Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, October 22, 2018 which is Clean Up the Earth Day, Eat a Pretzel Day, National Nut Day and INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY.
Today in American Legion History:
- Oct. 22, 1934: The American Legion National Convention in Miami, Fla., is conducted in open air. Policy and legislative direction on the adjusted compensation bonuses, an issue that has divided the Legion, is the convention’s most pressing concern. Future National Commander Harry Colmery, who would later draft the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, leads a committee to forge new legislation, approved at the convention, to call for the federal government to fully and immediately pay the bonuses, bonds to compensate veterans for their wartime service, due to mature in 1945.
This Day in History:
- 1962: In a televised speech of extraordinary gravity, President John F. Kennedy announces that U.S. spy planes have discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites—under construction but nearing completion—housed medium-range missiles capable of striking a number of major cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C. Kennedy announced that he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting any more offensive weapons to the island and explained that the United States would not tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place. The president made it clear that America would not stop short of military action to end what he called a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”
- 1957: U.S. military personnel suffer their first casualties in the war when 13 Americans are wounded in three terrorist bombings of Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information Service installations in Saigon. The rising tide of guerrilla activity in South Vietnam reached an estimated 30 terrorist incidents by the end of the year and at least 75 local officials were assassinated or kidnapped in the last quarter of 1957.
- The first parachute jump of note is made by André-Jacques Garnerin from a hydrogen balloon 3,200 feet above Paris. On October 22, 1797, Garnerin attached the parachute to a hydrogen balloon and ascended to an altitude of 3,200 feet. He then clambered into the basket and severed the parachute from the balloon. As he failed to include an air vent at the top of the prototype, Garnerin oscillated wildly in his descent, but he landed shaken but unhurt half a mile from the balloon’s takeoff site. In 1799, Garnerin’s wife, Jeanne-Genevieve, became the first female parachutist. In 1802, Garnerin made a spectacular jump from 8,000 feet during an exhibition in England. He died in a balloon accident in 1823 while preparing to test a new parachute.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Stripes: Assassins threaten multibillion-dollar US efforts to keep Afghan airmen flying
- WaPo: Trump acknowledges Ronny Jackson might not have been qualified to lead VA
- Military Times: Many troops are skeptical of a new Space Force, new Military Times poll shows
- Military.com: Army Launches New ‘Warriors Wanted’ Campaign Aimed at Generation Z
- KCRG: New VA community clinic in Iowa City a hit with veterans
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Stripes: Assassins threaten multibillion-dollar US efforts to keep Afghan airmen flying
By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 19, 2018
KABUL, Afghanistan – The two highly trained Afghan airmen were dead, killed by an assassin who waited for them on their way to work.
Mahboobulhaq Safi, 30 — once Afghanistan’s only C-130 flight engineer — was shot six times Aug. 27, along with Col. Mohammed Shah, 45, one of the country’s few C-130 pilots.
Their families are left asking how Western military forces can justify investing so much money in training Afghan airmen, while not doing more to protect them.
“The government has done nothing for his safety,” said Shah’s brother, Spin Gul, 59, a retired Afghan National Army colonel. “The government should have realized the importance of their job and should have taken measures to secure their employees.”
Strengthening Afghanistan’s airpower is crucial in helping its military fight the Taliban and other militants. The U.S., for example is planning a $11.4 billion modernization campaign to increase Afghan airmen by 20 percent and triple the number of Afghan aircraft by 2023, according to a Defense Department report in June.
Because of their importance in the war effort, Afghan pilots are targeted for assassination and often struggle to keep themselves and their families safe. Threats bring the war from the skies, where Kabul and the West have technological superiority, to the ground, where the Taliban and other militants use guerrilla tactics like ambush and murder.
Niloofar Rahmani, the first female Afghan fixed-wing pilot, told Stars and Stripes how these threats — and what she described as a lack of support from the Kabul government — caused her to leave the Afghan air force and seek asylum in the U.S. in 2016.
“There is so much investment on pilots,” Rahmani, 27, said in a rare interview. “Unfortunately, once they get done with [training] and start their job in AAF, there is no protection or safety for men or women pilots. It is up to the individuals to try to keep themselves and their family alive.”
