Thursday, April 19, 2018

Army, Marine Corps Stress Importance of Ground Forces Modernization

WASHINGTON -- Army and Marine Corps officials stressed to lawmakers yesterday the urgency in modernizing ground forces amid an increasingly challenging security environment.
Soldiers from Task Force Stalwart, composed of soldiers from 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry

"We are at an inflection point, and we can no longer afford to choose between near-term readiness and modernization,” Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for programs, told the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee.

The development of new capabilities has been slowed, deferred, and in some cases halted due to the Army’s focus on the demands of ongoing campaigns, combined with constrained resources and an industrial age organizational model, Murray said.

“Meanwhile, our adversaries have or are quickly attaining a competitive advantage," he said.

Murray appeared before the panel with Army Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration and commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command.

Investments to Restore Military

The Army and Marine Corps leaders welcomed lawmakers’ support for defense spending, saying the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget and the fiscal year 2019 budget request seek to restore the military after years of decline.

The investments, they said, support the National Defense Strategy and aim to build a more lethal and agile force.

“The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one under the most difficult of circumstances,” the Marine generals said in their written statement, adding that this requires “new operational concepts, an aggressive approach to force development and a consistent, multiyear investment to restore warfighting readiness.”

Modernization Focus

The Army, Murray said, plans in fiscal year 2019 to selectively upgrade equipment that is critical to near-term readiness and focus on areas crucial to combat. Those areas, he told the panel, include long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air missile defense and soldier lethality.

For the last several decades, the Army possessed overmatch based on its qualitative edge in capabilities, Murray and Ostrowski said in their written statement.

“It enabled our Army to defeat enemy formations, underpinned credible deterrence, and served as a critical pillar of joint force capabilities in all domains – air, land, maritime, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum,” they said.

“Now, a combination of strategic, technological, institutional and budgetary trends places at risk the Army’s competitive edge over near-peer adversaries in the next fight,” they warned.

Walsh outlined priorities for the Marine Corps for fiscal year 2019 as information warfare, long-range precision fires, air defense command and control in a degraded environment, protecting mobility and enhanced maneuver, and supporting the defense secretary’s priorities to increase lethality, resilience, agility and build a flexible and dynamic force.

“The Marine Corps’ ground programs modernization strategy will ensure the individual Marine enjoys a qualitative military edge over any adversary,” Walsh and Shrader said in their written statement, adding that the goal is to adequately equip the Marine to ensure “combat formations capable of closing with and destroying the enemy.”

Face of Defense: Army Helicopter Mechanic Earns Officer Scholarship

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- In 2010, the most destructive earthquake in Haiti’s history struck the Caribbean island, killing more than 100,000 people and leaving about 1.5 million others homeless.

Sixteen miles from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter, Army Spc. Carl Denis and his family, natives of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were among the people suffering in the aftermath.

More than eight years later, he is one of four soldiers in the 7th Infantry Division selected this year to receive a Green to Gold scholarship to be a commissioned officer upon college graduation.

Green to Gold is a two-year program that provides eligible active duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer. “It was my own determination that helped me out and my initiative as well,” said Denis, who works as a mechanic repairing UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.

'Like an Impossible Feat'

“When I finally got the [scholarship] letter, it was pretty much like an impossible feat that came into reality,” he said.

This achievement continues his path forward.

Denis will enroll at Arizona State University this fall to major in information technology with a focus on cybersecurity.

“When I commission, I plan to enter the cyberwarfare field, which is a pretty new career field in the Army,” Denis said.

Commitment, Dedication

The competition to receive a Green to Gold Scholarship is fierce, and it takes commitment and dedication to earn the scholarship -- both common concepts to Denis.

From his humble life in Haiti, at age 16, Denis moved to the United States shortly after the natural disaster. As a teenager, Denis struggled to speak English. “It wasn’t a language I spoke regularly in Haiti,” he said. “I knew some English, but I wasn’t as proficient as I am now.”

