Air Force Officials Warn of Fighter Pilot Shortage


By Debbie Gregory.

Several Air Force officials have reported that the U.S. Air Force is facing a shortage of more than 1,000 fighter pilots.

The acute shortage of fighter pilots could grow even worse, with nearly a third of all jobs becoming vacant in the coming years, senior service officials said.

Lieutenant General James Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements for the Air Force, said only about four experienced fighter pilots are being produced each year. Retention is also a major issue.

The current goal is to try to retain as many pilots as possible in the short term, but there is a lot of completion from commercial airlines who are hiring thousands of fighter pilots.

Air Force Secretary Deborah James is looking to Congress for the ability to boost financial incentives to recruit and keep pilots. She and Gen. David L. Goldfein, the service’s new top officer, attributed the shortfall to a wave of hiring in the commercial airline industry, high demand for air power keeping pilots deployed and away from their families, and a reduction in training while at home prompted by heavy usage and budget constraints.

James and Goldfein said they want to improve pilots’ quality of life and their military service conditions, including training and housing.

The Air Force currently can pay pilots an extra $25,000 per year after they complete their initial service contract, which concludes 10 years from the completion of pilot training, a number that has not been changed in 17 years. The Air Force has proposed an increase to $48,000 per year, and a proposal in the House would boost the figure to $60,000.

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.

Army Reservist Wins Medal, Respect In Rio Olympics


By Debbie Gregory.

Although the United States Army Marksmanship Unit didn’t medal at the Rio Olympic games, Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks won Olympic bronze, following what he called “the most enjoyable pole vault competition of his life” on Monday, August 15th.

But perhaps more notable than the medal win is the fact that Kendricks stopped, mid-run on a jump during his qualifying round, when he overheard our national anthem being played. Kendricks dropped his pole and stood at attention.

Kendricks said that his Olympic experience has taught him that your life is changed along the way to winning a medal. But it speaks volumes that young member displayed outstanding character that outpaced any medal he could have won.

“With all the journeys and sacrifices that you make and all the training that you do, and the people you leave at home to watch, that is really the value of the medal,” he said.

“I’m glad I have something tangible to bring home … I know that everybody in Oxford, my hometown, will love to see it. But the journey, like my coach says, is the goal, not necessarily the medal.”

His future journey will include time serving as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

U.S. Army specialist Paul Chelimo, who was born in Kenya, won an Olympic silver medal in the men’s 5000 meters. And his medal also comes with a story.

Minutes after the race was completed, a number of runners, including Chelimo, were disqualified for stepping off the track.

“It was really tactical and they (the Ethiopians) kept pushing me because they were working as a team. It’s never easy to run a race and run against a team. … But the Army has taught me to be mentally and physically tough,” Chelimo 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.

ESGR Week Celebrates Our Nation’s Guard and Reserve Troops


By Debbie Gregory.

August 21st through August 27th has been proclaimed by President Obama as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week.

The president said, “For more than two centuries, brave patriots have given of themselves to secure our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and in times of both war and peace, members of the National Guard and Reserve have stood ready to don our uniform, answer our Nation’s call, and protect our way of life. This week, we recognize the important role played by the families, employers, and communities of these men and women in ensuring they can step forward and serve our country when they are needed most.”

As the Director of Employer Engagement for California’s ESGR, I see the sacrifices these servicemembers and their families make in order to balance their civilian lives with their commitment to our country’s safety and well-being. I also am privileged to liaise with their outstanding employers, who give their employees the flexibility that enables them to honor this commitment.

The employers who hire our National Guard troops and our Reservists give their employees the support which has been vital to the success, stability, and security of our Nation.

While the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) gives certain rights to uniformed servicemembers and their civilian employers, I have the pleasure of working with the employers who voluntarily sign a statement of support that they will do the right thing by their employees. Their employees do not need to worry about being discriminated against in their employment based on past, present, or future military service.

And that is something we should all honor and celebrate!

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.

Caretaker of the Vietnam Moving Wall

traveling wall

By Debbie Gregory.

