Female Army Officers With The Coveted Green Beret In Their Sights

imageedit_2_5632509127

Field Florida, Airborne Engages, Green Berets, Special Forces, Fire Training, Forces Green, Training Exercise, 3Rd Special. (Photo: Public Domain)

July 26, 2016

By Lorra B.

Two female Army officers have been accepted into the Special Forces training program with the hope of the Green Beret in their sights.

Maj. Melody Faulkenberry, a spokesperson for the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Welfare Center, stated that the women could report to the program by October.

“It would be publicly unfair to name the women or provide information about their service backgrounds,” stated Faulkenberry. “We want to allow the soldiers the same opportunities everyone else has to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection,” she said. “If their names came out, it could possibly change the way they are treated … or add undue pressure on them in a course that is already very demanding.”

Out of 340 soldiers, both men and women, who applied for the program only 220 were accepted. Nine female Army officers in total were accepted into the program.

“According to the Army documents, officers must have been promoted to first lieutenant between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, be cleared for world-wide deployment, possess a secret clearance and score at least a 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test” to be accepted in SFAS, reports Stars and Stripes.

In order to earn that coveted Green Beret, officers must endure grueling physical challenges and Courses that could last 64 weeks. But according to Faulkenberry, only about half of the soldiers will graduate and earn the Green Beret.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the restrictions on women in the military be lifted last year and since that time 21 women have been commissioned into the infantry and one, Army officer Griest, had joined the infantry.

We wish you all the best soldiers!

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Obama Has Harsh Words For Iran Deal Critics And Many Americans May Take Offence [Video]

dAugust 6, 2015

By Lorra B.

President Obama boldly informs Israeli Leaders and Republicans serving in Congress that rejecting the Iranian nuclear deal will surly lead to war.

This statement may have been his most forceful ‘pitch’ yet to gain public support and portrayed the political deal as “the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated,” according to Tribune News Service.

Obama went on to say that if Congress votes this down next month “they will not only pave Iran’s way to a bomb, they will accelerate” Iran’s capability to do so more efficiently.

Pulling no punches, Obama tries to discredit his opponents stating, “Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal backed by tens of millions of dollars of advertising. If the arguments sound familiar, they should. Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran deal,” and would weaken not only international harmony but the United States credibility as well.

He continually stated that the ones opposing the Iran deal are the ones responsible for Americans being sent to war in 2003 with Iraq and listening to them would only lead the U.S. down that same path.

The Iran deal would put boundaries on Iran’s nuclear capabilities over the next 10 years and in “exchange for easing of energy and trade sanctions and release of more than $50 billion in Iranian funds frozen in overseas accounts,” reports, Stars and Stripes.

Will Obama’s speech thwart efforts by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House foreign affairs committee Mitch McConnell from voting on a resolution of disapproval, intended to keep Obama from implementing the Iran deal? As of Tuesday, they both have vowed to vote no on the deal.

Almost unanimously, Republicans are against the Iran deal leaving Obama to rely mainly of Democrats for the votes needed to pass the bill. Democrats, however, have been guarded when speaking publicly on whether they will back Obama.

“Obama has aggressively courted Democrats in recent weeks, hosting the entire House Democratic caucus at the White House last week and dispatching secretary of state John Kerry, energy secretary Ernest Moniz, and treasury secretary Jack Lew to provide numerous briefings—both closed and public—on Capital Hill,” reports The Guardian.

Behind the resistance to the Iran deal are ‘exaggerated threat,’ according to Obama. “Those who say we can walk away from this deal and maintain sections are selling a fantasy. Walk away from this agreement and you will get a better deal: for Iran.”

Using his tongue like a whip, Obama went on stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dead wrong in his resistance to the Iran deal charging that Iranians would be benefited more should the deal fail.

Obama’s sharp-tongued speech may not only injure his rapport with American Jewish groups but with many American people in general.

Perhaps Cory Fritz, press secretary to House Speaker John Boehner, reveals what most American’s are truly thinking as he stated, “As Congress and the American people review this deal, President Obama’s rhetoric is raising far more questions than answers.”

Listen to the full speech from Obama:

By Lorra B.

VA Inspector General Announces Retirement Amid Criticism

Richard J. Griffin, acting inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs, testifies at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on the Phoenix VA report

Richard J. Griffin, acting inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs, testifies at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on the Phoenix VA report

July 1, 2015

Stars and Stripes: By Travis J. Tritten

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs acting inspector general said Tuesday he will retire this week, amid criticism from  whistleblowers calling for his ouster and claims he whitewashed wrongdoing within the agency.

