Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Green Beret Wife Honored With "Patriot" Award - Forms "Steel Mag" Group

A recognized and widely-esteemed leader in the Special Forces community and Executive Director of the Green Beret Foundation, Jennifer Paquette, was recently honored by the United States Special Operations Command for her tireless work in support of Special Operations Forces and more specifcally -- the Special Forces "Green Berets". Ms. Paquette received USSOCOM's "Patriot" award March 2, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. She was recognized for her service to the SOF Community that spans well over a decade.

The prestigious award, established in 2007, is the highest honor USSOCOM gives to civilians and is designed to recognize "those individuals who go above and beyond to support Special Operators and their families". Paquette has had the honor of supporting hundreds of Green Berets and their families and raised millions of dollars in support of the Green Beret Foundation - a non-profit which promises to "answer the call of Green Berets and their families so that they can succeed in their next mission".

"I recognize and am honored and humbled that I have been afforded the opportunity to support this elite unit and their families. For a female to be leading an organization that supports an all male unit, is a big deal to me. The fact that a fraternal brotherhood that has been underground for decades allows me to hold a trusted position does not go unnoticed by me. Also there would be no reason to honor me with an award if it weren't the work of the Green Berets and SOF at large," Said Paquette.

Jen has many career achievements over her 25 year career but creating the Steel Mags sorority, a program under the GBF, is one she is particularly proud of. "I have found my people-girls that are cut from the same cloth being tenacious, steadfast, loyal, dependable for the Special Forces Regiment and their families and local communities. They are just as intelligent and driven by purpose as their Green Berets. These women are my family. I may have founded the sorority but these women have built it and gave legs to the vision," Paquette says.

Paquette identified a need for this special sorority after her husband SSG (R) Roland Paquette, a Green Beret medic, was traumatically injured by an IED blast while serving with 3rd Special Forces supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. "Jen is a very tenacious, loyal and driven person. She doesn't take no for an answer and does not shy away from a challenge even when others say 'Don't do it. You will fail'. When I enlisted, she enlisted with me. We are a team." Says Roland. Roland has since successfully transitioned from military service as a combat medic to a business owner of Med Training Group and an emergency room Physician Assistant.

Realizing that US Army Special Forces have been in the longest hot war in American history, Jen knew that our Green Beret marriages were maturing and children were growing up dealing with the effects of war. Her line of thinking is if we can attempt to keep the ladies and kids supported and as healthy as possible, our Green Berets can focus on the mission at hand whether that mission is being deployed, dealing with an injury or transitioning to civilian life. "Let's share the burden," she believes.

The Steel Mags started with a small group out of Ft. Bragg, NC. They have since grown to be a national group and have been mobilized throughout the country supporting each other, their local communities and teaching even civilian young girls and ladies the philosophies of the Spartan female force of the sorority. Green Berets are particularly known for their high-deployment rates and consistent high-risk missions; they have the highest per-capita casualty rate of any unit in the US military. Given the intensity of the service and sacrifice, Jen's creation of Steel Mags appears to address an intense "need" in an empathic and vital fashion.

Uniquely positioned to understand and provide essential support to the SOF community, Paquette has a long history of service; she is on the Board of Advisors for the National Special Forces Green Beret Memorial Project near Ft. Bragg, NC. She has been active with JINSA, AIPAC, and Catholic Charities. She was selected for the 2012 Outstanding Young San Antonian award. Jen is also an Honorary Member of the Special Forces Association.

As Executive Director of the GBF, she manages critical aspects of day- to-day operations and handles strategic business development at the Foundation including strategic planning, fundraising, building and maintaining donor and investor relationships, coordination of services with USSOCOM Care Coalition, USASFC, USASOC and delivering those services to Green Berets and their families.

Green Beret Foundation Chairman of the Board Ret. Maj. Gen. Simeon Trombitas expressed enthusiasm for Jennifer's service to the Special Forces community. "Jen is an incredible asset to the Special Forces community. Her commitment has been incredible in times of great stress. Our Green Berets are much better off for having her support. Her efforts come at a critical time of need for Green Berets --- because Special Forces global deployment rates are not expected to slow down anytime soon," he said.

Ms. Paquette earned her B.S. in Business Administration majoring in Supply Chain Management from Arizona State University and her Master's in Public Administration with a concentration in Not-for-Profits and Public Policy from St. Mary's University. She is a member of Business Executives for National Security, the San Antonio Downtown Rotary Club, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and an associate member to the OSS Society. "Strong Females. Strong Societies" says Paquette.

The above article came from the SF Brothers Facebook site.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vietnam War Commemoration Ceremony, 29 March 2017

A Vietnam War Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony will be held at 3 pm, Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at the ROSTRUM Area of the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.

The event will include: the Presentation of the Colors, National Anthem, Moment of Silence, Remarks, Placing of Wreaths and the sounding of TAPS. The event is to pay respect and honor the service of the 2,709,918 WHO SERVED, 75,000 severely disabled, and the families & friends, who supported them all!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Request for Info - SSG James Hughes, KIA RVN 1966

The Chapter received this request through the SFA Chapter IX website. Thought maybe some of the older Vietnam era guys may read this and may have known SSG Hughes or know somebody who did.

My name is Richard Bonham. I am researching Staff Sergeant James Edward Hughes, he was assigned in 1965 to Detachment A-502 whose mission was the security of the 5th Special Forces Group Headquarters and the Nha Trang air base. When he was killed in action on 13th March 1966, he was part of Detachment A-302 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), III Corps, Mike Force, while engaging the enemy during Operation Silver City, five miles north of Camp A-312, Xom Cat, Long Khanh Province, South Vietnam.

Do anyone have any additional information on SSgt Hughes? I am doing research for a book and would appreciate any help you can give me. Thank you, Dick Bonham,

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chapter Meeting Notes_ 18 February 2017

SFA Membership: Life membership is still a good deal at $440 (current Member) $475 (Not current). It is $320 for members age 65 and over. Annual renewal is $40, New Member dues are $50. Reinstatement is $45 for Annual Members who did not pay in January are now late.

