Sunday, June 30, 2013

War of Nerves

Greg Hardin, USAF, was “ born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in a conservative Christian household, Greg Hardin had a strong sense of his roots and family tradition of service.  His father had close ties to Washington and the Pentagon, and his paternal uncles served in World War II.  Greg joined the Air Force when he was eighteen and, later, was trained as a Nuclear Missile Systems Analyst.  During the Cold War, he was in a race against the Doomsday Clock, never knowing whether the enmity that existed between two superpowers would culminate in a global end-of-time scenario.  Greg's responsibilities were far too much for one of his age, but he had no other choice.  His and others' fate were defined by chance, as he literally held the world in his hands.” Greg Hardin is the author of A War Of Nerves: A Veterans Battle with PTSD and Injustice.

More about Greg Hardin.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flight Engineer Reaches Combat Sortie Milestone

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia
380th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 28, 2013 – A flight engineer assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron here flew his 400th combat sortie recently.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Fahey performs preflight checks on a KC-10 Extender prior to a June 14, 2013, mission in Southwest Asia. A flight engineer assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, Fahey manages all systems on the aircraft throughout the flight. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Fahey, who reached the milestone June 14, has accumulated his total flying on two different aircraft platforms. He flew his 255th combat sortie on the KC-10 Extender tanker jet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Before that, he flew 145 combat missions as a flight engineer for the MH-60 Pave Low helicopter.

Fahey said he appreciates the opportunities he has had to support two distinct missions.

"Flying on the Pave Lows and being part of the Air Force Special Operations Command were the most challenging things I ever did in my life; their mission is so unique," he said. The KC-10 mission has provided him with a different perspective on the Air Force and a chance to see the world, he added.

As a flight engineer, Fahey monitors the engines and other critical flight systems while the aircraft is in flight. Working alongside his pilots, Fahey ensures the aircraft is fully functional throughout missions. The engineer must have mechanical and technical knowledge on the aircraft systems to provide quick response fixes to any issues while in flight. This knowledge lets the engineer work closely with maintenance personnel, debriefing them on issues an aircraft might have had.

Fahey is one of two flight engineers in the 908th EARS who have reached the milestone. He is the fourth flight engineer and the eighth member in the entire active KC-10 community to have accumulated more than 400 combat sorties.

"It is a significant achievement, one that symbolizes years of hard work through multiple deployments and long periods of separation from family," said Air Force Lt. Col. Mona Alexander, the 908th EARS commander. "Fahey has been flying for 13 years; he has more than 2,000 hours of combat time in the KC-10, and a total of over 4,200 hours flying in the MH-60 and KC-10."

Fahey, who is deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., said he is humbled by the experience and continues to strive.

"This is so cool. It really is an awesome feeling hitting a milestone like this," he said. "It makes me reflect back to all the missions I have flown and gives me a feeling that I was part of something bigger than myself."
Fahey said he hopes that reaching this milestone will show younger airmen they can attain their goals.

"It is important to always stay mission ready; I was notified of this deployment a week and a half before I left," he said. "You need to be resilient. Deployments take their toll. By keeping a balance to my work and off-duty time, I am able to handle the stress that comes with flying so many missions."

Always moving forward and thinking about the next generation of leaders, Fahey said, he has entertained the notion of becoming a first sergeant.

"Being a first sergeant is something I have wanted to do since I was an airman," he said. "I had a really good 'shirt' who had a big impact on me. I would love to be able to give back and keep that tradition going."
Fahey said his accomplishments are not due to his work alone, but to the efforts of the entire unit.

"My crew has been awesome on this trip. They have made this deployment so easy to handle," he said. "I have to give my praise to the aircraft maintainers. They are phenomenal. They provide outstanding support day in and day out, regardless of the difficult environment that they are challenged to work in."

With options available, Fahey said, he’ll approach the remainder of his military career in the same manner he reached 400 combat sorties: humbled by the experience, but seeing successes as stepping stones to bigger goals.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Former POWs Recall Chaplain at Medal of Honor Events

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013 – An Army chaplain who posthumously received the nation’s highest military honor earlier this year was inspirational, courageous in battle, and someone who talked the talk and walked the walk, a group of former Korean War prisoners of war said in a recent interview with Army Television.

Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest and a Korean War POW, was awarded the Medal of Honor in an April 12 White House ceremony and was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon the next day, 62 years after his death.

