Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, October 26, 2018, which is National Day of the Deployed, National Pumpkin Day, National Breadstick Day and Worldwide Howl at the Moon Night.
This Weekend in American Legion History:
- Oct. 27, 1957: “Responsible citizenship” is the theme for a year-long observance to honor what would have been the 100th birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, born Oct. 27, 1858. A National Executive Committee resolution urges all departments and posts to plan and execute appropriate programs and ceremonies to honor the 26th president and his belief in a well-prepared, properly educated citizenry that is willing to voluntarily serve in whatever capacity is needed.
- Oct. 28, 2008: The Indianapolis International Airport is renamed to honor Col. H. Weir Cook, a World War I flying ace who served many years on The American Legion’s national Aeronautics Committee alongside his 94th Aero Squadron friend, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker. Cook, who helped create the U.S. Army Air Mail Service and was a transcontinental mail carrier, returned to service in World War II, where he crashed into a mountain and died while searching for an enemy bombing target. The Indianapolis Municipal Airport had been named in Cook’s memory until it became an international airport in 1976. A major reconstruction of the airport, finished in 2008, presented the opportunity for Cook’s return as namesake.
Today in History:
- On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
- 1944: After four days of furious fighting, the World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest air-naval battle in history, ends with a decisive American victory over the Japanese.
- 1966: A fire breaks out on board the 42,000-ton U.S. aircraft carrier Oriskany in the Gulf of Tonkin. The accident occurred when a locker filled with night illumination magnesium flares burst into flame. The fire spread quickly through most of the ship, resulting in 35 officers and eight enlisted men killed and a further 16 injured. The loss of life would have been much higher except for the valor of crewmen who pushed 300 500-pound, 1,000-pound, and 2,000-pound bombs that lay within reach of the flames on the hangar deck overboard. The fire destroyed four fighter-bombers and two helicopters, but it was brought under control after three hours. The fallen were returned to the United States for burial.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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Military Times Reboot Camp:Senate stalls on a bill to help student vets, even as GI Bill processing delays spike
By: Natalie Gross | 13 hours ago
Many student veterans have been waiting longer than normal for their GI Bill benefits this semester, as the Veterans Affairs Department works through a backlog of claims affecting thousands of students.
Meanwhile, legislation that could have helped these students is stalled in the Senate, and veteran education advocates, along with some members of Congress, are calling for action.
“There is significant concern about the delayed Forever GI Bill benefit payments,” said Ashlynne Haycock, deputy director of policy and legislation for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, one of the organizations that helped push the legislation through the House of Representatives last spring. “We all knew there would be a wait, but clearly this extended delay points to the fact that we must get the Senate to move on the SIT-REP Bill … to protect students and veterans.”
The legislation, which passed the House unanimously in May, would require schools to adopt a policy stating they will not deny access to classes or facilities, impose late fees, or make students pay out-of-pocket because of unpaid balances, as long as the student has provided a certificate of eligibility for VA benefits.
This would ensure that no GI Bill users are punished by their schools because of VA processing delays. But since the legislation hasn’t passed, some organizations say their members are being charged late fees or barred from registering for next semester’s classes.
The bill, which has also garnered the support of Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion, was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in late May, but there has been no movement on it since. A staffer for Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said their office has reached out to veterans’ groups and schools impacted by these policies and is currently working through the legislation.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said he urges his Senate colleagues to quickly pass the bill and President Trump to sign it into law.
“This legislation is critical to protecting our student veterans from situations like the one we (currently) face,” Roe said in an email.
As of Wednesday, the VA has 120,000 education claims pending, most of which are for Post-9/11 GI Bill payments, a spokesman for the agency said in an email. Approximately 1,200 claims have been pending for 60 days or more.
Original claims for first-time GI Bill users are taking an average of 33 days to process, and supplement claims are averaging 23 days, which is higher than the VA’s goal to process these types of claims in 28 and 14 days, respectively. One reason for the backlog is that the VA is still working to get its technology systems up to date with the new Forever GI Bill law, which was supposed to change how housing stipends are calculated for GI Bill users starting Aug. 1.
“VA education benefit claims processing employees are working mandatory overtime, and VA has augmented its processing workforce by 202 people to help reduce processing times," the spokesman said. "With these measures in place we are processing an average of more than 16,000 claims per day.”
