Tagged: military overseas

Thanksgiving Letter to a Soldier

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com_thanksgiving

 

Dear Friend,

We thought of you today, as we were cooking and cleaning, preparing to sit down for a hot, home-cooked meal with family and friends.  We thought of so many empty chairs at so many tables across the country, so many post-turkey naps with your name on them.

We wondered what you’d think of the crazy holiday shopping frenzy – would you join the long lines to get deals or would you be a vocal protester of all those stores that are open on holidays?  Then we realized you would probably laugh – because you’re where you are, without the day off, safeguarding our right to even have the debate.  

When you’re thinking of us, wondering what we’re doing, know that we do the same. Know that we’re forever proud of you, praying for you, counting the days until you’re home. 

We wouldn’t have nearly as much to be thankful for without you. 

Signed,

The Thankful


Photo credit: iloveusa.com via https://www.facebook.com/SgtDunson

DoD to Deployed Sports Fans: DROP DEAD

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com no sports for deployed troopsThe Armed Forces Network has cut off access to American pro sports programming until further notice, due to the current government shutdown. The announcement comes just as the Major League Baseball playoffs are getting underway. 

Meanwhile, the same DoD that funds the Armed Forces Network found the funds to keep the golf course open at Andrews Air Force Base – the same golf course frequented by President Obama, members of Congress, and senior officers at the nearby Pentagon. 

The Armed Forces Network has therefore reduced itself to strictly airing “news” stories and public service announcements reminding servicemembers to wear condoms and report waste, fraud and abuse. 

The announcement affects not just baseball, but all major sports programming. 

A spokesperson for the Armed Services Network told the Stars & Stripes that they are unable to continue providing sports coverage because of federal workers who have been furloughed.

We’re calling foul. 

It requires far less manpower to flip a switch to allow a satellite feed through a control station and leave it on than it does to operate a news service. I say this as someone who has actually run four separate TV channels simultaneously in a control booth providing live feeds with the technology of 20 years ago. 

There is the matter of broadcast rights. It would surprise us if Major League Baseball was not willing to make a deal to make the playoffs and World Series available to our troops in Afghanistan. If that were really the issue, we would expect that the AFN spokesperson would have referred to it already. 

Some REMFs may argue that servicemembers can watch the games via the Internet, or through civilian satellite networks. Those individuals probably have not been deployed to austere locations. 

We have the Early Bird news, now. We have Internet news sources. We have a chain of command and an NCO support channel to disseminate mission-critical information. None of them can bring the World Series to our sports fans deployed. 

Cut the BS. Stop the lies. 

Air the games.

GOP Republican Wants U.S. Boots on the Ground in Syria

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Representative Mike RogersIf you loved George War One, thought three deployments to Iraq wasn’t enough or were thrilled with Afghanistan, you’re gonna love this guy.

Mike Rogers, Republican representative from Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Community, is calling for a U.S. military presence in Syria.

Syria is in the throes of a devastating civil war as forces in opposition to President Bashar al Assad – including groups possibly affiliated with Al Qaeda – seek to drive him from power.

Rogers is seizing on reports that some belligerents have used chemical weapons to justify a U.S. presence on the ground in Syria to help prevent chemical weapons technology and munitions from finding their way outside of Syria, where terrorists could potentially use them against American interests.

In an appearance on ‘Face the Nation,’ a CBS Sunday news show, Rogers argued for a limited military presence in Syria to help make the rebel forces “more effective.” Rogers also expressed concern that if Assad’s government collapses, then Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah would attempt to seize the Syrian government’s stores of chemical weapons.

Rogers himself served in the Army from 1985 to 1988.

Troops Held Hostage in Partisan Sequestration Posturing

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageSequestration is imposing what outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calls a “meat axe” on Pentagon spending.

It is probably a meat axe long overdue. But senior Pentagon officials, military leaders and Congressional observers are concerned that sequestration – which imposes a 10 percent cut in discretionary spending across the board and even more in some cases – forces the Pentagon to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

For example, the required cuts in maintenance and training expenditures for Army brigades strike deeply at the core mission of the Army, and grant them no more favorable treatment than the Army’s dumbest line item expenditures.

Likewise, the Department of Defense blames sequestration cuts for forcing it to cancel the deployment of a carrier battle group, and will force the Army to delay scheduled combat unit rotations to Afghanistan. The burden of sequestration, as currently structured, therefore falls most severely on American servicemen and women aboard ship or in combat, who will not get relieved on schedule. These families are already facing the stresses of deployment.

