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About 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan when President Obama's term in office ends in January, Obama said Wednesday, far more than the 5,500 he had previously promised.
The changing troop levels reflect a continuing readjustment of troop levels by Obama as he's struggled between competing goals of maintaining stability in the former terrorist safe haven while fulfilling promises to end the war by the end of his presidency.
By Obama's own admission, that's been more difficult than he expected. In 2011, he promised that all U.S. combat troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 2012 election. That deadline was delayed until 2014, and then 2016. Last year, Obama said that 5,500 troops would remain in Afghanistan at the end of his presidency.
On Independence Day, Tom Surdyke would have turned 19 years old. Instead, friends, family and classmates mourned and buried the cadet at West Point. Surdyke posthumously received the Soldier’s Medal, the highest non-combat valor award in the Army, for saving a life with actions that ultimately cost his own.
During a one-week break between air assault and cadet field training, Surdyke was vacationing at a beach on Long Island, New York, on June 24 when he and a civilian he'd only met that day got pulled out to sea in a riptide.
"Without regard for his own safety, Cadet Surdyke immediately grabbed the civilian and physically assisted in keeping the civilian's head above water until help could arrive," his Soldier's Medal citation reads. "Before becoming overcome by exhaustion, Cadet Surdyke managed to push the civilian up, enabling a bystander on a paddle board to pull him out of the water, thereby saving the civilian's life.
Within a couple minutes of being incapacitated, onlookers managed to pull the cadet out of the water. A couple minutes later, emergency workers arrived to take him to the hospital. Surdyke clung to life for days, but on June 28, he died.
Members of Congress expressed concern Wednesday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan can only be maintained by deploying incomplete units -- a practice that is eroding readiness, according to an Army general.
Since 2015, U.S. Army combat aviation brigades have been deploying to the country without their aircraft maintainers, House Armed Service Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said at a subcommittee hearing to discuss aviation readiness.
"And so what do those maintainers do when they are left here in the states when their aircraft and their pilots are in Afghanistan?" Thornberry asked Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"Sir, they are not doing a whole lot of aviation maintenance," Mangum said.
"And I think your point is, as I understand it, that does not help readiness when you have important maintainers without aircraft to work on," Thornberry said.
"No sir. We are building a deficit of experience and expertise in our formation as a result," Mangum said.
Instead of unit personnel, the U.S. military depends on civilian contractors to maintain the helicopters -- individuals that are not counted as part of the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
When Lt. Gen. Robert T. Dail retired seven years ago, he was one of the most senior military logisticians in the Department of Defense. In his last assignment, he served as the director of the Defense Logistics Agency, where his team provided 95 percent of the materiel used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An interview was conducted to get his perspective on today's Army readiness and the evolving relationships among the Army, its sister services, and industry.
GIVEN THE UNCERTAINTY IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN LOGISTICS LEADERS DO TO ENSURE THEIR FORMATIONS ARE READY?
At the tactical level, the job of logistics leaders is to train every day and develop junior leaders in a way that prepares their units to be called upon at any time to deploy in defense of the nation. Logistics leaders should work to keep their units as ready as possible through realistic training. That's the most important aspect of the tactical leader's job.
At the operational level and, to a greater extent, the strategic level, where commands are filled with a combination of military members, career civilians, and contractors, logistics leaders have to be flexible and resilient--ready to change. They have to be ready to deploy their experts to integrate with tactical and regional commands so that responsive support is provided to the troops.
Vietnam captain recalls trick that faked the enemy, saved lives and earned Medal of Honor
Army Capt. Paul “Buddy” Bucha faked out the enemy while leading a motley crew in Vietnam.
The Medal of Honor recipient was hailed as a hero after he made North Vietnamese fighters believe his 187th Infantry Regiment was much bigger than it really was. The combination of bravery and cunning helped him earn the nation's highest military honor, an award bestowed upon him by the president.
In 1967, Bucha — who graduated from West Point and earned an MBA at Stanford — arrived in Vietnam and was given a squad filled “with the rejects of all the other units,” including writers, intellectuals and men who had served time in military prison, he said.
“We were called the 'clerks and the jerks,'" he recalled. "We were a few smart guys and a lot of badasses … considered the losers of all losers.”
But as a company commander new to Vietnam, "I, too, was a loser,” Bucha recalled fondly years later. “So we were sort of meant for each other.”
"They ended up being a very disciplined, proud, and frightening force," he said.
On March 16, 1968, soon after the Tet Offensive, Bucha's 89-man company took part in a counterattack designed to push the North Vietnamese away from Saigon.
A helicopter dropped his team into an enemy stronghold, and for two days they destroyed camps and fortifications.
On March 18, after they found a clearing and resupplied, Bucha directed his troops to push into the jungle, where it was getting dark.
After a week of intense international competition, the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games drew to a close here yesterday with a medal ceremony and a concert, followed by fireworks.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley reminded the audience that the competitors, representing the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, Marines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom armed forces, were the best of the best.
“This is a tough competition,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize what this competition means. First of all, you had to walk the hallowed grounds of the battlefield or you had to get injured or sick in the service of your nation. That alone makes you the best of the best.”
Milley noted that the Warrior Games competitors had earned their places at the games by competing against a field of 2,000 to 3,000 other athletes at regional and service-level trials in track and field, swimming, shooting, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling and wheelchair basketball.
President Barack Obama will award Lieutenant Colonol (Ret.) Charles Kettles of the U.S. Army the Medal of Honor for leading a platoon of UH-1Ds, or Huey helicopters, to provide support for an army rescue, which included a lone mission, after an enemy ambush on U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, in 1967.
Kettles, 86, is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members, according to a White House statement released on Tuesday. After leading several trips evacuating the wounded, he returned in a lone mission in his helicopter without aerial support. In comparison, in the Army’s modern arsenal of weapons, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter typically flies in pairs for support.
