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VA News

Guam EPA: Andersen Air Force Base violates Guam environmental law

Andersen AFB 001

 

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to Andersen Air Force Base Northwest Field Facility after finding non-approved chemicals used for treating water.

According to the notice, Guam EPA charged with the responsibility of implementing the Guam Pesticides Act, found there was a possible misuse of a product to disinfect water for distribution.

On Dec. 28, 2018, a routine sanitary survey inspection was conducted on a water storage tank on Northwest Field and Guam EPA staff discovered a different form of chlorination from what was approved by Guam EPA was installed, the notice stated.

A review by Guam EPA's Pesticides Enforcement Program found the product is a pesticide and is used only for swimming pools, per the product labeling. Guam EPA imposed a $750 administrative penalty.

Andersen responds

Andersen in a release said it used Pool Time chlorination tabs to sanitize a half-million-gallon drinking water tank that serviced the facilities on Northwest Field; however, Guam EPA classifies the tablets as a pesticide and when this became known, the use of the tablets was immediately ceased.

The Northwest Field water tank provides water to Northwest Field only. It doesn't provide water to any other part of Andersen Air Force Base, the release stated.

Although Andersen received the notices of violation for the Northwest Field water tank, at no time was the water deemed unsafe to drink. Both Guam EPA and Andersen concluded that the use of the Pool Time chlorination tabs wouldn't result in any adverse health effects, the release stated.

A public notice explaining what had happened was sent to people who may have been exposed to the drinking water, the release stated

Andersen conducts routine analysis of its water supply and at no point was it deemed unsafe, the release stated, and the base fully cooperated with Guam EPA. Military representatives met with Guam EPA on Feb. 7 to discuss the actions required by the notice of violation and committed to paying the appropriate fines, the release stated.

The $750 fine is in the final process of being paid and the $1,700 fine is still being discussed with Guam EPA as there is no record/proof of exactly when the tabs were used, the release stated.

Personnel involved in operating and maintaining the water systems have been disciplined/counseled and additional training accomplished, the release stated, and new standard operating procedures have been put in place, requiring regular internal inspections of all systems with environmental permits and notifications to environmental experts when primary methods of chlorination are inoperable.

Source

Exclusive: Air Force to push Congress for military housing tenant bill of rights

AF Push Congress

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aiming to grant military families far greater say to challenge hazardous housing, the U.S. Air Force told Reuters Monday it will push Congress to enact a tenant bill of rights allowing families the power to withhold rent or break leases to escape unsafe conditions.

The proposed measure, outlined in an interview at the Pentagon by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, follows complaints from military families who say they are often powerless to challenge private industry landlords when they encounter dangerous mold, lead paint and vermin infestations.

“Clearly there are areas where we have issues,” Goldfein said.

Added Secretary Wilson: “That could put a little more leverage into the hands of the renters.”

The Air Force push adds to a drumbeat of reforms to emerge in recent weeks following a Reuters series, Ambushed at Home, that documented shoddy housing conditions at bases nationwide and described how military families are often empowered with fewer rights than civilian tenants.

Read the series Ambushed at Home at www.reut.rs/2t1Y2UA

Wilson said the Air Force is actively working with the Army and Navy to push a tenant bill of rights that would give military families a stronger hand in housing disputes. She wants to strengthen the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that includes active duty housing protections. As one example, Wilson proposed expanding the act to allow base families to end their lease or withhold rent if their landlords fail to correct health and safety problems.

Beyond that effort, she said wing commanders of each U.S. Air Force base have been directed to inspect all 50,000 privatized family housing units in the force’s portfolio by March 1. She cited housing breakdowns at Air Force bases including Tinker in Oklahoma, Maxwell in Alabama, MacDill in Florida and Keesler in Mississippi.

In addition, she said, the inspector general’s office will launch a review of how Air Force bases respond to housing health and safety complaints.

Last week, the U.S. Army vowed to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting residents. And on Friday, the Army issued a letter directing senior commanders to conduct inspections of all housing within the next 30 days.

The military action plans follow a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month in which members of Congress sharply questioned private industry landlords and Defense Department leaders over conditions at U.S. bases.

Wilson said the Air Force is also considering working with Congress to renegotiate its contracts with housing companies to allow the service to withhold all incentive fees from low-performing landlords.

Source

Keeping aircraft in the fight

Keeping Aircraft in the Air

 

U.S. Army aviation faces a diverse threat environment, spanning broad categories of threats from ballistic munitions and guided missiles to directed energy and cyber weapons. It also spans generations of technology, ranging from constantly evolving sophisticated systems to widely proliferated legacy equipment. The modern threat environment presents both a technical challenge and a moving target to Army aviation. Historically, the science and technology (S&T) community has played an important role in developing advanced technologies to outpace the evolution of the threat. In an increasingly challenging threat environment, S&T is now even more critical.

