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Ambassador Crocker To Receive 2020 Sylvanus Thayer Award

The West Point Association of Graduates is pleased to announce that six-time U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will receive the 2020 Sylvanus Thayer Award. The award will be presented on October 1, 2020 during ceremonies hosted by Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, Class of 1983, 60th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

West Point Association of Graduates Board Chairman Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Joseph E. DeFrancisco, Class of 1965, said, “The West Point Association of Graduates is honored to present the Thayer Award to Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Ambassador Crocker’s distinguished service to our country spans more than 40 years, starting in 1971 as a Foreign Service Officer. During his service, he excelled many significant assignments, including reestablishing an American diplomatic presence in Afghanistan during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, and assisting in the formation of the Iraq Governing Council, the first Iraqi governing structure after the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Without question, Ambassador Crocker’s career stands as an exemplar of Duty, Honor, Country, making him a most worthy selection of our highest award.” 

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Esper Defends Move to Defund Stars and Stripes, Says News Org. Not a Priority

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday defended the Pentagon’s effort to strip Stars and Stripes of all of its federal funding as part of its fiscal year 2021 budget request, telling reporters in Brussels that the independent news organization is not a priority.

“So, we trimmed the support for Stars and Stripes because we need to invest that money, as we did with many, many other programs, into higher-priority issues,” Esper said during a news conference at NATO headquarters. He listed space, nuclear programs, hypersonic missiles and “a variety of systems” as places the money — slightly more than $15.5 million — could be reinvested in the $705.4 billion Defense Department spending proposal.

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The Army Is Looking for Its Best Rangers, Snipers and Hand-to-Hand Fighters

In April, Fort Benning, Georgia, will hold four simultaneous competitions to find the best Rangers, snipers, combatives experts and mortar crews, putting competitors through a series of mentally and physically exhausting tests during Infantry Week.

“Shooting, moving, communicating — our mission is to close with and destroy the enemy in close combat,” Brig. Gen. David M. Hodne, the Army’s Chief of Infantry and commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School, said in a recent Army news release.

Infantry Week is designed to commemorate the formation of the U.S. Army infantry, which dates back to 1775 and the Revolutionary War, Hodne said.

“As it was in 1775, the Infantry still looks at our enemy in the ‘whites of their eyes,’” Hodne said. “So, this is a week that showcases how good our infantry is.”

From April 13-19, Benning will host the Best Ranger Competition, International Sniper Competition, All-Army Lacerda Cup Combatives Competition and Best Mortar Competition.

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WWII veteran shares stories, life lessons with West Point cadets

In the skies over France as part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt’s plane got lost.

Merritt was a corporal in 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the time. Between midnight and 3 a.m., more than 800 planes carried in excess of 2,000 British and American Soldiers over Normandy to launch the assault on the German Army.

The planes were divided into battalions of 40 with radar in only the lead plane. As Merritt’s plane approached Normandy’s beaches, the lead plane banked to avoid enemy fire losing the 39 planes following it.

“My jumpmaster went up to see the pilot, and the pilot said ‘I’m lost. I can’t find your drop zone,'” Merritt said. “(My jumpmaster) said, ‘Are you over France? … I’m going back to the door. When I get back, give me the green light and we’re going to jump.’ Well, we did jump.”

Merritt’s jump into Normandy was one of the many stories he told to U.S. Military Academy cadets during a lecture Feb. 11. In World War II, Merritt, who retired from the Army in 1975, fought on D-Day, in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He also fought in Korea and Vietnam during his Army career.

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DoD Budget Proposal Cuts All Funding to Stars And Stripes; Lawmakers Back Newspaper

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2021 budget request would strip Stars and Stripes of all its federal funding, more than $15 million annually, a Defense Department official said Wednesday, as lawmakers and others defended the editorially independent news organization.

The budget request unveiled Monday seeks to cut all of Stars and Stripes’ DoD funding – about $15.5 million per year, which the Pentagon wants to reinvest in functions that it considers more critical for warfighting, said Marine Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a spokesman for Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. Stars and Stripes receives about $8.7 million annually in operations and maintenance funds and about $6.9 million in contingency operations funds to support news reporting in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2021 budget request would strip Stars and Stripes of all its federal funding, more than $15 million annually, a Defense Department official said Wednesday, as lawmakers and others defended the editorially independent news organization.

The budget request unveiled Monday seeks to cut all of Stars and Stripes’ DoD funding – about $15.5 million per year, which the Pentagon wants to reinvest in functions that it considers more critical for warfighting, said Marine Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a spokesman for Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. Stars and Stripes receives about $8.7 million annually in operations and maintenance funds and about $6.9 million in contingency operations funds to support news reporting in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

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DOD Moves to Use Data More Effectively in Decision-Making

The Defense Department is seeking ways to use data more effectively for improved decision-making on the battlefield and in its business practices, Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said.

Norquist and DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy met with data analytics industry experts in the Pentagon today to discuss the way ahead for the department.

“This is the core of what we need to do under the National Defense Strategy,” the deputy secretary said, noting that better use of data leads to increased reform and lethality. At the most basic level, data from everyone’s salary and every piece of equipment could be collected and reported in a data set to which analysis could then be applied, Norquist said. This information would be especially useful in the DOD-wide audit and reporting to lawmakers, he noted.