Spokesmen for the NATO mission in Kabul referred request for comment to the Afghan defense ministries, who said the deaths of Safi and Shah prompted a “serious investigation.”
“Some special measures have been taken for the protection of the rest of employees of AAF,” said Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, who declined to provide specifics due to security concerns.
A big loss
Safi and Shah were trained under an eight-year, $6.6 billion effort to develop the AAF, which has about 9,000 regular and special operations airmen and now conducts more airstrike sorties in the country than the U.S. Air Force, according to the latest report from the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan.
“It is not easy to have good pilots,” Afghan Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak said. The airmen’s deaths were “a big loss for Afghanistan, because we are currently in a war and losing such pilots affects our activities.”
Shah had been his student, he said, and he “was a very good pilot, he was so professional.” Shah served about 30 years in the Afghan air force. Originally trained under the Russians, Shah could speak four languages, his family said.
Safi for nearly two years was Afghanistan’s only trained flight engineer for C-130s and flew on the first all-Afghan C-130 flight. Working 14-hour days, he sometimes flew 13 missions a week, according to his family and an Afghan journalist who profiled him in 2015.
Their deaths thinned the ranks supporting Afghanistan’s fleet of four C-130s, transport planes that illustrate the progress and continued struggles coalition forces have faced in building up the AAF.
In 2010, the U.S. and its allies began a plan to provide C-130s to the Afghan air force. Flight crews began training on the C-130 in 2013, and the first fully Afghan-led flight flew on June 16, 2014.
But the AAF had only 12 pilots and eight flight engineers trained to fly C-130s as of June, and half of the country’s four C-130s spent months this year in maintenance out of the country, according to a SIGAR report. As the AAF completes more missions, the force has fewer aircraft compared to last year due to maintenance shortfalls, according to a Lead Inspector General report in June.
Maintenance is still performed by foreign contractors, despite the presence of 45 trained Afghan mechanics. The $35 million annual contract for maintaining C-130s requires work to be certified by someone licensed in the U.S., which has slowed the growth of Afghan mechanics, a Pentagon report said.
Why aren’t there more pilots?
The U.S. wants to add 3,000 highly trained Afghan airmen like Safi and Shah over the next four years, but rising insecurity has fed into existing difficulties in training up the AAF.
Training facilities for security forces are often attacked by mortar rounds or have classes canceled due to security concerns, and Taliban gunmen often search for government workers when stopping vehicles.
The U.S. is attempting to build an Afghan air force that doesn’t need foreign help, but it is difficult to do in the middle of a war, said retired Air Force Col. Chris Stricklin, former commander of Train Advise Assist Command-Air.
“The mission is not just to train pilots, it is to develop a sustainable and effective air force,” said Stricklin, who was commander during the first Afghan-led C-130 flight.
One “choke point” is a lack of language proficiency, said Stricklin, a board member of the nonprofit Operation Warriors Heart Foundation. Technical manuals require English literacy, and a new plan to consolidate English language training has been hobbled by poor security at AAF training facilities, according to a June Pentagon report on security and stability in Afghanistan.
Insecurity has also contributed to at least 150 Afghans fleeing training while in the U.S. and going absent without leave at 90 times the rate of trainees from other countries, a 2017 SIGAR report said.
This has led to fewer slots being given to Afghan airmen.
Threats and dishonor
Rahmani, who was in the U.S. for training on the C-130 when she filed a claim for asylum, said threats against male and female airmen at their homes affect their ability to fight in the skies.
The U.S. Air Force once touted her as a symbol of progress in developing Afghanistan’s air force. But she has said that threats against her and her family ended her childhood dreams of flight and forced her to flee the country.
“I don’t think any Afghan feels that it is safe in Afghanistan right now,” Rahmani told Stars and Stripes. “If a pilot constantly feels fear for her or his family, it is challenging for them to focus on their mission and be successful. Obviously, they don’t want to lose their family or be killed, that is why AAF is losing their pilots.”
