Thursday, March 25, 2010

Humvee moves over for hulking, tough MRAP

WASHINGTON — Within weeks, the Army will buy its last Humvee — its workhorse truck since the 1980s but a "death trap" in modern warfare — and drive soldiers to war in vehicles with better armor.

The Army plans to buy about 2,600 more Humvees to fill out its requirement of about 150,000. But those vehicles will be confined primarily to bases in war zones, relief missions in safer parts of the world and on Army posts, said Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an Army spokesman.

For battlefield commanders, the Humvee is "not the vehicle of choice" for troops in combat, Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr said in testimony he submitted recently to Congress. "For example, commanders in Afghanistan are relying more heavily on their fleets of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles."

Commanders prefer MRAPs because troops are much more likely to survive a blast from an improvised explosive device than they are in a Humvee. Last summer, they had proved to be "tens of times safer" than other vehicles in a bomb attack, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization. The Pentagon is rushing a new all-terrain version of the vehicle to Afghanistan that is designed for its rugged terrain. There are about 1,000 of those vehicles in Afghanistan.

"The single-biggest reason for the demise of the Humvee was that it was never designed for the level of force protection that we feel we must have," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, which receives funding from the defense industry. "America is facing a range of enemies we never thought we were going to have to deal with. They use cellphones to detonate roadside bombs."

Army and Marine Corps commanders have known of the vehicle's vulnerability since a 1994 report, following the U.S. mission to Somalia, and said that even Humvees retrofitted with armor could be a "death trap" in a blast. The Humvee's primary problem, a 2008 Pentagon inspector general's report said, was its "flat bottom, low weight, low ground clearance and aluminum body." Those factors make the Humvees vulnerable to IEDs, especially those buried in roads.

Insurgents in Iraq attacked that weakness relentlessly. The result: IED blasts became the top killer of U.S. troops.

In 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made fielding MRAPs a top priority for the Pentagon. Since then, 12,000 of the trucks have been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truck's raised chassis and V-shaped hull help protect troops from bombs buried in roads.

"Commanders consistently report that MRAPs, with their V-shaped hulls and added armored protection, are saving lives and reducing casualties," Spoehr said in his testimony.

By September, the Pentagon expects to have 5,250 all-terrain MRAPs in Afghanistan, Spoehr said. The Army expects to buy its last new Humvee in April.

Humvees won't soon rust and fade away, however. The Army's still buying spare parts and refurbishing them, Cummings said. And Marine Corps Commandant James Conway said late last year that the Marines are exploring ways to retrofit them with V-shaped hulls.

Military ruling offers 'closure' for family of brain-dead troops

WASHINGTON — Family members of combat troops declared brain-dead will have an opportunity for a final reunion with their loved ones before life support is removed, according to new guidelines provided to battlefield doctors.

The guidelines are aimed at helping doctors determine what to do when a combat casualty suffers brain death, a decision physicians were left to figure out before on a case-by-case basis.

Moving brain-dead troops to more advanced military hospitals, such as those in Europe or the United States, will also make it possible to harvest organs for transplants, the guidelines say.

The recommendations were issued last week by the military's Joint Theater Trauma System, which provides medical research and guidance for battlefield care.

Though the situations are rare, they pose "the most challenging of clinical and ethical management dilemmas" of military medicine, the guidelines say.

"I'm actually surprised that there wasn't one of these (guideline recommendations) sooner," says retired Army colonel John Holcomb, a trauma surgeon who faced cases like these in Iraq in 2006. "It's not easy. There's nothing easy about it."

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, about 175 troops with catastrophic head injuries have been evacuated from the war zones only to die later of their wounds, says Army Col. Brian Eastridge, director of the Joint Theater Trauma System. Doctors in combat operations are not required to obtain permission from next of kin before removing a brain-dead patient from life support, Eastridge says.

As a result, battlefield doctors have often struggled with whether to do this, says Air Force Col. Warren Dorlac, former director of trauma care in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military doctors and officials say family inclusion is essential.