2017 1st Group Reunion, El Paso: Ike Camacho – Chair. Committee – Gus, Chuy, Duke, Steve, Leo, Jerry and Bill. Dates are 5-10 June 2017. This will be the 3rd time we hosted the 1st Group. The Chase Suites has rooms for $69, registration is $120 until 15 May, then it will be $140 (Hospitality Room only $50). Banquet will be at the Marriott. Billy Waugh will attend. Committee meets 2nd Saturday’s at noon at the VFW.

2017 SFA National Convention, Fayetteville, NC: The HQ Hotel rooms are already filled. The Holiday Inn across the street seems to be the best bet. Many of the 2018 Committee will attend to promote our convention.

2018 SFA Convention – El Paso: Chair, Brian Kanof; Committee Bill, China Boy, Roy, Steve, Joe Kerwin JR, Catherine from the city and lots more. Dates are set for 12-17 June, 2018. Convention Theme is “Mexican American Green Beret’s”. It will be a 5-night conference with events beginning on Wednesday. SFA 80 and the 82nd Airborne chapter will assist. Brian asked the members to start seeking $5K sponsorships now. Committee is meeting before the general meetings at 12 noon. All committee Sub-Chairmen will be selected by March meeting. Honorary Members and Associate Members may be Sub Chairs and Assistant’s, volunteer now. The Camino Real Hotel is doing a makeover (to be re-named Paso Del Norte Hotel) and will be finished about the time of the reunion. We are looking at that as a HQ Hotel.

SF Room at the VFW: Chair Tom Brady, Committee Leo, Brian, Chuck and Al. Plaques and contents will be decided by the committee.

Announcements for the Good of the Order: Tom Melgares presented certificates for those members who wee key to the success for the food drive.

John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament: Scheduled at Fort Bliss for 9 September. Committee members are Gus, Al, Ike, Leo.

US Border Patrol SOG Expo: Our major fundraiser is scheduled for 2-4 May, 2017 (Dinner at VFW 2nd 1800; Expo 3rd; Range Day 4th).

Pack 58 Pinewood Derby Track: Pack 58 sent a request for SFA 9 to buy them a new track for $1700. Chapter voted to authorize $500 but directed Bill and Steve to find out more information. A meeting with the Cubmaster determined that the old track, which SFA 9 purchased about 6 years ago, just needs repairs. He will get back to us with the repair quotes.

Bataan Death March – Waterpoint 7,  19 March, White Sands:  SFA 80 needs us to assist with workers from 0900-1500, at Mile Marker 17 on HWY 70. After the event Mike Burleson will host a stand down party at his house, 8936 Lisa Lane, Las Cruces NM. SFA 9 Member Tony Beltran should be in town to participate in the trek as he always does. USASMA SF students are competing in the Military Heavy category. Chapter 9 is sponsoring their team and paying the $680 entry and shirt fee.

Jerry Rainey Scholarship: Greg Brown is Chairman again. Applications are being accepted – need transcripts thru current semester – Mid June deadline; policy was updated at the meeting. The Chapter voted to put 10% of SOG Expo profits into Jerry Rainey Scholarship fund.

VFW Elections: Pete Peral is running for Commander. Elections are April.

Chapter member Sam Morgan is running again for City Representative of District 4 whicvh is Northeast El Paso where a larger percentage of active dity and retired militarty live. Sam requests support from the Chapter. His website is where you can donate, view volunteer information or find voting information.
President's Message:
Guys, sweet and short. We have a BUNCH of STUFF going on. Support as much as you can.
Pete Peral, President SFA Chapter IX  

Monday, March 13, 2017

RIP Joe Kerwin

Longtime Chapter IX member Command Sergeant Major (retired) Joseph R. Kerwin passed away on March 6th.

Born in Pharr, Texas in 1928, Joe accrued over 30 years of military service, initially joining the Navy at age 17 in 1944.  After World War II he returned home to McAllen Texas then joined the Army, as an Infantryman in 1952 during the Korean War.  He subsequently served with the 325th ABN Inf. Regt. 82nd Airborne Division (US); 503rd ABN Regt, 11th Airborne Division (US and Europe 1954-59); HQ 18th Airborne Corps (US); and, 5th Regimental Combat Team (INF) (Korea). 

He became a Green Beret in 1960 with Special Forces assignments including 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (1961); 8th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Latin America 1962-66); 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (Vietnam 1966-67); and, MACSOG (Special Operations Group) (Vietnam) 1971-72.  Joe retired with over 500 jumps.

Joe earned a Master of Arts Degree with Webster University, Saint Louis, Missouri, worked for the US Government and local law enforcement for a combined 11 years and became a Licensed Private Investigator for 5 years.  Noteable, Joe served as a counselor for Vietnam Veterans.  

His Awards and Decorations include: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal w/ “V” device for Valor, Bronze Star, Air Medal w/ “V” Device for Valor, ARCOM w/ “V” Device for Valor, Purple Heart, Vietnamese Medal of Honor, Two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses, Joint Service Commendation Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Civic Action Medal 1st Class, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Three US Presidential Citations, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citation, Master Parachutist Badge, National Defense Service Medal w/olc, Korean service medal, Good conduct Medal 9th awd, as well as Parachutist badges from Ecuador, Venezuela and Vietnam.

JCSM (ret) Joe Kerwin was preceded in death by his loving wife and devoted wife Maria and parents Joseph and Isabel Kerwin.  He is survived by his daughter Leticia Sanders (Danny), sons Joseph R. Kerwin, Jr., and Jesse Kerwin (Iris).  Not to mention six grandchildren and many great grandchildren.   

Viewing will be at Sunset Funeral Home on Tuesday March 14th from 0930-1100 Thurs then burial with Full Military Honors, following the viewing, at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.  

Please see the on-line obituary and memorial page.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Green Berets Hunt for Wanted Warlord Joseph Kony

In the Central African Republic — The helicopter settles in the elephant grass, rotor wash flattening the six-foot-tall fronds. The first man on the ground is Travis, a brawny Green Beret with a solemn demeanor. He scans the treeline, carbine at the ready, and the rest of the soldiers follow. Three Ugandan troops lead the way as a trio of Americans disperse through the column, weapons at the ready. On its surface, this is a simple mission. U.S. Army Special Forces, or Green Berets, have been ordered to "apprehend or remove" one of the world's most notorious warlords from the battlefield, along with his top commanders.