Paul Chen joined the Navy in 1974 and served his country for several years. Chen continues his service today as the overseer of the Vietnam Moving Wall, which has been touring the country for more than 30 years.

The traveling memorial wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The wall visits locations where sponsors have arranged to cover the moving costs and manpower.

Some visitors look for names of friends, family, high school classmates — names that evoked half-century-old memories into the present.

As the wall’s caretaker, Chen, who started as a substitute driver, says he has his dream job. He travels across the country in a truck that caries his valued cargo. The wall measures 254 feet long, and its 74 panels range from four to six feet tall. It packs up into metal cases.

“I have truckers on the roads who honk their horns at me and snap a salute in support,’’ Chen said.

If he has any mechanical issues while he’s on the road, he’s not alone for long.

“I’ve had six, seven and eight vehicles with people who wanted to help me,’’ Chen said. “I tell them I can handle a simple flat tire, but they still want to help.’’

He knows many of the 58,307 names on the wall by heart; eight are women who were military nurses, he said.

Unfortunately, the wall is still growing. Wounds and illnesses suffered by American forces during the conflict continue to claim lives. So far this year, eight more names will be added to the Moving Wall and to the memorial in Washington.

“The war is still taking lives,’’ Chen 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.

Veteran Suicide: It’s Time for Real Answers


By Kim Forsythe, MSW Candidate 2017

USC School of Social Work

What is really going on with the veteran suicide rate? That is the problem right there… no one really knows.

In 2007 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proclaimed their primary focus as reducing the number of veteran suicides. The VA announced this focus after eight years of the veteran suicide rate lingering around 16-20 a day. In 2012 the VA released a pitiful excuse of a demographic statistical report of information concerning veteran suicide with only partial information for approximately 20 states and no U.S. territories. The 2012 VA report, although not having complete data, still disclosed that an estimated 22 veterans a day commit suicide. This grotesque figure has reverberated through the nation over the last four years and has been a hard pill to swallow. 22 veterans a day adds up to more veterans dying by suicide annually than the total number of service members killed in action since the inception of the Global War on Terrorism. We owe these brave men and women “who at one point wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to and including their life” more.

In July 2016, the VA released an updated statistical report of demographics from veteran suicides from 2001 to 2014. This report examined over 50 million veteran records from all 50 states and four U.S. territories. The report revealed in 2014 an average of 20 veterans die by suicide daily.  Seven years of the VA’s primary focus being to reduce the number of veteran suicides only reduced the daily average by two veterans. To make matters worse, in this time the VA has repeatedly stated they have been aggressively improving and expanding their mental health services to serve all veterans, even those not enrolled in or eligible for VA health care, to prevent suicide.

The only way to defeat an enemy is to understand the enemy. Suicide is the enemy we are facing. We need to understand more than just demographic information about these veterans as the demographics gives us no tangible answers. In-depth research is required to combat this epidemic. H.R. 4640, The Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, is a beginning to the research that is necessary to beat this enemy. This legislation directs the Secretary of the Department of the Veteran Affairs to conduct a review of veteran deaths by suicide in the preceding five years before enactment. The bill’s main effort is to find a possible link between psychotropic medication and suicide. However, it also searches for common traumas documented, i.e., combat, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, and posttraumatic stress disorders, as well as any other patterns visible at individual Veteran Health Administration facilities.

While I do not doubt that expansions and improvements were necessary at Veteran Health Administration facilities, it has not made a dent in solving the problem. Now is the time to take another approach and not just look at demographic information. It is time to determine a why. Veterans have proudly and bravely served this nation, protecting the people’s rights and freedom. It is a shame that these battle-tested men and women go overseas to fight this nation’s battles, come home, separate from the military and then lose the fight to suicide. Now it is the nation’s turn to support our veterans. Let’s work to find the “why.” The Veteran Suicide Prevention Act should only be the beginning of the research. Continuing to investigate possible reasons why a veteran commits suicide is imperative. Finding the why to the answer may be the key to unlocking this mystery.



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