Tagged: military personnel
The party trying to turn states blue has some faces turning red this week. On the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Democratic National Committee officials made a big display of support and appreciation for our nation’s veterans. The decision draws a contrast between the Democrats and Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention the previous week – in which Romney failed to mention the troops or the war in Afghanistan at all.
The Democrats even brought on a 4-star admiral to speak at the convention – broadcast on national television. They put the Admiral as well as former presidential candidate John Kerry in front of a huge visual backdrop depicting a fleet of warships.
One small problem: The warships weren’t ours. They were Russian.
From the Navy Times report:
Naval experts concluded the background was a photo composite of Russian ships that were over flown by what appear to be U.S. trainer jets. It remains unclear how or why the Democratic Party used what’s believed to be images of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at their convention.
A spokesman for the Democratic National Convention Committee was not able to immediately comment Tuesday, saying he had to track down personnel to find out what had happened.
The Tradition Continues
This isn’t the only similar political gaffe involving the military in recent years. Looking first at the Democrats:
Just last month, President Obama referred to his top Navy SEAL, Admiral William McRaven, as a general in a press conference. McRaven is currently the commander of the United States Special Operations Command. As such, he takes orders directly from the Secretary of Defense. The President of the United States is responsible for nominating him to Congress for approval to be appointed as a Combatant Commander.
Valerie Jarrett, one of the President’s closest aides, was attending a conference when she saw an Army 4-star general passing her table, in uniform. Jarrett mistook him and his uniform for wait staff and asked him to get her another drink.
In June of 2011, President Obama was giving a speech to members of the 10th Mountain Division, in which he said, “I had the great honor of seeing some of you because a comrade of yours, Jared Monti, was the first person who I was able to award the Medal of Honor to who actually came back and wasn’t receiving it posthumously.” The problem: SFC Jared Monti was, indeed, dead. He was killed in the action that led to his nomination to receive the Medal of Honor. Obama had confused Monti with another Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Giunta, who wasn’t even in the 10th Mountain, but a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
President Obama – then a Senator – was giving a Memorial Day speech in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when he said “we’re here to remember our fallen heroes – And I see many of them in the audience here today.”
Vice-President Joe Biden told a reporter, “The Taliban per se is not our enemy.”
The Obama Administration’s Chief of Intelligence, James Clapper, told Congressional representatives that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular.”
Looking at the Democrats and progressives more broadly, some will recall the Democratic National Committee publishing a pamphlet expressing support for U.S. troops – and illustrating it with a Canadian soldier.
MoveOn.org, a major progressive advocacy group funded largely by George Soros and a vocal critic of the War on Terror, actually ran an ad ostensibly showing U.S. troops, in uniform, going through a chow line on Thanksgiving. The eagle-eyed progressives at MoveOn didn’t catch that the troops they were showing weren’t Americans, either, but British.
George W. Bush
While Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, rolled out innumerable gaffes during his administration, he and his closest advisors were not as prone to howlers related specifically to the military. Bush himself was an Air Force veteran. The Bush Administration was more populated with military veterans than the Obama team, right up to the top.
But while Bush didn’t exhibit the same cluelessness about military affairs and culture that he did about other subjects, he did come up some entertaining bloopers at least tangentially related to the military and national defense:
“I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.” – Washington, D.C., June 18, 2002
“You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” – interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006
My personal favorite: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
The World War Two generation is almost all retired from public service (Medal of Honor recipient Daniel K. Inouye, however, still serves as Democratic Senator from Hawai’i). The last generation that saw large-scale conscription was the generation that fought the Viet Nam war – and they are reaching retirement age now. This year, 2012, is the first election in recent memory in which no presidential nominee or running mate has served a day of military service. (Al Gore, George W. Bush, John McCain, John Kerry, Bob Dole, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon all wore the uniform.)
But in future years, there just won’t be as many veterans available to choose from. According to Gallup, roughly half of the male population between the ages of 60 and 69 are armed forces veterans. Only 18 percent of men in their 30s are veterans today, and only 14 percent of those in their 20s.
These younger people are going to be the middle managers in future Administrations – the people responsible for vetting images used in party conventions, for example, or writing and vetting speeches for future presidents, vice-presidents and cabinet officials. Those with first-hand experience of military affairs will be in increasingly short supply.
So the ingrained, institutional knowledge of military affairs is going to gradually dry up as the Viet Nam era veterans retire from public life. There are simply not enough younger veterans to replace them. We will be left with non-veterans doing the best they can.