Several of the chaplain’s fellow POWs attended the Medal of Honor events.

“In prison camp, he was an inspiration to everyone,” recalled Robert Wood, a former Army infantry first lieutenant. “He never failed to inspire me with his courage and his own devotion -- bathing the sick and wounded and scavenging for us. He was a good thief. He would steal rations for us from the Chinese.”

It was the winter of 1950-51 when Kapaun, Wood and hundreds of other U.S. troops were captured by the North Koreans and handed over to Chinese camps as POWs. Wood vividly remembers his first meeting with battalion chaplain Kapaun.

“When got to Korea the first time, we came in contact with the enemy [when] we were on one hill and another battalion was on another hill, running out of ammunition,” Wood said. “I volunteered to carry some ammo over to them. I headed out and all of a sudden, there’s Father Kapaun standing next to me, carrying ammo with a pipe clenched in his teeth. I said, ‘Where are you going, Father?’ and he said, ‘I’m going with you, son.’ We took off up the side of a hill with no cover -- just a ditch alongside the trail. We came under machine gun fire, and we both [dived] into the ditch.

“I looked over my shoulder at Father Kapaun, and all he had was the stem of the pipe still in his mouth. They’d shot the pipe right out of his mouth,” he continued. “I said ‘Father, do you really want to go?’ and he said, ‘Go on son, just go on.” He only increased my admiration, because in combat he was extremely courageous.”

Joe Ramirez, then an Army corporal, experienced a different introduction to Kapaun.

“We landed in South Korea July 18, 1950,” he said. “There were skirmishes. Father Kapaun came around to ask if anyone wanted to be baptized. I was the only one to raise my hand. We went to the river and he baptized me there.”

Ramirez said he has “everything ever written” about Kapaun in an album, which he refers to every week and shares with his children and grandchildren.

“[Father Kapaun] had a lot of influence, especially on the younger guys, of which I was one,” he noted. “He would say, ‘Don’t believe what [the Chinese] tell you. You’re all Christians,’ because they were trying to convert us to communism. He was against it, and that’s why the Chinese hated him.”

Ramirez credits Kapaun with giving the prisoners a reason to live amid the harsh conditions of the prison camp. “He gave us a lot of encouragement, talked to us and said prayers. In the winter it was 50 below zero,” he said. “A lot of us didn’t have winter clothing; we had summer clothing. He said, ‘Keep the faith -- we’re going to get out of here one of these days.’”

“He was more than a religious leader,” said Ray “Mike” Dowe Jr., an Army first lieutenant and platoon commander. “He taught people to have faith in their own beliefs, to maintain their integrity, to maintain faith in their country and their god, and by so doing, it gave people a will to live.”

After nightly “ration runs,” as he called them, Kapaun taught the other prisoners not to hoard food, but to share it, Dowe recalled.

“He would volunteer to carry the dead on stretchers every time,” he said. “He’d take the clothes off the dead, wash them and distribute them to the wounded, and take care of the sick. He’d have to escape from the officers’ compound to do it.”

Kapaun had the gift of emboldening the prisoners. “He was an inspiration to hundreds and hundreds of people who survived, and wouldn’t have survived that ordeal without him … [Survival] only comes from instilling the will to live, which comes from your beliefs, your country and resisting the enemy,” Dowe said.
Despite the conditions that go with captivity during a war, the chaplain tried to keep the prisoners’ spirits up and help them think positively, Wood recalled.

“The first months were horrible. During the first winter there was bitter cold, starvation, and we were all sick, but he would go around and lead us in prayer. Jews, Protestants and Catholics were saying the rosary,” he said.

Kapaun became stricken with a blood clot in spring 1951, but POW doctors were able to treat it. The chaplain then developed pneumonia, Dowe said. As he began to recover, the Chinese became restless over his survival.

“When he started to get well, they couldn’t tolerate it,” Dowe said. “They came down with bayonets and troops, and we tried to resist them. The doctors told [the Chinese] not to take [Kapaun], but they took him to what they called a hospital. We were in tears. He turned to me and said, ‘Mike, don’t cry. I’m going to where I always wanted to go and when I get there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.’”

