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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Join us on April 30th for an IAVA/ACWV – Charlie Wilson’s War House Party. We’re going to watch the film, and then join in on a national conference call with IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, Nathaniel Fick, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and is the best-selling author of “One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer”, and Charlie Wilson himself.


American Cold War Veterans Meeting Best Western Rosslyn/Iwo Jima 1501 Arlington Blvd. Arlington, VA 22209-3001



Hi everyone well I am off to D. C. Tomorrow for event I will be back friday with lots of great stuff to blog about.

April 30 – MAY 1, 2008WASHINGTON, DC

April 30 — Meeting of AMERICAN COLD WAR VETERANS– Best Western Rosslyn/Iwo Jima
1501 Arlington Blvd. Arlington, VA 2209-3001
Phone 703-524-5000 or 800-424-1501
Rate 135.99 Group Code 1121
(Group to assemble in lobby at 12:30pm, April 30th)

Visit the Hotel website for directions here.



May 1 – Join us for a Congressional Continental Breakfast 8:30-9:30 – Room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building

FOLLOWED BY visits to your senators and representatives
11:00 – Travel to Arlington National Cemetery — “Remembering Forgotten Heroes of the Cold War” Ceremony sponsored by American Cold War Veterans. Group will assemble at the Visitor’s Center, located at the entrance to the cemetary at 11:30am. Ceremony begins at 12 noon at section 34, Arlington National Cemetery, followed by visits to Korean War, Vietnam War, USS Thresher, and Laos memorials

United States Senate

Washington, DC

Press Advisory For: Contact: Jessica Smith (Webb), 202-228-5185

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 Kimberly Hunter (Webb), 202-228-5258

**Press Event: Tuesday, April 29 at 12pm, U.S. Capitol, West Front**




Call for Immediate Legislative Action on

The “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” (S.22/ H.R. 5740)

Tuesday, April 29— More than one hundred veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan from across the country will converge on Capitol Hill Tuesday to join members of Congress in advocating a “21st Century GI Bill” for our newest generation of veterans.

The group will call for immediate legislative action on the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” (S.22/ H.R. 5740), introduced by Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Warner (R-VA) in the Senate and by Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) and Peter King (R-NY) in the House. The legislation boasts strong bi-partisan and bi-cameral support with 57 cosponsors in the Senate, 234 cosponsors in the House and the endorsements of the nation’s leading veterans’ organizations.

S.22/ H.R. 5740 is designed to offer the brave men and women who have served honorably since September 11, 2001 a level of educational benefits on par with those provided to veterans of the World War II era. The legislation will give our returning troops the tools to succeed after military service, strengthen our economy in the face of increasing global competition, and make military service more attractive as we work to rebuild our military.

Who: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), lead Senate cosponsor

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), lead Senate cosponsor

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), lead Senate cosponsor

Sen. John Warner (R-VA), lead Senate cosponsor

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), lead House cosponsor

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), lead House cosponsor

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), lead House cosponsor

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), lead House cosponsor

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman (Tentative)

Matthew Boulay, Director of Campaign for a New GI Bill

Dr. Clifford Stanley, retired USMC Major General & CEO, Scholarship America

Pete McCloskey, former U.S. Rep. and Korean War veteran

Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Derek Blumke, president, Student Veterans of America

Bob Balaban, Master of Ceremonies, actor & director

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

American Legion

Vietnam Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)


National Association for Uniformed Services

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Jewish War Veterans of the USA

U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University

When: Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 12:00PM

Where: U.S. Capitol, West Front

(In front of the fountain, facing the Washington Monument)

Rain Location: Rayburn Room, H-207 U.S. Capitol Building

For more information about the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, please visit: http://webb. pdf/factsheetgis 222008.pdf

Former 528th USAAG and 70th Ord Co Admin Area (click here, where you can edit info and add comments)

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NYS Health Initiative for Returning Veterans and Their Families

On April 22, 2008, at the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center (VOC), New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) President and CEO James R. Knickman announced a $2 million veterans health initiative. The NYSHealth Initiative for Returning Veterans and Their Families will highlight the fact that the health, mental health, and substance use issues experienced by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are public health issues. The initiative will address veterans’ reintegration needs and strengthening collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Dr. Knickman was joined at the Rochester event by VOC President and CEO Thomas Cray, Western Region Deputy Director of New York State Division of Veterans Affairs Edward Simmons, MG John Batiste, New York State Senator Joseph Robach, and Veteran Member Associate of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America Andrew Roberts.