Rahmani enlisted in the Afghan air force when she turned 18, in 2010. She attended advanced flight school to become a C-208 pilot. She flew more than 360 operations and more than 600 flight hours supplying troops across Afghanistan.
The U.S. began to publicize Rahmani, enraging those in Afghanistan who objected to her work as a woman and on behalf of foreign troops.
By 2013, she began receiving death threats over the phone and Taliban night letters on her doorstep. Her brother was almost killed twice, once in a shooting and once in a hit-and-run attempt. Her sister was divorced and forbidden from seeing her child. Some of her uncles and cousins began to believe that attacking her was the only way to restore the family’s honor.
She knew and respected Shah, the pilot, and Safi, the flight engineer. The two airmen were from her old squadron, and Rahmani said she cried when she heard the news. Like Safi and Shah, she always hid her uniform when outside the safety of a base. A member of her family had to escort her to work and back. She carried a gun.
“Serving in every branch of the military, it is very big risk, with no protection, no safety,” she said.
In 2016, while in the U.S. for C-130 training, Rahmani left the Afghan air force and requested asylum in the U.S., citing threats to her safety. Spokesmen for the Afghan defense ministries at the time accused her of lying and said the U.S. should reject her claim. NATO forces criticized her for saying the security situation was “getting worse and worse.”
But she was granted asylum in 2018 after a 16-month wait. Her family remains in Afghanistan.
“I wish my family never would (have) been through all this,” she said. “I loved my career and that was all I could dream for but … I had to alter my dreams in order to protect my family.”
Rahmani said she has not been able to fly since she has gotten to America, but she wants to fly again and join the U.S. Air Force.
Families left behind
In Kabul, the family of the two slain Afghan airmen called for better protection of pilots by the Kabul government as they showed reporters the spot where their loved ones died.
The two men lived in the same neighborhood in north Kabul and would take a taxi to work together. Shah lived in a rented apartment, and Safi lived with his family. Their loved ones asked why the two airmen did not have access to a secure facility or barracks like the ones planned for female pilots.
About 6 a.m. Aug. 27, Shah and Safi arrived at the meeting point for their taxi, at an alley near a graveyard. Shah always tried to get to work 30 minutes early, and Safi was looking forward to a flight to Kandahar. The two always hid their uniforms as they walked and always varied their routes, and their families said no one held any personal grudges against the two men.
Habibulhaq Safi, the brother of Safi, pointed out a corner in the alley where the gunman waited for them. The government tried to clean the pavement, but the blood has stained the concrete, said Safi, who had to pick up his brother’s body. The gunman shot his brother and sped off with someone waiting on a motorcycle, he said. No group has claimed the killings.
The families don’t want other Afghan airmen to suffer the fate of their loved ones.
“I think the government should have put a serious attention to the security of their air force personnel,” Safi’s father, Azizulhaq, 58, said. “My son is gone now, but those who are alive should live in a very secure residency, and the government should provide them with [that].”
A few blocks away, the family of Shah gathered around a shrine with his picture. The pain of losing his brother will always be with him, said Spin Gul, the retired colonel. His brother truly loved his country, he said. Gul pointed to a stack of diplomas and certificates his brother had earned while learning to fly under the Russians and the Americans.
“My brother always loved learning. He got all of these diplomas. And what did they do for him?” Gul asked. “He is dead now.”
By John Wagner
During a raucous rally in Montana on Thursday night, President Trump made a remarkable admission about the man he nominated earlier this year to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs: He might not have been qualified.
Trump went on a long riff about the failed nomination of Ronny L. Jackson, blaming its demise on Sen. Jon Tester, the Democratic senator running for reelection in Montana.
“Jon Tester led the Democrat mob in the effort to destroy the reputation of a great man, Admiral Ronny Jackson,” Trump told his crowd in Missoula.
Jackson, a long-serving White House physician, withdrew his nomination in April, less than 24 hours after Tester, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, authorized the release of allegations that Jackson had been drunk on the job, improperly prescribed medications and contributed to a toxic work environment.