Which may lead to some stupid decisions in the future, on the part of both Democrats and Republicans. And if you’re looking for gaffes and howlers concerning the military, whichever way the 2012 election goes, the next administration promises to be a target-rich environment.
What do you think of military-related gaffes? Do they make you chuckle or cringe? And how do you feel about the prospect of having fewer and fewer veterans serving in public office in the future? Let us know in the comments below.
Voting: we take it for granted. So much so that when the federal election of 2008 brought out 61% of eligible voters, the media noted the “great” increase; only 52% of eligible voters participated in 2000, the last presidential election that had no incumbent. In federal midterm election years (where there is no presidential determination), the rates go down ever further: 38% in 1994, and 36% in 1990.
Military voter turnout is even less than the national average. In a Columbia University study, only 43% of eligible military voters actually voted in the 2000 federal election. The Pentagon commissioned its own survey in 2005 that produced higher results, but questions and concerns concerning validity and reliability of the surveys methodology leaves the results questionable.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program developed by the Department of Defense to help assist in increasing the number of military voters (and their eligible dependents) has fallen short of its goals. The Pew Center on the States (a member of the Pew Charitable Trust) has found through its Making Voting Work project that service members (and their dependents) either are not receiving effective assistance from their Voting Assistance Officer or are simply not receiving their ballots when overseas. Those service members deployed in combat zones are particularly affected by absentee voting; either they don’t get their ballots on time, don’t receive the correct ballots, or have their federal write-in ballot rejected by state auditors unfamiliar with this new ballot.
The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009 hopes to rectify the problems of the past few years. It requires a 45-day post-election day window to receive and count absentee ballots. It requires states to have electronic voter registration and to be adequately trained to deal with the federal write-in ballot. The responsibilities don’t fall solely on the states; it also requires military and overseas voters to re-register every election cycle to ensure correct contact information.
It’s because of the military that we no longer have property ownership qualifications for voting. American Revolutionary solders came home to find out that they were good enough to fight for their country, but not good enough to vote because they did not own land. That issue was quickly resolved during and shortly after the war on both state and national levels.
Honor your predecessors. Exercise your right to vote; register to vote and then vote! When changing duty stations or being deployed, make sure you change your address. Contact your state’s voting office and elected legislators when problems do occur to ensure the next time these problems will not occur. Encourage others in your unit to vote. Every four years, this is your Commander-in Chief.
The closing ceremonies are over; the hoopla has died down. London is quiet again. So how did our military Olympians fare?
Pretty gosh darn well! Overall, the Team U.S.A. brought home a total of 104 medals, the most of any country participating; 46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze. Here, in alphabetical order, are our military Olympians and how they fared.
- Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher, pentathalon-Bowsher came in 30th on the combined event, 18th in swimming, 29th in riding.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers, wrestling –Byers made it to the quarterfinals, being one of the top eight Greco-roman wrestlers in the 120K, weight class. This was his second Olympics, having participated in the Beijing games.
- Army Sgt. Glenn Eller, shooting-A four-time Olympian, Eller came in 18th in the double trap
- Army Sgt. Vincent Hancock, shooting-Hancock brought home the Gold in men’s skeet.
- Marine Corps Sgt. Jamel Herring, boxing –Herring, captain of the U.S. Boxing team, went 9-19 against in his first round in the welter weight (64K) class.
- Air Force Capt. Seth Kelsey, fencing-In sudden-death overtime in the
- Bronze medal round, Kelsey was hit in the toe by his opponent and came in 4th overall.
- Army Spc. Justin Lester, wrestling-Lester, participating in the Greco-roman 66 K weight class, made it to the quarterfinals and placed in the top eight.
- Army Agt. Spenser Mango, wresting –Another Greco-roman wrestler, this time in the 55 K weight class, Mango made it through the qualifying round to become one of the top sixteen.
- Army Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail, shooting-McPhail came in 9th place in the 50 m rifle, prone event.
- Army Sgt. John Nunn, track and field –Nunn placed 43rd in the 50K walk.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker, shooting-Parker placed 30th in the 50 meter, 3 positions event.
- Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Richmond, shooting-Richmond placed 16th in men’s double trap.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, shooting-Sanderson came in 14th in the 25 meter rapid fire pistol event.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski, shooting-Four-time Olympian Szarenski came in 28th in the 50 meter pistol event.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft, shooting-Uptagrafft placed 16th in the 50 meter rifle, prone event.
- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sandra Uptagrafft, shooting-Uptagrafft participated in three separate events. She place 28th in the 10 meter air pistol, 28th in the 25 meter pistol, and 28th in the 25 meter pistol- rapid fire.
