorized for five years.
“What this amounts to is a sense of Congress on whether or not we ought to allow a president to effectively steal $3.6 billion out of the Pentagon’s budget for his own personal policy desire that Congress has already said they shouldn’t,” he said.
While Tuesday’s votes were the first official movement toward House-Senate negotiations on the NDAA, lawmakers and staffers have been unofficially meeting since both chambers passed their bills earlier this summer.
The so-called “Big Four” — Smith, Thornberry, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) — also met Tuesday with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“We discussed progress made along the priorities laid out in the National Defense Strategy, our current operational environment & commitment to continue working together on the FY20 NDAA,” Esper tweeted Tuesday.
In addition to border wall issues, the House and Senate will have to find compromises on a number of thorny issues, including House-passed provisions to block military action against Iran, end U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, reverse Trump’s transgender military ban and ban Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties.

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Sad tidings, passing of Peter Madrid, Sr Family Post 15

Beloved, please lend your prayers to Pete and Helen’s Family.

From: Frank Perkins
Date: September 13, 2019 at 9:06:20 PM MST
To: Angel Juarez
Subject: Peter Madrid, Sr

A long standing Color Guard member of Post 15 passed away in August.

Pete and his wife Helen were valued business people in Winslow for many years.

They will be missed by many residents of the city.

F.P.