NYSHealth is initially funding the Rochester VOC and the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services in the Bronx to assist returning veterans with a variety of reintegration and care coordination needs. For more information on these projects and the initiative, visit the ‘Features’ section of our homepage at

Below is a sampling of media coverage of the Rochester event and the NYSHealth Initiative for Returning Veterans and Their Families:

‘Returning Soldiers’ Needs to be Studied,’ Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

‘Veterans Outreach Center to get $372K to Address Veterans’ Needs,’ Democrat & Chronicle

‘Grant will Help Vets Deal with PTSD,’ WXXI

‘Vets Center Gets Money for Study,’ WHAM 13

Video available here:

‘Veteran Services Receive Money,’ RNews

‘Veterans Health,’ Crain’s Health Pulse

Available at:

VFW Director in Afghanistan

Just wanted to let you know that Jerry Newberry, VFW’s Director of Communications, is headed back to Afghanistan. This is not Jerry’s first trip, and as a Vietnam vet himself, he likes to get his information first hand. Jerry has his own blog. If you get a chance, visit Jerry’s Blog and keep up with him in eastern Khowst province, Afghanistan.

Troy at VFW National HQ


Battle lines in the final frontier

April 26, 2008

An arms race in space could prove catastrophic, and has the potential to throw our societies back into the 1950s, writes Tom Allard.

The Space Age began with the launch of Sputnik 1 into orbit and an outbreak of terror in the US.

It was the height of the Cold War, October 1957, a time of Eugene McCarthy’s communist witch-hunts, “duck and cover” nuclear drills and Hollywood’s obsession with fantastical sci-fi flicks.

Then came the shock of the Soviet Union’s satellite launch.

“Words do not easily convey the American reaction,” the NASA historian Roger Launius wrote. “The only appropriate characterisation that begins to capture the mood on 5 October involves the use of the word hysteria. A collective mental turmoil and soul-searching.”

Tens of millions of Americans rushed out of their homes to gaze skywards as the 83-kilogram sphere and its ungainly four antennae passed overhead. Children tuned into ham radios, listening in for its beeping signal.

“Soon they will be dropping bombs on us from space like kids dropping rocks onto cars from freeway overpasses!” decried Lyndon Johnson, then a Democratic senator and rival of the president, Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was under intense pressure. He had a panicked populace, a lynch-mob media and military chiefs urging him to rush into a space weapons program to counter the Soviet threat.

But Eisenhower, a former five-star general and Allied supreme commander during World War II, quickly saw the risks of a space arms race, as well as an opportunity.

Within days, his administration had congratulated the Soviet Union on its mighty scientific feat. He said Sputnik’s orbit had affirmed an important principle: the freedom of international space for all nations.

This powerful idea of space as a “province of all mankind” had earlier been rejected by the Soviet Union. Now it had no choice but to accept it. Eisenhower stressed, and the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, concurred, that space should not be used for warlike activities.

So began a period of the development of space that has brought extraordinary economic benefits and a large measure of security to Earth. Globalisation would not have been possible without satellites. The financial system, the internet, modern air travel, weather and scientific research depend on space assets.

But as the space age enters its second half-century, there are growing concerns the world is on the verge of a hugely expensive and potentially catastrophic extraterrestrial arms race.

“It will bankrupt nations if they don’t blow themselves up in the meantime,” Brett Biddington, a former RAAF officer and author of a paper on space engagement, warns.

War in space is not an appealing prospect.

There are 800 operational satellites orbiting Earth, but strewn among them are 10,000 pieces of what is classed as space junk. The destruction of even 10 large satellites would cause enough debris orbiting the world at 36,000kmh to make space unusable for several decades, Theresa Hitchens, director of the US Centre for Defence Information, says.

“A space-based war may not wipe out humanity from the face of the Earth like all-out nuclear war, but it would be enough to send us back to the 1950s,” she says

As it stands, there are no weapons in space. But in the past 18 months China and the US have successfully tested anti-satellite weapons that have hit targets hundreds of kilometres in space from the ground.

The US and, many suspect, China and Russia have active programs to build a suite of space weapons, from powerful lasers to nano-satellites that can bump a larger satellite off its orbit.

More than a dozen nations can reach space. About the same number have ballistic missile programs, the technology that underpins ground-based anti-satellite weapons.

There is no treaty banning conventional weapons in space. The US, in particular, has adopted an increasingly belligerent posture over its control of space.

“We are at a threshold,” Hitchens says. “A lot of factors have come together and, frankly, it’s frightening.”

Among those factors is a fundamental change in the way military forces use space.

During the Cold War, Hitchens says, space assets were used for strategic military purposes. Reconnaissance satellites were used to spy on the other side, enforce treaty commitments and as early warning systems against missile attacks.

With only two major players involved, each side had a good idea of what the other was up to. The threats were well regulated and the development of space continued at a predictable and relatively harmonious pace.

But space is now used by military forces in an intrinsically different way: space assets are an essential part of everyday, tactical military operations.

It is called network-centric warfare, and there are no more enthusiastic proponents than the US and Australia. Simply put, all command and control communications, surveillance, targeting systems and military platforms are connected through what is called a satellite-based global information grid.