Rather than putting him in the hospital, Dowe said, the Chinese put Kapaun in a building with other prisoners who were beyond medical help. “It was just filled with every kind of bug, and feces,” he said. “[The Chinese] didn’t feed them. They [placed him] in a 7-by-7-foot [room] after his death, they threw his remains into a pile.”

Dowe said he later spoke with people on teams that were on a recovery mission in North Korea. They told Dowe they found that area and recovered some of Kapaun’s remains.

“We lost something when we lost him -- [he was] a constant reminder, a ray of hope that we were going to get out of this thing eventually, and he was someone who retained his civility and devotion,” Wood said.
Wood was one of the prisoners who had to carry the chaplain to “the death house,” he said.

“We all knew taking him up there was a death sentence, yet he was calming everyone around him, saying he was going to a better place and that he’d pray for us, and not to be upset. What really stunned me was he was blessing the Chinese who were killing him,” Wood said, becoming emotional. “I had tears in my eyes when he was doing it. I could never do that.”

Hagel Assesses Capabilities at Cheyenne Mountain Complex

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013 – As part of his two-day tour of Colorado facilities and installations, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station yesterday to assess current defense capabilities in the face of the nation’s new challenges.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command, look over a 9/11 monument made from a remnant of the World Trade Center, outside Northcom headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 27, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Hagel’s stops included homeland and integrated air and missile defense briefings from officials and Canadian partners at North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD at Peterson Air Force Base.

“This facility … and the entire complex of NORAD and Northcom represent, really, the nerve center of defense for North America,” Hagel said.

The secretary’s wife, Lilibet, accompanied him and also visited facilities to meet with troops and their families to address sexual assault and other matters affecting the welfare of the force.

“It is the people that are the core of any institution,” Hagel said. “It really matters little how much money you have in the budget or how much technology you have –- if you don’t have the right people, you don’t have much.”

Hagel praised the quality and character of troops as “central to the defense of this country,” giving special recognition to those who have battled debilitating area forest fires in recent months.

“This has been a tough … time for many states in our country dealing with natural disasters,” Hagel said. “I’m very proud of the kind of contributions … that our service members have made to this community and to help others. That’s who we are, and that is part of our mission in the Defense Department.”

Leaks Damage National Security, NSA Director Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013 – Recent media leaks have caused “significant and irreversible damage” to U.S. security, the director of the National Security Agency said yesterday in Baltimore.

Public discussion of NSA's tradecraft or the tools that support its operations provides insights that the nation’s adversaries can and do use, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander told an audience at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International Cyber Symposium.

“Those who wish us harm now know how we counter their actions,” Alexander said. “These leaks have caused significant and irreversible damage to our nation's security.

“The damage is real,” he continued. “I believe the irresponsible release of classified information about these programs will have a long-term detrimental impact on the intelligence community's ability to detect future attacks. These leaks have inflamed and sensationalized for ignoble purposes the work that the intelligence community does lawfully under strict oversight and compliance.”

Explaining the programs exposed by the leaks, the general said the 9/11 Commission found that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States succeeded because “the intelligence community could not connect the dots, foreign and domestic.”

To address that failing, Alexander said, the intelligence community set up and Congress authorized two programs. The first, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act of 2001, allows the government to collect telephone metadata for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations. The second, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the targeting, for foreign intelligence purposes, of communications of foreign persons who are located abroad.

Each program is subject to strict oversight procedures by all three branches of the government, Alexander said.

“We understand and support the need to ensure we protect both civil liberties and national security. It's not one or the other. It must be both,” he said. “That's why we take oversight of these programs very seriously.”
According to a June 2012 report issued by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the general said, the committee did not find any cases of a government official willfully circumventing or violating the law while using the access granted under these authorities.

Under Section 215, telephone metadata is collected from service providers and placed into a “virtual lockbox,” the general explained. “The only way NSA can go into that lockbox is if we have what is called reasonable, articulable suspicion of a selector that is related to terrorism,” he said.

In 2012, NSA approved about 300 selectors, such as telephone numbers, to initiate queries into the virtual lockbox, Alexander said. For a request to be approved, he said, “there has to be a foreign nexus, an association with al-Qaida or other specified terrorist organizations.”

Alexander cited Operation High-Rise as an example of how this process works in practice.

The NSA used a Section 702 authorization to compel a service provider to turn over the emails of terrorists the agency was tracking in Pakistan, he said. Armed with that information, Alexander said, analysts found that an al-Qaida terrorist in Pakistan was emailing a person they believed to be in Colorado, and that information was then turned over to the FBI.

