Archive for July 2015

July 31, 2015

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Military Family Overcomes Deployment, Education Challenges

By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md., July 31, 2015 – Military families face the challenges of deployments and frequent moves and the impact they have on their children’s morale and education.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. David Mason, a security forces first sergeant here, his wife, Jennifer, and their four daughters spoke with DoD News about the impact his deployments have had on their family.

Missed Birthdays

David Mason’s last deployment was to Iraq five years ago. He said he was fortunate that during his seven deployments he didn’t miss any births, although he did miss birthdays.

“He was here for my graduation and when I turned 16 and 18,” said Brooke, 18, who was happy her father didn’t miss her special days, but joked that her curfew becomes stricter when he’s home.

The Mason’s youngest daughter, Laura, 11, said her father ordered Daddy Dolls and daddy blankets that had their baby pictures with him on them. Daddy Dolls are personalized soft dolls printed with the image of a loved one.

“I still have the doll, and I still sleep with mine,” she said, her face lighting up.

Melanie, 15, said she missed seeing her dad around the house.

“I missed waking him up in the morning, tackling him and hugging him, telling him good morning,” she said.

Venessa, 13, said she remembers when her father came back from one deployment, they all surprised him.

“He dropped his bags, and everybody started running toward him. I ran up to him and hugged him,” she said. “I was upset he was gone so long because I love my dad so much. I missed him.”

Jennifer Mason said his last few deployments to Iraq were the hardest for her.

“He would usually go out on night missions, and I would be up all night, just waiting for his phone call to let me know that he got back from his mission safely,” she said. “He likes to deploy because he likes to be out there doing the mission, but I’m like, ‘Can you go somewhere that I don’t have to stress?'”

Moves Challenge Children’s Education

Military families experience permanent change of station moves every four or so years for enlisted members and slightly less for officers. Their children face challenges as they adjust to different school requirements from state to state.

While at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, the Mason children attended school at Fort Bragg for 10 years. When they moved to Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado, they attended a public school off base. Jennifer said the high school was new and employed a different grading system with Us, Ps and Ss instead of the usual A to F system.

“I don’t think it was Common Core,” she said. “It was nothing we had seen. When the girls got their report cards, we couldn’t tell if they were progressing or if it was a bad grade. We moved the girls to a charter school and a normal grading system. It was really nice there, and people from our church went there but they taught the science courses backward. They taught physics, then chemistry, biology and earth science instead of the other way around like I was taught.”

Jennifer added, “When we got to Maryland, it was really difficult. My oldest had to take biology with the freshmen, and she was like, ‘They’re going to think I’m stupid because I’m a junior.’ She was ahead of them on chemistry and physics, though.”

Brooke said the other challenge was the testing. She had taken the exit exams in Colorado and had an issue with those scores transferring when she moved to Maryland.

“Here, they have testing that you have to take and that almost interfered with my graduation,” Brooke said. “I didn’t want to not graduate because the military decided at the last minute to move us. That’s not fair to me or anybody else that has to deal with that because they’ve had problems with that at the school.”

All of the girls said it’s hard to move away from the friends they make.

“You get really close to them and you get to know them and then you have to move again — it’s hard,” Laura said. “The first few days of a new school, you have to walk the hallways by yourself because people who aren’t military are with their friends because they don’t move as much.”

Melanie said she met her friend Rebecca in North Carolina in the third grade and hadn’t seen her in five years.

“When she came from Texas, and she showed up at my door, we both cried, and we were so overwhelmed that we got to see each other after five years,” she said. “We just clicked. We had so much fun together.”

The girls said through it all, they have each other, though they can get on each other’s nerves.

“I have a close relationship with my mom, my dad and all my siblings. We’re all really close and we get along great but sometimes it sucks because if they do anything, I get blamed for it because I’m supposed to be setting the example for them. We all get along,” Brooke said, smiling at her sisters.

Proud of Father’s Military Service

Venessa said though the moves can be a challenge, she’s still proud of her dad being in the military.

“Whenever he comes to my school in uniform, they’re like, ‘Is that your dad?’ I’m like, ‘Yes!'” she said, smiling broadly. “He’s a good dad. He’s my twin. We joke around a lot.”

Brooke plans on going to community college so she can “have a good job,” she said.

Venessa said she hopes to either be a lawyer or work for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

“Education is important because it’s good to learn and be smart so you can be successful and have a good job,” she said. “I have good goals. I take school seriously. I want my parents to be proud of me and at the same time, I want to be proud of myself too.”

Jennifer said she hopes all of her daughters will go to college.

David said he continues to work on his time management, to make time for just him and his wife, as well as having daddy-daughter dates so that he can spend one-on-one time with each daughter.

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July 25, 2015

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Votel Discusses Special Operations Challenges

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 – The “hyper connectivity” of the world today complicates an already complex set of global security issues, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said today at a security forum in Colorado.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge that the problems of Russia, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and state and non-state actors is made more complex because of the speed and ubiquity of communications.

The general spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado this morning.

The Socom commander said Russia’s use of hybrid warfare in Crimea and eastern Ukraine must be countered. Russia’s use of conventional and non-conventional forces and the use of military and non-military governmental capabilities present problems beyond a simple military solution, the general said.