Joseph Kony built an army of child soldiers indoctrinated in his personality cult, robbing central Africa of a generation. The self-proclaimed Christian prophet is accused of crimes including murder, rape, kidnapping and torture by the International Criminal Court. The U.S. considers the elusive Kony a "specially designated global terrorist" and has offered up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.

The area of operations is the size of California, with about 80 military personnel and several dozen support personnel tasked with finding around 150 fighters with Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, operating across portions of four countries in some of the world's most inaccessible terrain. "You're looking for a needle in about a million haystacks," said Lt. Col. Cecil Marson, who commanded the operation's headquarters in Uganda until last spring. "You have to be judicious with your resources, but very aggressive."

Patrols can last days. They are hard: physically, mentally and tactically demanding. In most areas, the vegetation is thick. The only way forward is behind hooked machetes swung by the Ugandan point men. Even with a path cut through the grass and trees, the man in front disappears after only a few yards. With extreme temperatures and oppressive humidity, heat exhaustion is a concern. So are wild animals. Crocodiles, hyenas, big cats, troupes of aggressive primates and venomous snakes all stalk these wilds. There are swarms of bees and disease-carrying insects. Long, needle-like thorns rip apart clothing and pierce flesh, and poisonous plants abound.

The list of dangers is long, even without the possibility of encountering armed fighters. But that is the goal of this patrol: to find the lingering remnants of the LRA. President Barack Obama deployed forces here in October 2011 but the U.S. had been involved clandestinely in the LRA war since at least 2008. The LRA has never attacked American citizens or interests and many in the U.S. military want this mission to end. They may get their wish.

As the Trump administration shifts its focus to counterterrorism, the Green Berets' mission to find Kony may be axed as early as this month with the warlord still at large. Dubbed Operation Observant Compass, America is a relative newcomer to this fight. Uganda is not. The Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF), has been fighting the LRA for almost 30 years. At the height of its power, the LRA counted as many as 3,000 fighters among its ranks. It preyed upon villages of northern Uganda, kidnapping young boys and forcing them to commit atrocities against their neighbors and families.

But in recent years, the LRA splintered into small groups, its members traversing the long borders between Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan to escape their pursuers. Uganda is wearying of the LRA fight. Last year, officials announced they were ready to pull their forces out of the hunt. Col. Richard Otto has been battling Kony's forces with the UPDF for 20 years. One of his toughest challenges is simply getting his troops from point A to point B. "Out here, the roads exist only on a map," Otto said. American involvement has meant increased mobility and better intelligence.

The cooperation between U.S. special forces and the UPDF has led to notable successes. In January 2015, Green Berets were present after Dominic Ongwen, one of Kony's senior commanders, turned himself in. Ongwen had been wanted for war crimes, including his role in the massacre of 345 civilians in northern DRC in 2009. He is currently facing trial by the ICC. The counter-LRA mission relies on the Americans. But without the Ugandans, it ends. "We are conscious that our withdrawal may take the situation back to square one," Otto said. Still, he believes the fight against the LRA is almost over. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

The Defectors. "I want to send a message to Ocan to come home. I came home with your children. You never had a chance to see your child, she is called [name withheld], you should come home and see your daughter." Messages like this, recorded by a former LRA member, echo across savannah and tropical forests via FM and shortwave radio. The broadcasts are supported through the work of American aid groups like Invisible Children.

In 2012, Invisible Children became the face of American activism in fighting Kony and rehabilitating LRA-affected communities with the release of a video known as "Kony 2012." The video has been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube. Some researchers took issue with what they called a loose adherence to facts in the mini-documentary, but Kony 2012's impact in raising public awareness of the LRA is difficult to overstate. "Kony 2012 was a very big thing, but attention died afterwards," said Camille Marie-Regnault, a field worker for Invisible Children interviewed at the group's headquarters in Obo, Central African Republic.

Other American organizations also took an active role in the hunt for Kony. One was Bridgeway Foundation, run by a Texas philanthropist named Shannon Sedgwick Davis. It paid mercenaries to train African Union soldiers searching for Kony. "To be clear, the objective of our work was never a manhunt for Kony, we set out to protect civilians who were being abducted and massacred," Davis told NBC News.

Invisible Children has two main roles. The first is maintaining the network of HF radio transmitters that provide an "early warning system" for tracking LRA attacks and movements. The second is running a program to encourage defections from the group and rehabilitating former fighters and escaped abductees, so that they can rejoin their families and reintegrate into society. "We are still working to convince people they can defect, and to convince people they can come out," Marie-Regnault added.

There have been notable defections, including several bodyguards. In October, the LRA's "chief intelligence officer" walked for four days from Sudan into CAR, where he was handed over to the UPDF with U.S. special forces present. Abducted in 2003 at the age of 19, Peter Kidega Okello told the Ugandan Radio Network that he decided to escape after reading a leaflet printed by Invisible Children. He has since been repatriated to Uganda and reunited with his family.

The hunt for Kony remains a pet project in Washington's halls of power. Activists and former military personnel describe routine high-level interest in the project, with members of Congress and the National Security Council sometimes seeking almost-daily updates about its status. The Defense Department's Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for Observant Compass was $22.959 million. In reality the operation relies on additional resources and funding from the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, a $59 billion slush fund used to pay for worldwide military activities, as well as national intelligence resources and State Department funds. U.S. military commanders have publicly stated its annual price tag to be closer to $100 million. "The U.S., America, we are not at war in Africa — our partners are at war in Africa," Lt. Col. Matt Maybouer, the commander of the mission said during a recent NBC News visit. "U.S. soldiers are not engaged in direct combat."

The Fight. The helicopter lifts off, and the patrol moves away from the landing zone, directed by the hand gestures of Ricky, the team sergeant. The Green Beret's team was one of three conducting a zone reconnaissance: a coordinated search for recent LRA activity. When they find it, teams pick up the trail like bloodhounds, tracking the fighters for days across miles of uninhabited wilderness until they make contact. "Based on historic patterns of movement, we've identified key locations — such as river crossings and campsites — where we can expect to find signs of movement by the LRA," Ricky said. (NBC News agreed to identify the men only by their first names, in exchange for a firsthand look at this operation.)

Most current knowledge about the LRA comes from the accounts of former members and abductees. Defectors often describe the terrain in terms of natural features — many are children from distant villages with limited knowledge of local geography. Their accounts contain locations such as "the camp near the bee's nest in the hollow tree trunk," or "the river crossing near the old pile of bones," according to a U.S. intelligence officer with direct knowledge of the operation.