The man in Colorado turned out to be Najibullah Zazi, the general said. The FBI provided the NSA with Zazi’s phone number, which, combined with the email connection to the al-Qaida operative, provided reasonable, articulable suspicion for the NSA to access the virtual lockbox of telephone metadata, Alexander said.

“We looked in that lockbox, and we found that Zazi was talking to a guy in New York who had connections to other terrorist elements for another operation,” he said. The access allowed the NSA to connect Zazi to other potential terrorists as well, the general said.

“We got that information in early September 2009 for an attack that was supposed to take place in mid-September,” Alexander told the symposium audience. “It would have been the biggest al-Qaida attack on American soil since 9/11. We were privileged and honored to be a part of disrupting that plot. FAA 702 was the initial tip. That's how important these programs are.”

In 2010, Zazi pleaded guilty to planning to conduct one of three coordinated suicide bombings on the New York City subway system during rush hour.

America’s allies have benefitted from the surveillance programs, as well, Alexander said.

Last week, he said, the NSA provided to Congress 54 cases “in which these programs contributed to our understanding and, in many cases, helped enable the disruption of terrorist plots in the U.S. and in over 20 countries throughout the world.”

Of the 54 cases, 42 involved disrupted plots, the general said. Twelve cases involved material support to terrorism, and 50 of the 54 led to arrests or detentions.

Forty-one cases involved targets outside the United States.

“Twenty-five of these events occurred in Europe, 11 in Asia, and five in Africa,” Alexander said. “Thirteen events had a homeland nexus. In 12 of those events, Section 215 contributed to our overall understanding and help to the FBI, 12 of the 13. That's only where the business record FISA can play.”

In all but one of the cases the NSA provided to Congress, Section 702 data played a role or provided the initial tip, Alexander said. “A significant portion -- almost half of our counterterrorism reporting -- comes from Section 702,” he added.

The programs operate under a rigorous oversight framework, the general said. To target the content of a U.S. person's communications anywhere in the world, FISA’s provisions require a finding of probable cause under a specific court order, he told the audience.

“These capabilities translate into significant information on ongoing terrorist activities, with no willful violations of our law,” he said. “I think that's something to be proud of. We have defended the nation 54 times -- and our allies -- and we have ensured the protection of our civil liberties and privacy and oversight by … all three branches of our government. I think that's what the nation expects our government to do: disrupt terrorist activities [and] defend our civil liberties and privacy.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dempsey: Cyberattacks Could Prompt Conventional Response

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – Cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure or networks could be met with a conventional military response, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

“There is an assumption out there … that a cyberattack that had destructive effects would be met by a cyber response that had destructive effects,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said to an audience at a Brookings Institution forum. “That’s not necessarily the case. I think that what [President Barack Obama] would insist upon, actually, is that he had the options and the freedom of movement to decide what kind of response we would employ.”

The impact of a cyberattack is a key question for elected officials to answer when considering the level of response, Dempsey said. “When does cyber theft become a hostile act?” the chairman asked. “Or when does cyber theft, added to distributed denial of services, become a hostile act? Or is a hostile act simply defined as something that literally is destructive in nature?”

Cyber has many features in common with other domains, and shouldn’t be thought of as a wholly exceptional realm, Dempsey said. Although it can sometimes feel abstract, he explained, cyber is a physical domain in the sense that it is operated by men and women over routers and servers, and cyberattacks can result in real, physical damage.

“I think that to the extent that we can always think about it in the way that we’ve always organized our thinking about the other domains, it might illuminate the challenge a little better,” the chairman said. “I do think that there are capabilities out there that are so destructive in nature and potential that it would be very difficult not to see them as acts of war.”

But, he noted, “the decision to declare something a hostile act -- an act of war -- is certainly one that resides in the responsibility of our elected leaders.”

Labor Department Awards $29 Million in Grants to Help Veterans

From a Department of Labor News Release

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – More than 14,000 veterans across the nation will benefit from job training, job placement, housing help and other services, thanks to 121 grants totaling almost $29 million announced today by officials of the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

The grants were awarded through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, the only federal program that focuses exclusively on employment of homeless veterans.