Medal or not, all Olympians are winners. These athletes gave up family time and free time to hone their skills to perfection. Our military Olympians did all this, plus represent and protect their country on a daily basis. Bravo! For both your achievements and your service.
Emotional distress is a leading factor in suicides among military members, concluded a crack team of researchers without apparent irony. Demonstrating an uncanny grasp of the obvious, the researchers from the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies, who had interviewed some 72 military members at Fort Carson, Colorado why they attempted to commit suicide stated that theirs was the first study to provide actual data that documents that suicides among military members was related to emotional distress, and a desire to end it.
The study has not yet been published, but the authors have already received their grant money from the taxpayer. Taxpayers have already committed at least $50 million to research and study of the problem of military suicides. That’s the size of the pot of money entrusted to Colonel Carl Castro.
The study comes on the heals of relevations that it takes veterans an average of 41 days just to get an appointment to see a VA health care professional. In some areas, including Tacoma, Washington, that waiting period lasts as long as 80 days, on average.
High Correlation with Divorces or Separations
Although the scintillating conclusions reached by the University of Utah’s researchers have somewhat, umm, truncated immediate utility, we do have data that ties suicide risk with recent separation or divorce. Suicide rates among this population of servicemembers reached 19 per 100,000 – a rate that is 24 percent higher than single troops. The suicide rate among young adults age 20 to 24 is 12.7 per 100,000, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. So it does appear that Houston, we do have a problem, with military members at higher risk than the population of young adults at large.
IF YOU NEED HELP…Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.
Representing the United States in the Olympics is an achievement and an honor; being able to represent them while you also represent the United States military is even more remarkable for the time commitment required by both. But that didn’t stop these athletes!
Sixteen active duty and reserve members of the United States Armed Forces help make up the 2012 United States Olympic Team competing in London, England. Comprised of members of the Army (13), Navy (1), Air Force (1), and Marine Corps (1), these service members have honed their talents over the years to near perfection. Some are in their service’s Sports or World Class Athletes Program; others not.
In alphabetical order, they are
- Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher, pentathalon
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers, wrestling
- Army Sgt. Glenn Eller, shooting
- Army Sgt. Vincent Hancock, shooting
- Marine Corps Sgt. Jamel Herring, boxing
- Air Force Capt. Seth Kelsey, fencing
- Army Spc. Justin Lester, wrestling
- Army Agt. Spenser Mango, wresting
- Army Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail, shooting
- Army Sgt. John Nunn, track and field
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker, shooting
- Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Richmond, shooting
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, shooting
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski, shooting
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft, shooting
- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sandra Uptagrafft, shooting
For Army Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski and Army Sgt. Glenn Eller, this will be their fourth Olympic games each. Marine Corps Sgt Jamel Herring will the first United States Marine represented in Olympic boxing in 20 years. And those last two, Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sandra Uptagrafft? Married, serving in separate branches of the armed forces, and going to the Olympics together.
Hopefully you’ve already tuned in to the NBC broadcasts of the Olympics (from July 27th to August 12th). It’s available both on regular television (check your local listings) and LiveExtra (online through NBC). NBC is also hosting an Olympics website separate from its usual website for viewer convenience.
World-class athletes and our military service members have a lot in common. They’re a very special type of person. They both sacrifice through hours of training, pushing on toward their goals. (Who remembers the awesome slogan “Be All That You Can Be”?) These are men and women who are willing to place everything in their lives on hold for the sake of achieving their dreams — a chance to represent (and protect) their country and prove it’s the best in the world.
In light of this, we plan to watch as much of the Olympics as we can with our seven-year-old son. We’re going to talk about what it means to be an Olympian and what it means to be American. We’re also going to check out the World Class Athlete program and show our son the dozens of service members who are part of the Olympic team. This amazing program provides the highest quality training and support for Army and Air Force service members who dream of representing their country on both the battlefield and the playing field.
With all this in mind, I give you Four Reasons Why We Are Watching the Olympics:
Every achievement is earned. In this day of celebrating mediocrity and rewarding conformity, these world-class athletes, like our service members, embody the idea that hard work + sacrifice = success.
The world is bigger than us. America is a great nation. And it’s not the only nation in the world. It’s fantastic to see that there are living, breathing people with dreams like ours who have come to play.
R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Trash talking, posturing, and limelight-grabbing would appear to be the name of almost any game in the U.S., from politics and business to cooking competitions. It seems as though the public at large thinks the only way to win anything is by throwing the other person under the proverbial bus. Not so at the Olympic games. Every participant is there because they earned the right to compete. And (with rarest exception) they behave accordingly, treating others with courtesy.