He said the VA expects to get the overall number of outstanding education claims under 100,000 in early November.
It’s difficult to determine just how common it is for schools to penalize students whose VA payments don’t come in by their deadlines. In a recent Military Times survey of around 500 colleges and universities, the vast majority of colleges said they have special policies for students whose VA or Defense Department education benefits are delayed. In many cases, these policies protect students from incurring late fees or being dropped from classes for nonpayment.
In a letter to schools last week, VA Director of Education Service Robert Worley asked that campuses not penalize students if they have not received tuition and fee payments from the VA.
“Late payments are likely due to VA processing delays and certainly are not the fault of the student. We ask for your patience as we work to resolve the ongoing challenges," he wrote. “If your school is waiting for tuition and fee payments for GI Bill students, we respectfully urge you to continue to work with the students so they may continue their academic pursuits.”
WBAL-TV: Maryland National Guard makes history with first-ever all-female command staff
Updated: 6:13 PM EDT Oct 25, 2018
The Maryland National Guard is making history with its command staff, breaking the glass ceiling with an all-female command staff.
"I’ve been in the service 37 years. This is the first time I’ve been able to see something like this. It gives me really great pride to watch this unfold," said Linda Singh, Adjutant General for the Maryland National Guard.
Singh is on the front lines when the National Guard is called into action. She said the guard has had the perfect storm when it comes to leadership.
"I’ve been able to have an assistant adjutant general for Army, an assistant adjutant general for air and a senior enlisted that are all qualified but happen to be female coming into place at the same time, which never happened before," Singh said.
Not only is this the first for Maryland, but a first for what the military calls the 54 — every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Pilot April Vogel is the assistant adjutant general for air and Janeen Birckhead is the assistant adjutant general for army. She was promoted in June.
"It’s phenomenal, especially to be part of a female leadership. I was reflecting on the recent decision in California, where they have to mandate they have females on board, and here, we didn’t have to mandate that," Birckhead said.
Perlisa Wilson is the Senior Enlisted Leader Command, Sergeant Major of the Maryland National Guard. She serves as Gen. Singh’s right-hand woman.
"I hope this says to women around the country and serving around the world: We are here and we are serving next to our comrades. We are equals," Wilson said.
Singh said what happened is not the norm, but she hopes that one day, it will be.
Military Times: 800 active-duty troops to be sent to Mexican border
By: Stephen Losey and Tara Copp | 18 hours ago
The military is preparing to send 800 more troops to the Mexican border to help the Border Patrol, as a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants continues to move north.
A defense official confirmed to Military Times that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will send 800 active-duty troops, not National Guard forces, to bolster the roughly 2,100 National Guardsmen who have already been positioned at the U.S.-Mexico border. These added forces will be providing administrative duties, not law enforcement, but the defense official did not know whether they would be armed or not.
CNN first reported on Mattis’ plans to sign deployment orders, and said they will likely help out with fencing and other technical issues at likely border crossing points, and provide tents and medical care for law enforcement there.
CNN said that troops will have the right to defend themselves, but will not directly take part in stopping illegal immigration.
In an email, Navy Capt. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the Defense Department is continuing to monitor events on the Southwest border, but did not confirm plans to deploy 800 troops. Speaks said the Pentagon expects to soon receive a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, and is now working with DHS to spell out how the military will support Customs and Border Protection.
“DoD is committed to continuing its support to ensure the safety and security of CBP personnel involved in border security operations, increase the effectiveness of those operations, as well as support DHS efforts to stem the tide of illegal entry into the United States,” Speaks said.
In April, Mattis authorized as many as 4,000 troops to be sent to the border, as long as their states’ governors approved.
That memo prohibits guardsmen from interacting with migrants, or taking on a law enforcement role. It also allows for the cost of deploying guardsmen to be reimbursed through federal funds.
But at least one law enforcement representative has raised questions about the usefulness of such deployments. In May, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told the Los Angeles Times that Border Patrol agents “have seen no benefit” and that the deployment was “a colossal waste of resources.” The Homeland Security Department disputed Judd’s characterization, and said the Guard’s assistance helped increase apprehensions and seizures of smuggled drugs.
President Trump has recently increased his criticism of the caravan as it has swelled to about 7,000 people, before shrinking slightly, and warned that he was preparing to call up the military to close the border if Mexico did not stop crossings.