It gives everyone – from a commander in headquarters to a special forces soldier on remote patrol – access to a picture of the battle space.

Tank commanders who once pored over maps are now guided to their destination by the global positioning system. Bombing missions that would once take days to plan can be undertaken almost instantaneously as photographs and targeting information is emailed to an aircraft in flight.

The reliance on satellites is so pervasive in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that it has overwhelmed the bandwidth of US military satellites. According to Biddington, the US and its allies rely on commercial satellite operators for about 90 per cent of their bandwidth in the Middle East.

Satellites are crucial to modern military operations, making them extremely valuable targets. Moreover, they are vulnerable.

“Satellites are fragile,” Ron Huisken, from the Australian National University, says. “They move fast, but you know exactly where they will be at any moment.”

The US war machine would be thrown into chaos if several of its key satellites were blown up or permanently disabled.

Donald Rumsfeld, in a paper he wrote before he become US defence secretary, warned of a “space Pearl Harbour”.

Those fears were stoked last year when China fired a ballistic missile 900 kilometres from the Earth’s surface, downing one of its own weather satellites, creating a massive cloud of debris along the way.

At a space conference soon after, the chief of staff of the US Air Force, General Michael Moseley, said: “It’s not lost on this audience what a strategically dislocating event that was, on par with the October 1957 Sputnik launch.” Such a claim may have had a touch of hyberbole, but there is no doubt the US regards space, as Moseley put it, as “contested domain”.

The US responded to China’s test by shooting down one of its own satellites in February using its Aegis combat system. Unlike China it warned the rest of the world beforehand.

China’s successful test of its anti-satellite missile – it is believed to have tried and failed three times before – came three months after the US released its national space policy, asserting its right to “space control” and to conduct “counter-space” operations to thwart any challenge from adversaries.

The policy, which effectively took the Bush doctrine of pre-emption beyond the stratosphere, also rejected “new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to, or use of, space”. According to Hitchens, the policy went even further than Ronald Reagan did when he was president. He gave impetus to the idea of weapons in space with his “Star Wars” missile defence shield.

“Reagan said he was still open to banning anti-satellite weapons. Bush has said he won’t accept any treaty to ban weapons in space. It’s very aggressive rhetoric, very unilateral rhetoric,” Hitchens says.

Many arms control experts regard the rhetoric as destabilising, particularly when considered in tandem with the Bush Administration’s controversial decision to drop out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

The treaty, among other things, prevented the US and Russia from putting missile defence systems in space.

Huisken says the withdrawal from the treaty was “as big a mistake as Iraq” and “absolutely certainly” has spurred Russia, and especially China, to expand military spending at a rapid pace.

“The message sent to Russia and China was that henceforth your confidence in your nuclear deterrent capability is based solely on a political promise from Washington.”

Hitchens says it is vital to understand that satellites, with their predictable trajectories, cannot readily be defended by weapons, which means the role of ground-based and orbiting anti-satellite weapons is intrinsically offensive in nature.

This brings a new but inherently unstable dynamic of deterrence – you hit mine and I’ll hit yours – to the table.

“These principles worked in the Cold War because there were only two countries, countries which, over the years, came to know a lot about each other,” Hitchens says. “In space, there’s a greater uncertainty and a greater chance for a misunderstanding or an accident escalating into a catastrophic outcome. Also, when you have multiple players, the deterrence theory becomes very difficult to maintain.”

Much of the research and development undertaken into space weapons is shrouded in secrecy. It also involves dual-use technologies, giving those investing in it plausible deniability.

Hitchens estimates that the US is investing about $25 billion a year – when its military’s “black budget” is included – on technologies that could be used in space, and that does not take into account its investments in reconnaissance and communications satellites.

China has flagged its intent with its anti-satellite tests, while Russia has the technology to quickly mobilise a space weapons program.

India and France, even Japan, have also shown a keen interest, Hitchens says.

“In many ways, India is the country that scares me the most. The Indian Air Force, for a decade, has been trying to kick-start a space weapons program,” she says. The argument is gaining traction in New Delhi, not least because of China’s activities and because India does not want to be left behind on space weapons as it was on nuclear weapons.

India did not have nuclear weapons when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in the late 1960s. It opted out so it could pursue them, but has been treated as something of a pariah since. Critically, its non-participation in the treaty has hampered India’s ability to source uranium for civilian purposes.

“If there’s to be a treaty [on space weapons], they want to be much further ahead,” Hitchens says. “It’s a potent political argument and it frightens me because if India moves forward and develops anti-satellite weapons, then the Pakistanis will want to do something and so will the Iranians.

“The dominoes will fall and, once you reach a critical mass, it will be very hard to stop, and very dangerous up there.”

There is only one formal treaty governing space: 1967’s Outer Space Treaty, which forbids putting nuclear weapons in orbit or on “celestial bodies” such as the moon.