Matching these generic terrain-feature descriptions to specific GPS markers enabled U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) to build a map of the world, as seen through the eyes of an LRA child soldier. The result enabled the Green Berets to anticipate LRA movements. Commanders have used this knowledge to carry out operations that have sharply reduced the remnants of the LRA.

Maybouer, the commander of the mission, said that since Observant Compass began in 2011 the group's hideouts have fallen from 2,000-3,000 to around 125-150. The remaining fighters are divided into groups, each led by a subcommander. At least one of these operates in Garamba National Park, a vast wilderness in northeastern DRC on the border with South Sudan.

That LRA subgroup is hunting elephants. They sell elephant tusks on the black market in exchange for cash, to buy weapons and supplies. A mature elephant tusk sells for as much as $70,000. The LRA takes the tusks northwest, around 500 miles by foot or pack animal across uninhabited corridors of CAR and South Sudan, to Kafia Kingi. There, an illicit market in ivory — among other things — thrives.

Kony is still thought to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, known as "K2" by the U.S. military, moving into uninhabited parts of CAR when pursuit comes too close. In K2, seasonal markets buy and sell the spoils of poaching, funneling them to international smugglers. Much of it ends up on the black market in Asia. The fight to end this trade is intertwined with the fight against the LRA. In August, the U.S. and its allies began an operation in Garamba aimed at pushing the LRA out of the park. "The presence of the U.S. military may be acting as a deterrent against poaching activity," Leon Lamprecht, an operations director for international NGO African Parks, which manages the 1,900 square-mile Garamba. While African Parks does not have a partnership with SOCAFRICA, "we do know that the LRA, as well as other armed poachers' groups, were sufficiently destabilized that only two old elephant carcasses were observed since August 1," Lamprecht said.

The Legacy. Central Africa is an unstable region. CAR is in the lingering stages of a complex insurgency. South Sudan is on the midst of a civil war, while DRC is recovering from years of internal strife. SOCAFRICA has carefully expanded its network of cooperation and access to local military infrastructure — such as forward bases and airfields — and capabilities as part of the counter-LRA mission. Although focused on finding Kony and his cohorts, American military officers are concerned about the potential for radical Islamist groups to take advantage of the chaos.

Several of the soldiers involved in Observant Compass mentioned Séléka, a rebel coalition made up of mostly Muslim members, that fought against the government of CAR during a civil war that started in 2012. In Obo there are virtually no local military or police forces, only a small contingent of Moroccan peacekeepers operating under the United Nations. The presence of the UPDF and the U.S. military has created an island of stability. As a result, refugees have flocked to the area.

Residents of Obo praised the presence of the Americans. "Things have been getting better here since they arrived," said Anidje Michelina, a resident of Obo who runs a local cafe. "I want the LRA to leave this place. Thanks to the American forces, there is peace in this town. We used to sleep in the bush, but now we are sleeping in our houses."

If the UPDF or the Americans leave, aid workers fear the security will evaporate. "Obo sits at the crossroads between these areas of instability. I think this area post-LRA represents a really key opportunity for stability on this part of the continent," said Invisible Children's Sean Poole. He would like to see American involvement regardless of the eventual fate of the LRA mission.

Commanders of Africa Command, or AFRICOM, have publicly questioned whether the mission is worth the expense. In testimony before Congress in March, outgoing AFRICOM commander Gen. David M. Rodriguez bemoaned its cost. In November, AFRICOM's current commander, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, told Stars & Stripes: "We are at a point in time where we need to transition that mission." What Waldhauser meant by "transition" is not immediately clear. Under the Obama administration, the mission was reauthorized each year for 12 months at a time. In October, during the waning days of his presidency, Obama opted to renew the mission for only six months, in order to give the incoming administration flexibility in deciding its future.

"I imagine Observant Compass would be quietly wound down and renamed," said Joseph Trevithick, a fellow at and a freelance journalist who has written extensively about AFRICOM. "In March there may be some temporary re-authorization, or they will already have an endgame that would allow AFRICOM to broaden the scope and replace the existing mission with one of regional counterterrorism." "The prospects for the reauthorization of this mission by President Trump are difficult to discern," he said. "This mission has always been driven by the White House and the State Department. The Department of Defense is less enthusiastic about this mission."

The White House has not publicly commented on the mission. As much of the National Security Council remains unstaffed, it is unclear whether the administration has an official position on the matter. Despite reassurances that the LRA has been more or less defeated, capturing Kony is key. Whether or not the U.S. is able to find Kony, his days may be numbered. Okello, the LRA intelligence chief, told Ugandan media the warlord suffers from severe stomach ulcers. "If we don't catch Kony," one U.S. military officer said, "stomach ulcers will." But reports about his ill health have surfaced before, and after 30 years, Kony is still at large.

Article from NBC News

Monday, March 6, 2017

Shulkin promises ‘major changes’ at Veterans Affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Friday promised major changes were coming to the agency, saying President Donald Trump expects it. “We’re going to be looking for some major changes, to really reevaluate how we do things,” Shulkin said during a live, online question-and-answer podcast with veterans. “If you look at the president’s 10-point plan, he’s not looking for minor changes. The reason why I feel I got a 100-0 [confirmation] vote from the Senate is because there’s one thing the country agrees on -- that our vets deserve better than what they’re getting now.” However, he did not offer veterans specifics about how he would change the department, only calling it a “modernizing of our system.”

Part of the change will include the Veterans Choice Program, which Shulkin said he wanted to “redesign” this year. The program allows some veterans to receive care in the private sector with the VA paying the bill, but many veterans have criticized it as complex and confusing. The Veterans Choice Program is set to expire in August. Shulkin said Friday he’s working with Trump and lawmakers to propose changes to the program, though no details were offered. He’s previously deflected claims of “privatization.”

In Trump’s 10-point plan for VA reform, which was introduced during his campaign, the president said he wanted to allow all veterans the option to seek care in the private sector. Some veterans organizations have voiced concerns and contend paying more for veterans to seek outside care could diminish resources at VA facilities.