Army Times: Army’s detailed Iraq war study remains unpublished years after completion
By: Todd South | 20 hours ago
Three years after its completion, a lengthy study of the Army’s role in the Iraq war remains unpublished, some say because of how it both praises certain Army leaders while also airing some “dirty laundry” regarding wartime decision-making.
A detailed account of the study’s history and current efforts to have it published was reported by the Wall Street Journal this week.
In that article, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the newspaper that he hopes to have the study published by the end of the year.
“We owe it to ourselves as an Army to turn the lessons learned as quickly and as accurately as we can, understanding that they are not going to be perfect,” he told the Journal.
The study, dubbed “The United States Army in the Iraq War,” was commissioned by then-Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno in 2013.
Army Times contacted the Office of the Chief of Public for more information on when the study would be published and why it wasn’t conducted by the Army Center for Military History.
“This paper is not an official history and it is expected to be published by the Army War College in mid-November," Cynthia O. Smith, Army spokeswoman, said in an email.
Days after the Journal report, Reps. Jakie Speier, D-California, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, sent a letter addressed to both Milley and Army Secretary Mark Esper about the study.
In a press release accompanying the letter the representatives blasted Army leadership for the delay.
“This is simply the Army being unwilling to publicly air its mistakes,” Rep. Speier said. “Our military, Congress, and the American people deserve nothing less than total transparency on the lessons the Army has identified so that we may use those lessons to avoid costly, and too often deadly, mistakes of the past.”
“It’s no secret that the Army and, frankly, our entire defense establishment, made serious mistakes and miscalculations in Iraq since 2003,” Rep. Gallego said. “We must not endanger the best interests of our country or the lives of future Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines simply to protect the careers and egos of Army brass. This report should be released.”
In June 2016, the two-volume, 1,300-page study was complete. But before it had been read outside of Army circles, it already was under fire.
Shane Story, a historian for the Army’s Center for Military History, authored a memo asking whether the study was an attempt to “validate the surge,” which would benefit Odierno and retired Gen. David Petraeus, who led U.S. and coalition forces for much of the surge and was widely credited, along with Odierno, for turning around the dire conditions on the ground.
Story also noted in his memo that the way in which the report was compiled did not follow typical methods of relying heavily on primary documents. He had recommended major revisions before publication.
Retired Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Allyn told the Journal that delays in releasing the report began after Odierno retired.
“Clearly, there were senior leaders who were in position when these things happened, and there were concerns on how they were portrayed,” Allyn said.
Though the first volume of the study was set to publish in October 2016, Milley said he planned to read the entire study and write a foreword. He also instructed the team to expand its research by interviewing former ranking officials, he told the Journal.
The study team was initially headed by then-Col. Joel Rayburn, who previously worked for Petraeus in Iraq.
Retired Col. Frank Sobchack took over as study team director as the team completed its findings. He told the Journal that the team worked “tirelessly for three years” on the study to capture the war’s lessons in a readable narrative.
“That the Army was paralyzed with apprehension for the past two years over publishing it leaves me disappointed with the institution to which I dedicated my adult life,” he said.
The report praises the 2007 troop surge, which Odierno and Petraeus oversaw. As the study was being conducted, some in Army ranks foresaw problems if it wasn’t published before Odierno retired, the Journal reported.
The chief of the historical services division for the Army Heritage and Education Center at the Army War College, Conrad Crane, reviewed the study in July 2015.
In an email to the team, he told them that publication needed to happen quickly.
“You need to get this published while you still have GEN Odierno as a champion. Otherwise I can see a lot of institutional resistance to having so much dirty laundry aired,” Crane wrote.
Six outside reviewers later described the study as fair and recommended publication.
The report points out mistakes made by top leaders during the early stages of the war. Throughout that period, officials assumed that military operations would end within 18 to 24 months and therefore didn’t deploy enough troops.
Top leaders failed to create a strategy that would limit Iranian and Syrian support for militants inside Iraq.
The Journal, which conducted numerous interviews and reviewed internal memorandums and emails, highlighted some of the specific mistakes mentioned in the history. They include:
- The need for more troops: At no point during the Iraq war did commanders have enough troops to simultaneously defeat the Sunni insurgency and Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
- The failure to deter Iran and Syria: Iran and Syria gave sanctuary and support to Shiite and Sunni militants, respectively, and the U.S. never developed an effective strategy to stop this.