With that in mind, some Republican congressmen are working on legislation that would grant the Secretary of Defense more discretionary authority to move money around within the DoD to fund core missions and defund less critical activities.

Such a measure, GOP supporters argue, would preserve the core mission and capabilities of the military while still honoring the spirit of sequestration: To slash spending and reduce the deficit.

The Obama Administration indicates that it will veto the plan.

The reason: It’s politics. When White House officials first proposed sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and when the President signed the BCA into law, Democrats were counting on the deep cuts to defense spending to be the pain that forced Republicans to concede to tax increases, rather than entitlement reforms and spending cuts.

Any move to grant more authority to the Secretary of Defense has the effect of lessening that pain for the traditionally hawkish Republicans – and thereby weaken the Democrat bargaining position in Congress. If the Pentagon has discretion over how it executes the sequestration cuts, Republicans have that much less incentive to strike a deal favorable to Democrats – and Democrats have that much less to leverage against Republicans.

The President, therefore, is in the curious position of opposing the very measure that will enable his new Secretary of Defense to do his job – and opposing the measures that will make it possible for his troops in harms way to be relieved on schedule.

In essence, he is holding American troops in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan hostage to defend the interests of public worker unions.

Republicans are also practicing their version of gamesmanship: They know that absent substantial buy-in from congressional Democrats – who control the Senate – the measure is doomed to failure if the President vetoes it. But the bill’s supporters are planning to go forward with it anyway, to force the President and Congressional Democrats on record as opposing the relief of servicemembers in combat zones, who face longer deployments if sequestration cuts prevent the train-up of replacement brigades.

However, the GOP is not unanimous in its support of granting the executive branch additional authority. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), believes that Congress would be ceding too much of its constitutional Power of the Purse to the executive branch if a bill such as this passes.

The upshot: Congress is not willing to make the tough spending decisions. It therefore wants the Obama Administration to make them. The Obama Administration, in turn, doesn’t want to be seen making those tough decisions either.

And our troops in Afghanistan, fighting a war, and our sailors in the Persian Gulf, facing down the Iranians, are caught in the middle.

Adopt-A-Hero

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Adopt a hero In 2004, 12-year-old Ryan Rust faced his grandfather’s deployment overseas by sending grandpa 13 care packages over the course of a year. Then he thought about all those other Marines who may not have been fortunate enough to have someone to send them a letter or care package, and Adopt-A-Marine was born. Then Adopt-A- Sailor, Airman, Coast Guard, and Soldier came along, all consolidated under the website Adopt-A-Hero.

Adopt-A-Hero (AAH) directly links together service members who wish to be “adopted” with individuals and families who wish to “adopt.” Acting as an intermediary, AAH maintains a list of service members waiting to be adopted and matches them with volunteers who agree to send letters and care packages on a regular basis. Volunteers then send their items directly to their overseas service members.

If you are a service member, you, you and your family, or you and your platoon can register here to “be adopted.” If you would like to adopt a service member, register here. AAH takes approximately one week to link sponsors and adoptees.

Adopt-A-Hero simply asks both sponsors and adoptees to let the organization know if either party can no longer participate, to make sure as many heroes and volunteers are linked together as possible at all times. They don’t act as intermediaries on the mailing front; they simply link troops with sponsors.

Nine years later, Ryan and his family continue to run this non-profit organization without accepting any donations. Over 100,000 individuals and families have volunteered their time and energy in helping over 2000 service members receive more than 62,000 pieces of mail (both letters and care packages). That’s 62,000 smiles.

Ryan, now a young adult, races trucks in NASCAR and uses his visibility to help promote Adopt-A-Hero.  The Rust Family nor any of the numerous volunteers have accepted any pay; all donations and sponsorships go directly to maintaining the troop database and advertising.

Those 62,000 smiles? All started by one 12-year-old missing his grandpa. Why don’t you make the smile count 62,001?

Brides Across America

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military brideIt’s a common story throughout the services; a couple discovers a deployment in their near future and push their wedding date up, often times having a very small ceremony with a judge or the base chaplain. Meaningful, but not quite the romantic ideal that many couples envision. Then life generally gets in the way, especially in terms of finances, and a formal wedding is forgotten.