Soldiers: Disgraceful housing conditions at Texas Army post

Fort Hood Housing

 

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - Soldiers and their spouses have told Army leaders at Fort Hood of disgraceful housing at the Central Texas post that includes mold and lead paint along with other problems.

Families living at the post detailed their frustrations with housing during a meeting Thursday that the Austin American-Statesman reports came about a week after a congressional hearing that exposed longstanding problems at privatized housing complexes.

Thousands of homes at Fort Hood are owned by the Australian firm Lend Lease, and the U.S. government oversees 141 barracks that house 18,000 soldiers.

Lawmakers have set aside nearly $300 million to renovate 24 barracks but U.S. Rep. Roger Williams and others have expressed concern that the money could be siphoned away as part of President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a border wall.

Source

The Army Tried To Bury A Critical Report On All Its Failings In The Iraq War

Army Logo 001

 

An unclassified 1,300-page “unvarnished history” of the Iraq War is at the center of a heated debate among Army leaders and historians over who gets credit for what, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The infighting has reportedly stalled the publication of the study, which was commissioned in 2013 by then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and remains unpublished. Sources told the Journal that Odierno urged a team of researchers consisting of some of the Army’s “brightest officers” to work expeditiously so that the history could publish while the lessons of the war “were most relevant.”

But it seems not everyone is convinced the general’s motives were pure.

  • A chief concern of those who took issue with the first draft of the history — which was completed in 2016 — is how the authors chose to portray Odierno.
  • According to the Journal, the study “hails President George W. Bush ‘surge’ of reinforcements and the switch to a counterinsurgency strategy overseen by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Odierno.”
  • Odierno also apparently circumvented the standard process for “publishing the Army’s official conflicts,” after the Army’s Center of Military said the history would take five to 10 years.
  • Time seemed to be of the essence. “Some of the officials foresaw trouble if the study wasn’t published before Gen. Odierno retired, which he did in August 2015,” the Journal writes.
  • Furthermore, the study team was originally helmed by Army Col. Joel Rayburn, who served as an advisor to Petraeus in Iraq, according to the Journal.
  • The tangled web of loyalties reportedly prompted one Army historian to draft a memo proposing major revisions to the study and raise the question of whether it was intended to “validate the surge” and thus, as the Journal puts it, “burnish Gen. Odierno’s and Gen. Petraeus’s legacy.”
  • The 2007 surge coincided with a dramatic decline in the sectarian violence that had surged across Iraq the previous year, leading many to conclude that the extra troops and the counterinsurgency strategy Petraeus employed had succeeded in winning a seemingly un-winnable war. That narrative lost some of its luster in the ensuing years as the results proved temporary.
  • But the history commissioned by Odierno has plenty of champions while Rayburn “defended the study’s portrayal of the ‘surge’ as a success,” according to the Journal.
  • Meanwhile, retired Gen. Dan Allyn, who served as Army vice chief of staff when the history was completed in 2016, told the Journal that the brass sought to distance itself from the study in part because “senior leaders who were in position when these things happened, and they were concerned on how they were portrayed.”
  • Among the many mistakes identified in the study, according to the Journal, are a chronic shortage of boots on the ground, heavily lopsided contributions by the various coalition partners, the consolidating of troops on large forward operating bases from 2004 to the troop surge, and the failure to prevent Iran and Syria from bolstering their favored militant groups in Iraq.
  • Despite all the drama, however, the Army finally came around. Last week, the current Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Journal that he had discarded plans to tweak the study and said it will be released in its original form — and with his stamp of approval — hopefully by Christmas.

Source

Army Veteran returns to annual TEE tournament in Iowa

TEE tournament

 

Army Veteran Joni Mulvania (above, left) got a birdie on the first hole. No, really. Her tee shot hit a bird in mid-flight.

“The bird was not injured but my game never recovered.” That good-natured approach and her considerable athletic ability earned Mulvania one of the top awards at last year’s TEE tournament. She will be back this week. All birds are duly notified.

The TEE tournament is an annual golf rehabilitation program for Veterans who are legally blind, amputees, those who use wheelchairs and Veterans with other disabilities. It’s underway this week in Iowa City, Iowa.

The award Mulvania received was the 2017 Wayne Earle-Hampton Hill Award given to the Veteran who best exemplifies the spirit of the games. And there are numerous other awards in her golf bag. Her teams were the champions in 2008, 2009 and 2015.

The event provides legally blind Veterans and those with other disabilities an opportunity to participate in a therapeutic golfing event as well as other sports activities. The games enable Veterans to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem.

Mulvania, a retired Army Veteran who served three tours in South Korea lives in Rock Island, Illinois, “With my min pins Bonnie and Scooby Doo.” She has been diagnosed with PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, seizure disorder and chronic pain, but never misses the TEE tournament because she enjoys encouraging other Veterans and building her endurance and strength through swimming, biking and golf.

“I love sports. My favorites are swimming, golf, and riding my trike. I also co-sponsor a women’s softball team. I enjoy cooking and barbecuing with friends and family. I also enjoy attending Veterans’ events and spending time with my best friend, my mother.”