"The guys in the theater, the guys taking care of these patients, realize that it's not only the soldier that's sacrificed here, it's the family," says Dorlac, who helped develop the new guidelines. "We need to treat not just the soldier, but the whole family as well."

That's why, Eastridge says, officials are trying to be "as aggressive as possible to get guys back, even if it's just for closure with their families."

The new guidelines are designed to help military doctors who lack experience in such catastrophic cases, particularly those in which roadside bombs cause devastating wounds, Eastridge says.

Transporting brain-dead troops is not meant to interfere with other medical needs, the guidelines say. If combat doctors are in a mass-casualty crisis, they are urged to use medical resources and air evacuation slots for patients who are likely to survive.

Families have told military doctors they appreciate the chance to reunite with their fatally wounded servicemember, Dorlac says. "They've turned to us and said, 'Hey, we appreciate the extra effort that you guys have made to try to get them back here so we can visit with them one more time,' " he says.

IED attacks in Afghanistan more lethal

By Deshakalyan Chowdury, AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Attacks on U.S. and allied forces with makeshift bombs in Afghanistan are 50% more lethal than three years ago, reflecting insurgents' use of more powerful explosives and the increased vulnerability of troops who patrol more on foot than in the past.

Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Defeat Organization, told a House subcommittee that the casualty rate was "disturbing" and half that of troops hit by IEDs in Iraq.

Overall, IED attacks have doubled over the past year in Afghanistan, Oates said. It was even worse when comparing February 2010 with February 2009, attributed in part to a Marine-led offensive in the town of Marjah in Helmand province. This year, insurgents planted 721 bombs compared with 291 last year. Those attacks killed or wounded 204 troops this February compared with 51 in February 2009.

Oates cited several advantages Afghan insurgents had over U.S. forces:

• Reliance on fertilizer-based explosives that lack metal components frustrates attempts to detect buried bombs.

• U.S. forces traveling in heavy vehicles are forced to travel on the few improved roads in Afghanistan, making them easier targets. "This facilitates a successful enemy tactic of emplacing large explosive charges buried in the middle of the road or in culverts," Oates said.

• The counterinsurgency strategy pushed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal stresses protecting Afghan civilians and requires troops to be in close contact with them. The downside, Oates said, is that "separated from the protection of an armored vehicle, they are also more vulnerable to casualty from an IED."

Oates, in a USA TODAY interview, said winning the trust of Afghans will ultimately provide the best protection for U.S. troops. Afghans will identify insurgents and provide tips on where they have planted bombs.

Oates said the military will focus on fielding new all-terrain Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles designed specifically to protect troops in Afghanistan. Surveillance aircraft will monitor roads, troops will be trained to find and defuse bombs, and the networks that produce IEDs will be attacked. "There is no silver bullet," he said.

Top military brass to hear review of 'mentors' program

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates' top deputy will brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff today on his recommendations to regulate the Pentagon's practice of hiring retired senior officers to advise the military, Gates' spokesman said.

Gates ordered Deputy Secretary William Lynn in December to review the military's practice of paying retired officers hundreds of dollars an hour to act as "senior mentors," helping run war games and advising active-duty officers.

Lynn has completed the review and will present his recommendations to Gates, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chiefs of the military services, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Gates was responding to a USA TODAY investigation, which reported that most of the mentors had ties to defense contractors and that there were few ethics rules governing potential conflicts of interest. The newspaper reported that some mentors were earning more as advisers than they did as active-duty generals, even as they collected six-figure pensions and consulted with defense companies seeking Pentagon contracts.

In the months leading up to the review, Gates has expressed concern about mentors' pay, which can reach $486 an hour. Mullen said in November that mentors must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat whose subcommittee is investigating military mentors, told Gates in November that there must be public disclosure of mentors' outside interests.

Public disclosure is essential, said Mandy Smithberger, national security investigator for the Project On Government Oversight, a Washington watchdog group.

"Any time you're talking about someone who might have a significant potential financial conflict of interest, you have to have sunshine there in order to eradicate it," she said.