"Military service members and their families have been asked to make tremendous sacrifices for this nation. Although homelessness among veterans has fallen, too many of our heroes cannot find jobs or homes," acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris said. "These grants will provide those who have served our nation with the means to find meaningful civilian employment and chart new directions for their lives."

The grants will help homeless veterans reintegrate into society and the labor force while providing effective services aimed at addressing the complex challenges that homeless veterans often confront, officials said. The services provided by grantees will include job placement, on-the-job training, career counseling, life skills and money management mentoring, as well as help in finding housing.

Funds were awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations. These organizations are familiar with the areas and populations to be served, officials explained, and have demonstrated that they can administer effective programs to help veterans.

From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers: 90 years of the 131st Bomb Wing and 110th Bomb Squadron

by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison
131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2013 - WHITEMAN AFB, Mo -- From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers, the 131st Bomb Wing's history really began with its co-located flying squadron, now the 110th Bomb Squadron, which traces its roots back to the 110th Observation Squadron.

The 110th OS was organized by Maj. Bill Robertson and his brothers, Lieutenants Frank and Dan Robertson, owners of Robertson Aircraft Company. The Robertsons were aviation pioneers, noted for being the first two pilots from Missouri to enlist in World War I. Among their associates were a number of former Army Air Corps veterans and visionary young men who shared an interest in organizing a National Guard unit in St. Louis.

They strove to make this vision a reality; they worked with local newspapers to get the word out.

These outlets informed the public that "enlistments would not be limited to aviators but a number of young men who wanted to learn to fly or maintain flying equipment would also be taken."

Members would be paid for a maximum of 60 "drills" a year, which were described as periods of instruction in ground work, machine-shop practice and flying. They would receive instruction in war maneuvers, and conduct bombing and machine-gun firing practice with targets on the nearby Missouri River. Personnel assigned to the photo section would learn to "make pictures for use in war" and intelligence personnel would be "trained as Scouts of the Air (observers) and probably will have radio equipment."

A five-day "recruiting drive" enlisted a total of 110 men, most of whom were World War I veterans. On June 23, 1923, the 110th OS, 110th Photo Section and 110th Intelligence Section (35th Division Aviation Section) from the Missouri National Guard were federally recognized and Maj. Robertson became the first commanding officer.

The first headquarters for the unit was located in a gas station on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis. From there, it moved to a small room over a grocery store on Olive Street Road in St. Louis County. Members participated in training at the airport, which at that time was little more than a pasture.

At first there were no uniforms for the enlisted men. Their first flying equipment was a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," which was purchased through officer donations and used for flight training until early 1924, when they received three additional World War I-surplus JN-4Hs. The pilots were eager to train; they would often fly three men to an aircraft, with one man strapped to a wing so they could switch off in midflight without having to take time to land.

The planes were housed in corrugated sheet-metal hangars erected on the field that had been built for the International Air Races of 1923. The 110th received additional aircraft and equipment throughout 1924, and by year's end, they had established a well-planned training program.

(This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.  Additional content provided for this story by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boehlein, 131st Bomb Wing, and Mr. Charles Machon, Missouri National Guard Museum Curator)

Bureau Orders Refunds for Troops After Faulty Car Loans

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – About 50,000 service members will get refunds averaging $100 -- though some will be far higher --- after an enforcement action involving auto loans that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials announced today.

The bureau is ordering U.S. Bank and one of its nonbank partners, Dealers Financial Services, to return about $6.5 million to service members across the country, CFPB Director Richard Cordray told reporters during a conference call today.

“We’ve determined that the companies developed a joint program that engaged in deceptive marketing and lending practices while providing subprime auto loans to tens of thousands of active-duty military members,” he said.

Cordray explained that U.S. Bank and DFS created the Military Installment Loans and Educational Services program, better known as MILES, to sell subprime auto loans to active-duty service members at communities across the country located near military bases.

The consumer bureau found that MILES used the military discretionary allotment system to its advantage. Service members were required to pay by allotment, which he noted is “straight from their paycheck before the money hit their personal bank accounts,” without disclosing all associated fees and the way the program worked.

Specifically, he said, MILES failed to accurately disclose the finance charge, annual percentage rate, payment schedule and total payments for the loans.

“The examination also found that the MILES program deceived service members by understating the cost and scope of certain add-on products, such as a service contract, marketed and sold in connection with the loans,” he said.