China and Russia have loudly urged the US to begin talks on banning other weapons in space and even working on limiting anti-satellite weapons.

But the US and Israel have been the only two countries strongly resisting negotiations beginning in the United Nations. They say a pact would be unenforceable, noting that even a supposedly benign object in space could be used as an offensive weapon – for example a satellite that is manoeuvred to ram another.

Still, a new administration in the US next year could signal a change in attitude. Democratic members of Congress have been an important constraint on funding for space weapons programs.

Hitchens says many senior US military personnel and political leaders are acutely aware of the risks of a space arms race, notably the incredible expense and the problem of space debris.

But there remains a powerful clique of “space warriors” in the US and plenty of commercial interests – many tied up in the missile defence shield program – keen to earn billions of dollars from an expansion of weapons into space.

Perhaps, in the end, the US and the world needs a new political leader with the foresight of Eisenhower.

It was Eisenhower, after all, who famously warned in his farewell speech that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”.

Separation Because of Personality Disorder

From: “How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits” by Joshua Kors

“Jon Town … was standing in the doorway of his battalion’s headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head….Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town’s neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town’s wounds were actually caused by a “personality disorder.” Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits….

“In the Army’s separations manual it’s called Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder.” It’s an alluring choice for a cash-strapped military because enacting it is quick and cheap. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have to provide medical care to soldiers dismissed with personality disorder. That’s because under Chapter 5-13, personality disorder is a pre-existing condition. The VA is only required to treat wounds sustained during service.

Soldiers discharged under 5-13 can’t collect disability pay either. To receive those benefits, a soldier must be evaluated by a medical board, which must confirm that he is wounded and that his wounds stem from combat. The process takes several months, in contrast with a 5-13 discharge, which can be wrapped up in a few days.

If a soldier dismissed under 5-13 hasn’t served out his contract, he has to give back a slice of his re-enlistment bonus as well. That amount is often larger than the soldier’s final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.

One military official says doctors at his base are doing more than withholding this information from wounded soldiers; they’re actually telling them the opposite: that if they go along with a 5-13, they’ll get to keep their bonus and receive disability and medical benefits. The official, who demanded anonymity, handles discharge papers at a prominent Army facility. He says the soldiers he works with know they don’t have a personality disorder. “But the doctors are telling them, this will get you out quicker, and the VA will take care of you. To stay out of Iraq, a soldier will take that in a heartbeat. What they don’t realize is, those things are lies. The soldiers, they don’t read the fine print,” he says. “They don’t know to ask for a med board. They’re taking the word of the doctors. Then they sit down with me and find out what a 5-13 really means–they’re shocked.”

In the last six years the Army has diagnosed and discharged more than 5,600 soldiers because of personality disorder, according to the Defense Department. And the numbers keep rising: 805 cases in 2001, 980 cases in 2003, 1,086 from January to November 2006….”

Deception over suicide rates among U.S. vets? April 24: Did the Veterans Affairs top mental health official treat the high number of veterans committing suicide as a PR problem instead of a serious health issue? Paul Rieckhoff, executive director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, joins “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

WASHINGTON – Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.

Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.

“Dr. Katz’s irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go,” said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth.”

Demands for better tracking of suicides
Another e-mail said an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day — and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide.

“It is completely outrageous that the federal agency charged with helping veterans would instead cover up the hard truth — that more and more Americans coming home after bravely fighting for their country are suffering from mental illnesses and in the most tragic circumstances, committing suicide,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. “Anyone at the VA who is involved in this cover-up should be removed immediately.”

Harkin, Murray and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., introduced legislation Tuesday calling on the VA to track how many veterans commit suicide each year. Currently, VA facilities record the number of suicides and attempted suicides in VA facilities — but do not record how many veterans overall take their own lives. The agency, however, is reluctant to disclose specific numbers, veterans advocates complain.

The new bill would require the VA to report to Congress within 180 days the number of veterans who have died by suicide since Jan. 1, 1997, and continue reports annually. Harkin’s office said statistics provided earlier this year by the VA showed that 790 veterans under VA care attempted suicide in 2007. That figure is contradicted by the e-mail revealed this week.

Two veterans groups last year filed the class-action lawsuit against a sprawling VA system that handled a record 838,000 claims last year. A government lawyer on Monday urged a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the agency runs a “world class” medical care system.

Read whole Story

Today April 25th, is ANZAC Day, commemorating the ill-fated landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Ari Burnu on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915.

8,709 Australians and 2,701 New Zealanders lost their lives there.

Somewhat overlooked are the other nations’ dead. Over 21,000 British and Irish troops died; nearly 10,000 French troops and over 1,300 from India – not to mention the 86,000 Turkish dead.

By the end of the campaign, over 130,000 troops from all sides were dead, and Gallipoli remained in Turkish hands.