Deputy Inspector General Richard Griffin touted his office’s achievements and said his last day at the VA will be Saturday, the Fourth of July, what he called a “fitting day for an organization that prides itself on independence and integrity.”

But his departure is likely to be seen as a victory to a group of 40 whistleblowers who were hoping to meet with President Barack Obama in Wisconsin on Thursday to ask that a new inspector general be named. Griffin led the inspector general’s office investigations in the wake of the VA’s wait-time scandal last year and became a familiar face on Capitol Hill, where he often drew fire from lawmakers frustrated by agency dysfunction.

Dr. Katherine Mitchell, one of the original whistleblowers whose reporting on wrongdoing within the Phoenix VA Health Care System led to a national scandal, said the IG’s office under Griffin has been “a watchdog that doesn’t bite, it just barks.”

“They suppressed so many reports and a lot of those reports have significant findings,” she said. “The OIG investigations always seemed to be whitewashed.”

Griffin, who has spent more than 43 years in federal service and was serving as an interim IG, will be replaced by Linda Halliday, assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations, until a permanent replacement is chosen.

“Your collective effort and hard work have resulted in a remarkable record of performance and outstanding achievements,” Griffin said to his staff, according to a news release.

The IG office is charged with investigating VA wrongdoing as an independent watchdog and has been responsible 11,350 arrests, indictments, convictions and administrative sanctions during the past six years, according to Griffin.

He said in April the office was named the second most productive IG in the federal government for its work during the past five years. Certainly the VA IG has released thousands of pages of investigative documents — many subpoenaed by Congress — over the past year.

Most recently, the IG drew flak from Congress over its refusal to provide records of its investigation into whether the VA staff was overprescribing opiates to patients at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin.

The IG spent two years investigating the allegations but closed the case without making the results public. About five months later, a Marine in-patient at the clinic died when his new prescription of narcotic pain killers had a toxic reaction with 14 medications he was taking.

More at Stars and Stripes

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.

$43.1 Million Intended For Veterans Sat Unspent For 3 Years, Auditors Find

dJune 29, 2015

Stars and Stripes:

For three years, more than $43 million the Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside to inform veterans about their benefits sat in an account, not a penny spent, until an agency financial manager happened to notice.

By then, it may have become too late for the cash-strapped agency to spend the money, a new report says.

The inspector general’s office, in a report issued this month, cited a “breakdown of fiscal controls” and “lack of oversight” in concluding that VA officials had “no need” for the $43.1 million — at least not for the purpose they claimed, which was to print personalized handbooks that explain in detail what benefits for which a veteran is eligible.

Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin’s audit came as top VA officials prepared to tell House lawmakers last week that they’re facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall that’s partly responsible for a new explosion in wait times for medical care. Senior leaders say they may have to freeze hiring or furlough employees unless funding is reallocated for the federal government’s second-largest agency.

Now comes $43.1 million that officials in the Veterans Health Administration “parked” at the Government Printing Office for three years. Investigators discovered that VHA, which runs the sprawling health-care system for veterans, had the money deposited by contracting officials to be “held” for some future use. VHA said the money was earmarked for handbooks, but auditors found no documents to that effect.

The money sat from fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2014 “with no designated purpose,” auditors found, and $2.3 million that eventually was spent did not produce handbooks but business cards, pamphlets and mailings about the Affordable Care Act.

“A breakdown of VA fiscal controls and a lack of oversight led to the parking of funds for an excessively long period and the failure to detect and properly use and manage these funds,” auditors wrote in their June 17 report. They cited a “lack of supervisory review” to ensure that the money was spent properly.

The VHA, it turned out, had “no current need” for the money and wanted to save it for another year, a strategy that’s considered poor financial policy.

Money budgeted for one account is not supposed to be spent for other needs without congressional approval. In this case, the $43.1 million came from a fund designated for administrative support for veterans’ hospitals, including supplies, training and janitorial expenses.

Adding to the mismanagement, the contracting fund took $5.6 million in service fees from VHA, but no services were rendered, the inspector general found.

VA officials concurred with the watchdog’s account and said they are tightening their internal financial controls in response.

More at Stars and Stripes and  Washington Post: By Lisa Rein

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Lorra B.

US Might Deploy Missiles In Europe To Counter Russia

dJune 5, 2015

Stars and StripesBy ROBERT BURNS

The Obama administration is weighing a range of aggressive responses to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons.