“We were already 15 feet in the air, but we decided to go back and get the others,” Kettles told The Detroit News in 2015. “The helicopter was already overweight and it flew like a two-ton truck, but we were able to get up in the air and get everyone to safety.”
He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, and after congressional action last December that removed a ban of the Medal of Honor from being awarded after five years, the Medal of Honor will be awarded to Kettles after almost 50 years since the mission.
The president will award Kettles the medal in a ceremony on July 18.
Kettles was drafted in the Army in 1951 while in college as an engineering student. He served in Korea, Japan and Thailand before leaving.
In 1963, as the U.S. became more involved in Vietnam, he volunteered for active duty. Kettles retired in 1978. His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit.
William Reynolds breezed past the finish line first in his 100-meter race at West Point, down the hill from where he once marched as a cadet and a dozen years since the attack in Iraq that cost him part of his left leg.
Reynolds, 35, is a competitor in the Warrior Games, the military’s annual adaptive sports competition, held this year through Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy. For Reynolds, the games rekindle the sense of camaraderie he felt before the 2004 roadside bomb attack in Baghdad. And running full-out with a prosthetic sends a positive message to the soldiers he patrolled with as a young Army officer, he said.
“They put me in a medevac vehicle, and the last time they saw me, they didn’t know if I was going to live or not,” Reynolds said between races. “And for them to fast-forward 10 years and I’m out here running again, almost as fast as I could with two legs, competing at a high level and I’m physically fit, I think that’s really mentally healing for them to see that I’ve made it through and I’ve battled back.”
The Warrior Games are run by the Department of Defense for injured or ill service members and veterans. Athletes who lost limbs compete against others with cancer or traumatic brain injuries. Some 270 athletes have been competing at West Point since last week in events including cycling, archery and wheelchair basketball.
The competition was a homecoming for Reynolds, who graduated from the academy in 2002.
He said his training and discipline are the same as when he was a competitive gymnast as a West Point cadet. The big adjustment was learning to run when he didn’t have the sensation of his left foot hitting the ground anymore. Though doctors tried for years to save his leg, it was amputated above the knee in 2013.
Reynolds retired from the Army in 2007 and works as a consultant in Bethesda, Maryland. He brought his wife and four young children to West Point to watch him win several races Thursday. He also has competed in the Invictus Games, an international competition similar to the Warrior Games.
Lpath, Inc. (NASDAQ: LPTN), the industry leader in bioactive lipid-targeted therapeutics, has been awarded a $1.45 million two-year grant by the Defense Medical Research and Development Program (DMRDP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). This grant will support the study of Lpathomab for the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Lpath is working with Professor David Yeomans, Ph.D. of Stanford University's Department of Anesthesia on this project and he will serve as co-principal investigator.
This DoD grant will fund preclinical studies designed to evaluate the ability of Lpathomab to alleviate pain following neurotrauma, and to confirm the potential efficacy of Lpathomab as previously demonstrated by Stanford University researchers in an animal model of TBI pain.
Roger Sabbadini, Ph.D., Lpath's founder and co-principal investigator on the TBI project, commented, "Lpath is grateful to the DoD for recognizing the significant value of funding further development of Lpathomab. We believe our novel approach of targeting bioactive lipids holds great promise, and this is validated by the financial commitment from the DoD's DMRDP."
Lpath has recently completed a Phase 1a double-blind, placebo-controlled, single ascending dose study to evaluate the safety and tolerability of Lpathomab in healthy volunteers. Lpathomab was tolerated at all doses tested, and no serious adverse events or dose limiting toxicities were observed.
Dario Paggiarino, M.D., Lpath's senior vice president and chief development officer commented, "Now that Lpath has successfully demonstrated safety and tolerability of Lpathomab in healthy volunteers, we anticipate testing Lpathomab in patients with neuropathic pain. The preclinical demonstration of Lpathomab's potential efficacy in TBI pain could support another important indication for further investigation."
While attending Airborne School, U.S. Army Capt. Justin Decker knew instantly that something felt different during his third of five jumps required to earn the coveted airborne “Jump” wings. At first he adopted the ‘ignore it and it’ll go away strategy,’ until the pain eventually became too great. It wasn’t until sometime later that an MRI revealed one of his vertebrae had slipped out of position. “I simply did not think it was as bad as it turned out to be,” said Decker.
Immediately after surgery Decker stated that he felt better, but soon thereafter the pain returned. It turned out that the vertebrae itself was continuing to grow and was pressing into a nerve. A second surgery ensued, attempting to arrest the bone growth. It was unsuccessful. Today, Decker and his doctors are foregoing, for as long as possible, the undertaking of yet another surgery.
Having twice been assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, Warrior Transition Unit, Decker has witnessed tremendous growth in WTU adaptive sports opportunities. During his first WTU assignment, in 2008, he was forced to go out on his own in acquiring a recumbent bicycle. By the time of his second assignment to the WTU, a full-fledged cycling group had been established. “So I joined up with the group, pulled my bike out of storage and got back on it after a five-year hiatus,” Decker said. “On that very first day it all came back to me. That’s really what spring-boarded me into adaptive reconditioning.”
After advancing through Army Trials Decker, is competing in his first Warrior Games, being held at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, June 15-21.
Decker says that he had always been an avid cyclist but, at the WTU, he was also introduced to wheelchair racing, though, after having tried it for the first time he swore he’d never do so again. “I only went around the track twice and every part of my body hurt, especially my arms,” said Decker. “I didn’t know what I was doing at all.”
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- COL Jarold L. Hutchison USA (Retired), USMA1956: 26 Jun 1934 - 23 Mar 2017
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