Hope. Our troops and our Olympic athletes are extraordinary individuals who remind us that with work, we can achieve our dreams. Their courage and determination offer hope and serve as an example to others.
Are you watching the Olympics? Why or why not? Share your stories with us below.
Got some leave saved up? Got a hankering for travel? This year is possibly the best year ever for military families to explore the beauty of our National Park System.
Normally, a year-long family pass would cost at least $80. But under an intiative announced by the National Park Service in May, the Department is granting access to any of America’s 58 national parks for free to military members and their dependents until May 16, 2014.
How It Works
The National Park Service sells an annual pass, the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass, for $80. The passes allow the holder and a carload of passengers to pass through to any of the $2,000 sites that charge on a per-vehicle basis. If you go to a park or site that charges per person, the pass allows the servicemember in with three other adults age 16 or over.
Spouse deployed, or otherwise unavailable? Good news: The servicemember sponsor doesn’t have to be present. The program is available to military spouses traveling separately. The program applies to “activated” members of the Guard and Reserves. However, you can’t get in under this particular program as a retiree or veteran. These groups have other opportunities for free or reduced admission, according to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, who sites the National Park System’s Access Pass, a free lifetime pass for disabled citizens or U.S. residents. There are also special programs for seniors age 62 and over.
How To Get the Passes
Just show up. With your military ID of course, and IDs for all your dependents, in case you get separated. You can obtain the pass at any National Park Service attraction that charges a fee for entry. The passes will be accepted by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and at U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.
In a press conference at the Yorktown Battlefield National Park, the site of the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War, Jarvis delineated a deep tradition, connecting military veterans and families and the National Parks. The Park Service preserves and protects a number of historic battlefields, including Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Jarvis mentioned that many parks were closed to all but active duty military during World War Two, and that the parks underwent extensive upgrades and investments in order to prepare for a flood of returning service members and their families when the war came to an end.
The parks themselves are located throughout the United States, and there are even national parks in American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. The Dry Tortugas Park, home of Fort Jefferson, the country’s largest masonry structure, is located off the Florida Keys. Don’t try to drive there: It’s accessible only by boat or plane.
A recent law, signed by President Barack Obama, directs the Department of Transportation to bring its own regulations concerning lithium batteries in line with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Department of Transportation in turn, directed the U.S. Postal Service to enforce the directive against lithium batteries, which are designated as a Class 9 hazard, and banned from international mail.
What does that mean to servicemembers deployed the world over in service to our nation? Well, the U.S. Postal Service now prohibits shipment of laptop computers or anything else that contains a lithium battery to any APO, FPO or DPO addresses.
The rule went into effect on May 16th. However, according to a release by the U.S. Postal Service, they Service anticipates that by the beginning of next year you will once again be able to mail “specific quantities” of these batteries overseas. At that time, you can also send lithium batteries when they are properly installed in the electronic devise or equipment.
Is this “supporting our troops”? The U.S. Postal Service could not have been more forthcoming with their response. ““In order to be in compliance with [international] requirements, we had to put this prohibition into effect,” spokesperson Susan McGowan told two reporters from Military Times, helpfully. “I cannot answer the why question. Once they say there’s a new regulation, we have to follow it.”
Postal regulators are concerned that lithium batteries may overheat in transit, in the event of a fire, and cause a chain reaction as they combust, potentially spreading a fire. Lithium batteries have been implicated the destruction of one U.S. cargo jet every other year. Naturally, though, they are A-OK, certified Kosher for domestic air mail. It is only international traffic that poses the problem.
Part of the problem is that international mail routinely travels as cargo on passenger jets, and officials are concerned about fires on these passenger-carrying planes.
One is left to assume, however, that come January 1st, the laws of physics will change so that lithium batteries installed in electronics equipment won’t pose a threat.
Meanwhile, we can fly bulk fuel, mortar rounds, C-4, grenades, claymore mines and trip flairs into Afghanistan on military transports. But we can’t fly in Private Snuffy’s laptop.
Want to more about what’s included in the ban and some alternatives you have? Read the full article and then let us know what you think about this ban in the comments.
A recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics had some discouraging findings for military members and veterans: The unemployment rate for those of us who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 was 12.1 percent, compared to the 8.3 percent unemployment rate among all veterans – a figure that roughly paralleled the 2011 unemployment rate as a whole. (As of May 4, 2011, the BLS had just reported a U3 unemployment rate of 8.1 percent – down from 8.3 percent, largely due to hundreds of thousands of workers giving up the job hunt.)