This “counterforce” option is among possibilities the administration is considering as it reviews its entire policy toward Russia in light of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and other actions the U.S. deems confrontational in Europe and beyond.

The options go so far as one implied – but not stated explicitly – that would improve the ability of U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.

It all has a certain Cold War ring, even if the White House ultimately decides to continue tolerating Russia’s alleged flight-testing of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty.

Russia denies violating the treaty and has, in turn, claimed violations by the United States in erecting missile defenses.

It is unclear whether Russia has actually deployed the suspect missile or whether Washington would make any military move if the Russians stopped short of deployment. For now, administration officials say they prefer to continue trying to talk Moscow into treaty compliance.

In public, administration officials have used obscure terms like “counterforce” and “countervailing strike capabilities” to describe two of its military response options, apparently hoping to buy time for diplomacy.

The Pentagon declined to make a senior defense policy official available to discuss the issue. A spokesman, Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, said, “All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing in February, Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted his concern about Russia’s alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty. He said disregard for treaty limitations was a “two-way street” opening the way for the U.S. to respond in kind.

The standoff speaks volumes about the depths to which U.S.-Russia relations have fallen. And that poses problems not only for the Obama administration but also for the NATO alliance, whose members in eastern Europe are especially leery of allowing Russian provocations to go unanswered.

More at Stars and Stripes Associated Press contributed to this report.

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.

Cracking Down On The VA, House Passes Six Bills To Help Veterans

dMay 19, 2015

by Lorra B. for Silent Soldier

Veterans may get a small victory if the Senate approves six bills intended to help them get small business loans, acquire government-paid jobs and other assistance related help.

Unanimously, the House has passed the six bills. One bill would provide veterans with official identification cards given through the Va. Another bill would entail a life-long file be kept on employees records showing reprimands received and admonishments.

According to Stars and Stripes, “Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said the bill on ID cards responds to veterans who have expressed frustration over their inability to document their service without carrying around official military records.”

Having to carry around documents to prove their veteran status can be dangerous. Many of the documents contain sensitive material that include service details, Social Security numbers, and a litany of other personal information that could leave them open to identity theft.

Also under consideration is allowing Veterans to utilize their education benefits as collateral to acquire small business loans.

“If we could do this,” say’s C. Lynn Lowder, a retired Force Reconnaissance Marine, “it would change the landscape for our veterans.”

An advocate for veteran Jobs, Lowder stated, “They’re [veterans] focused, motivated and loyal to a fault. They’re trying to get their feet on the ground…The problem for the young veterans with a business dream, in most cases, is that there’s no way to get a lone.”

These new bills passed by the house and waiting for approval by the Senate may not fix the landslide of issues going on with our veterans or the VA system but they certainly are a step in the right direction.

by Lorra B.

Obama Administration Increases Terrorism Warnings on American Soil

U.S. Terror Alert Heightened

U.S. Terror Alert Heightened

May 18, 2015

By Lorra B. for Silent Soldier

Due to the mounting threat of terrorist activity from the Islamic State, The Obama Administration has increased warnings of probable attacks within the United States.

Over 30 Americans have already been arrested and charged by the FBI this year for terrorist activities including unsuccessful ‘lone wolf’ plots and various other related charges. According to the FBI, almost all of these terrorist activities were Islamic State motivated.

Local police forces have been put on alert. Potential targets such as energy plants, shopping malls and airports have stepped up their surveillance and  US military bases have heightened their defenses, according to U.S. authorities.

“Military bases across the nation increased security Friday on the orders of U.S. Northern Command in a bid to throw a curve-ball to terrorists,” reported Stars and Stripes.

Though this move isn’t tied to any particular threat, it is a strategic one. Command spokeswoman Maj. Jennifer Stadnyk commented,” That way, no one can anticipate our security posture at any given time.”

In order to incite violence across the globe, on Thursday, the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, in an audio recording, urged “Muslims everywhere to migrate to the Islamic State or fight in his land, wherever that may be.”

Of 22,000 fighters drawn to fight for the Sunni Muslim group, about 3,700 from Western nations and 180 Americans have joined (or tried to join) the fight for Syria and Iraq.

Gunman at Texas Cartoon Contest open fire

Gunman at Texas Cartoon Contest open fire

In Texas, for example, “two would-be terrorists apparently prompted by Islamic State social media messages tried to shoot their way into a provocative contest for caricatures of the prophet Muhammad”, states Stars and Stripes. “Both gunmen were shot to death, and no one else was killed. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the assault, the first time it has done so for an attack on U.S. soil.”

