A century before President Trump announced the creation of a U.S. Space Force, another new military force was leaving the Earth. The Royal Air Force came into existence 100 years ago, on what might seem an inauspicious date, April Fool's Day, 1918.
On that morning, my grandfather, John Everard Gurdon, flew on the RAF's first ever patrol, hunting Luftwaffe aircraft in the skies over northern France. When he returned to his base at Vert-Galant, his fellow men of the 22 Squadron gathered in front of Gurdon's Bristol F.2b fighter for a memorial photograph. The result (above) is in the Imperial War Museum now, and copies are all over the place.
Gurdon turned out to be good at this work. He went on to become one of the air aces of World War I, shooting down 28 German aircraft and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. (Fighter flying became a short family tradition, for my father, Philip Gurdon, flew Spitfires in World War II, a fact that used occasionally to make complete strangers go gaga with admiration.)
But back to 1918 and today. The RAF had previously been the Royal Flying Corps, part of the British Army. But as aircraft became more sophisticated, and control of the skies became more and more important over the battlefield, an independent force equal to the army and navy was a logical step. Details of America's Space Force can be debated at another time, but the events of 100 years ago in northern Europe are a persuasive example of how military forces must adjust to new technology to ensure national security.
The proximate occasion of my writing this post today is not, however, Trump's decision to create a Space Force. It is, rather, the fact that John Gurdon's first and most successful book, Over and Above, is back in print 99 years after it was first published in 1919, and is now on sale in the U.S. (Grub Street, 182 pages, $16). It is a lightly fictionalized account of the author's four or five months of fighting. The style is typical of the boys' adventure genre of those days, with lots of boarding school slang and bravado.
But the scenes are also harrowing when you realize they were not really fiction at all. Gurdon's friends were shot down in flames, fell from their aircraft during dog fights, and suffered heavily from post-traumatic stress, as Gurdon did. On one occasion, a bullet shot through his windscreen at face height and smashed his arm; fortunately, he was at that moment leaning down to free a rudder pedal that had jammed. In August 1918, exploding anti-aircraft fire from the ground concussed Gurdon, and it ended his war. He was sent back to England, and he put down his experiences in Over and Above.
I remember vaguely that, as a boy, I heard an account of Gurdon shooting down an observation balloon. The anecdote had not greatly impressed me; a vast dirigible seemed both easy to hit and defenseless when in the machine gun sights of an incoming fighter. But in Over and Above, the drama of that incident, its danger, and its almost mad fighting fury come alive, and I look back now amazed at what men of action will do, and also at my own juvenile insouciance.
So, this is a shameless plug for the book, and to be clear, it won't earn me a penny.
Graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy is already an exciting milestone, but for one class of 2019 cadets, the ceremony served as a touching multi-generational event.
Walter Kloc, a 101-year-old WWII Veteran traveled some 1,500 miles from Amherst, New York, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to commission his grandson, Joseph Kloc, as an officer in the Air Force on Wednesday, May 29, according to CNN and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“This is what it’s all about … Walter received a standing ovation, and everyone in the room was gifted with a memory they’ll never forget,” Air Force officials wrote in a Facebook post alongside photos of the grandfather and grandson sharing the special moments.
Joseph shared the pictures in his own Facebook post, writing, “Probably one of the best days of my life.”
Walter was a bombardier and pilot for the Army Air Forces more than 70 years ago, CNN reported. He traveled to Colorado with his son and Joseph’s father, William Kloc, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ. Ahead of the event, Walter’s wife, Virginia, told WGRZ that he was “absolutely thrilled and excited” to be part of the graduation ceremony.
“I’m so excited for him,” William told the station of his son. “He’s fulfilling his dream, and he was so excited that his grandfather … World War II, Air Force, bombardier, pilot, could come and commission him.”
Walter was raised in Michigan and worked for General Motors after the war, WGRZ reported.
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 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.
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.
The White House announced on Monday that former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the war in Iraq for his heroism during the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004. The five previous Medals of Honor in the Iraq War were handed out posthumously and Bellavia's award is an upgrade from the Silver Star he had previously received .
President Trump will present the award to Bellavia at a White House ceremony on June 25.
A few years ago, the Pentagon began a blanket review of all valor awards to see if they should be upgraded.
Bellavia is being honored for his heroism on Nov. 10, 2004 when he was a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, an American offensive on the western Iraqi city of Fallujah an Iraqi insurgent stronghold.
The Army Veteran is credited with saving his entire squad that day after being pinned down by enemy fire coming from a block of houses.
"He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely," said a White House statement announcing his award.
When an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle could not fire directly into the house, Bellavia re-entered the house armed only with an M16, and attacked insurgents who had been firing rocket-propelled grenades.
"He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house," said a White House statement announcing his award. "Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well." Bellavia was able to return fire and killed both attackers.
"He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him," said the statement.
Bellavia then to the roof "where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building."
For his heroism, Bellavia was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest award for valor; the Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second highest. His award is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor as part of the Pentagon's three-year review of valor awards for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that was prompted by concerns that acts of heroism were not being appropriately honored.
David Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999 and after serving in Kosovo, he deployed to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division.
Since leaving the Army in August 2005 Bellavia has been active in Veterans advocacy groups and philanthropic organizations.
Bellavia is also the host of a radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo, New York.
On Monday morning, Bellavia told his listeners the news of his award was "not really registering."
"I'm going to see guys I haven't seen in 15 years. I'm going to think about them. I'm going to just think about the guys we lost the most," said Bellavia. "It just brings you right back.
"One guy gets attention, but none of that's possible without the work of, you know, 25 guys that nobody talks about," he said. "And in this fight, in this circumstance, it was just a group of guys that were out-gunned, and we -- we fought our way through it together."
"This award is our award, and they're, we all consider it something that we did together," he added.
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.
A trio of Democratic senators are pushing to overhaul transferability rules with the current GI Bill benefits program in response to a pending Defense Department policy to limit troops’ ability to share those education payouts with their spouses and children.
Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced legislation this week which would guarantee that that all service members with 10 years of service are eligible to transfer their benefits to dependents at any time, either before or after they leave the military.
“The law should make it easier, not harder, for service members to use the benefits they’ve earned in a way that makes the most sense for them and their families,” Tester said in a statement, adding that the new plan would get rid of “unnecessary hurdles” in the current program.
It’s unclear how many families could benefit from the change. More than 773,000 individuals have used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits since the program began in 2009.
GI Bill Currently, troops must register all eligible dependents in Defense Department systems before separating from the military in order for them to be able to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in the future.
That means the children born after individuals retire from the service are not eligible for the education payouts, which include 36 months of full in-state tuition and monthly living stipends. Same for the spouses of Veterans who get remarried after leaving the ranks.
Last year, military officials announced plans to refine the Post-9/11 GI Bill program even further, in the interest of maintaining it as retention benefit. They would shift the deadline for registering dependents up even earlier, blocking troops with more than 16 years of service from adding any new names to their accounts.
Advocates argued that change amounted to punishing troops for having long, productive military careers.
House Democrats in June included language in their chamber’s draft of the annual defense authorization bill to block the change, which was set to go into effect last July. That measure is still pending before Congress.
However, on the eve of that deadline, Defense Department leaders announced they planned to delay the controversial change until January 2020.
The three senators backing the new legislation say they want the issue settled once and for all, and believe that the military’s approach to the benefit is flawed.
“The Department of Defense’s confusing new policy moved the goalpost for transfer eligibility, breaking our promise to military families,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Disqualifying service members with more than 16 years of military services penalizes the men and women who have served this country in uniform for the greatest length of time.
“This policy change is fundamentally illogical and unfair.”
The legislation would be retroactive to 2001, meaning that thousands of Veterans’ dependents who were previously ineligible could take advantage of the program if the measure becomes law (provided the Veteran has not already exhausted all available benefits).
No potential price tag for the Senate legislation has been released.
A joint House and Senate conference committee is currently negotiating the final draft of the defense authorization bill, to include whether the GI Bill policy repeal will be included. That work is expected to finish in coming weeks, with full chamber votes on the compromise measure sometime this fall.
1. VA did not have proof of your injury in service
You must show that your disability is related to an in-service incident. If VA said that there was no proof of what happened in service then you need to find something to back up what you say happened. The most common evidence to prove your incident in service is service records. These can be either medical records or records of your duty stations or performance evaluations. If VA said it could not find these records and you believe that they exist then it is worth writing to the National Personal Record Center to obtain them.
Even if the records are missing, proof of an in service incident can be found through other means. Find others who served with you and have them write buddy statements describing the incident. These statements count as evidence. Also, you can look for unit records through the National Archives or records of your base, ship or unit on the internet.
2. VA says you do not have a disability
To obtain service connected disability benefits your disability must have a diagnosis. Pain is never a diagnosis. Exposure to deadly substances like Agent Orange in Vietnam or TCE in Camp LeJuene is not enough if the exposure does not result in a current diagnosis. So if a Vietnam Veteran, exposed to Agent Orange, develops Diabetes then that is a diagnosis.
Two common areas where this is a problem are back problems and mental illnesses. Often Veterans will treat for back pain but the doctor will not give a diagnosis. With mental illness you might be treating with a doctor for mental health problems but VA will deny benefits because VA’s doctor will state that you do not meet all that is needed for the diagnosis. This problem happens a lot with PTSD cases. It is important if you are treating with a doctor that you ask for them to give you a diagnosis. If it is a mental health case like PTSD, then you need to ask the doctor to lay out all the elements of the diagnosis in the medical record.
3. VA says that your illness is not related to service
To get service connected benefits, you have to show that there is a link, or nexus, between what happened in service and the current diagnosis. If VA says that they are not connected then it probably did so based on an exam from its own doctors, a C&P exam. If the C&P doctor says that there is no connection then you should go get an opinion from your doctor or an independent medical exam from outside doctor. You should give them the service records and medical records that they need to not only say that your disability is related to service but to explain why it is.