“They are using information operations, they are using their own military capabilities and they are using ethnic Russian populations in some of these countries as surrogates,” he said.

All this, the general said, helps “perpetrate this idea of coercion and pressure on neighbors along their periphery to meet their particular objectives.”

Russia’s objective, Votel said, is to create a situation where NATO cannot thrive. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the North Atlantic Alliance as a threat, Votel said, and the Russian leader “is attempting to create these frozen conflicts and situations that are difficult to resolve along their border and in doing that stalemate a lot of things.”

Hybrid warfare is unconventional warfare and that’s in U.S. Special Operations Command’s wheelhouse, the general said. The command is working with NATO allies and partners to develop their capabilities, he said.

Focusing on ISIL

But most of Socom’s resources are focused on the Middle East and Central Asia, the general said, noting that focus now is on ISIL.

ISIL is a terrorist group with ambitions to be the new Caliphate, Votel said. The first Caliphate extended from Spain, through North Africa and across to India.

The group is “looking for opportunities where there is ungoverned spaces and vulnerable populations, and they are taking advantage of that,” he said.

When pressure is applied in one spot, ISIL moves to another, the general said.

“I don’t know if they have a plan, as such,” he said, “but what they are trying to do is re-establish that Caliphate by looking for opportunities they can exploit.”

Votel said the fight against ISIL and groups like it will require a long-term commitment. He cited Colombia and its 50-year fight against terrorism.

“I don’t believe there’s any one strategy that we are going to apply that is immediately going to change this,” the general said. “It’s going to take a long-term approach, understanding what is happening, making smart decisions and continuing to apply pressure — whether that is military pressure, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, informational pressure against violent extremists.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews) 

July 17, 2015

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Shootings in Tennessee Leave Four Marines Dead

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 – Four Marines were killed and another service member was wounded in two separate shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee, today, military officials confirmed.

The shootings took place at a Network Operations Support Center, operated by the Navy, and at an armed forces recruiting center, officials said.

Names of the deceased will be released after their families are notified, officials said, adding that the Defense Department is working with local and federal authorities.

The Network Operations Support Center is used by Navy and Marine Corps personnel, and is often referred to as a “reserve center,” Navy officials said. It provides training and readiness support for reserve-component personnel to enable them to support the needs of the Navy and Marine Corps.

‘Devastating and Senseless’

“The tragedy in Chattanooga is both devastating and senseless,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Department of the Navy family, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wounded in service to our nation during this incident.”

As the investigation unfolds, he added, the priority will be to take care of the families of those affected.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to the first responders on the scene whose prompt reaction was critical to stopping this individual from inflicting further violence,” Mabus said. “Though we can never fully prevent attacks like this, we will continue to investigate, review and guard against future vulnerabilities and do everything in our power to safeguard the security of our service members and their families.”

July 9, 2015

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Army Announces Force Structure and Stationing Decisions

The Department of the Army announced today force structure decisions and stationing plans for the reduction of the regular Army from 490,000 to 450,000 soldiers. The reduction of force structure will occur in fiscal years 2016 and 2017; the reduction of 40,000 end strength will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2018, and will be accompanied by the reduction of 17,000 Department of the Army civilian employees. These cuts will impact nearly every Army installation, both in the continental United States and overseas.

As part of these reductions, the number of regular Army brigade combat teams, the basic deployable units of maneuver in the Army, will continue to reduce from a wartime high of 45 to 30 by the end of fiscal year 2017. The Army will convert both the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia and the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska into smaller unitsmaneuver battalion task forcesby the end of fiscal year 2017. While brigade combat teams consist of approximately 4,000 soldiers, these battalion task forces will be comprised of approximately 1,050 soldiers.

Additionally, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division will remain a brigade combat team, but will convert its primary maneuver platform. Currently, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division is a Stryker brigade combat team, however, it will become an infantry brigade combat team without Stryker combat vehicles. Additionally, the Army is analyzing a proposal to use the brigade combat team’s current Stryker equipment to convert an Army National Guard brigade combat team in the Pacific Northwest to a Stryker configuration. The Army selected these brigade combat teams for reorganization based on a variety of factors including strategic requirements and the inherent military value of the installations where they are based. The force structure decisions announced today best posture a smaller Army to meet global commitments.

“Budget constraints are forcing us to reduce the Total Army,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Army deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7. “These were very difficult decisions to make as all of our installations and their communities offer tremendous value to our Army and the nation. In the end, we had to make decisions based on a number of strategic factors, to include readiness impacts, mission command and cost.”

If the fiscal-caps of the 2011 Budget Control Act caps, commonly referred to as sequestration, are not addressed, the Army’s end-strength will be further reduced to 420,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2019. This will result in a cumulative loss of 150,000 soldiers from the regular Army a 26 percent cut over a seven year period. The resulting force would be incapable of simultaneously meeting current deployment requirements and responding to the overseas contingency requirements of the combatant commands.

For more information on this release, please contact Lt. Col. Joe Buccino at 703-697-5662, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Army.

July 1, 2015

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