By Guv CallahanAugust 1, 2014
Here's 10 things happening now around the Department of Defense you should be aware of:
1. Obama, Hagel ask for cooperation in Ukraine, MH17 investigation
Both President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have been vocal in pushing for cooperation between nations after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists over Ukraine's Donetsk province July 17. Obama and members of the international community have expressed outrage over the tragedy, which caused the deaths of 298 people, including one American citizen. Obama announced new economic sanctions against Russia by the U.S. and the European Union. Hagel has spoken to Ukraine's new defense minister, Valeriy Haletey, and asked that they continue to develop a "bilateral relationship."
2. Senate confirms new VA secretary, Army vice chief of staff
The U.S. Senate confirmed former Procter and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary July 29. Meanwhile, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Both will assume their responsibilities in their new roles next month. For other Senate-confirmed Department of Defense appointments, see the related article on page 5.
3. SecDef lauds decision against "unlawful" financial predatory practices
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he welcomes the July 29 announcement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to reimburse some $92 million to servicemembers and other consumers in debt relief from Rome Finance. Hagel's statement, published online on www.defense.gov, criticized Rome Finance, stating that no servicemember should ever fall victim to "unlawful, predatory lending schemes specifically targeted to active duty military personnel."
4. DoD assists in embassy evacuation
The U.S. military assisted in the evacuation and movement of personnel from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, to Tunisia, according to a July 26 Department of Defense news article. Embassy personnel, including the Marine Security Guards responsible for providing security at the embassy, were driven to Tunisia without incident. The operation lasted approximately five hours. The relocation came amid a U.S. Department of State request for DoD assistance.
5. Fighting a virus
The U.S. Army Public Health Command announced that a mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya, which is becoming more common in the U.S., is likely to appear in locations where Soldiers, Army civilians and their families work and live, according to a July 29 news article on army.mil. Virus symptoms include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and rash. Army officials warn that the best counter measure to infection is by preventing mosquito bites: servicemembers should use permethrin or an individual dynamic absorption kit to treat uniforms. Officials also recommended the wearing of loose, colorful clothing to deter mosquitos.
6. Former paratrooper awarded Medal of Honor
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts became the ninth living servicemember to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for combat valor, during a ceremony July 21. Pitts was recognized for single-handedly blocking enemy access to the bodies of his fallen comrades during a battle to defend an observation post near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan's Kunar province.
7. 2,500 mile journey for post-traumatic stress awareness
Former Marine Cpl. Joshua Ploetz, a combat veteran, paddled some 2,575 miles along the Mississippi River in an effort to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress, according to a July 28 Marine Corps news article. Ploetz began the journey May 19 and finished July 25, with "tears in his eyes," according to the article. Ploetz said he is not done raising awareness for veterans, pledging to run the Marine Corps marathon, according to Cpl. Christopher J. Cox, who watched Ploetz finish his water-borne journey.
8. Pocket-sized unmanned aerial surveillance
The U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is developing a "pocket-sized, aerial surveillance device" to provide Soldiers a small, easy-to-use technology that enables them to observe everything from individual rooms in buildings to entire villages during combat missions, according to army.mil. The technology consists of a "palm-sized miniature" helicopter that weighs 16 grams and is controlled remotely by GPS navigation. The device will be able to fly for up to 20 minutes and provide real-time video to operators.
9. New TRICARE hotline offers 24/7 healthcare guidance
Launched in April, TRICARE's Nurse Advice Line offers TRICARE beneficiaries in the U.S., Hawaii and Alaska 24/7 access to a team of registered nurses. The hotline, which can be reached by dialing 1-800-TRICARE, allows beneficiaries to ask questions about a "variety of acute health care concerns," according to an Air Force News Service article. Nurses will assist beneficiaries in deciding whether to seek medical assistance, or provide self-care.
10. Marine Corps approves special operations officer MOS
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos recently approved creation of a new primary military occupational specialty (MOS) for Marine officers who complete the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command's Individual Training Course. The new MOS - special operations officer - allows officers to serve continuously in that MOS. Previously, only enlisted Marines could retain a special operations MOS as critical skills operators. The move allows the Corps to train, develop, and retain Marine officers as special operations officers for the duration of their careers.