Today’s action requires return of at least $3.2 million in undisclosed fees and costs, he said, and $3.3 million for the cost of the add-on products.

CFPB won’t impose civil penalties, he said, in part “because of the manner in which U.S. Bank and DFS cooperated with the bureau to resolve these matters.”

“Today’s action reflects our determination to act to protect service members against harmful practices in the consumer financial marketplace. … Everyone at the bureau will continue to stand side by side with our military and veterans,” Cordray said.

The director said he is pleased that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered an interagency effort to determine whether the allotment system should be changed to further protect service members.

Holly Petraeus, CFPB’s assistant director for service member affairs, joined Cordray on the call and echoed his sentiments about allotments.

The system has been around since long before electronic fund transfers existed, she noted, and has been extremely useful for troops who need to make regular payments to their creditors, especially when deployed or on the move.

But allotments have drawbacks, she added. They may include costs for third-party processors, “as we saw in this case,” she said, and they reduce budget flexibility, because an allotment comes out before a service member receives his or her pay.

Allotments also offer less protection and less transparency than electronic bank transfers, she said.
Noting Hagel’s interagency working group to study allotments, Petraeus said, “I hope all of us can work together to try to eliminate the risks to military consumers that have grown up around the use of the allotment system.”

The third CFPB official on today’s call was Kent Markus, the bureau’s assistant director for enforcement, who told reporters service members due refunds don’t need to take action. They will receive them either through an account credit or by check.

Markus noted the enforcement action also mandates that MILES drop the allotment requirement, and that the institutions involved make no further deceptive statements or omissions.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The New Golden Boys in the Military

Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)
Just when you think the Obama administration cannot possibly engage in any more stupid, embarrassing episodes, you suddenly discover that you are wrong.  This administration’s capacity for insanity appears to be limitless.  The latest example of this occurred on Tuesday when the Pentagon hosted something called the Second Annual Gay Appreciation Day.
This tribute to the Lavender Set took place in the Pentagon’s auditorium which is in the basement of the building.  Normally, special events such as this take place in the bright sunlight of the center courtyard.  In any event, the basement is the perfect place for this venue.  

Valerie Jarrett, the president’s all purpose, all weather cheer leader was in charge and she was definitely ready for the challenge.  Ms. Jarrett is famous for other-the-top statements that bear little resemblance to reality and on Tuesday, she did not disappoint. 

“Because we repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, our military is stronger and our country is safer now that homosexuals may serve openly,” she told the cheering audience.  This is a most sweeping assertion and it would, under normal circumstances, be accompanied with something in the way of proof to lend it credibility.  After all, she is making the gay soldiers sound like supermen and, without them, the nation would be in grave danger.  However, there is nothing normal about these circumstances we are facing today with this administration.  It’s as if Obama has repealed the requirement for any supporting documentation, on any issue.  In short, if the administration says it, it has to be true.  If the administration decides to make gays in the military the new Golden Boys, then they become Golden Boys.  Period.  

Next up was Chuck Hagel, the current Secretary of Defense who was selected to be the fall guy for the loss of Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t know it yet.  Taking his cue from Ms. Jarrett, he fell right in line.  “We’re very proud of everything the gay and lesbian community have contributed and continue to contribute,” he echoed, with the same amount of proof and less enthusiasm that Ms. Jarrett offered, which was none.  

Then Eric Fanning, Air Force Secretary, heaped praise on a gay Marine Captain and said when he deploys in August, “he’ll be taking his husband with him.”  (I admit, it will take some  of us some time to get used to these odd possessive pronouns, such as “his husband,” and “her wife,” but I suppose we should all make the effort because they are not going away. However, in the interim, it does appear a bit, well, queer.)

To make the event complete, there was actually a gay General officer in the audience.  Not much of a General, to be sure, only a Brigadier and not active duty but reserve, but technically, a General none the less.  BG Tammy Smith is duly noted as the groundbreaking General officer that actually came out of the closet. She and her wife were duly recognized.  At next year’s event, I’m sure the organizers are praying for a two or three star active duty General just to give the whole thing a touch of class.  