Brides Across America wants to help. It provides wedding dresses for military brides with a two basic considerations; deployment and time. Eligible brides must be:

  • Planning a wedding within the next 18 months or have gotten married in the past five years without a formal ceremony,

and

  • One of you was deployed to qualifying area within the next 18 months (for future weddings) or past five years (if already married).

Qualifying deployment areas are Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, and Libya.

Bridal gowns are new, samples, or gently used, in the most recent of styles and by well known designers. Depending on donations, veils, tiaras, jewelry, and other accessories may also be available. What is not available is alterations; brides must pay for these on their own. Each bride may choose one wedding gown.

Bridal salons across the country are hosting these shows throughout the year; however, not every state is represented (a full list of stores is located on the right side of the home page). Pre-registration is required; there are a limited number of gowns available at each show. If your salon is fully booked, you are put on a notification list for the next give away.

Bring with you your military identification or driver’s license and deployment papers that list time and location of deployment. Entrance to the show is $20 per bride, which is fully tax deductable. This fee goes toward fundraising for another military assistance group, Patriot Rovers, matching formerly abandoned dogs that are now trained for ADA assistance to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, free of charge.

There are a few general rules of thumb when attending a bridal event, especially a non-profit bridal event.

  • Don’t bring everybody. One, possibly two people, but not the entire entourage. It’s going to be a bit crowded.
  • Get there when it first starts. It’s a first come, first serve environment. You’ll have a larger selection.
  • Wear comfortable, easy-on, easy-off clothes. Sweats are good, as are leggings.
  • Have patience. These stores are doing this for free. Granted, many hope to make side sales, but they are donating their employees, time, and square footage for a good cause. They may be a bit slower than they usually are because of the sheer number of brides.
  • If you don’t find something you like, don’t feel guilty. Walking away empty handed is better than having a dress you loathe. Another bride will love it.

Brides Across America is a 2012 Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalist, White House initiative to help support programs that support the military and their families. Financial donations to Brides Across America, as well as donations of lightly used bridal gowns and accessories, may be made here.

Say “Thank You” to a Soldier this Holiday Season

Posted by Kelli McKinney

thanks to militaryNovember and the National Military Family Appreciation month have wound down, but a startup company called Evergram has announced an outreach program that will extend the encouragement and gratitude from now until Christmas Day.

Evergram is a “future messaging” platform, which means families and friends can leave messages for recipients to view on special occasions: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, family gatherings, or living memorials. Think digital wedding guestbook-meets-youtube with a little bit of Facebook mixed in, and you’ve got the idea behind Evergram. Co-founder Duncan Seay envisioned the service in 2010, when he was diagnosed with cancer, and began to think about what he would want to share with his loved ones. Thankfully, his cancer is now in remission, and his idea was the seed of what is now Evergram.

Evergram ‘s military outreach program will collect messages of encouragement and gratitude to deployed troops overseas through ThankOurTroops.Evergram.com. Step-by-step instructions guide you through creating and sending video, audio or text messages to troops. Messages will be delivered on Christmas Day.

If you wish to send messages to a specific soldier, rather than add to a collective message that will go to multiple troops, join Evergram (the beta is free) and follow the steps.

Military Postal Service Agency Announces Christmas Mailing Deadlines

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Christmas shippingHave a loved one stationed overseas? If you want to send a Christmas package, be sure to meet the Military Postal Service Agency time hacks. That’s the deadline to send your mail to have a reasonable assurance that your soldier, sailor, marine, airman, coastie, or supporting DoD civilian or contractor has something to open by Christmas.

The Parcel Post deadline is already passed. If you want to send something by parcel post, the deadline was 13 November – though you still may get lucky, especially if your loved one works at one of the major logistical nodes. It takes longer to get mail to more remote stations.

Additional deadlines are as follows:

  • 26 November – The deadline to send mail via SAM. Per the MPSA, “SAM parcels are paid at Parcel Post postage rate of postage with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.”
  • 30 November – The date to send mail via PAL to APO, FPO or DPO codes starting with 093. Per the MPSA, “PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.”
  • 03 December – The date to send mail via PAL to all other APO, FPO or DPO codes.
  • 03 December – The deadline to send packages via First Class or Priority Mail to postal codes starting with 093.
  • 10 December – The deadline to send First Class or Priority Mail to all other APO, FPO or DPO codes.
  • 17 December – The deadline to send packages by Express Mail Military Service to overseas postal codes.