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DOD instructs military to brace for a coronavirus ‘pandemic’ and quarantine any soldiers that have been to China this month

The US military has been given an executive order to prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic.

Navy and Marine Corps have been instructed to set their pandemic plans in motion and quarantine any service men or women who have been in mainland China since February 2.

Commanders are now reviewing their plans for containing the disease in the event that it breaks out among military personnel and to play a role, if necessary, in help authorities contain the disease in the general public in the US and abroad.

However, in no way ‘does the planning indicate a greater likelihood of an event developing,’ Navy Lt Commander Mike Hatfield told the Military Times.

‘As military professionals, planning for a range of contingencies is something we owe the American people.’

It comes as the number of American cases rose to 15 on Thursday, with the most recent three patients being people who had been quarantined on military bases after evacuation from Wuhan.

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No investigation into Vindman

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday there is no investigation into the Army officer who until last week worked at the White House National Security Council and was a key witness in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

McCarthy said Lt. Col. Alex Vindman has been moved to a short-term assignment at Army headquarters until he starts a regularly scheduled stint at a military college later this year. McCarthy’s comments at the National Press Club appeared to put an end to any debate about potential punishment of the officer, who came under fire for raising concerns about Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president.

Trump on Tuesday suggested the Pentagon should review Vindman’s conduct and said any potential disciplinary action would be up to the military. He said military officials “can handle him any way they want,” but added that the military would certainly take a look at his conduct.

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VA Ramps Up Mental Health Funding After Rash of Parking Lot Suicides

The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing spending $682 million more next fiscal year on mental health issues, and ramping up funding for suicide prevention efforts by one-third, as it faces Congressional scrutiny over a series of tragic incidents on VA premises over the past year.

The VA’s budget request for fiscal 2021, released Monday, totals $243.3 billion — a dramatic 10% increase from 2020. In addition to resourcing mental health and suicide prevention, it would nearly double the amount of funding for a joint VA-Defense Department effort to create a merged electronic health records system and provide a 9% increase to the budget for women’s health care.

A series of highly public veteran suicides in VA parking lots over the last five years has left the VA scrambling for better prevention measures. In a recent report on one such death in 2018, the Inspector General found institutional failures led to mental health clinicians not being alerted to the patient’s condition before his death.

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Army Brings ‘V Corps’ Back to Life to Support a More Powerful Europe Presence

The U.S. Army is reactivating its V Corps headquarters to beef up the service’s command-and-control presence in Europe as part of a continuing effort to project American military strength in the region.

The original V Corps was deactivated in 2013 as the military reduced its force posture in Europe to a more “agile force,” built around a cavalry brigade equipped with highly mobile Stryker combat vehicles and an airborne infantry brigade, Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Military.com.

Since then, the Pentagon has taken steps to rebuild its forces in Europe in the face of growing Russian aggression. Efforts include a new continuous rotation of an Army armored brigade to the continent, and training events with European allies such as DEFENDER-Europe 20, a large-scale exercise involving 20,000 U.S. soldiers and 17,000 allied troops.

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Some Evacuees at Military Bases Now Being Evaluated for Coronavirus Symptoms

As the number of coronavirus evacuees housed at U.S. military bases and put into quarantine grew Friday, officials acknowledged that some arrivals from Wuhan, China are now being hospitalized with symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified two new evacuees at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar who have developed symptoms warranting further evaluation, Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman, said in a statement released Friday night.

“A child was transported to Rady Children’s Hospital and an adult was transported to UC San Diego Health,” he said. “This brings the total number of persons transported to hospitals for evaluation to seven.”

One adult and one child taken to the children’s hospital Wednesday with symptoms have tested negative for the virus and returned to the base to complete the 14-day quarantine period, the statement continued, while results are still pending on the others’ tests.

The latest flight with evacuees from Wuhan arrived at Miramar Friday morning with 65 aboard, according to the statement, adding to the number waiting out quarantine periods at four bases around the country.

Two flights chartered by the State Department with a total of about 300 U.S. citizen passengers aboard left China Thursday night.

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More retirees, family members to be booted from military hospitals under Pentagon reform plans

As the Department of Defense continues to streamline and transform its military health system, more military hospitals and clinics will stop taking retiree patients, their families and even some active-duty family members, according to the Defense Health Agency director.

At the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, in National Harbor, Md., Lt. Gen. Ronald Place told attendees that after the Pentagon completes its assessments of its medical facilities and their contributions to readiness, more non-active duty beneficiaries will be transferred to Tricare networks. Until the report is completed, however, there’s no way of knowing how many retirees and family members will be forced to leave military treatment facilities or which hospitals and clinics will be affected.

Place said as installations undergo personnel fluctuations and changes in mission, military health facilities will adapt, and those changes are likely to affect non-uniformed beneficiaries.

He cited recent changes at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Sill, Okla., that downgraded those posts’ military hospitals to outpatient clinics — a reconfiguration that resulted in the disenrollment of retirees, retiree family members and some active duty family members from those facilities.

“I do anticipate more of that happening in the future,” Place said. “I’m not talking about tomorrow, I’m not even talking about next week. But as an evolving organization, we will have changes.”

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