While it is all too easy to make fun of these officials fawning over gays as if they were rock stars or an endangered species, there is a far darker side to gays serving openly in the military and none of these officials have the courage to address it.  The dirty little secret is this.  During 2012, the first full year where gays could serve openly in the military, there were 26,000 sexual assaults across all services.  Of these 26,000, 14,000 were male-on-male assaults.  Yes, you read that correctly.  More men in the military were sexually assaulted than women in 2012.  So who is committing the majority of sexual assaults in the military?  Well, it’s the new hero who “is making our country safer,” according to Ms. Jarrett, the homosexual serving openly.  It’s the same homosexual soldier that Chuck Hagel is “so proud of.”  In fact, Hagel is “proud of everything the homosexuals and lesbians are doing.”    Well, do you think he’s proud of this report that was reluctantly released last month that blamed the “homosexual community”  for most sexual assaults in 2012?  And why was there a 35% increase in sexual assaults from 2011 to 2012, most involving male-on-male assault?  Could it be that throughout all of 2012, gays were serving openly and apparently taking full advantage of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, came out of the closet in droves, determined to celebrate their liberation with anyone they encountered, regardless of consent?   

When viewed through this lens of cold, hard reality, free from the distortion of political correctness, the whole gay issue quickly ceases to be humorous.  In fact, it becomes utterly disgusting.  The truth is, gay soldiers are a real threat to real soldiers and this report bears that out.  Instead of putting them on a pedestal, they should be tried and put in jail.  If this is allowed to continue, this virus has the potential of killing the military from the inside.  For anyone who still has doubts about this, then I advise them to read the “Annual Report on Sexual Assault In The Military,” May 2013.  So,  what is being done about this epidemic of male rape in the military?  Precious little because if it is forced into the bright light of day, it is an admission that the great gay experiment was a total failure. 

 Meanwhile, as the  military leadership was partying with gays in the basement on Tuesday, the last remaining grownups in the Pentagon, the operational folks who always have to make the hard calls during times like this, were wrestling with the latest orders from the President to cut ten combat brigades from a force that is already too lean.  That will be roughly 45,000 soldiers who will, eventually, lose their jobs and the chance to finish their careers.  Soldiers who have done nothing wrong, raped no one, just doing their job, will be cut loose.  But have no fear.  None of those who get cut will be gay.  God knows, in this environment, being gay is being golden and the gays will keep getting a free pass until sanity is restored to the system.  When that will happen is anybody’s guess because there are no George Patton’s on the horizons.  Like those guys at Benghazi, the military right now is on its own.  No help will be coming from this administration.  

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure."


Acting Air Force Secretary Recounts Journey to Equality

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2013 – During a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month event at the Pentagon today, the highest-ranking openly gay member of the Defense Department described his experiences witnessing the evolution of the law that banned openly gay service members, from its implementation to its eventual repeal.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning noted the significance of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel kicking off the DOD’s pride celebration, as just two years ago, gay and lesbian service members could not openly serve in the military.

Absent an association like DOD Pride to lend support, Fanning described the difficulties and sense of isolation that he and others at the Pentagon endured as the repeal process ran its course. “There were no other open LGBT appointees, and anyone serving openly in uniform was surely in the process of being discharged,” he said.

Fanning began working in the Pentagon 20 years ago, a time he described as a personally painful experience as DOD began to implement the law that came to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“It was a deeply conflicting time for me,” the Air Force’s top civilian official said. “I was launching a career with strong support from amazing bosses who knew about my personal life. … I was being given opportunities that were being denied to people just like me. I was working for an institution that discriminated -- against people just like me.”

He also recalled how during that time, people spoke about gays and lesbians in “blistering and emotional ways,” denigrating them for simply wanting the right to serve their country while being honest about who they were.

Still, Fanning said, the military underwent the difficult process of opening doors to those it previously denied or constrained: women, immigrants looking to prove their patriotism and earn their citizenship, and to gays and lesbians.

“At times, it seemed agonizingly slow, or even that we were losing ground,” Fanning said. “But never once did we doubt we were on the right path.”

Relying on the diverse talents of a broader pool of people who are willing and able to serve has fortified the military, Fanning explained. “We are stronger for looking more like the society we are charged with protecting, and we are today … the finest military the world has ever known,” he said.

In the two years leading up to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the debate had a remarkably different tone, due in great part to the support of the president and the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.
"I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” the admiral testified before Congress. “It comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

Looking back to almost two decades earlier as a junior aide, Fanning said, he could never imagine having a chairman say things like Mullen did.

