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Mustard gas test subjects denied veteran benefits PDF Print E-mail
The military has acknowledged for decades it performed secret mustard gas tests on troops at the end of World War II but a Senate investigation released Tuesday found 90 percent of related benefit claims have been rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she discovered shortfalls in the benefits process that took her breath away during a yearlong investigation into treatment of the test victims. The release of her findings is accompanied by a new bill – named after an 89-year-old former soldier from Missouri – that fast-tracks VA benefits for possibly hundreds of survivors.

About 60,000 servicemembers were exposed to mustard gas and another chemical agent called Lewisite as part of a clandestine defense research program in the 1940s. Of those servicemembers, about 4,000 had their entire bodies exposed to the chemical weapons. Mustard gas and Lewisite burn the skin and lungs, are linked to a variety of serious health problems and have been banned by the international community.

McCaskill said she believes about 400 of the veterans could still be alive and eligible for benefits.
 
USMA Historian wins Award for Valor PDF Print E-mail
United States Military Academy Historian Sherman Fleek was presented The Secretary of the Army Award for Valor for exhibiting great courage or sacrifice involving heroism or bravery.  Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning presented the award to Fleek at the Pentagon on May 25.

Fleek was honored for thwarting an armed robbery at an I-Hop restaurant while on leave in California. As he waited for a table with a friend, he heard screams and saw women running from their chairs. He saw a man with a gun pointed at the cashier as the man shouted for her to put the money in a bag.
 
Budget Uncertainty Threatens Readiness PDF Print E-mail
Budget uncertainty threatens readiness and training, underscoring the need for reliable funding for defense operations, the Pentagon's press secretary told reporters here today.
 
There have been warnings for some time indicating that readiness and training would suffer amid sequestration spending cuts and in the budget uncertainty of the last few years, Peter Cook said.

"Ultimately, there's a price to be paid for budget gridlock, particularly with the Department of Defense," he added.

The Defense Department's $582.7 billion budget request for fiscal year 2017 takes the needs of the services into account, Cook said, and it includes significant and aggressive investment in dealing with readiness issues. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has been vocal about the need for continued budget certainty and investments in modernization, force structure and readiness, Cook pointed out.
 
Improvements Won't Happen Overnight
The budget plan seeks to address readiness and training concerns in the "most effective and efficient way possible," Cook said. Moving forward will take time, using the resources the department has available, he added.

"We'd all like more money to try to address this right away overnight, but that's not the reality of the budget situation we're in," he told reporters.
 
Army Medicine works to increase unit readiness PDF Print E-mail
s the active-duty Army cuts 40,000 troops from its ranks over the next couple of years, Army Medicine is working to increase the number of Soldiers that are medically available to deploy. 

The active-duty Army currently has 490,000 Soldiers, but military records show that 16 percent of that force is nondeployable -- that means only 347,900 Soldiers are ready to accomplish their war-time mission.

"As we decrease our total troop strength to 450,000 we also have to be able to cut that non-deployable percentage," said Lt. Col. Dave Hamilton, deputy commander for health and readiness at Fort Carson's Medical Department Activity. "Just by cutting it in half to 8 percent we can actually increase the number of available Soldiers (355,500) to our force, to our commanders."

To help decrease the number of nondeployables, Army Medicine's Medical Readiness Transformation is launching the Commander Portal June 1. This new system will allow company command teams to view their units' overall readiness on one system.

"The Commander Portal is going to give commanders and first sergeants a quick overview of their company's medical status," said Hamilton. "We are trying to give them the tools they need to easily manage their units' medical readiness. This will give them a level of predictability for medical readiness that they will be able to work into their training schedule."

The portal not only gives a snapshot of a unit's current readiness, but also what their medical readiness will be in 7, 30, 60 and 90 days. Hamilton said that commanders will be able to use the site's "action items" to get a by name list of Soldiers who are delinquent or will soon be delinquent in certain areas. It will show what Soldiers are in need of items such as their Periodic Health Assessment, immunizations or annual dental exam. The company command team will also be able to see at a glance which of their Soldiers have medical profiles.
 
'Ghost Brigade' Soldiers prepare for future conflicts PDF Print E-mail
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Since 1981, military personnel have come and gone through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, to prepare for missions around the world. 

These month-long rotations are usually geared to prepare a unit for an upcoming mission. For the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, their May 2016 rotation to NTC was a way to hone in on those key fighting skills as a brigade.

"We jumped on the opportunity to try to build upon what we learned at the last NTC rotation and what we learned during the missions we executed in the Pacific," said Maj. Keith Benedict, the operations officer for 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "We are trying to combine lessons learned both from the National Training Center and Pacific Pathways and bring them together during this rotation to experiment further and make our selves better as a unit." 

In January 2016, the "Ghost Brigade" participated in Pacific Pathways, an operation in which units from the brigade were sent to multiple countries in the Pacific, Benedict said. There, the Soldiers worked and trained with their counterparts to build upon each nation's capabilities and to work through interoperability challenges. Pacific Pathways also helped leaders become accustomed to working in different environments around the world.

"While in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines, our Soldiers trained and interacted at the individual, company, and staff level in order to learn how to deploy into that theater with which our brigade is aligned," Benedict said. "This helped build the capabilities and partnerships with those countries and will yield dividends in the event of a humanitarian crisis or any other time our Soldiers may be called upon.

"We have got to make everything a learning environment," he said. "We serve no purpose if we don't understand our operating environment. We must seek every opportunity to challenge our ability to operate in a humanitarian aid, decisive action or combined arms maneuver capacity -- while fighting an adversary, if need be." 
 
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