Donald J. Trump’s 10 Point Plan to Reform The Department of Veterans Affairs

1. Appoint a VA Secretary whose sole purpose will be to serve veterans. Under a Trump Administration, the needs of D.C. bureaucrats will no longer be placed above those of our veterans.
2. Use the powers of the presidency to remove and discipline the federal employees and managers who have violated the public’s trust and failed to carry out the duties on behalf of our veterans.
3. Ask that Congress pass legislation that empowers the Secretary of the VA to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety or well-being of a veteran.
4. Create a commission to investigate all the fraud, cover-ups, and wrong-doing that has taken place in the VA, and present these findings to Congress to spur legislative reform.
5. Protect and promote honest employees at the VA who highlight wrongdoing, and guarantee their jobs will be protected.
6. Create a private White House hotline, which will be active 24 hours a day answered by a real person. It will be devoted to answering veteran’s complaints of wrongdoing at the VA and ensure no complaints fall through the cracks.
7. Stop giving bonuses to any VA employees who are wasting money, and start rewarding employees who seek to improve the VA’s service, cut waste, and save lives.
8. Reform the visa system to ensure veterans are at the front of the line for health services, not the back.
9. Increase the number of mental health care professionals, and allow veteran’s to be able to seek mental health care outside of the VA.
10. Ensure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a private service provider of their own choice. Under a Trump Administration, no veteran will die waiting for service.

Scott Blackburn, who was named Friday as Shulkin’s acting deputy secretary, said the VA would “buckle down” and “get more disciplined.” Blackburn previously led former VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s VA transformation initiative, “MyVA.” “The president wants to do some really big things,” Blackburn said Friday. “We still have a long way to go.”

Shulkin, who previously worked as VA undersecretary of health under McDonald, was confirmed Feb. 13 as the new VA secretary. The town hall-style event Friday was the first time that Shulkin spoke publicly to veterans as VA secretary. He said he would do more online town halls in the future if veterans requested them. On Sunday, Shulkin will address members of Disabled American Veterans at the organization’s winter conference in Arlington, Va.

Besides promising major changes, Shulkin on Friday condemned the “berating” of the VA by public officials and the media. He first mentioned the issue during a VA podcast released Friday morning and reiterated his feelings during the town hall event in the afternoon. “I think that it’s time to stop beating us up,” Shulkin said. “I’m disappointed there seems to be an obsession with finding our failings.”

That runs contrary to how Trump has spoken about the VA, which he has called “the most corrupt agency” and “probably the most incompetently run agency” in the government. “The constant berating that the VA is filled with unethical people is really painting a picture that is… a disservice to our veterans, because it breaks down their confidence in the system,” Shulkin said. “I worry there are people who need help but don’t come to us because they hear this narrative.”

During Shulkin’s confirmation hearing Feb. 1, Republican and Democratic senators also said they thought there were “good stories” at the VA, and that the agency was being unfairly criticized in some instances. Shulkin, who is a physician, also said Friday he would continue a practice that he started as undersecretary for health and find time to treat VA patients. On Monday, he saw patients on physician rounds in the VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System. “I think it’s important for me to make sure I stay connected with the services we deliver,” Shulkin said during the podcast. “I get tremendous value from actually being able to take care of vets and hear from them and work with staff.”

Article from Stars and Stripes

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Master Sergeant (Retired) Hank Beck Receives Long Overdue DSC

On Monday, 27 February 2017, MSG (Retired) Hank Beck’s was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in an awards ceremony at the Pentagon, marking 50 years and two days after the event where then SP4 Beck, with the Recon Platoon of 2-327th Airborne Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division, earned this distinction. Picture at right: L-R: MAJ Denny Drewry from SFA Chapter 54 (Boston), Kevin Knapp, MSG (Ret) Hank Beck as he receives the Distinguished Service Cross, Ray Oden and Jim Hooker.

From an earlier article posted in the Orlando Sentinel, where Hank Beck was awarded the Silver Star:

On Feb. 25, 1967, Henry Beck and a handful of comrades in the Army's 101st Airborne Division dropped from a helicopter into the lethal jungle of South Vietnam. Beck, then 19, was part of a six-man reconnaissance team that quickly found itself under sniper fire. It was then that Beck took action that saved several lives. "He went to our right flank through a smoke grenade, went around to the sniper holes and killed both snipers," said Robert Karpuszka, a fellow soldier.

It has taken 45 years, but on Sunday, the government will officially declare Beck a hero. During a Veterans Day ceremony, the Deltona man will receive the Silver Star, one of the nation's highest military honors. U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams will present the award during a ceremony at VFW Post 8093 in DeBary. Beck, 64, said he's proud to receive the honor, but added: "This isn't only about me. It's about the guys I served with."

Karpuszka, of Pittsburgh, recalled that as soon as his unit landed in Binh Than province, "one of our point men was shot and killed." As another soldier was shot, Beck took the actions for which he would be honored. Then, according to the presidential commendation awarding him the Silver Star: "Upon returning to his team, he noticed an enemy machine gun crew that was engaging them. He again, without regard to his personal safety and at extreme personal risk, ran to the position and eliminated the threat with grenades and automatic rifle fire."

When the exhausted team returned to base, Beck heard some chatter that he might be recommended for a medal. But then the talk died away. "I never even thought about it," he said. He served two more combat tours and became a career soldier. After retiring from the military in 1985, he joined the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where he worked until 2007 as a deputy and watch commander.

In 2010, he reunited with some men from the 101st Airborne who said they were shocked that Beck had never been recognized for his valor. They suggested filing paperwork for one of the military's highest honors, Karpuszka said. "It took about a year for me to compile all the information" about the firefight, Beck said. Some of the information about the incident had only recently been declassified. "He saved lives that day," Karpuszka said. "Who knows what would've happened if he hadn't done what he did?"

Hank retired in 1985 as Team SGT for ODA-582, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and, conveniently his Team Leader then, is our current Chief of Staff of the US Army (CSA) General Mark Milley. The CSA hosted and awarded the DSC to Hank in the midst of Hank’s family, the four survivors of the six man HAWK 14 (Hank’s VN squad in the 2-327), Hank’s CSM from 2-327, several members of the current HAWK 14 (of 2-237), and assundry SFA members.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Malaria drug Mefloquine causes brain damage that mimics PTSD: case study

This article came out several months ago. If you were ever given Mefloquine, make sure you get it annotated in your military, VA or other medical records. The case of a service member diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but found instead to have brain damage caused by a malaria drug raises questions about the origin of similar symptoms in other post-9/11 veterans.

