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Preliminary Report Results in Fitzgerald Officers Relieved of Duty

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By Debbie Gregory.

The three top officers aboard Navy warship Fitzgerald that collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan were relieved of their duties. They are the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Cmrd. Sean Babbitt, and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. Additionally, nearly a dozen sailors face disciplinary action, including all those on watch the night of June 1.

The Navy released a partially redacted report on the investigation of the collision between the Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal. One of the Navy’s deadliest accidents in years, the collision resulted in the loss of seven sailors.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said the actions are to be taken shortly, although the Navy’s investigation is still ongoing. A statement from the fleet said “inadequate leadership” had contributed to the collision.

Adm. Moran said that the bridge team, the sailors responsible for keeping watch on the ship’s bridge to ensure it remains safe, had “lost situational awareness,” leaving them unable to respond quickly enough to avoid the disaster once the oncoming container ship was seen.

According to the report, dozens of sailors who were rocked from their slumber raced in the dark to escape their flooding quarters. Within 90 seconds, seawater was at first waist-deep, then neck-high as sailors pushed aside floating debris to climb a ladder to safety.

Two sailors were credited with taking extra steps to help others out of the flooded berthing space that saved the lives of at least two of their shipmates. The last sailor pulled from the chaos was underwater when his shipmates yanked him up.

“No damage control efforts, however, would have prevented Berthing 2 from flooding completely within the first two minutes following the collision, or the deadly circumstances in that situation,” the report said.

The 9,000-ton, $1.5 billion Fitzgerald, operating out of the Yokosuka naval base, was wrapping up a long day of training. The 29,000-ton Crystal, which is more than 200 feet longer than the Fitzgerald, had been chartered by a Japanese company to bring cargo from Nagoya, on Japan’s central coast, to Tokyo. The Crystal sustained far less damaged than the Fitzgerald.

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Veteran’s Global War on Terror Memorial Moving Forward

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s been a few years since former Army Aviation Officer Andrew Brennan began his quest to ensure veterans of the Global War on Terror have a memorial in Washington, D.C.

But, finally, the Pittsburgh veteran’s effort to memorialize his comrades’ sacrifices is set to move forward.

The stumbling block has been the 1986 Commemorative Works Acts, which requires a war to be over for 10 years before a memorial can be built.

On August 3, 2017, the Senate cleared the way for the Global War on Terrorism memorial, unanimously passing the first bill in recent history approving a national war memorial before the fighting is over. The bill cleared the House on July 28th.

For those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the memorial will be a place to honor their dead and wounded, even as those numbers continue to climb.

“Ten years from the end of never … is always never,” Brennan said as he testified at a congressional hearing.

The bill now goes to the White House, where Brennan said staff have assured him it has the president’s support.

The next step is a detailed 24-step bureaucratic process that will include choosing a site, which could take two years; selecting a design through competition, which could take up to three years; and constructing the memorial.

The memorial will include six themes: endurance, sacrifice, all-volunteer, global, multicultural and unfinished.

The foundation has raised about $300,000 so far, but it is estimated the project will run $40 to $50 million to staff, plan, design and construct the project. Brennan said he expects the memorial to be built by 2024.

“This memorial will be wholly dedicated to our 7,000 brothers and sisters who deployed with us but did not return, and their survivors,” Brennan said. “It is dedicated to the 1 million wounded warriors who are reclaiming their lives back here at home. It is for the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who struggle in their transition from combat deployments.”

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.

California Legislators Push Bill to Help Combat Veteran Suicide

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By Debbie Gregory.

A proposal for new state legislation in California that will help confront the issue of veteran suicides has been introduced by Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula and Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

AB 242 would require death certificates to reflect whether the deceased person was ever a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Currently, details such as marital status, birthplace and occupation are required on death certificates, but military service is not.

“Getting ahead of the suicide, getting help when it’s needed, not after it’s too late, and I think this is a good first step,” said Patterson.

The bill would also require the California Department of Health compile a report on veteran suicides, beginning in 2019.

“As a physician, I know accurate data will help us better understand the full scope of the problem of veteran suicides in California,” Arambula said. “Tracking this information will help determine whether or not existing suicide prevention efforts are having a positive effect, if more attention to this matter is needed in the future and where to allocate existing resources for mental health funding.”

“I have no question this information will be very helpful,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, who voted for the bill in the Senate Veteran’s Affair Committee. “To our various veteran operations in the area, we can identify and allot them resources they desperately need.”

If passed into law, Arambula, an emergency room doctor, said California will join 21 other states in implementing such an effort to better calculate veteran suicide deaths.

The legislation is to be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee at the end of this month after the legislators return from recess.

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.

Marine Corps Looking to Turn Officers into PhDs

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By Debbie Gregory.

Two pilot programs are being offered by the U.S. Marine Corps that would allow qualified majors through lieutenant colonels to receive their PhDs with the Corps picking up the tab, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.

Interested applicants should get moving: with only four officers being picked, it will be competitive. And applications are only being accepted through the end of this month.

Two of the recipients will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, geared toward  national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.

The other two will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science.

The MOVES program focuses on the principles of applied visual simulation technology and the application of quantitative analyses to human-computer interaction. The coursework may include instruction in object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, computer communications and networks, computer graphics, virtual worlds and simulation systems, probability, statistics, stochastic modeling, data analysis, human-performance evaluation, and human-behavior modeling.

Interested candidates must already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.

By developing a cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders, the Marine Corps has a goal of achieving innovative thinking. This will be the result of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security.

“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”

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.

California Woman Named as Disabled American Veterans Commander

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By Debbie Gregory.

Congratulations to Delphine Metcalf-Foster, who has been elected National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans.

Metcalf-Foster was chosen over roughly 10 other candidates at the organization’s 96th National Convention in New Orleans.

Metcalf-Foster is the first woman candidate, as well as the first African-American female, to head up the DAV’s most important position.

“I was really overwhelmed and in shock and so humbled” she said upon the announcement.

Metcalf-Foster followed in the footsteps of her father, a Buffalo soldier, by pursuing a career in the U.S. Army. Her military career included service with the U.S. Army Reserve, 689th Quartermaster Unit, 6253rd Hospital Unit and 6211th Transportation Unit, Letterman Army Medical Center. She retired after 21 years of service with the rank of first sergeant in 1996.

During her military service, she received the following honors: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Component Achievement Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal. She also worked for the Department of the Navy at the Alameda Naval Air Station as a Quality Assurance Specialist

A Vallejo, CA  native, Metcalf-Foster has been active within the DAV Department of California, becoming the first woman commander in the state. She also completed a four-year appointment as a member of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in November 2015.

Metcalf-Foster hopes to continue her advocacy for veterans rights that include healthcare, care-givers, employment, volunteerism, mental health, PTSD and suicide prevention.

“My focus will be continuing a lifetime of support for veterans and their families,” Metcalf-Foster said, adding that she’s “prepared to take on the challenges for one year.”

Metcalf-Foster is also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is proud of her granddaughter, U.S. Army SSG Jacare Hogan, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

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.

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