In The News

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Senators want Purple Hearts for victims of Florida Navy base shooting

Florida’s two U.S. senators are urging top Pentagon leaders to award Purple Hearts to service members wounded in the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola last month, and to award valor medals to the law enforcement officers who helped end the deadly attack.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott said the moves would properly recognize the “heroic actions” and sacrifice of those individuals.

“The brave service members and law enforcement personnel who risked their lives on that horrible day have the admiration and respect of the American people,” they wrote.


Two Rangers up for valor awards after using new life-saving battlefield blood donor technique

The 75th Ranger Regiment is starting to use a new program to administer life-saving warm, fresh blood to wounded troops in dire moments — an innovative program the regiment says could be replicated with other combat units.

Two Rangers who used the technique in combat for the first time last summer are up for valor awards, regiment spokesperson Tracy A. Bailey told Army Times.

By tracking universal blood donors within the regiment, Ranger medics were able to call on volunteers to provide huge quantities of blood in a pinch. The technique was chronicled by the regiment’s public affairs department in a Jan. 13 news release.

It was first used in combat last summer in Wardak province, Afghanistan during a helicopter-borne night raid. Two Ranger medics, Staff Sgt. Charles Bowen and Sgt. Ty Able, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, managed to save multiple lives that night, according to the 75th Ranger Regiment.


West Point app undergoing updates as part of capstone project

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Are you trying to figure out what events are happening at the U.S. Military Academy? Are you curious about the menu at the mess hall or what courses are offered at West Point? Thanks to cadets in the systems engineering department, there’s an app for that.

Available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, the West Point App was created to provide information to cadets, the community and visitors to West Point. The app has been up and running for a couple years but is currently undergoing changes as part of a capstone project for class of 2020 cadets in the systems engineering department.

“What we’re really focusing on for our group is marketing and usability,” Class of 2020 Cadet Zachary Aloma, an operations research major, said. “We’re trying to get the word out there that this app exists because it’s not too well known right now. Then second, we’re trying to make it a more usable app for three different communities.”

The capstone group doesn’t do any of the back-end coding for the app. Instead, their job is to analyze the usage data to see how different groups interact with the app and then pair that with the needs and wants of their two clients, Brig. Gen. Cindy R. Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board, and Col. Cecil Marson, West Point garrison commander.


West Point takes day to reflect on honorable living

All classes were cancelled at the U.S. Military Academy Jan. 14 and work was set aside as the cadets, staff and faculty came together to talk about how to live honorably, build cohesive teams and combat issues related to sexual assault and harassment at the academy.

This marked the third Honorable Living Day hosted by the academy during the tenure of West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams.

The first was held last February and brought the West Point community together to discuss the results of the biennial Service Academy Gender Relations survey and begin formulating responses to eliminate sexual assault and harassment at the academy. USMA stood-down again last semester to build upon that discussion and call cadets, staff and faculty to action to combat issues at the academy and improve the culture in order to combat sexual assault.

Tuesday, the entire academy once again held a stand down day. This time the goal was to expand the discussion beyond sexual assault and talk about how all aspects of the community can come together and promote an atmosphere of honorable living to include diversity, inclusion and acceptance of people from differing backgrounds, races and genders.

“About a year ago, we paused and brought the entire community together-cadets, staff, faculty and coaches-to have a hard and frank conversation about the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Since then, we’ve made many strides to address this issue,” Williams said. “We firmly planted ourselves in this space-you, me and the entire team-and have recommitted ourselves to ending sexual assault and the behaviors that undermine the dignity and respect each and every one of us deserve.”


Air Force issues public health alert for ‘Wuhan virus’ following case in Japan

The medical group at Yokosuka Air Base in Japan is warning U.S. military personnel to be aware of symptoms of the deadly virus originating from Wuhan, China, after a case was reported in nearby Kanagawa prefecture, home to Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama.

In a message posted to the base’s Facebook page Wednesday, the 374th Medical Group issued a public health alert about the new coronavirus that has sickened more than 600 people and killed at least 17.

According to the message, a resident of Kanagawa contracted the pneumonia-like illness during a visit to Wuhan in early January and was hospitalized after returning to Japan. He has since recovered and been released.

Roughly 50,000 U.S. service members are assigned to U.S. Forces Japan, many with accompanying family members. The alert listed the signs and symptoms and urged anyone with concerns to contact the group’s public health office.

2019-nCoV, as the illness is referred, is a previously unknown virus that has infected more than 600 people, including residents of China and travelers to Wuhan — at least two from Thailand, one from the Republic of Korea and the case in Japan as of Jan. 22, according to the World Health Organization.

Deployed 82nd Airborne unit told to use these encrypted messaging apps on government cell phones

A brigade of paratroopers deployed in early January to the Middle East in the wake of mounting tensions with Iran has been asked by its leadership to use two encrypted messaging applications on government cell phones.

The use of the encrypted messaging applications Signal and Wickr by the 82nd Airborne’s Task Force Devil underscores the complexity of security and operations for U.S. forces deployed to war zones where adversaries can exploit American communications systems, cell phones and the electromagnetic spectrum.

But it also raises questions as to whether the Department of Defense is scrambling to fill gaps in potential security vulnerabilities for American forces operating overseas by relying on encrypted messaging apps available for anyone to download in the civilian marketplace.

“All official communication on government cell phones within TF Devil has been recommended to use Signal or Wickr encrypted messaging apps,” Maj. Richard Foote, a spokesman for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, told Military Times.