According to the case study published online in Drug Safety Case Reports in June, a U.S. military member sought treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for uncontrolled anger, insomnia, nightmares and memory loss.

The once-active sailor, who ran marathons and deployed in 2009 to East Africa, reported stumbling frequently, arguing with his family and needing significant support from his staff while on the job due to cognitive issues. Physicians diagnosed the service member with anxiety, PTSD and a thiamine deficiency. But after months of treatment, including medication, behavioral therapy and daily doses of vitamins, little changed.

The patient continued to be hobbled by his symptoms, eventually leaving the military on a medical discharge and questioning his abilities to function or take care of his children. It wasn’t until physicians took a hard look at his medical history, which included vertigo that began two months after his Africa deployment, that they suspected mefloquine poisoning: The medication once used widely by the U.S. armed forces to prevent and treat malaria has been linked to brain stem lesions and psychiatric symptoms.

While no test is available to prove the sailor suffered what is called "mefloquine toxicity,” he scored high enough on an adverse drug reaction probability survey to tie his symptoms to the drug, also known as Lariam. The sailor told his Walter Reed doctors that he began experiencing vivid dreams and disequilibrium within two months of starting the required deployment protocol.

Symptoms can last years. Case reports of mefloquine side effects have been published before, but the authors of "Prolonged Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in a Military Service Member Exposed to Mefloquine" say their example is unusual because it shows that symptoms can last years after a person stops taking the drug.

And since the symptoms are so similar to PTSD, the researchers add, they serve to “confound the diagnosis” of either condition. “It demonstrates the difficulty in distinguishing from possible mefloquine-induced toxicity versus PTSD and raises some questions regarding possible linkages between the two diagnoses,” wrote Army Maj. Jeffrey Livezey, chief of clinical pharmacology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Once the U.S. military's malaria prophylactic of choice, favored for its once-a-week dosage regimen, mefloquine was designated the drug of last resort in 2013 by the Defense Department after the Food and Drug Administration slapped a boxed warning on its label, noting it can cause permanent psychiatric and neurological side effects.

50,000 prescriptions in 2003. At the peak of mefloquine's use in 2003, nearly 50,000 prescriptions were written by military doctors. That figure dropped to 216 prescriptions in 2015, according to data provided by the Defense Department. According to DoD policy, mefloquine is prescribed only to personnel who can't tolerate other preventives.

But Dr. Remington Nevin, a former Army epidemiologist and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said any distribution of the drug, which was developed by the Army in the late 1970s, is too much. “This new finding should motivate the U.S. military to consider further revising its mefloquine policy to ban use of the drug altogether,” Nevin told Military Times.

While a case study is a snapshot of one patient's experience and not an indication that everyone who took or takes mefloquine has similar issues, one randomized study conducted in 2001 — more than a decade after the medication was adopted by the military for malaria prevention — showed that 67 percent of study participants reported more than one adverse side effect, such as nightmares and hallucinations, and 6 percent needed medical treatment after taking the drug.

Yet mefloquine remains on the market while Walter Reed Army Institute of Research conducts research on medications in the same family as mefloquine, including tafenoquine, hoping to find a malarial preventive that is less toxic but as effective.

Mefloquine was developed under the Army’s malaria drug discovery program and approved for use as a malaria prophylactic in 1989. Shortly after commercial production began, stories surfaced about side effects, including hallucinations, delirium and psychoses.

Once considered 'well-tolerated'. Military researchers maintained, however, that it was a "well-tolerated drug," with one WRAIR scientist attributing reports of mefloquine-associated psychoses to a "herd mentality."

"Growing controversies over neurological side effects, though, are appearing in the literature, from journal articles to traveler’s magazines and resulting legal ramifications threaten global availability," wrote researcher Army Col. Wilbur Milhous in 2001. "As the 'herd mentality' of mefloquine associated psychoses continues to gain momentum, it will certainly affect operational compliance and readiness. ... The need for a replacement drug for weekly prophylaxis will continue to escalate."

Mefloquine was implicated in a series of murder-suicides at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002, and media reports also tied it to an uptick in military suicides in 2003. A 2004 Veterans Affairs Department memo urged doctors to refrain from prescribing mefloquine, citing individual cases of hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, psychoses and more.

The FDA black box warning nine years later led to a sharp decline in demand for the medication. But while the drug is no longer widely used, it has left damage in its wake, with an unknown number of troops and veterans affected, according to retired Navy Cmdr. Bill Manofsky, who was discharged from the military in 2004 for PTSD and later documented to have mefloquine toxicity.

He said the Defense Department and VA should do more to understand the scope of the problem and reach out to those who have been affected. “I’m kind of the patient zero for this and I now spend my life trying to help other veterans who have health problems that may have been caused by mefloquine. More needs to be done," Manofsky said. He said while there is no cure for the vertigo and vestibular damage or the psychiatric symptoms caused by mefloquine, treatments for such symptoms, such as behavior and vestibular therapy help. And, he added, simply having a diagnosis is comforting.

Veterans can seek help. “Veterans need to come forward," he said. "The VA's War Related Illness and Injury Study Center can help." The patient in the case study written by Livezey continues to see a behavioral therapist weekly but takes no medications besides vitamins and fish oil. He sleeps just three to four hours a night, has vivid dreams and nightmares and vertigo that causes him to fall frequently, and continues to report depression, restlessness and a lack of motivation.

The sailor's experience with mefloquine has been "severely life debilitating” and Livezey notes that the case should alert physicians to the challenges of diagnosing patients with similar symptoms. "This case documents the potential long-term and varied mefloquine-induced neuropsychiatric side effects," he wrote.

Article from the Military Times

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Green Beret Earns Silver Star for Afghanistan Action

On Feb. 1, U.S. Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Brian Seidl was presented the Silver Star, becoming the third member of his 59-man team to be awarded the medal for actions during the Battle of Boz Qandahari, which began on the night of Nov. 2, 2016, and cost the lives of two of Seidl’s teammates.

The battle was fought in a village surrounded by steep cliffs in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. One team member later described the heavily fortified village as “something like a castle.” The team and its Afghan army counterparts arrived in the village after an hour trek through waist-high mud and were clearing compounds when they came under attack.