The military is taking these threats seriously and is stepping up security in all branches of our military. The Air Force academy, for example, has been closed to all visitors and will only be permitted on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.

The director of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told MSMBC on Friday that the U.S. has begun a “new phase, in my view, in the global terrorist threat. We have to be concerned about the independent actor, and the independent actor who is here in the homeland who may strike with little or no warning. The nature of the global terrorist threat has evolved.”

With increased terrorist threats on American soil, the Obama Administration has also been evolving. Tighter security both civilly and militarily should not only be expected but it just may be the new norm.

By Lorra B. for Silent Soldier

Bergdahl Faces Little-Known, Rarely Used Misbehavior Charge

dApril 2, 2015

Stars and Stripes:

By Nancy Montgomery

If Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were convicted of “misbehavior before the enemy” a century ago, he might also have been subject to a humiliating send-off. His sword might be broken or his insignia ripped from his uniform in front of his unit.

Along with desertion, Bergdahl was accused last month of violating the little-understood Article 99 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — misbehavior before the enemy — for abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and thereby endangering his unit.

Although desertion cases are not uncommon, few military lawyers have ever prosecuted, or defended, a misbehavior before the enemy charge.

In a 19th-century treatise, Col. William Winthrop, one of the most important influences in the formation of U.S. military law, wrote that officers convicted of misbehavior before the enemy were “paraded in front of the command bearing a placard inscribed with the word ‘coward,’” and then “drummed out of the service.”

“These are charges from the 18th century,” said Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s defense lawyer. “It struck me as piling on.”

The last time Article 99 was raised in such a high-profile case was in the wake of the 1968 seizure of the spy ship USS Pueblo by the North Korean navy. The skipper, Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, surrendered the Pueblo without firing a shot, becoming the first American officer to give up his ship since the War of 1812.

After the crew was released, a Board of Inquiry composed of five admirals recommended that Bucher be court-martialed under Article 99 for surrendering the ship, which was armed with only two .50 caliber machine guns. But public opinion supported Bucher, and Navy Secretary John Chafee overruled the admirals, declaring that the skipper and his crew had suffered enough after having been beaten and nearly starved during nearly a year in captivity.

“It’s one of those battlefield charges that got carried over from the Articles of War,” said Victor Hansen, a retired Army lawyer and a professor at the New England School of Law in Boston. The Articles of War were regulations drawn up to govern the conduct of the land and naval forces. They were supplanted in 1951 by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“It’s kind of been in there kicking around. It’s rarely charged,” Hansen said of the misbehavior charge. “It’s got all these very old notions — shame, cowardice, running away. I’m assuming the prosecutors as well as the defense attorneys are scratching their heads.”

According to his charge sheet, Bergdahl misbehaved in front of the enemy by leaving his observation post in Paktia province on June 30, 2009. His absence endangered his fellow soldiers and those who were ordered to search for him in hostile territory, according to the charges.

Conviction under Article 99 can result in even more severe punishment than the desertion charge Bergdhal faces. The maximum punishment for misbehavior before the enemy is life imprisonment, compared with up to five years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 and loss of pay and allowances for desertion.

Sentences usually shorter

Sentences imposed in some previous misbehavior cases have been much shorter than life.

In one case, two soldiers guarding a tank farm in Vietnam were convicted and sentenced to five years’ hard labor, after being found guilty of misbehavior because they supposedly played dead during a North Vietnamese attack, thus endangering the tank farm.

An appellate court, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that their actions constituted any misconduct, let alone misbehavior in front of the enemy: the guard shack was indefensible, the soldiers’ weapons either jammed or were incapable of rapid fire and both had been wounded by a grenade.

 

“Playing dead’ is not much different from ‘taking cover’; neither is misconduct, per se,” the court said.

Another Vietnam soldier received 18 months in jail and a dishonorable discharge for violation of Article 99 after he refused to move out with his unit on a combat mission.

“The accused refused, stating that he was afraid and was tired of being shot at, that his family would rather he be secure than dead, and that he would rather go to jail than face the enemy,” according to the appellate court decision that upheld the conviction.

More at Stars and Stripes

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.