TEE is an acronym for Training, Exposure and Experience. Participation is open to Veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, certain neurological conditions, spinal cord injuries and other life changing disabilities.

The TEE Tournament uses a therapeutic format to promote health, wellness, rehabilitation, fellowship and camaraderie among its participants. This is the 25th year of the tournament.

Mulvania encourages Veterans to contact their local VA. “There are a lot of amazing opportunities out there.”

Source

Anna Mae Hays, nurse who became U.S. military’s first female general, dies at 97

Anna Mae Hays

 

Anna Mae Hays, an Army nurse who served in a mud-caked jungle hospital in World War II, guided the Army Nurse Corps through the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War and became the first female general in American military history, died Jan. 7 at a retirement home in Washington. She was 97.

New GI Bill transfer rule will impact older service members

GI Bill Transfer Rule

 

Long-serving troops and reservists have a little less than two months remaining to transfer their Post 9-/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children before a new restriction kicks in on July 12.

While soldiers still must serve for six years before being allowed to request a GI Bill transfer, they will no longer have the opportunity to do so after they have served longer than 16 years.

This new rule will affect senior active-duty personnel and those who for whatever reason are unable to transfer any portion of their benefits to one or more dependents before that July 12 deadline.

“It’s a policy change that we knew could be implemented,” said Anthony Lowe, Veterans of Foreign Wars’ director of administration and economic opportunity. “Now it’s everyone’s responsibility to educate and inform the affected service members.”

The GI Bill transfer rules had been previously amended in 2018 so that troops with more than 10 years in uniform could no longer be excepted from a four-year service commitment if they wanted to transfer their benefits, including those who were forced into mandatory retirement.

Christopher Arendt, deputy director of accession policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, urged active-duty personnel approaching 16 years in uniform to make sure they are registered via the education-benefit transfer portal on MilConnect. Otherwise, they won’t be able to transfer any benefits at all.

He also advised those troops to double check that all the dependents who could potentially receive their benefits are registered as well.

“You never know which dependent is going to be the one to use it, so the registration of all applicable dependents is an important element,” Arendt said.

Lowe said that troops should transfer at least one month of benefits to eligible dependents before July 12 so they can still “transfer it back and forth after retirement and separation.” A Defense Department spokeswoman also recommended transferring at least one month of benefits to all eligible family members for that same purpose.

In addition, Lowe said that troops should contact their local military education offices and have professionals walk them through the transfer procedures so “that way they’re smart on the process.”

John Kamin, the American Legion’s assistant director of Veterans employment and education, wants soldiers to make sure they know exactly how many years they’ve served on active duty, information that becomes increasingly important to know come July 12. He also said that MilConnect can sometimes be more reliable for that than military career counselors.

“It’s important because we’ve heard stories of even retention NCOs having incorrect information on this and providing wrong advice,” he said. “Your best bet is to go straight to the source.”

Ardendt said that the Pentagon decided to enact these changes as a recruiting tactic to keep more folks who want to transfer their benefits in uniform for a few more years.

“Once you become eligible, you need to consider this as a retention benefit,” Arendt said. “This is one of those options you have when you’re getting ready to re-enlist, in order to have a benefit.”

He also said that the Pentagon estimates that transferred benefits come out to an average of $22,805 per academic year, a “pretty significant sum of money.”

Some folks on Capitol Hill and who work for Veteran-service organizations aren’t happy with the rule changes, claiming that the 16-year cap on transferring benefits feels arbitrary.

“We believe that these service members have earned the right to transfer their benefits based on years in service,” Kamin said. “The idea that serving too long can disqualify you seems absurd.”

The one DoD-enacted change that received the most positive reception was the Pentagon’s September announcement that service members wounded in combat would not be subject to that 16-year transfer limit nor would they have to commit to more service time in order to transfer their benefits.

“We are pleased that DoD was able to exclude those Purple Hearts and their ability to transfer their benefits to their dependents,” said Derek Fronabarger, the Wounded Warrior Project’s direct of legislative affairs. “That’s something that WWP advocated for and we’re happy DoD understood.”

There’s a small chance that congressional legislation might loosen these restrictions. In November, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and now a presidential candidate, introduced the Veteran Education and Transfer Extension Act, which would allow Veterans who did not have dependents when they left the military to transfer their benefits should they get married or have children later in life.

One legislator who would like to see the transfer rules at least softened is Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who wrote an op-ed for Rebootcamp last August calling the new age cap on transferring benefits “a damaging and dangerous precedent.”

“We’re all unhappy with [the decision] and criticized it,” he said recently.

Courtney said that “there’s certainly going to be some sort of amendment offered” that would either curb or end this transfer rules change at some point. For now, he urged members of the military community to call their senators and representatives and urge them to pressure the Pentagon about easing up on its transfer policies.

“[W]e’re doing our best to try to surgically focus on the most doable fix that we possibly can,” he said.

Source

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