Mar 28

Brothers in Arms, dealing with the after effects of war

In 2011, Lance Corporal Erik Galvan deployed to Afghanistan when he was 19. Three months later, he was on the lookout for IEDS ahead of his squad when he approached a forbidding wooded area.

His squad leader, Sgt. Daniel Wheeler, ordered him to proceed and was several feet behind him. Learn more about the day the war tore their friendship apart.

Mar 27

3 Star Testifies: 20 percent of Marine Aircrafts are Grounded

Marine Corps Osprey

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 performs routine maintenance and functional checks of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft aboard Marine Corps Video: Air Station Iwakuni, Japan July 25, 2012. This marks the first MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Japan and a milestone in the Marine Corps’ process of replacing CH-46E helicopters with the MV-22 Osprey, a highly-capable, tiltrotor aircraft which combines the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

Reports have surfaced that an astonishing 20 percent of all Marine aircrafts are grounded. According to the Marine Corps’s top aviator, this will impact training, making deployments much more difficult for Marines.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation, spoke about how Marine aviation has been affected by the across-the-board spending cuts to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower on Wednesday.

“We do a great job getting the guys out the door with assets and training, but it’s training the next group that’s ready to go,” that’s a challenge, Davis, said. “One of the prime reasons we have a hard time with that right now is because we have 19 percent of our flight-line inventory that we should have up in operation that’s not available to fly.”

According to Marine Corps Times, the shortage originated from a backlog of aircrafts stuck in depots for extensive work and overhauls. Apparently, the problems can be dated back to the dense budget cuts in 2013.

“This is one of the, frankly, one of the complications that we warned Congress about when we were talking about sequestration several years ago, was particularly our depot throughput and the implications, and the fact that it would take us several years to recover,” said Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, the principal military deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisitions.

The strike-fighter shortfall can possibly reach as high as 134 aircrafts between the Marines and Navy.

Mar 27

Veterans are claiming VA proposed rule is an attack on them and their families

Veterans Affair Photo

(Matt York/The Associated Press)

A proposed VA rule is threatening the eligibility requirements for a benefit that provides money to veterans and surviving spouses in need of assistance with daily necessary activities. The VA claims it is trying to prevent people from bucking the system, but veterans and their families are saying it will cause more harm than good.

According to Forbes contributor and New York elder lawyer Bernard Krooks the proposed rules are one big legal wrinkle and “are an attack on our nation’s veterans and their families.” He added that the move is a huge change from the status quo.

Currently, there is no definitive net worth number to be eligible for the VA pension benefit. To be qualified, persons must have no more than $80,000 in assets and high deductible medical expenses that net out their income. The allowed asset worth does not include their home or car. The benefit is designed to help with necessary activities such as bathing, eating and dressing.
The maximum monthly benefit for a single veteran is $1,788 and for a surviving spouse it is $1,149. The benefit is tax-free.

Changes in the proposed rules include a new combined net worth and income limit of $119,200 and an imposed 36-month look-back period on asset transfers. Rules for gifting would become stricter and more scrutinized.

There would also be a penalty period of up to 10 years related to gifts. For example, if a veteran gave away $50,000, a 28-month penalty would apply. Therefore, the veteran would not qualify for benefits for 28 months and a widow would be penalized for 44 months.

Elder lawyer Ashley Payne supported the three-year look-back, saying, “While taxpayers should support indigent veterans, they should not be made to subsidize inheritances.” She cited aggressive planners who peddle annuities and trusts to shelter assets so that veterans can become eligible for pension benefits as a big part of the problem.

But she is one of few of supporters for the new rules. Most critics are against the changes. Krooks admitted that there are abusers of the system, but said if he could revamp the way things worked, he would create a one-page application that veterans could fill out and get what they are entitled to.

According to Forbes, the VA dispenses approximately $5 billion in aid and attendance benefits. It feels the rule changes are necessary because “Congress did not intend that a claimant who has sufficient assets for self-support could preserve those assets for his or her heirs or transfer them as gifts and still qualify for a pension at the expense of taxpayers.” To prove their point, the VA used the example of a claimant who transferred over $1 million in assets less than three months before qualifying for benefits.

For more information on this change:

Mar 27

Corpsmen Endure Hypothermia For Training

Corpsmen with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, Headquarters Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, endure self-induced hypothermia as part of a training exercise aboard U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, California, Jan. 17, 2015. The training highlighted the symptoms of hypothermia, along with treatment and prevention.

Mar 26

Commandant Addresses Review of Tattoo Policy, Answers Other Questions

The 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph F. Dunford, and the 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green visited Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, during their first Asia-Pacific Region tour. Both senior leaders sat down with AFN Iwakuni to answer several questions from the field.

Mar 25

A timeline of Bergdahl’s Army service, desertion charges

Bowe BergdahlWASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official says the Army sergeant who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was held by the Taliban for five years will be court martialed on charges of desertion and avoiding military service.

Sgt. Bergdahl will also be charged with misbehavior before the enemy, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the announcement publicly on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military plans an announcement at Fort Bragg in North Carolina Wednesday afternoon.

Bergdahl walked away from his post in Afghanistan and was captured, then released from Taliban capture in a prisoner exchange.

Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, has been reviewing the massive case files and had a broad range of legal options, including various degrees of desertion charges.

A major consideration was whether military officials would be able to prove that Bergdahl had no intention of returning to his unit — a key element in the more serious desertion charges.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press, Associated Press Writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

2008: leaves Hailey, Idaho, to join the Army after jobs on an Alaskan fishing boat, cleaning guns at a shooting club, and crewing on a sailboat trip from South Carolina to California. Many in his mountain hometown from the librarian to the sheriff knew and liked . After seven months of military training, flew to Afghanistan in February 2009.
Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 25

South Carolina living legend, 97, to walk in Bataan Memorial Death March

Bataan Death March survivor, Col. Ben Skardon, 97, from Clemson, S.CCLEMSON, S.C. – Retired U.S. Army Col. Beverly N. (Ben) Skardon, 97, survivor of the Bataan Death March and beloved alumnus and professor emeritus of Clemson University, will walk 8.5 miles in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico March 22. This will be the eighth time Skardon has participated in the event.

More than 6,500 active-duty service members, veterans, wounded warriors and civilians will run or walk 26.2 or 14 miles through the unforgiving terrain of the high desert –- many carrying 35 pounds on their backs – to honor Skardon and his fellow survivors who endured the real march.

Skardon was a commander of Company A of the 92nd Infantry Regiment PA (Philippine Army), a battalion of Filipino Army recruits on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. He became a prisoner of war with tens of thousands of his brothers-in-arms when American troops in that area of operation were forced to surrender to the Japanese April 9, 1942.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 25

Obama to Slow U.S. Pullout from Afghanistan

U.S. President Obama speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Merkel in the East Room of the White House in WashingtonWASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama agreed Tuesday to slow the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan at the request of its new government but insisted the delay won’t jeopardize his commitment to end America’s longest war before leaving office.

In a shift from his previous plan, Obama said the U.S. would leave its 9,800 troops currently in Afghanistan in place rather than downsizing to 5,500 by year’s end. The size of the U.S. footprint for next year is still to be decided, he said, but he brushed aside any speculation the withdrawal will bleed into 2017, when the next president takes over.

“The date for us to have completed our drawdown will not change,” Obama declared.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s inaugural visit to the White House offered a stark contrast to visits by his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who was viewed by U.S. officials as prickly and unreliable. Ghani went out of his way to thank the U.S. for its sacrifices in his country, offering a window into the efforts by Obama and him to rehabilitate the U.S.-Afghan relationship.

“This visit is an opportunity to begin a new chapter between our two nations,” Obama said during a joint news conference in the East Room.

As for the delayed drawdown of U.S. troops, Obama said he and his military leaders believe “that providing this additional time frame during this fighting season for us to be able to help the Afghan security forces succeed is well worth it.”

He acknowledged the change of plans will prevent some U.S. troops from coming home when they expected, but he suggested the danger will be minimized because they won’t be in combat. The U.S. combat role in Afghanistan officially ended late last year.

Mar 24

USMC Sergeant major relieved after allegations of embellished records surface

Lovell USMC Sergeant Major Fired Relieved

Official service photo.

Two false claims in the official biography of Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Lovell III led to the top enlisted leader of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines to be removed from his post as the infantry battalion’s sergeant major. A spokesman for III Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Lt. Luke Kuper, cites a loss of confidence as the reason Lovell was relieved.

Errors in Lovell’s official biography were brought to the Marine Corps’ attention in a blog post on March 19, 2015,” Kuper said in a statement. “The official biography has been updated to reflect Lovell’s service record. The Marine Corps works to ensure the accuracy of all public information and will correct inaccuracies when present.”

One of the claims that was pointed out by critics in the bio states Lovell was the honor graduate of his scout sniper basic, course 3-98, in 1998. In actuality, the honor graduate was then-Cpl. Aaron Pine, who was honorably discharged from the Marines before passing away in 2005.

The other claim was a third award of the Combat Action Ribbon. Lovell did have combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Marines questioned his claim of seeing more combat during two deployments to the Mediterranean in the late 1990s, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Former Marine infantryman and scout sniper Chris Mark first reported on the allegations against Lovell in the Global Security, Privacy & Risk Management Blog. Mark said within the first 72 hours the blog was posted it received about 100,000 views.

Lovell will be sent back to this parent command at 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune and did not respond to a request for comment from Marine Corps Times.


Mar 24

Exploded machine gun bullet hurts Illinois reservist, family

The Associated Press 6:59 p.m. EDT March 23, 2015

LINDENHURST, Ill. — Police say a machine gun bullet that exploded after it was lit with a blow torch injured a military reservist, his sister and parents in northern Illinois.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Lindenhurst police received 911 calls Saturday night of homes and windows “shaking” and a “loud explosion.” According to police, the 25-year-old military reservist lit the bullet in his backyard and thought it would act like a flare or firework.

Police say the reservist and his 23-year-old sister were taken to the hospital. They were released as of Sunday morning. Lindenhurst Police Cmdr. George Moravec says the parents were hurt but “self-treated” their injuries.

Moravec says the reservist recently served in Afghanistan and returned home with the bullet in fall 2014.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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