4. VA says you did not show up to your C&P exam
It has recently come to light that VA was setting C&P exams, the exams VA uses to determine of a Veteran’s service connected compensation benefits, and not telling the Veteran. Then VA would deny the benefits and say that the Veteran did not show up to the C&P exam and that is why it was denied. VA gets an automatic denial if the Veteran does not attend the C&P exam. Unfortunately, VA has been denying on this reason when it never told the Veteran about the exam.
In this case, you should write VA and state that you were never informed. If you were informed and did not attend then you should also write and state why you could not attend. If you do not hear back from VA after a couple of months then you should file an NOD and appeal the case.
5. VA doesn’t believe your doctor
If you got your doctor to write a favorable opinion for your claim and VA rejected it then you need to go back and look at the opinion to see if it is thorough enough. VA routinely rejects opinions from treating doctors—both VA and private doctors. There are certain areas that VA always looks to in dismissing your doctor’s opinion:
- Your doctor did not review your C file. The doctor does not have to review the whole file, just the part relevant to your claim.
- Your doctor must review everything in the C file and outside of it that relates to your claim and state he did so in the report. An opinion that states the doctor discussed the claim with the Veteran and nothing else will be rejected.
- Your doctor must use VA’s language—that the disability is ‘it is likely as not’ to service
- Rational: the doctor must state why he believes that they are connected
6. How do I know that VA got the evidence to prove my claim?
VA has a duty under the law to get the evidence needed to prove your claim. This duty includes getting medical records, service records, Social Security records and medical exams. But how do you know that VA did this? You need to request from VA your C file. This is the folder that the VA benefits section keeps on you. It will have all information about every claim you have filed since getting out of service. Most importantly, it will show you the evidence VA used in its decision on your case. You want to check this to make sure that all the favorable evidence you sent, or asked VA to get, is in the file. You don’t know what VA is using against you until you review your file
On Sept 10, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) exceeded its goal, three weeks ahead of schedule, to deliver 90,050 appeals decisions regarding disability benefits and services to Veterans in fiscal year 2019, approximately 9,000 more decisions than the previous year.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) also hit a record, by providing more than 21,000 hearings in FY 2019, 5,000 more hearings that past year.
“The Board of Veterans’ Appeals provided thousands of Veterans with critical, life-changing appellate decisions,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The Board surpassed its goal for delivering results to Veterans and their families for the second year in a row. This reflects VA’s continued commitment to providing excellent customer service to Veterans.VA is committed to reducing the backlog of legacy appeals and ensuring that Veterans receive the benefits they deserve.”
This achievement in surpassing last year’s number of decisions comes while VA concurrently implemented the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The act offers Veterans choice and control over their appeals and provides for a more timely and transparent process.
To aid in achieving this historic goal, the Board focused on hiring attorneys and judges, reorganized its structure, instituted various training and implemented modern technology changes. Utilizing modern technologies is one way the Board continues to adapt to the changing needs of the Veteran population.
For more information about the Board and its progress on appeals modernization, visit www.bva.va.gov.
U.S. military Veterans who served after 9/11 are more likely than those who served before to say their deployment had a positive impact on their financial situation when they returned home.
That’s according to new findings from the Pew Research Center, which conducted a study of nearly 1,300 Veterans 18 and older to gauge their feelings about money.
The results: A whopping 68% of post-9/11 Veterans with combat experience said their service helped them financially, compared with just 30% of pre-9/11 combat Veterans.
That could be due to their ability to find work, the research suggested. While only one in four Veterans, overall, said they had a job lined up after discharge, about half of post-9/11 Veterans found a job less than six months after starting their search.
Regardless of when they started looking, 57 percent of post-9/11 Veterans said it took less than six months to find a job. Another 21 percent said they found employment within a year.
What’s more, 61 percent of post-9/11 Veterans said serving in the military helped them get their first job after leaving, including 35 percent who felt it helped “a lot.”
“What it means to be a military Veteran in the United States is being shaped by a new generation of service members,” according to the report. "About one in five Veterans today served on active duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, in which terrorists toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and flew an airline into the Pentagon.
“Their collective experiences — from deployment to combat to the transition back to civilian life — are markedly different from those who served in previous eras," the report found.
The differences are not all good.
Veterans, overall, who’ve had traumatic or distressing experiences while in the military, and those who’ve experienced post-traumatic stress, were more likely than those who didn’t share such experiences to face financial difficulties after returning to civilian life.
For example, 61 percent of Veterans who experienced post-traumatic stress said they “had trouble paying bills in the first few years after they left the military,” Pew noted. That’s compared with 30 percent who haven't had post-traumatic stress.
And post-9/11 Veterans were more likely than pre-9/11 Veterans to say that readjusting was difficult. About half of post-9/11 Veterans say it was somewhat or very difficult to readjust, compared with one in five Veterans whose service ended before.
Post-9/11 Veterans were also more likely to have been deployed, seen combat or experienced emotional trauma, the data showed. Roughly three-quarters of post-9/11 Veterans were deployed at least once, compared with 58 percent of those who served before them.