However, many Pentagon advisers do not have to file public financial-disclosure forms. For example, unpaid advisers, such as those working on a study of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, file disclosures that are reserved for a closed-door inspection by Pentagon lawyers.

Secret financial-disclosure forms "would not be consistent with the other open-government initiatives of the Obama administration," Smithberger said.

Some mentors are concerned any new rules would require too much information about their business relationships or place too low a cap on how much money they can be paid as government advisers, Gregory "Speedy" Martin, a retired Air Force general and senior mentor, said in an e-mail.

"Keeping (defense) consulting separate from mentoring is important, and we probably need to make the rules much more visible and appropriately restrictive," Martin said. "But I would caution against making them so exclusive that we imply retired flag officers are not trustworthy."

USA TODAY found that of the 158 retired generals and admirals identified as mentors, 80% had financial ties to defense contractors, including 29 who were full-time executives of defense companies. The retired officers, hired as contractors, have not been subject to the ethics rules that would apply if they were brought in as part-time federal employees. They have not had to disclose, to the military or the public, their ties to defense contractors.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stolen valor is offensive, but is it a crime?

Those who wear unearned military medals are a sad lot. The constitutional question is: Should they be treated as criminals?

By Jonathan Turley

Across the country, police are rounding up a growing class of felons: valor thieves. With two wars, valor has become a valuable commodity for individuals who want to skip enlistment and combat and go directly to the hero adoration stage. Under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, it is a federal crime to claim unearned military decorations or medals. While widely popular, these prosecutions raise constitutional questions of free speech. From judges to admirals to bank employees, citizens are facing accusations of felonious bravado.

When President Bush signed the act into law, he was probably thinking of people such as Steve Burton. Burton, of Palm Springs, Calif., appeared at his high school reunion in 2009 in the uniform of a Marine lieutenant colonel supporting enough medals to make a Soviet general blush. Unfortunately for him, he ran into a former classmate who is a real Navy commander, and she reported the possible fraudulent medals, including a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Navy Cross. His claim to have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq also drew suspicion.

Burton actually works in a bank. He is one of many people who struggle to reinvent themselves in a more heroic image with the help of Internet sites selling uniforms, medals and ribbons. They are the modern-day Walter Mittys — bank tellers and office workers who want to snatch notoriety from the jaws of mediocracy.

From 2005 to 2009, federal prosecutors charged 48 people under the Stolen Valor Act.

Ironically, it is often the irresistible impulse to add medals and heroic accounts that prove the undoing of the faux warriors. Last month, Michael Patrick McManus was arrested after a veteran spotted him at the December party for Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker. McManus was wearing an Army uniform supporting a virtually solid front of decorations, from parachute wings to the Purple Heart to two distinguished service crosses and other decorations. Most notable was a medal around his neck that appeared to make him a Commander of the British Empire.

Notable 'insolence'

McManus might have found a sympathetic judge in Michael F. O'Brien. The Illinois circuit judge claimed not one but two medals of honor — with a display in chambers for visitors. It was only after he applied for Medal of Honor license plates in 1992 that he was eventually uncovered and forced to resign from the bench or face prosecution.

Some imposters served but gave themselves post-service promotions. David Weber was a Marine staff sergeant but later promoted himself by adopting the uniform of a retired two-star major general with two Purple Hearts. He pleaded guilty in January in San Diego.

George Washington himself created the forerunner of the Purple Heart for those who have "given of his blood in the defense of his homeland" and declared that "should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished."

While most people, no doubt, share the anger and disgust with people claiming such honors, the question is where to draw the line between free speech and criminal conduct. Citizens have a right to burn an American flag as a form of protected speech. However, if they do so while wearing a single falsely claimed medal, they can be prosecuted. If Congress can criminalize such claims, it could make half of the pick-up lines used in bars across the country crimes. It could theoretically criminalize other false claims from architects to accountants to anthropologists.

Where to draw the line

Moreover, if Congress can criminalize the wearing of false medals, it could theoretically criminalize claims of military service or the use of military symbols under the same authority.