Note that no Express delivery service is generally available to APO, FPO or DPO codes starting with 093. Express service is only available to select postal codes. Check with your military post office to see if you can send Express mail to your desired destination.

For more information, visit the Military Postal Service Agency’s Web site.

Postal Authorities Lift Ban on Overseas Mailing Electronic Devices, Lithium Batteries

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

ElectronicsGood news for overseas troops and the people who love them: The U.S. Postal Service has announced that they are lifting the prohibition on mailing lithium batteries and electronic devices that contain them to overseas addresses. This means you can send laptops, cell phones and other similar devices to your deployed or otherwise stationed overseas loved one.

The U.S. Postal Service originally prohibited shipping these items last May, citing international aviation regulations. Some aviation regulators were concerned that lithium batteries may catch fire or combust in transit, putting aircraft and crews at risk. Originally, the USPS anticipated getting clearance to resume transportation of lithium batteries. Regulators were able to come to an agreement earlier than anticipated, however, and the Post Office will once again begin transporting lithium batteries to overseas locations as of 15 November.

This also means that military members stationed overseas can once again freely buy electronic items via mail order, without having to pay extra for FedEx or UPS service, and without running afoul of postal regulations.

The lifting of the ban is also welcome news, because it comes in time for families and loved ones to meet Christmas mailing deadlines.

Mailing Deadlines

To ensure your deployed loved one receives his or her Christmas package on time, be sure to adhere to the mailing deadlines:

  • 26 November – The deadline to send mail via SAM. Per the MPSA, “SAM parcels are paid at Parcel Post postage rate of postage with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.”
  • 30 November – The date to send mail via PAL to APO, FPO or DPO codes starting with 093. Per the MPSA, “PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.”
  • 03 December – The date to send mail via PAL to all other APO, FPO or DPO codes.
  • 03 December – The deadline to send packages via First Class or Priority Mail to postal codes starting with 093.
  • 10 December – The deadline to send First Class or Priority Mail to all other APO, FPO or DPO codes.
  • 17 December – The deadline to send packages by Express Mail Military Service to overseas postal codes.

Note: The deadline for mailing by Parcel Post has already passed. It was 13 November.

Note also that no Express Mail Military Service is generally available to APO, FPO or DPO codes starting with 093. Express service is only available to select postal codes. Check with your military post office to see if you can send Express mail to your desired destination.

For more information, visit the Military Postal Service Agency’s Web site.

Afghanistan Military Ballots Delayed – For Five Weeks!

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military ballot boxA box of absentee military ballots mailed from Afghanistan more than a month ago was hung up in the military postal system for up to five weeks. According to reporting by Army Times, the Postal Service’s mailing tracking number places those ballots at a postal facility in New York City. The tracking numbers were updated to reflect an arrival at New York City on Friday.

At least one of those ballots was mailed on September 27th, and placed in a special box with an unknown number of other ballots. The tracking code on at least one of the ballots in that box listed the ballot had not cleared Bahrain until Friday, November 2nd, which means there was a delay of nearly five weeks between the time the ballots were mailed and their arrival at New York City.

This delay is substantially longer than the delays anticipated by the Military Postal Service Agency’s own published plan, which specifies a mailing date of 17 or more days prior to elections from most APO codes in Afghanistan, and 25 days for those deployed aboard ship in the U.S. Pacific or Atlantic fleets.

The Military Postal Service Agency has primary responsibility for all mail issues affecting U.S. servicemembers outside of the U.S. When letters and parcels arrive within the United States, they become the responsibility of the U.S. Postal Service.

The news comes just days after a Russian plane carrying 4,700 pounds of mail crashed and burned at Shindand Air Field in Afghanistan (the aircrew all walked away from the crash.) An unknown number of military ballots may have been on board. Although elections officials are required by federal law to mail absentee ballots to overseas servicemembers at least 45 days prior to the election, many jurisdictions failed to meet that deadline. In some instances, the Department of Justice filed suit against some states, including Vermont and Michigan, to force state and local elections officials to comply, or to extend the deadline to receive absentee ballots.

Several calls to the U.S. Postal Service, the Military Postal Service Agency, and the MPSA’s own Postal Voting Program Manager, Vardar May, were not immediately returned.