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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.
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 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.
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.
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."
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, along with members of the school’s athletic department, paid a visit to U.S. Army Central during the Memorial Day weekend.
Caslen said the visit allows him to engage with graduates, specifically recent graduates, to see first-hand what the West Point program is doing to prepare them for their future as Army leaders. The visit also provides feedback from senior leaders about the type of officers graduating from the academy and how they are performing in the early stages of their careers.
West Point graduates spoke candidly with Caslen and asked his advice at a number of engagements, ranging from physical training to meals. The superintendent shared thoughts on topics ranging from leader development to training.
“First, be a leader of character, because if you are very competent but you fail in character, then you fail in leadership,” said Caslen. “So character is the most important aspect of leadership. Get to know your Soldiers, love them, train them, hold them to high standards. They will want to follow you because of your proven ability to lead.”
Caslen said leaders need to develop a relationship with the leaders above them because the ability to understand your boss and your higher headquarters is very important.
“Be a developer of future leaders,” said Caslen. “Spend time with your junior noncommissioned officers and prepare them to become senior noncommissioned officers. Take time with your lieutenants and help them to be future company commanders. You do that by giving them training opportunities and allowing them to attend professional military education and civilian education.”
The Department of Defense is hoping to tap into the East Coast’s cutting-edge technology by opening a new office in Cambridge.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement Tuesday the new office will create a hub for collaboration between the Defense Department and innovative companies to identify and develop pioneering technologies and business practices.
Carter says the office, known as a Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, will complement the work of a similar unit established last summer in Silicon Valley.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker says the decision to locate the office in Massachusetts reflects what he calls the state’s competitive climate and dedication to academic and industrial innovation.
Massachusetts is already home to six military installations with $13 billion in economic activity.
By 2023, the US Army says it will be able to blast drones out of the sky using lasers.
In a step towards that goal, It recently conducted an early trial of a truck-mounted laser cannon at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Soldiers used the laser system, also known as HELMTT, to successfully destroy a quadcopter drone, completely melting its casing and internal circuit.
'We did a lot of preparation…seeing if we could track the airborne targets among ground clutter,' Adam Aberle, the program manager in charge of the High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck, or HELMTT, said. 'We absolutely blew lots of stuff up.'
The team also used the laser to 'completely destroy' a laptop as a demonstration of how the system might be used to disable enemy command and control systems.
'It melts all the plastic, fractures the screen, and basically renders the laptop unusable,' said Aberle.
HELMTT includes a 10-kilowatt laser - equivalent to about 10 million handheld laser pointers.
As 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache stood at attention during the commencement ceremony at West Point, N.Y., on Saturday, he was overcome with emotion. Tears rolled down both cheeks, but his gloved left hand held firm on his white, gold and black “cover,” the dress headgear that Army cadets wear.
The photograph of Idrache, by Army Staff Sgt. Vito T. Bryant, was published Tuesday on the Facebook page of West Point’s U.S. Military Academy, and it almost immediately went viral. Part of that is Idrache’s background: He worked his way through one of the nation’s most prestigious military schools after immigrating to the United States from Haiti, earning his citizenship and serving for two years as an enlisted soldier with the Maryland Army National Guard, according to Army records.
“I woke up this morning and found my face all over Facebook and with it myriad of amazing comments about my accomplishments,” Idrache wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “I am humbled and shocked at the same time. Thank you for giving me a shot at the American Dream and may God bless America, the greatest country on earth.”
Eric Fanning was sworn in, May 18, as the 22nd secretary of the Army during a small Pentagon ceremony.
Fanning was confirmed, May 17, by the U.S. Senate. He was nominated by President Barack Obama for the position, Nov. 3, and served briefly as acting secretary of the Army until voluntarily stepping aside in January until the nomination process could be completed.
"It has been a long process to get here," Fanning said, "one that I don't think even the writers from 'House of Cards' could have scripted if they tried."
"But it's worth it," he continued. "This is a tremendous honor for me -- not just the appointment, but the opportunity to be secretary of the greatest Army in the history of the world."
As secretary of the Army, Fanning has overall responsible for organizing, training and equipping Army forces.
"It's a responsibility I take seriously," Fanning said. He defined his job as making "sure you're recruiting the best, that you're training them properly and then equipping them with what they need to do the job right and to get them home."
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