Craig Missakian, a California prosecutor, insists that Congress can ensure prosecution of such cases under the Constitution's grant of authority to raise and support an army, and that includes, by extension, "protecting the worth and value of these medals."Yet, such an interpretation would defy any meaningful limits on Congress' ability to criminalize acts. In the past, a useful line has been drawn between simple acts of false bravado and false statements used to secure financial gain. The latter cases are routinely prosecuted as simple fraud. The Stolen Valor Act is obviously intended for other cases, where people wear medals for their simple adoration and public acclaim.

In pending cases, two men are challenging the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act. Water-district board member Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, Calif., made the mistake of claiming to be a retired Marine and recipient of the Medal of Honor during a public meeting in 2007. Rick Glen Strandlof claimed before his arrest in 2009 in Colorado to be a wounded Marine veteran who received a Purple Heart and Silver Star. Such "semper frauds" enrage actual Marines who take well-earned pride in the corps and its traditions.

We can all agree that false claims of military honors are repugnant and worthy of social condemnation. These men deserve to be social pariahs, but there remains a serious question over whether they deserve to be criminal defendants. We should spend our time and resources on creating easily accessible resources to uncover false claims. We also need to remember that, in the end, true valor cannot be stolen. It can only be earned. What is left are pathetic pretenders who should not add constitutional injury to social insult.

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

(Illustration by Web Bryant, USA TODAY.)

VA to automate its Agent Orange claims process

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to announce today that it will fully automate how it pays claims for illnesses related to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange to keep an overburdened system from collapse.

It is the department's first effort at automating claims processing in its 80-year history, says VA chief technology officer Peter Levin. It comes as the agency struggles to cut a backlog of more than 1 million disability claims, appeals and other cases.

The system "is likely to break" if nothing is done, Levin says.

"Look, the bottom line is why the hell they didn't do (automation) 30 years ago," says John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America. "The question is whether they will do it right."

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki took office last year and said no disability claim should take longer than four months to process. However, department records show that almost 40% take an average of 161 days to process and that will increase to 190 days without automation.

The increase is largely the result of Shinseki's efforts to allow more Agent Orange disability claims.

The military used Agent Orange to defoliate plants and trees in which Vietnamese insurgents hid during the Vietnam War. It was later shown to cause cancer, birth defects and other ailments. After years of debate and medical research, the VA began compensating veterans for illnesses linked to Agent Orange with non-taxable, monthly payments to those without dependents ranging from $123 to $2,673.

In October, Shinseki added three more illness to those linked to the herbicide: Parkinson's disease, B-cell leukemia and heart disease. He told Congress this would generate another 228,000 claims in the next two years.

The automated claims system will apply only to veterans filing these new Agent Orange claims. If it works, the VA hopes to expand automated claims processing through the department, says Roger Baker, an assistant secretary for information and technology.

Shinseki said in a statement that veterans harmed during military service deserve the "best this nation has to offer."

Old, incomplete or complicated records have hampered the VA's move to automation, says former VA secretary James Peake, who applauded Shinseki's move. Many records require hands-on investigation, says Peake, who led the department from 2007 to 2009.

Agent Orange cases, however, may be a good place to start, Peake says. Once the information from a veteran's discharge papers is entered into a computer, the VA can quickly verify service in Vietnam in many cases — a key factor in determining eligibility for Agent Orange benefits.

Thank Your Military

Spc. Jordan Olson admits to lying

Saturday, March 6, 2010

TurboTax Freedom Edition 2009

Intuit has been providing free tax preparation to millions of lower-income taxpayers via the Intuit Tax Freedom Project, created in 1998.

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Although Intuit has participated in the FFA since its inception in October 2002, Intuit has been providing free tax preparation to millions of lower-income taxpayers via the Intuit Tax Freedom Project, created in 1998.

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I See America

Soldiers need help with the emotional toll of war

By M. David Rudd

The military is a unique culture that treasures strength, resilience, courage and individual sacrifice. As the slogans "Army Strong" or the Marine Corps' "The Few. The Proud" reveal, soldiers are trained to be warriors.

