Male Classmates Validate Female Rangers: Military Connection

Male Classmates Validate Female Rangers

By Debbie Gregory.

The August Ranger School graduating class was the first to include women graduates; two to be exact. The women earned not only their Ranger Tabs, but also the respect of their male classmates.

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were two out of 19 women who enrolled in Ranger School, alongside 380 men. Of those male students, 94 graduated with Griest and Haver. On average, 40 percent of males successfully complete the course.

A third woman who started the class has opted to recycle through the Mountain Phase.

Male classmates may have been skeptical at the beginning of their first course, but it didn’t take long for the men to realize these women were capable, both physically and in determination.

During Mountain Phase, 2nd Lt. Michael Jankowski credited Haver as the one who stepped up when he needed help.

Jankowski said he found he was at a point where he had to turn to a teammate.

“I had a lot of weight on me, and I was struggling,” he recalled. “I stopped and asked if anyone could take some of this weight.”

The males in his platoon hesitated. “I got a lot of deer-in-the-headlight looks and guys were like ‘I can’t handle any more weight,'” he said. Haver offered to take some of Jankowski’s load.

“She was the only one who would volunteer to take that weight,” he said. “She took the weight off me, and carried it. … She literally saved me. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now. From that point there was no more skepticism.”

Spc. Christopher Carvalho offered a similar testimony during the Ranger Assessment (RAP) Phase week. Here, students carry a 47-pound rucksack along with other gear on the march.

“One particular incident that stood out in my mind was the 12-mile ruck march during RAP week,” he explained in a recent interview.

“These two women finished well ahead of some of the males,” he said. “Right there and then – that validated it for me that these women are here to stay. They are carrying the same weight we are, and they are doing the same stuff we are.”

“It’s pretty cool that they have accepted us,” Haver said. “We ourselves came to Ranger School skeptical, with our guards up, just in case there were haters and naysayers. But we didn’t come with a chip on our shoulder like we had anything to prove.

“Becoming one of the teammates — that we could be trusted just like everyone else — whether it was on patrol or to carry something heavy or whatever — it was that every single time we accomplished something it gave us an extra foothold in being part of a team.”

Griest agreed.

“My main concern in coming to Ranger School was I might not be able to carry as much weight or not be able to meet up to the same standard,” she said. “I tried to do as much as I could, and I saw everybody else helping each other out and you just try to be the best teammate that you can.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Eight New ESGR State Chairs Named: Military Connection


By Debbie Gregory.

In a September 14th ceremony, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) announced new state chairs for eight of its state offices.

Leading efforts at the state level, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC) and three territories have a state chair assigned to promote cooperation and understanding between Reservists and their civilian employers.

We are proud to announce that Military Connection’s friend, General James Combs, was appointed the state chair for California.

The other incoming ESGR state chairs are:Darren Venters, AZ; Mark Lilevjen, CO; David Bockel, GA; Stephen Bogle, IA; Paul Cohen, NE; Stephen Karrick, NV; and Ted Durante, WY.

ESGR National Chair Paul Mock said, “These new leaders are at the tip of the spear. Every one of them is a proven leader, and I look forward to seeing the new heights they reach with their programs.”

Members of the Guard and Reserve and their civilian employers form an alliance essential to the security of our nation. These brave men and women perform critical roles in disaster relief efforts at home and abroad, and continue to serve around the world to ensure our freedom. They could not perform their critical mission without support.

As chairs, these leaders are responsible for organizing and supervising ESGR volunteers. They also liaise with influential people, including governors, general and flag officers, elected officials, and business and community leaders.

For more than 40 years, the ESGR has assisted Reserve Component service members. Supported by a network of more than 4,600 volunteers across all 50 states, DC, Guam-CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the ESGR staff fosters a culture that values the citizen warriors of the National Guard and Reserve.

The ESGR continues to meet the needs of Reserve Component members, their families and America’s employers by joining forces with a network of other national, state and local government and professional trade organizations.

Together, We All Serve!


Smaller Army Will Affect Guard and Reserve: Military Connection

Smaller Army Will Affect Guard and Reserve

By Debbie Gregory.

In facing future security challenges, taking current and future defense strategies and budgetary constraints into consideration, the Army of tomorrow may be smaller and leaner. It may be an Army that is agile, flexible, and rapidly deployable. But tomorrow’s Army may also have an impact on the part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard, resulting in more frequent deployments

The Army is looking at ways to blend its active-duty and Reserve branches in a time of tightening budgets.