Montana rally, Trump praises congressman for assaulting reporter ]
Trump, speaking in a state that has one of the highest per capita rate of military veterans in the United States, lavished praise on Jackson and his work in the White House, calling him “a handsome, wonderful father” with a “beautiful family, incredible wife.”
The president then recounted his courting of Jackson, then a rear admiral in the Navy, to lead Veterans Affairs.
“I said, ‘Admiral, how would you like to head up the VA?’” Trump recalled. “’I want somebody great. You’re an admiral, you’re a leader.’ And he’s 50 years old. He never had a problem in his whole life. And he said, ‘Sir, I had never thought of it, but I’ll do whatever your wish is, sir.’ He didn’t really want it.”
“And he might not have been qualified,” Trump added. “But here’s a doctor at a high level, and he’s a man that everybody respected. I saw that. Respect is so important.”
Trump compared the allegations against Jackson with those that were more recently leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation process was roiled by women accusing him of decades-old sexual misconduct.
“Same thing. Same thing. Almost — almost — if this is believable — worse,” Trump said. “I’m here because I can never forget what Jon Tester did to a man that’s of the highest quality.”
Tester is facing Republican challenger Matt Rosendale in a state Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Military Times: Many troops are skeptical of a new Space Force, new Military Times poll shows
By:Leo Shane III 2 days ago
WASHINGTON — Troops are nearly evenly split over President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for a new Space Force branch of the military, according to the results of a new Military Times poll of active-duty service members.
About 40 percent of troops surveyed in the anonymous survey of active-duty Military Times readers (conducted in September and October) support the idea of a new, sixth military branch focused on space operations, with about half of those strongly supporting the idea.
On the other side, nearly 37 percent disapprove of the proposal, with more than half of that group strongly opposing it.
In August, Vice President Mike Pence outlined Pentagon plans to create the new U.S. Space Command by as early as 2020. The service will be headed by a four-star general and an assistant secretary of defense for space that could eventually be elevated to a full service secretary.
The idea has been met with skepticism among some lawmakers on Capitol Hill because of the potential cost and potential redundancy with existing Air Force programs.
But Trump has repeatedly insisted that the move is needed to better organize the military’s current defense operations in space, especially in light of new satellite technology from adversaries like Russia and China.
Details of who would staff the new service, what rank and job structure they would adopt, and how many personnel would be added or shifted to the Space Force have yet to be determined. But that hasn’t stopped the individual services from starting to form strong opinions about the idea.
Members of the Air Force, which likely stands to lose the most manpower and funding if a new space service is stood up, were the most opposed in the Military Times poll. Nearly 48 percent disapproved of the idea.
Sailors also had a more negative opinion than a positive one, with 40 percent opposed and 36 percent in favor.
But the Space Force concept had significantly more support among ground forces. About 42 percent of soldiers surveyed and 55 percent of Marines surveyed voiced support for the change.
The idea is unpopular among military officers — only 27 percent said they approve, against 44 percent who oppose the idea — but enlisted troops appear to be more in favor of it. About 43 percent of them back the new force, versus 34 percent who disapprove of the move.
A CNN poll conducted shortly after Pence’s August speech on the Space Force showed a majority of the general public opposed to the idea, with 55 percent voicing disapproval for the plan.
By law, Congress must vote to establish the new military service. Administration officials are expected to make that debate a key part of next year’s defense budget process, and have said they are already working with supportive lawmakers on the next steps.
** Our methodology
Between Sept. 20 and Oct. 2, Military Times in collaboration with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University conducted a voluntary, confidential online survey of U.S. service members. The survey included 19 questions on service members’ opinion(s) related to the current political climate, policy and national security in the United States.
The survey received 829 responses from active-duty troops. The IVMF used standard methodology to estimate the weights for each individual observation of the survey sample. The margin of error for most questions was roughly 2 percent.
The survey audience was 89 percent male and 11 percent female, and had an average age of about 31 years old. The respondents identified themselves as 76 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African American, 5 percent Asian and 6 percent other ethnicities. Respondents were able to select more than one race.