The military is not a culture that embraces perceived weakness or illness; it's contrary to the notion of an effective fighting force. Perhaps that fact not only highlights the escalation in military suicides — an almost 40% increase in the Army alone from 2007 to 2009 — but the apparent ineffectiveness of traditional approaches. It's time that the Department of Defense and Army, despite their best efforts, think more creatively.

Traditional mental health approaches talk almost exclusively in the language of "illness" and "patient." Patients are seen in clinics and hospitals that are separate from the units where soldiers are housed. At the core of the problem is an almost intractable tension that has been around as long as war. Psychological wounds are seen as different from physical ones, a perception that has tragic consequences for a soldier's sense of worth.

Judging themselves

When I talk with struggling soldiers, they speak in an almost singular voice about their personal sense of failure, weakness and guilt. After all, acknowledging symptoms in the military immediately results in the soldier being identified as "different" at many unavoidable levels. These soldiers are unable to participate fully in the training activities, leaving their jobs to be picked up by others who might be just as overwhelmed.

At home, they experience more difficulty, becoming isolated and detached from spouses and children, the very support system they desperately need. Often they experience performance problems in their new assignments. All of these only confirm their underlying feelings of failure, weakness and guilt.

These problems are not new to servicemembers. What is new today is that we've now been engaged in constant warfare for almost nine years, with the net result being that more soldiers are experiencing repeated combat deployments than almost any time in history.

Triggering suicide

At least from the science end, we have a good understanding of why people make suicide attempts or kill themselves.

First, suicide almost always occurs in the context of a diagnosable mental illness, be it depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse. Second, repeated deployments generate considerable stress for not only the soldier but also the family. Third, we're not able to effectively reach those killing themselves because those at highest risk are the least likely to seek care.

In addition to the traditional approaches, we need to do some simple things that have been emphasized in recent years:

• Talk more frequently beforehand about optimal performance and resilience in combat, rather than post-trauma symptoms and mental illness afterward.

• Help soldiers construct a warrior identity that more clearly integrates the emotional consequences of killing.

• Encourage military leaders at the highest levels to talk openly about their own difficulty after combat experience, something that is already happening and is very effective at combating stigma.

The core military mission of training soldiers to have a warrior mentality will not change. But the culture can become one that acknowledges the emotional consequences of war.

M. David Rudd is dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science and scientific director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.

Postal Service says soldiers now can get mail in Haiti

Soldiers deployed to Haiti are starting to receive mail there, the U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday.

The Postal Service has assigned 20 APO, FPO and DPO ZIP Codes for troops in Haiti. That means letters and care packages can start making their way to U.S. troops.

About 3,500 Fort Bragg soldiers were sent to the quake-ravaged country in January.

Earlier this month, soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team were eager to start receiving mail. Some were running low on cigarettes or longing for a soda.

Efforts to establish a temporary civilian mail distribution site in Port-au-Prince continue.

Post offices are accepting letter mail and packages addressed to Haiti. However, all mail addressed to Haiti will be temporarily held by the Postal Service until the postal administration of Haiti is able to accept it.

The Fayetteville Observer

Pentagon focuses on brain trauma

WASHINGTON — Troops caught near a roadside blast will be pulled out of combat for 24 hours and checked for a mild traumatic brain injury, even if they appear unhurt or say they are fine, according to a treatment policy the Pentagon is planning to release.

"Very clearly, we're sort of taking it out of their hands," said Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who pushed hard for the policy change. "The sooner you're able to treat somebody and get it right, the higher the probability you'll reduce the long-term impacts (of brain injury). So speed is really important here."

The policy change stems from growing concerns that troops suffer mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in combat — or more than one — and they go undetected, Mullen told USA TODAY in an interview. "We need to treat ... more quickly and then we need to keep track of people," he said.