“We heard a distinctive thud,” Seidl recalled in an Army press release. “That’s when the first grenade detonated.” The blast, which injured several Afghan soldiers and two Americans, one mortally, was followed by a barrage of enemy fire from all directions. Seidl and his team leader, Capt. Andrew Byers, sprinted toward the casualties and pulled two of them out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, a Green Beret went down elsewhere in the village with five gunshot wounds to his legs, hip, hand, and wrist.

The team’s final objective was a compound blocked by what Seidl described as a “huge metal gate.” As casualties mounted, Seidl and Byers first attempted to breach the gate with grenades. When that didn’t work, Byers tried kicking the gate open, at which point he was mortally wounded. The Green Berets and their Afghan allies managed to enter another compound, but with one-third of the team either killed or wounded, they were forced to hunker down and hold their ground until a quick reaction force arrived. Small arms fire and grenades continued to rain in from everywhere. “For two hours we fought in that compound,” Seidl said. [We] fought for our lives.”

The fighting continued even as the team exfiltrated the objective across approximately 800 meters of open territory and a medevac helicopter landed to retrieve the wounded. Byers died from his wounds during the flight out and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Due to the intensity of the enemy fire, the second medevac helicopter was unable to land and the operators were forced to push forward another 300 meters to another landing zone. Seidl and another teammate found a donkey and loaded it with Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, the soldier who had been mortally wounded by the initial grenade blast. “I know we’ve taken losses in the past,” Seidl told the Army. “But I don’t know that we’ve ever taken a loss like this in quite some times, where a team is hit this hard.”

The mission concluded the following morning, on Nov. 3, after every member of the team had been evacuated. According to the release, 27 Taliban insurgents and three Taliban commanders were killed in the battle. In addition to the three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars with Valor, four Army Commendation Medals with Valor, and six Purple Hearts were also earned during the fight.

“For his efforts taking charge of a severely injured and depleted force, leading them out of a kill zone and establishing a defensive posture that repelled every subsequent attack, for making the tough call on multiple danger-close air strikes near his own position in an effort to eliminate an overwhelming enemy force, and for leading every man under his charge out of a hostile city after inflicting catastrophic damage on multiple Taliban enemies, Seidl was recognized and awarded with the Silver Star Medal,” reads the press release.

Article from Army Times

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Real Housewives of ISIS

About time for some levity on this site. This was actually sent ot us by our unit Chaplain. Thanks!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blackwater Air Supporting Special Forces

From the article "Blackwater Air’ Is Back, and Flying for U.S. Special Forces", posted in the Daily Beast saying that a corporate descendant of the notorious guns-for-hire firm just got a $204 million contract to support American troops in Africa.

A mercenary air force that became a symbol of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is back in action—this time in Central Africa, supporting a shadowy American U.S. Special Forces commando operation targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army. In late January, a source on the ground in Central African Republic spotted a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter with the registry number N408RC carrying American Special Forces troops. The LRA, a cultish band of thieves and rapists led by warlord Joseph Kony, is most active in the forested region where Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet.

In 2010, President Barack Obama deployed around 100 Green Berets and other personnel to Central Africa to help local forces hunt down Kony and the LRA. Seven years later, Operation Observant Compass continues, mostly unnoticed by the press. The Pentagon asked Congress for $23 million to extend the operation through 2017.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Sikorsky helicopter that The Daily Beast’s source observed in Central African Republic belongs to Illinois-based EP Aviation, LLC. EP Aviation was once a subsidiary of Academi, the Virginia-based company that was formerly known as Blackwater. The “EP” stands for “Erik Prince,” Blackwater’s founder and the younger brother of billionaire U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The copter’s appearance is a reminder of the tangled web of corporate relationships that support the Pentagon’s expansive shadow wars in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa—and some of the companies’ ties to wealthy, powerful American politicians. During the height of the Iraq War, Blackwater managed a for-profit army in Baghdad that included Little Bird helicopters and other aircraft. The U.S. State Department and Defense Department have awarded Blackwater and its successors contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In Iraq, Blackwater's diminutive Little Birds usually carried a crew of four—two pilots and two door gunners armed with assault rifles. With their very corporate-looking blue-and-silver paint schemes, the Blackwater copters became icons of a grinding, unpopular war. The Little Birds were also symbols of Blackwater's heavy-handed tactics. The company and its employees in Iraq were involved in several suspicious killings -- and worse. In September 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square. Four of the mercenaries went to prison for the killings.

Blackwater's aviation operations were also controversial. One Little Bird was shot down in Baghdad and its five-man crew was killed. Another Little Bird crashed in Iraq and the two pilots died. The company lost several other aircraft in fatal accidents in Iraq. In 2004, a Blackwater transport plane crashed in a mountain canyon in Afghanistan, killing the three crew and three U.S. troops who were passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the pilots deliberately flew a risky flight path through the mountains. "I swear to God, they wouldn't pay me if they knew how much fun this was," the cockpit voice recorder captured one pilot saying shortly before the crash.

Dogged by lawsuits, Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 and moved to the United Arab Emirates. He subsequently founded Frontier Resource Group, a company that reportedly provides pilots for the Emirates’ brutal air war in Libya. Prince’s new company also tried to skirt U.S. regulations in order to sell attack planes to Salva Kiir, one of two warring strongmen in South Sudan. Prince has reportedly advised President Donald Trump, who appointed DeVos as education secretary despite stiff opposition from Democrats and even some Republicans. DeVos contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of senators who voted to approve her appointment.

Following Prince’s departure, Blackwater changed its name several times and came under new ownership. In 2010 it sold EP Aviation and other aviation assets to Illinois-based AAR, also known as Airlift Group, a self-described provider of “world-class expeditionary and conventional aviation solutions.” Around 60 ex-Blackwater aircraft continue to be registered in EP Aviation’s name. AAR did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment.

U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa rely heavily on innocent-looking, civilian-style aircraft. Some are actually military aircraft that wear civilian paint schemes. Others are civilian aircraft operating under contract with the Pentagon. On Feb. 6, the Defense Department awarded AAR/Airlift Group a $204-million contract to support U.S. forces in Africa through January 2018. According to the military's official "Central Africa Task Order," dated November 2016, American troops in the region need at least two fixed-wing planes in Entebbe, Uganda; another two fixed-wing planes in Nzara, South Sudan; plus five helicopters in Obo, Central African Republic. U.S. Special Operations Command was not able to fulfill an interview request before this story's deadline.