Military.com: Army Launches New ‘Warriors Wanted’ Campaign Aimed at Generation Z
19 Oct 2018
Military.com | By Matthew Cox
The U.S. Army just launched a new marketing campaign called "Warriors Wanted," featuring short, digital ads on social media and cable TV aimed at Generation Z.
The campaign debuted on cable networks Thursday night with a short video showing soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment fast-roping out of helicopters into urban combat.
"Whereas past campaigns focused on a little bit about why we do what we do … this one is really focusing in on a very modern, ready and lethal force," said Alison Bettencourt, spokeswoman for the Army Marketing and Research Group. "Our initial launch was through social media, and then last night we actually had it hit broad-reach, so it aired several times on different network channels. … There will be several commercials that will come out under this campaign."
The new campaign is not the new recruiting slogan to replace "Army Strong," an effort that Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey hinted at in June. It is, however, part of the service’s recruiting reform effort launched after the service missed its annual recruiting goal by more than 6,000 soldiers.
The campaign also features a landing page on GoArmy.com that pairs images of soldiers with messages such as "we do what’s right," "we never quit," "we never accept defeat" and "we lead the way."
"There are things we are doing on social media to highlight the social stories and really drive to a deeper conversation in the digital sphere, which is where we know Gen Z likes to engage," Bettencourt said. "We always have to find the balance in our marketing where it resonates with both our prospect audience and their influencers but also, really importantly, our internal audiences."
The Army has launched a new marketing campaign called "Warriors Wanted," featuring short, digital ads on social media and cable
She added, "This generation is always looking for kind of third-party validation of anything they see or hear, so if they have contacts that know somebody in the Army … they go out on social media and engage in discussions where soldiers are and they say, ‘Is that realistic?’ or ‘What do you guys think about that commercial?’ It’s important that our soldiers, our internal audiences … are excited about it as well."
All of the commercials for the campaign were shot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. They will air on networks such as TBS, TNT, ESPN and AMC and feature soldiers from the 75th Rangers, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 5th Special Forces Group and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
"We so far have pretty good feedback on this one," Bettencourt said. "It hasn’t even been 24 hours, and it’s exceeding most of our benchmarks."
The Warriors Wanted campaign is scheduled to run through December, but there are other efforts to come that feature a "unique digital experience," she said.
"We’ve got some other campaigns planned," she added, describing an effort to better coordinate local and national markets. "We’ve got a pilot program that we are doing in Chicago to look at how we can really customize content so that we are really engaging our prospects through messaging that is relevant to them, down even to the zip-code level."
KCRG: New VA community clinic in Iowa City a hit with veterans
ByDave Franzman KCRG-TV9 |
Posted: Fri 5:45 PM, Oct 19, 2018 |
Updated: Mon 6:50 AM, Oct 22, 2018
IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) – Veterans needing care at the Iowa City VA now have a new option for some services. A new community clinic is now open in space that once housed the main Iowa City Post Office across the street from the Johnson County Courthouse.
VA leaders, as well as local leaders and veterans, attended a grand opening event on Friday. The conversion of the empty federal building space cost $10.5-million and took about two years.
About 150 staffers moved into the new facility last month.
Glendon Remington of Marion used to go to the VA Medical Center for all the services he needed.
But Friday was his second time to use the community clinic instead of the hospital.
Remington gave the change a big “thumbs up” saying he’s spending more time getting care and less time waiting around.
“You don’t have to fight the parking. I don’t end up having to go so far for parking. And then your appointments are a lot faster,” he said.
VA services like the dental clinic and lab, a prosthetics lab, physical therapy, and compensation and pension clinics made the move.
And with more space overall, the VA can offer more for veterans.
For instance, at the VA hospital, there was no space for a fitness center for veterans. The new physical therapy area has one now.
VA leaders say the money spent on the conversion should also help taxpayers. The cost of reusing empty federal building space was a lot less than building a new clinic.
One Air Force veteran, James Broadus of Tama, expressed his feeling about the new clinic in just a few words.
“Wow and wow—that’s all right, I like it,” he said.
VA leaders also say the 150 staffers now working out of the clinic could also be an economic development boost for the downtown area as well.