“After 12 years of war, we need to ask the Army, ‘what capabilities don’t you have now, and what capabilities perhaps do you wish you did?’ ” said Thomas Lamont, one of three members of the National Commission on the Future of the Army. Lamont, a former assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and Reserve affairs, has been interviewing military leaders, observing training and participating in an open forum to hear from veterans.

The commissioners have been traveling around the country, talking to governors who want to maintain a robust National Guard. Ten years ago, approximately 115,000 citizen soldiers were on overseas orders, which limited their ability to respond to domestic emergencies.

Currently, about 10,000 National Guard members are activated for federal assignments, National Guard Chief Gen. Frank Grass is pushing for his troops to do more.

“The Reserve component is not being utilized as much as they would like, and they believe they have capacity and desire to provide a more important role,” Lamont said.

The active-duty Army is shedding about 120,000 soldiers from its peak strength at the end of the Iraq War of about 570,000 troops. The Army drawdown will likely be achieved in large degree by controlling accessions (the number of people allowed to join the Army). If limiting accessions is not enough to achieve the desired end strength targets, the Army can employ a variety of involuntary and voluntary drawdown tools, such as Selective Early Retirement Boards and Reduction-in-Force.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.


Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma: Military Connection

Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon and VA are becoming more proactive in promoting mental health treatment to troops and veterans, but many still refuse to get care, concerned about stigma, their jobs and psychiatric medications

Negative perceptions of mental health conditions and treatment continue to keep troops and veterans from seeking care, but the issue is larger than just the stigma of a diagnosis; it is complicated by concerns over keeping their careers and not wanting to be medicated, panelists said.

Various mental health groups are diligently working to destigmatize mental health issues. Among the groups that Military Connection works with are the Campaign to Change Direction, Give an Hour, and the Soldiers Project, just to name a few.

While stigma regarding mental health conditions is not unique to the military, it does seem to hit the military and veteran communities harder, perhaps due to the culture.

The number of first-time mental health diagnoses among active-duty members has risen steadily, from 132,079 in 2000 to 232,184 in 2012, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

And mental health diagnoses are the third most common diagnoses at VA behind musculoskeletal ailments and ill-defined conditions.

Another concern regarding treatment is fear of taking medication. While many patients can take medications without experiencing bad side effects, some antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs have side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, lethargy and more, and troops are hesitant to take anything that affects their game.

The government has quadrupled its mental health programs in the past six years. But it can do more, the experts said, to include promoting mental health care and understanding among primary care physicians, who can serve as liaisons between patients and mental health providers, promote community services and collaborate with community and private health organizations.

According to Navy Capt. Michael Colston, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, mental health treatment must become accepted by the mainstream.

“Mental health care is health care.  As for the self-stigma, we need to do research on that to determine how to fix it,” Colston said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Defense Spending Bill Showdown: Military Connection


By Debbie Gregory.

The Senate and House Armed Services committees have reconciled their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, setting the stage for a veto showdown with the Obama Administration.

The House passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday after the House and Senate Armed Services committees reached agreement on a final conference report earlier this week.

On September 30th, t This year, the White House urged Republicans to lift federal budget caps for the Pentagon and non-defense spending in 2016. The Republican-proposed budget would leave those caps in place for non-defense spending but boost defense spending through a war fund not subject to those caps established in 2011.

President Obama has issued a veto threat against the bill, which senior administration officials warn he will follow through on. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday he has already recommended that the president veto it.

In regards to what would happen if the president does veto the bill, a senior staffer on the House Armed Service Committee said, “We’ll see what happens and move from there.”

The current version of the bill would keep the ban on bringing detainees from Guantanamo to the United States for another year. According to Sen. McCain, the Obama administration did not deliver a plan on where to house the detainees.

Other provisions of the bill would continue a ban on transfers to Yemen and add bans on transfers to Syria, Libya and Somalia. It would also allow one-year increases in military healthcare prescription co-pays. It would allow troops who serve fewer than 20 years to receive some retirement benefits, and allow troops to be able to take a lump sum payment after 20 years instead of waiting until they are 60 years old.

The bill would also allow the U.S. to provide arms to Ukraine; provide for coordination between the DoD and VA on mental health issues; allow troops on U.S. bases to carry arms, and ban torture by any U.S. agency.


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