The civilian planes and copters transporting American commandos in their hunt for Kony and the LRA can expect to come under fire, according to the military's official work statement, dated October 2016. "In the event a contractor operating a mission is illuminated or 'spotlighted,' or is fired upon in the air or on the ground, the crew shall note the date, time and approximate area from which the event originated," the statement noted. But unlike Blackwater's Little Birds in Iraq, the mercenary copters in Central Africa aren't armed—and cannot shoot back.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RIP LTG Hal Moore - "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young"

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died. He was 94. Joseph Galloway, who with Moore co-authored the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press that Moore died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama.

Note: Joe Galloway has came to New Mexico State University in nearby Las Cruces to speak at annual ROTC events, including the annual event that awards the former SFA Chapter IX member CSM Mike Jefferson Memorial Scholarship.

Galloway said Moore, his friend of 51 years, died two days shy of his 95th birthday. "There's something missing on this earth now. We've lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend. They don't make them like him anymore," Galloway said.

Moore was best known for his actions at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. His actions were later reflected in the movie "We Were Soldiers" in which actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore. The book tells what happened to virtually every trooper involved in the 34-day campaign and the climactic four-day battle in which 234 Americans died at landing zones X-Ray and Albany in November 1965.

Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was "without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action." "Those of us who survived Landing Zone X-Ray survived because of his brilliance of command. I think every one of us thought we were going to die at that place except Hal Moore. He was certain we were going to win that fight and he was right," Galloway recalled. The picture at left, depicts LTC Hal Moore, Commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, on the radio during the fight for LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam.

Galloway and Moore wrote a second book, "We Are Soldiers Still," which he said grew out of a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam 25 years later. "We went back and walked those old battlefields. At the end of the day, Hal Moore and Col. Nguyen Huu An, the North Vietnamese commander, stood in a circle in the clearing and prayed for the souls of every man who died on both sides."

He said the two shared an "instant brotherhood that grew out of combat." "When we were discussing the book contract with a lawyer/agent, he asked to see the contract between me and Hal Moore, and Hal Moore said 'I don't think you understand. This isn't just a matter of money. We have trusted each other with our lives in battle and we have no contract before that.' I absolutely agreed."

On a Facebook page managed by Moore's family, relatives said he died on the birthday of his wife, Julia, who died in 2004 after 55 years of marriage. "Mom called Dad home on her day," the statement said. "After having a stroke last week, Dad was more lethargic and had difficulty speaking, but he had always fought his way back."

Before serving in Vietnam, Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then commanded a battalion in the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning. Born in Bardstown, Kentucky, he served in the U.S. military for 32 years. Galloway said the family has tentatively scheduled a religious service Friday in Auburn and a memorial service at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Georgia.

Friday, February 10, 2017

RIP Admiral Richard Lyon, First SEAL Admiral

Richard "Dick" Lyon, the first SEAL to rise to the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy has passed. He was 93 years old.

As a youth, he was selected a member of the United States Olympic swim team for the 1940 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but the 1940 games were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II. Lyon graduated from Yale University in 1944, and received a master's degree from Stanford University in 1953.

Lyon attended Columbia University Midshipmen's School, receiving his commission in the United States Navy in October 1944. He served as a Navy Scout and Raider in the Pacific Theatre and in China as an Intelligence Officer. He was released from active duty in 1946, subsequently joining the Naval Reserve. He returned to active duty in early 1951 he commissioned the "Underwater Demolition Team FIVE" and served in the Korean War until late 1952. Upon release, he resumed his Reserve participation.

In July 1974, Lyon became the first "Special Warfare" (SEAL) admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy, and regulary attended U.S. Navy Special Warfare Center (NAVSPECWARCEN) SEAL graduations.

Lyon was a graduate of both the National War College and the Naval War College. He was the first Reserve officer to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the United States Naval Institute where he served as Chairman of the Editorial Board. He has received decorations for the Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He returned to active duty as Deputy Chief of Naval Reserve in July 1978, and retired in July 1983 at the rank of Rear Admiral after nearly 41 years of naval service.

Admiral (retired) Lyon served two 4 year terms as Mayor of Oceanside, California. In 2013, Lyon was the recipient of the prestigious Yale University George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award. He was reported to be a avid private pilot and golfer and with his wife Cynthia (Gisslin) who survives him, they have children, 14 grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

Link to the Navy SEAL Foundation

Monday, February 6, 2017

Military Retirement - A New Blended System

The Defense Department on Wednesday laid out the final details for its new blended retirement system for military personnel, which will automatically enroll new service members and give existing troops the option of signing up.

The changes were included in the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization bill as the result of a longstanding effort to reform military service members’ compensation package. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, an Obama appointee who President Trump asked to stay on, officially issued the policy that will take effect in 2018.

Under the system, new troops would automatically be enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan and receive a matching contribution from the government. The government will contribute between 1 percent and 5 percent of service members’ salaries toward their TSPs, depending on what they elect to contribute themselves, though they will be defaulted into contributing 3 percent of their paychecks. The TSP account will begin 60 days into their service. Those who stay in the military for 20 years, and are thereby entitled to a retirement pension, would receive a less generous calculation for their annuity.

The new system moves away from the 20-year, all-or-nothing pension system currently in place for military members. Only about 17 percent of troops serve for 20 years and become eligible for the benefit.

To encourage members to stay in the military, they would receive “continuation pay” after 12 years of service. That payment will amount to between 2.5 and 13 times service members’ monthly basic pay. The guidance allows members to receive the payment in one lump or in four equal installments spread out over four years. Individuals who accept the bonus must sign on to at least three additional years of service, and may have to repay it if they do not complete the added time.

The new blended retirement system only automatically affects new service members starting Jan. 1, 2018. Current service members are grandfathered into the existing system, but can opt into the new one. They will have all of 2018 to make their decision. The Pentagon is in the process of educating troops about the modified retirement system, and launched its third of four courses this week. Troops electing to enroll in the blended system must complete the training to be eligible. Once enrolled via the “myPay” website, the decision is irrevocable, the guidance stated.

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