The Pentagon is "likely to issue" the policy in the next several weeks, spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

A RAND Corp. study estimated in 2008 that 300,000 U.S. troops may have suffered this injury, many from a blast. About 100,000 troops have been diagnosed with mild TBI since 2003, with numbers increasing as military medicine has become more aggressive in screening for the hidden injury, according to Pentagon data.

The new policy is a major expansion of battlefield medicine because it treats troops based on what happened to them, not just visible wounds, said Air Force Col. Michael Jaffee, director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Pentagon data estimate that fewer than 2% of soldiers or Marines would be sidelined by these policies, Jaffee said.

Research shows that 5%-to-15% of mild TBI cases lead to persistent problems such as short-term memory, problem-solving skills and headaches, Jaffee said.

The servicemember may not be fit for combat until he or she recovers, Jaffee said. The majority recuperate in a few days, he said. If the servicemember returned to combat before the brain heals, a second concussion from another blast could cause significant damage, he said.

Under the proposed guidelines, squad and platoon leaders working with medics or Navy corpsmen would pull from combat for at least 24 hours any servicemember who was in a vehicle or structure damaged by a blast, or who was standing within 55 yards of an explosion, Jaffee said.

The person would be checked for symptoms such as headaches, ears ringing and double vision, and then tested to assess short-term memory and concentration, with a score. If there are symptoms or a poor test score, the servicemember would stay out of combat until he or she improves, Jaffee said.

Soldiers heading to Afghanistan are already being trained in the new protocol, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff. Chiarelli told about 600 soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division about the new policy last December. The brigade is going to Afghanistan.

"We're the first unit to have this training before we deploy," said Maj. Scott Harrington, the brigade surgeon.

Chiarelli said it was important to make these changes soon. In the past, he told USA TODAY in a recent interview, "we have not been as fast to react as we needed to" with TBI.

Army sees sharp rise in unfit soldiers

WASHINGTON — The percentage of soldiers who are unavailable for combat has risen sharply during the past three years from 11% of each brigade in 2007 to 16% this year, Army records show.

Repeated deployments and health problems have driven much of the increase in soldiers listed as non-deployable, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff. A brigade has about 3,500 soldiers.

"These are folks who had a knee problem after the first (combat) rotation," he said, "and then, finally, after the third one of humping a rucksack in Afghanistan at 10,000 feet, the doc says, 'I don't care if you're going to deploy again, the fact of the matter is you're going to (stay back until you) get your knee fixed.' "

Nearly 70% of the Army's current roster of 460,000 enlisted soldiers have been to war — half of them once, nearly a third of them twice, 13% with three combat tours and 4% deployed four times.

Although the Army tries to make up for the missing soldiers by adding those from other units, Army records from 2008 show the shortages hurt overall readiness.

When Army brigades deploy, scores of soldiers remain back for many reasons, Army data show.

Some are assigned jobs back home, such as running motor pools or conducting training, while others require additional training and will deploy later. Some are held back to meet the Army's goal of allowing soldiers at least 12 months at home before deploying.

The largest group are soldiers with health problems, Army data show. They are either temporarily sidelined for issues such as rehabilitation or surgery, or are awaiting medical review to determine fitness for remaining in the Army.

Precise numbers for the Army are not available, but between 2006 and 2008, bad backs, strained knees and other ailments increased from 1.4 million cases in the overall military to 1.9 million, according to Defense Department records.

Mental health disorders increased by 67% during that time from 657,144 cases to 1.1 million, those numbers show.

Longer recuperation times between deployments should help soldiers recover, Chiarelli said. Recently, a brigade that had 28 months to rest had only 4% of its soldiers unable to deploy, he said.

At the peak of combat activity in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, soldiers had only about 12 months between deployments to train, spend time with their families and recuperate. That has increased to 14 to 15 months on average, with other brigades experiencing longer periods at home.

In addition, the Army is increasing its ranks from about 500,000 when the Iraq war began to about 570,000 next year.

"With the drawdown in Iraq and the growth that we've completed, we're starting to see (time between deployments) stretch out and that's only going to help us," said Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff.