Despite the adversity, Denis took advantage of his bilingual skill, joining the Army through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program.

“I enlisted under the MAVNI language program because I speak Creole,” Denis said. “I received my citizenship when I graduated [from basic training].”

Despite living in an earthquake-stricken country and immigrating to a country with an unfamiliar language, Denis continues forward down his path.
“It’s great to see a young soldier like Specialist Denis receive the Green to Gold [scholarship],” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Sakpraneth Khim, Denis’ flight platoon sergeant. “We always want our soldiers to do better than us. He is a shining example of that.”

Service Dog Lends War Veteran a Helping Paw

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- What if you are screaming for help, but no one can hear you? What if your life starts to crumble? Do you know where to turn or what options are available to veterans and service members?

That is exactly how retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brandon Jones felt as he reached a breaking point in his military career and decided it was time to reach out to military agencies to get the help he desperately needed.

Jones reminisced on his childhood days growing up in Fayetteville, Georgia, and his love for airplanes.

“My dad would take me to the store and ask what I wanted for my birthday,” Jones said. “I would always pick an airplane. I just loved them so much.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

His love for airplanes is what brought him into the Air Force where, he honorably served for 11 years until he was medically retired due to post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Center for PTSD at the Department of Veterans Affairs describes PTSD as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event.

Jones served seven tours overseas as a logistics planner in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

“The level of stress that the combat tours bring takes a toll on you mentally, physically and psychologically,” he said. “It was hard to come home and adjust.”

Jones said he found himself coming home and being angry all the time. All he wanted was to be left alone.“I’d often have nightmares and flashbacks about my comrades that didn’t get to come home with me,” he said. “I’d feel guilty, and I kept asking myself what I could have done differently?”

Seeking Help

After years of silence, he decided it was time to seek help; he reached out to the local chaplain and visited the mental health office. “I desperately needed help,” he said. “I was figuratively drowning and I needed a helping hand.”

While searching online for answers or others who might be going through the same problems, Jones found the link to a website for service dogs. He reached out to Carol Borden, founder and executive director of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs in Williston, Florida, hoping he could find the answer he had been looking for.

“My medications weren’t doing it for me, my counselors weren’t doing it for me, and the therapy wasn’t doing it for me,” Jones said.

Individually trained medical service dogs can be obtained through nonprofit organizations such as Guardian Angels, Freedom Service Dogs, K9s for Warriors and many other organizations that rescue, raise, train and then donate these service dogs to veterans. After reviewing his application, Borden decided Jones was the right candidate to receive a service dog.

“I want to make it possible for people like Brandon to get the help they need through our amazing dogs,” Borden said. “We custom train each one of our dogs to mitigate the challenges that someone might be having.”

Jones visited the dog farm weekly while waiting to be paired with the right service dog. He needed a service dog that could alert him during PTSD triggers and help him ease through those anxieties.

Apache Provides Comfort, Companionship

“Never did I think that I would have a dog that would help me get back to a stable life,” Jones said. “If I’m having nightmares, he will literally come and lick me until I wake up. When he senses an anxiety attack, he will put himself on me and he will force me to pet him.”

Jones credits his service dog, Apache, for saving his life.

“It’s been a life-changing experience for me,” he said. “He is the reason why I can go outside now. He is the reason why I can interact with people. And, most importantly, I can spend time with my family again.”

Jones urges others who may be going through a similar situation to reach out to military agencies that can help them get PTSD treatment.

“If one option doesn’t work, there is always something else available,” he said. “For me, the answer was getting a service dog. But every person heals differently. Find what works for you and know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
No matter where you live, PTSD treatment in the Department of Veterans Affairs is available. According to the National Center for PTSD, each medical center within VA has PTSD specialists who provide treatment for Veterans with PTSD and there are nearly 200 specialized PTSD treatment programs throughout the country.