Among young male veterans – those War on Terror era veterans below age 25 – the unemployment rate was devastating: 29.1 percent of them, nearly three in every ten job seekers, were unemployed. This rate is substantially higher than the general rate of unemployment among non-veterans of the same age. These are largely Reservists and National Guardsmen who have been mobilized at least once, as those who enlisted into the active duty components on six-year hitches will still be employed, unless sooner discharged.
A Growing Public Perception Problem
In addition to the employment statistics, we do have some anecdotal evidence that negative stereotypes about combat veterans are becoming more pervasive among the general public. For example, popular TV talk show host and psychology professional Dr. Phil recently aired a show called “From Heroes to Monsters,” in which he referred to veterans struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as “damaged goods” who destroyed marriages and families. (Dr. Phil has since issued an apology and changed the name of the episode to “Heroes in Pain.”)
Additionally, a Democratic state legislator from Louisiana, Representative Stephen Ortego (District 39), expressed reluctance regarding a proposal to extend in-state tuition rates to nonresident armed forces veterans on the State House Floor last week, asking “why do we want to attract veterans?… They have a lot of issues.”
Labor Force Participation Rate
The labor force participation rate – the percentage of people who are actually either working or actively looking for work – is 83.5 percent among post-9/11 era veterans. In contrast, the labor force participation rate nationwide, among all residents, was 63.6 percent, as of May 4th, 2012 – a 30 year low. It was 64 percent as of the end of 2011. So veterans are more active in the job hunt than their non-veteran counterparts, by far.
So what are vetarans trying to make the transition to civilian employment to do with so many statistics stacked against them? There are a few options for finding a new job, and if all else fails, using your military education benefits and going back to school to brush up on skills or get a graduate degree will help your resume stand out from the crowd.
First, turn to your network of friends and colleagues to see if they know of companies who are hiring. The old adage “It’s not what you know but who you know,” really is true. Next, figure out how your military skills might transfer into a civil service job. When you land an interview, be sure to “wow” your potential new employer, send a thank you, and follow-up about the position to stay top-of-mind. Above all, try to maintain a positive attitude, no matter how discouraged you might really feel. Positivity is much more likely to gain help from your friends and impress employers than a negative outlook.
If you’re a veteran who has recently found work, what advice do you have for other vets? Tell us what worked for you in the comments section below.
Military people are generally honest, straightforward people. We expect our words to be taken at face value, and we tend to project the same trustworthiness on other people. And unfortunately, we have too often fallen for a number of scams and shady practices.
One of the most common scams in the internet age is phishing: This is the practice of sending emails or other communications designed to dupe the victim into either sending money to the crooks, or into sending them confidential personal information. The crooks then use that information to open up fraudulent credit accounts in your name, or even raid your bank accounts and retirement accounts directly – leaving you with an empty shell.
Recent Scam Targeted DFAS Customers
For example – late in 2011, a number of military families reported receiving an email communication with the subject line, “Fwd: Payment Approval.” The email contained a Department of Defense seal (anyone can cut and paste a seal into their email), as well as something that appeared to be a case number from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
If you took a closer look at the email, though, you would discover that the return address didn’t go to a “*.mil” domain at all. Instead, the return email went to email@example.com.
Some variations of Phishing will redirect the victim to a convincing mockup of a genuine legitimate website. Some of the fakes are quite elaborate. The victim may know not to send sensitive personal information directly via email. But clicking on an emailed link may provide the victim with a false sense of security. The victim then enters the sensitive information directly onto the Web page.
Another version advises the service member to open an attached file. However, the file is really a virus that attacks the computer and allows the virus’s creator to access stored passwords and other sensitive information stored on the computer’s hard drive.
If the computer is on a network, other computers on the network could be targeted as well. In extreme cases, this could mean a major network security breach.
This is a screaming red flag, say DFAS officials. Indeed, DFAS recently reaffirmed its strict email policy:
- DFAS will never send you an unsolicited email requesting your password, account numbers, or any other potentially sensitive information.
- DFAS will never call you asking for that information, or simply to ‘update our records,” or “validate our database.”
- DFAS will not send you an email attachment you have not specifically asked for.
This policy was specifically adopted by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. However, the vast majority of reputable, legitimate financial institutions will have similar policies in place. Never respond to an unsolicited email, text or cell phone communication by providing sensitive information.
If You Get Phished
If you do receive a phishing email, take the following actions:
- Report the email to the agency or company getting spoofed
- Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Send the email to email@example.com.
If you think you fell for the scam, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
If the compromise involves a military computer, notify your unit leadership, S-6 or DOIMS (Department of Information Management Services) office immediately.