Fanning said most people had begun to accept the possibility of repeal long before it occurred, though he was fortunate enough to be present when the president signed the historic document.

Among the celebrations and congratulations, he said, many supporters asked what it was like to be in the Pentagon after the repeal.

“I answered honestly, and I think disappointingly, that … we went back to the building, and in my view, the building had already moved on past the decision and we talked about what we talk about every single day: the budget,” he said in a deadpan tone.

Fanning also said he’s received a bit of attention since he was nominated to be undersecretary of the Air Force -- not all of it welcome, some quite negative, and some that he described as “rather imaginative.”
“Many have speculated as to my agenda, what color I'll paint the planes, what designs I have on the uniforms,” he said. But like almost everyone else, he added, he remains focused on simply doing his job, and chiding comments are dwarfed by the outpouring of support he’s received in and out of the Pentagon.
“It reminds me that, as important as events like this are for our community, they're also important opportunities for our allies to identify themselves and to let us know they're right alongside us,” Fanning said.

“Events like this give voice not just to us, but to those who support us.”

Face of Defense: Squadron’s Lone Female Gunner Aims High

By Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Hughes
99th Air Base Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., June 26, 2013 – Fresh out of training, Air Force Airman 1st Class Natasha Libby is the only female aerial gunner assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Airman 1st Class Natasha Libby, 66th Rescue Squadron aerial gunner, stands next to an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 20, 2013. Libby is the only female among more than 30 gunners assigned to the squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hughes

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Libby, the younger of two children, bore great responsibility growing up and working on her family’s farm in Yakima, Wash.

After graduating from East Valley High School in 2010, Libby said, she realized she couldn’t afford college. She found a job at a sandwich shop, where she worked for 11 months. During that time, an Army recruiter contacted her about joining.

Libby said she developed a desire to leave her hometown and become something more. “I realized I wasn’t going anywhere, … so I made the choice to pursue a career in the Air Force,” she added. She went to an Air Force recruiter, hoping to start a career that would be interesting and fulfill her childhood dream of flying.

Initially, Libby was designated to be an aircraft environmental systems apprentice. But two months before shipping out for basic training, her recruiter asked if she would like to be an aerial gunner.

“I was stoked,” she said. “I thought that was the coolest job ever. I might have been excited, but my family had mixed emotions. My father was very proud, and my mother was scared.”

While many see moving away from home for the first time as an obstacle, Libby saw it as a new beginning, providing her the opportunity to make the change in her life that she wanted. During training, she learned how to handle a weapon while flying, how to use different radios and how to survive during a crash or mishap.

“I was introduced to Libby in Aerial Gunner School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Kevin Lerner, a fellow 66th Rescue Squadron aerial gunner. “From the day I met Libby, I could tell she was a natural leader, and someone who you could count on. She always had her nose in the books, trying to learn as much as she could about the subject we were learning at any given time.”

Libby operates weapons systems on an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, but that is not her only responsibility. She also briefs passengers on safety and procedures and performs in-flight maintenance of airborne weapons systems.

Libby said she is dedicated to mastering her craft so that when a real-world mission comes, she will excel at the highest level. Being a woman never has added pressure, she added, but instead has given her motivation to work harder.

“Something I learned during training is I can achieve my goals as long as I use my mind,” she said, “Everyone had to work hard during training, but I feel being a female, I had to work a little harder to maintain the same level or better than the males in my class.”

Growing up on a cattle farm, Libby said, she grew physically and mentally tough at a young age. The work ethic and morals she learned on the farm are the same ones she applies to her job now. The Air Force’s core values -- integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do -- reinforce those morals.

“Those weren’t new values to me,” she said. “I was able to see what my parents taught me, what I learned in life, and what the Air Force has taught me, and I apply it in my everyday work environment. I don’t take those values lightly.”

Libby said it’s “cool” that she’s the only female aerial gunner in her squadron of more than 100 airmen, which includes 30 gunners. “But it doesn’t change anything,” she added. “I still come to work like everyone else.”
Libby may be at the beginning of her career, but she doesn’t see it that way. She already has goals and aspirations of becoming a chief master sergeant and counseling airmen to make a difference in their life.

“My whole life, I have been grateful for what I have been given. When I am ready, I want to pay it back,” she said. “The goal of joining [the Air Force] was to better my life, and if I can better other peoples’ lives, then that would be outstanding.”