- Coalition warfare wasn’t successful: The deployment of allied troops had political value but was “largely unsuccessful” because the allies didn’t send enough troops and limited the scope of their operations.
- The National Guard needs more training: While many National Guard units performed well, some brigades had so much difficulty dealing with insurgents that U.S. commanders stopped assigning them their own battlespace to control. The study found that Guard units need more funding and training. (The Guard said it hadn’t seen the study and declined to comment to the Journal.)
- The failure to develop self-reliant Iraqi forces: The U.S.-led effort to train and equip Iraqi forces was under-resourced for most of the war. A premature decision to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis made it harder to blunt political pressure by Iraqi officials on Iraqi commanders.
- An ineffective detainee policy: The U.S. decided at the outset not to treat captured insurgents or militia fighters as prisoners of war and then never developed an effective way to handle detainees. Many Sunni insurgents were returned to the battlefield.
- Democracy doesn’t necessarily bring stability: U.S. commanders believed the 2005 Iraqi elections would have a “calming effect,” but those elections instead exacerbated ethnic and sectarian tensions.
Additionally, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker went ahead with a brigade combat team restructuring in 2003 and 2004, which shrunk the number of available BCTs, pushing less-proficient Army National Guard units into the fight, the Journal reported.
In response, Schoomaker, who retired in 2007, told the Journal that the restructuring made more BCTs available to the force.
The report also criticizes then-Gen. George Casey’s decision to consolidate U.S. forces on large bases, which led to a security vacuum around Baghdad. Casey, who led U.S. troops in Iraq for three years before becoming Army chief of staff, did not respond to Journal requests for comment but has previously said that the goal was to shift security responsibilities to the Iraqis.
Then-Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster called it “by far the best and most comprehensive operational study of the U.S. experience in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.”
One of Odierno’s goals, according to the Journal, was to have the study available sooner for leaders to learn relevant lessons, avoiding the lack of thorough post-war review as was the case with the Vietnam War.
Air Force Times: Pence: Tyndall training operations will soon resume as recovery continues
By: Stephen Losey | 13 hours ago
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced that Tyndall Air Force Base will soon resume some parts of its F-22 training mission, as the installation continues to recover from Hurricane Michael’s devastation.
During a visit to Tyndall, along with his wife Karen, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Florida Governor Rick Scott, Pence repeatedly pledged that “We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base,” most of which was heavily damaged by the Category 4 storm. Pence also said the briefing on Tyndall’s status he and Wilson received was “greatly encouraging,” and spelled out some early plans to get parts of Tyndall’s mission back up and running.
“To see the progress that’s been made in just two weeks and a day is a great tribute to the people of the Panhandle,” Pence said. “It is a great tribute to the men and women who serve here at Tyndall Air Force Base in particular. As President Trump said when he was in the region not long ago, ‘We’re with you.’”
Wilson said that Tyndall’s air operations center, which is responsible for managing the air defense of the United States and has more than 800 people working there, will be back up and running by Jan. 1.Another air operations center is handling that responsibility now.
The simulators in Tyndall’s F-22 training schoolhouse were not badly damaged, Wilson said, and likely will be operational again soon.
The F-22s and T-38s used to train pilots there still can’t fly out of Tyndall, she said, but they’ll be temporarily staged at Eglin so training flights can resume.
“By Thanksgiving, we will have F-22s in the skies over the Panhandle,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the Air Force has so far committed $100 million to recovery efforts at the base.
Scott said that Tyndall is a major economic engine in that portion of the state, which affects about 20,000 jobs and brings $2.5 billion a year to the local economy.
“All of us in Florida know the importance of Tyndall,” Scott said.
The governor also said Florida will reopen its local schools as soon as possible so Tyndall’s civilian personnel can get back to a normal life.
Pence praised Tyndall commander Col. Brian Laidlaw and the 325th Fighter Wing, and passed along Trump’s congratulations, for the way they responded to Michael.
“What Col. Laidlaw and his team did here, with very little notice, as Hurricane Michael approached, was in the highest tradition of the United States Air Force,” Pence said. “To be able to move that many personnel, that many resources, that quickly, it’s what the Air Force knows how to do.”
Laidlaw said that many of the personnel and families evacuated from Tyndall are at nearby Eglin and Hurlburt Field, so the Air Force has set up a welcome center there to offer legal, moving. personnel and school advice.