“These are the two apps recommended by our leadership, as they are encrypted and free for download and use,” Foote said.


Army football hiring familiar faces to fill coaching positions

WEST POINT — Changes had to be expected.

This time last year, coaches in West Point were receiving opportunities to depart for greener pastures, a natural byproduct of overachieving. Once again, coaching positions are being filled and shifted around, but this time for the opposite reason.

Already in 2020, Army has named a new defensive coordinator, wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. While there haven’t been reports of Army coaches losing their jobs, it’s clear head coach Jeff Monken knew shake-ups were necessary if the Black Knights were to demand a different result next season.

Former Michigan defensive analyst Nate Woody, hired on Jan. 2 to serve as defensive coordinator, Western Michigan wide receivers coach Keith Gaither, announced to the same position at Army on Jan. 10, and Kennesaw State (Ga.) quarterbacks coach Cody Worley, named Monday to an identical role in West Point, have all been brought on board in less than three weeks’ time. Woody has the common thread with Monken of working under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Gaither was the WRs coach at Army in 2015-16, right as Army was beginning to find its footing after years of irrelevancy. And Worley played football at Furman, the same school that athletic director Mike Buddie came from before accepting the job at West Point last year.

These three arrivals have come without news of coaches being fired in their stead. John Loose, Army’s defensive coordinator in 2019, was named the assistant head coach when Woody’s arrival was made public. Mitch Ware, the quarterbacks coach at Army for the past six seasons, announced his retirement. Ware, in a press release Monday, said his time at West Point was the “highlight of my coaching career.”


No imminent threat to US troops after report of planned terror attack in Germany

U.S. Army Europe investigators found no “imminent threat” to personnel after an intelligence report of a potential terror attack led to heightened security at U.S. bases in Germany during the weekend.

“We can confirm a potential threat was identified and investigated last night,” USAREUR spokeswoman Beth Clemons said Sunday. “German and U.S. officials were consulted and no imminent threat was found to exist.”

An internal memo was circulated within some Army units in Germany on Saturday that warned of a possible attack at the Army’s Tower Barracks in Grafenwoehr, or at Tower Barracks in Duelmen.

The document cited an unnamed “third party” report about a possible “imminent attack” against soldiers by a Jordanian extremist.

“The unknown Jordanian … recently advocated killing U.S. soldiers in Germany,” the memo stated.

There was no indication in the memo that the threat had any connection to recent tensions with Iran, which has threatened U.S. forces amid tensions heightened by the killing earlier this month of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.


New Army program offers financial assistance for child care costs after a PCS move

Soldiers and their families who move to a new duty station may be eligible for up to $1,500 in financial assistance for child care, under a new program.

Army Emergency Relief is launching the program Feb. 1. The assistance will be in the form of grants, no-interest loans or a combination of both. Soldiers may qualify for up to $500 per month per family for three consecutive months.

It’s based on financial need of the family.

Soldiers must be participating in the Army Fee Assistance program, and their child care costs for care in the civilian community must exceed the fee assistance they are receiving from the Army.

All the branches of services offer fee assistance programs for child care in the civilian community when on-base child care is not available or not a viable option. The programs provide subsidies that help make up the difference in cost between on-base child care and civilian child care. The Army program subsidy is the difference between what the soldier would pay for on-post child care and the community-based provider’s rate, up to a cap of $1,500 per child per month.


New regs to restrict firearms, base access, travel for international military students

International students attending U.S. military training will be able to return to their coursework soon, a Pentagon official told reporters Friday, as soon as individual commanders hammer out new restrictions and each of the thousands of foreign military trainees acknowledge the new regulations.

After a Saudi flight officer trainee opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, Dec. 6, killing three service members and wounding eight others, the Defense Department ordered a security review to sweep not only international students, but to look for holes in a host of security regulations.

“But getting back to work does not mean getting back to business as usual,” director for defense intelligence Garry Reid said in a phone interview Friday.


VA IG Warns Long Wait Times Could Continue with Mission Act Reforms

Department of Veterans Affairs patients seeking private sector health care saw a nearly two-month delay for medical appointments in 2018 and the problem could worsen under the new Mission Act, the VA Office of Inspector General reported Thursday.

The inspector general’s report based its conclusions on the region of VA hospitals that includes 1.6 million veterans across Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. VA officials in that region referred more than 206,500 requests in 2018 for community care at clinics outside the VA network, with veterans facing a 56-day wait on average before receiving care, according to the report.

The findings highlight the wait times problem could balloon under the VA reforms of the Mission Act, which was approved into law in 2018. The Mission Act, one of the most consequential veteran care efforts in years, aims to expand the scope of private sector care that veterans can receive outside the VA network. The measure was a response to the VA wait-time scandal in 2014, hoping to expedite veteran’s access to treatment. An investigation by the VA inspector general into the scandal found 35 veterans died while waiting for care from VA facilities in Phoenix and found a pattern of officials in the department falsifying records.


DoD faces challenges filling open military doctor, dentist positions

The Department of Defense is facing challenges filling open military doctor and dentist positions, according a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report said the DoD is having trouble recruiting and keeping enough doctors to care for the troops.

Part of the problem is that the private sector generally pays more than the DoD and there is a nationwide shortage of doctors and dentists.

For more than two decades, Thomas Zampieri served as a physician assistant in the Army National Guard stationed in the U.S.

He is now the president of the Blind Veterans Association.

“We cared for large numbers of causalities that came back from Vietnam,” Zampieri said.

Zampieri said like today, there was a shortage of military doctors and dentists back then and he saw the impact first hand.