Bureaucrats Block Special Operations Intel Requests

This image provided by the U.S. Army shows a page from a brochure about the Distributed Common Ground System. Military bureaucrats have been trying to force the use of DCGS, an unpopular government-built intelligence system on special operations units deploying to war zones while blocking soldiers from using the commercial alternative they say they need. US ARMY/AP

This image provided by the U.S. Army shows a page from a brochure about the Distributed Common Ground System. Military bureaucrats have been trying to force the use of DCGS, an unpopular government-built intelligence system on special operations units deploying to war zones while blocking soldiers from using the commercial alternative they say they need.
US ARMY/AP

March 26, 2015

Stars and StripesBy KEN DILANIAN  The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Military bureaucrats have been trying to force an unpopular government-built intelligence system on special operations units deploying to war zones while blocking soldiers from using the commercial alternative they say they need, according to government records and interviews.

Over the last four months, six Army special operations units about to be deployed into Afghanistan, Iraq and other hostile environments have requested software made by Palantir, a Silicon Valley company that has synthesized data for the CIA, the Navy SEALs and the country’s largest banks, among other government and private entities.

But the Army has approved just two of the requests after members of Congress intervened with senior military leaders. Four requests pending with U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida-based Special Operations Command have not been granted.

Email messages and other military records obtained by The Associated Press show that Army and special operations command bureaucrats have been pressing troops to use an in-house system built and maintained by traditional defense contractors. The Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS, has consistently failed independent tests and earned the ire of soldiers in the field for its poor performance.

Special operations units have used Palantir since 2009 to store and analyze intelligence on information ranging from cultural trends to roadside bomb data, but has always been seen by top Pentagon officials as an interim solution until their in-house system is fielded. Those who have used the system say DCGS has yet to deliver on its promise of seamlessly integrating intelligence.

Pentagon officials say DCGS, despite its flaws, has broader capabilities than Palantir, and that in some cases it complements Palantir.

Intelligence officers say they use Palantir to analyze and map a variety of intelligence from hundreds of databases. Palantir costs millions, compared to the billions the military has been pouring into DCGS.

Special operations officials, in a statement to AP, said Palantir had been “extremely successful” in Iraq and Afghanistan and they are working to expand access to Palantir for units deployed in the fight against the Islamic State group. But records and interviews show a history of internal pressure against making and approving such requests.

One veteran special operations intel analyst, who is on his seventh deployment in 12 years, said his recent request for Palantir for a unit heading to Iraq had met with “pushback” both from his own headquarters and from bureaucrats who favor DCGS’ analytical component at the Pentagon, special operations command headquarters in Tampa, and Army special operations in Fort Bragg. Another special operations officer also used the term “heavy pushback” in an email about his request for Palantir.

Like most active-duty Army personnel interviewed for this story, they declined to be quoted by name because they feared speaking out could put their careers at risk.

In their statement, special operations officials said their questions about Palantir requests should not be interpreted as resistance.

The failings of the Army’s version of DCGS has received significant public attention in recent years. The version tailored to special operations troops has even less capability, special operations command acknowledges in its records. Another version being offered to special operations troops working in remote areas, called DCGS-Lite, has received mediocre reviews from intelligence analysts, Army records show.

Intelligence officers say Palantir is easier to use, more stable and more capable than DCGS, which sometimes doesn’t work at all.

 

The Pentagon system is difficult to master, the veteran intelligence analyst said, while it takes him about 30 minutes to train a new analyst on Palantir.

More at Stars and Stripes

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.

Troops Could Lose Leave When Carryover Limit Drops

dMarch 25, 2015

Stars and StripesSome servicemembers could lose leave days when a policy that allowed troops to keep up to 75 days of leave ends Oct. 1.

Troops are being urged to check their leave balances and use any use-or-lose leave they have before the end of the fiscal year, when the amount of leave that can be carried forward drops back to 60 days. There’s just one hiccup: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service system that provides troops with biweekly pay and leave statements is misreporting troops’ use-or-lose leave balances.

On March 18, the Army’s personnel division blasted a memo to the force advising soldiers and commanders “that the number of use/lose leave days listed in their leave and earning statement (LES) use/block is incorrect.” That’s because it doesn’t take into account the end of the temporary authorization that allowed members to carry additional leave.

As a result, some servicemembers could have up to 15 days more of use-or-lose leave to use than is reflected on their LESs. Personnel who don’t use their excess leave by the end of the fiscal year will lose it.

DFAS is working to fix the disparity and “anticipates to have the glitch fixed by end of month June,” said Lt. Col. Brian Ketz, deputy director of the Army’s 266th Financial Management Support Center in Kaiserslautern.

Personnel have been able to carry over up to 75 days of annual leave since 2008, when Congress authorized a temporary increase. Lawmakers extended the policy in 2013 but didn’t renew it again.

 By Matt Millham

More at Stars and Stripes

Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.