Report: Army doctors assessing fitness sometimes in conflict

Military doctors in Alaska scrambled to prevent 12 medically unfit soldiers from being sent to the Iraq war in late 2008 despite commanders' attempts to deploy them, an Army investigative report on the incident has concluded.

Doctors told an investigator that one of the soldiers from Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks was pulled off of a plane at the last minute and another suffered from a "cystic brain mass" and was awaiting surgery, according to the report, which was released upon request to USA TODAY.

The probe was ordered after USA TODAY reported last March that soldiers at the installation were forced to deploy despite serious medical problems.

The Fort Wainwright case highlights a broader concern about sending soldiers unfit for duty into battle as eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a toll on troops. Army brigade commanders this year are reporting that 16% of their soldiers are non-deployable, many of those because of health problems, according to Army figures.

The Fort Wainwright investigation found "professional tension" between physicians at the fort who evaluate soldier fitness and doctors with the brigade that went to Iraq, the new report said.

The two groups may see their roles differently, said Col. Gary Wheeler, the report's investigator.

An Army doctor whose job is to assess soldier fitness is a "faithful advocate from a patient perspective," while brigade physicians have a "keen interest in using a soldier to the full extent that is possible, from a medical perspective," Wheeler said.

Brigade leaders can ask their commanders for more soldiers, but some may be reluctant to do so, according to Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff. "You're always concerned when anything has to come to this headquarters," he said. "I tell them, 'Hey, you don't have to worry about that. You just have to worry about taking care of your soldiers.' "

The Stryker brigade based at Wainwright reported manpower shortages to higher command, said an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly. Still, in the weeks after the brigade went to Iraq, 23 soldiers were pulled out of Wainwright and sent to join the Stryker unit "to maintain (the brigade's) personnel strength," an Army spokesman said last year. They were cleared as fit for war, said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Allen.

Soldiers left at home because of medical issues were ordered by the brigade to "be deployed regardless of medical conditions," Wheeler was told by soldiers, the Fort Wainwright ombudsman and Army civilian doctors, whose job is to assess soldier fitness.

The names of the physicians and soldiers interviewed for the report were withheld by the military.

The investigation was authorized by Maj. Gen. Patricia Horoho, then-head of the Army's Western Regional Medical Command.

The investigation found four soldiers with health problems who should not have deployed, as well as errors in fitness review procedures and a lack of knowledge about policies, Horoho said.

She said they're fixing the problems.

Monday, March 1, 2010

HOOAH!!! Radio once again it's the top of the month and we're highlighting HOOAH!!!

Honestly, I don't even know where to start out talking about what an incredible year 2009 has been for HOOAH!!!! Radio. After 4 years of being on the World Wide Web, Saluting and Supporting our Troops, Veterans, and Military Family members, we have reached new record levels in 2009. The entire HOOAH!!!! Radio Staff would like to thank our dedicated Listeners, the Men and Woman of the Armed Forces, Labeled or Independent Artists and Bands, Hollywood celebrities, and of course the Veterans and Military Family Members for the on-going support given and shown to HOOAH!!!! Radio. Rather than writing a paragraph, I thought it would be better to show you the proof, so I have taken some screen shots of the Record Setting Year Stats that you can view for yourself and be PROUD, because you helped us get there.

HOOAH!!!! Radio is the "ONLY" Online Radio Station that Supports the Troops, Veterans, and Military Family Members listed on the Monthly Shoutcast Stats for Total Time Spent Listening by HOOAH!!!! Radio Listeners.
Currently at there are 32,882 Online Radio Stations, HOOAH!!!! Radio is ranked #3,515 which puts HOOAH!!!! Radio in the Top 9% of ALL Online Radio Stations.
The Number 1 Radio Station Online at has roughly 10,000 listeners ( - we are not embarassed to say that we Average Daily 50 to 70 listeners a day at HOOAH!!!! Radio.
To see who is the Number 1 Radio Station Online and their listener count just go to or just do a search for the Radio Station name like HOOAH!!!! Radio.
To view the Monthly Total Time Spent Listening Stats on please CLICK HERE