Monday, March 29, 2010

Army, Marines trying to guarantee time at home base

Dwell time is what the Army refers to time at the home base and with families. The Marines and Army are trying to increase dwell time.

Because of the draw-down of troop levels, the Army has been able to keep troops at home longer. The Army is giving most everybody over a year at home between seeing any tour of combat. This is being used to de-stress the troops. Eventually, they hope to give everyone at least two whole years before seeing combat. Time with families is very important to those in the military. As mentioned, this is achieved by not needing more troops in Iraq, and also an increase in overall Army levels. One thing also that led to this was the Army's willingness to find out who was eligible to send overseas, and actually send them. During the height of the Iraq conflict, troops would often spend less than a year at home. The Army was able to make more brigades and get better organized. The Army is hoping to come up with a guarantee of two months home for every month spend on tour.

Soon, the Marines will try to do something similar if it can. The hope is to give most every Marine at least 14 months at their home base after they have completed a 7 month tour.

Anytime we can get our soldiers to stabilize their homelife and be with their families for extended periods of time is a good thing.

It has been shown that a soldier that spends more time in a combat zone is less likely to re-enlist. And we need more soldiers to make long term commitments. The more experienced soldiers we have, the better.

The Navy has similar problems about keeping sailors who are on extended sea duty for over 6 months. That seems to be the breaking point. Sailors who are at sea for more than 6 months tend to also be lost to civilian life.

We need to come up with more ways to keep our military happy. You can do your part by always supporting the troops any way you can. Read some easy ways to show your support to the troops.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Military Air Shows: Free family entertainment!

In this day of cheap family fun, have you considered a military air show?

Admission and usually parking are free at all shows on military bases!

Check out a big on: Wings over South Texas this weekend!

There is also one in Riverside, California: Riverside Airshow Admission for all is free, but parking is $10. Still a good deal if you take the whole family.

Let's not forget Alabama: Maxwell Air Force Base Open House this weekend as well, all FREE!

Sorry we did not think of this sooner. We will try in the future to list free air shows and military open houses in advance!

Show up and support your military!
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Warrior Games: Wounded soldiers compete

Wounded soldiers will compete in the Warrior Games. This event will be a competition between disabled soldiers wounded in battle.

The event will take place in Colorado Springs, May 10-14.

Competitions will include swimming, cycling, wheelchair basketball, as well as other sports.

The defense department says that about 200 wounded soldiers will compete.

Anyone wounded or disabled, be it by physical wound or mental wound was eligible. But competitors were screened by a panel to determine who from each branch of service would compete. This means some of the best conditioned athletes around, disabled or not, will be competing.

On a side note, at the Paralympics in Vancouver, Army veteran Andy Soule won the the first medal for the United States. Veteran Soule lost his legs as a gunner in Afghanistan. Mr. Soule won the bronze medal in the biathlon, which is a mix of cross country skiing and rifle shooting.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Walmart and other companies hiring veterans

Walmart has made a concerted effort to hire military veterans, especially junior officers . Bill Simon, 25 year Navy vet, chief operating officer of Walmart, came up with a program to recruit young officers with recent experience leading soldiers, sailors and marines into Iraq and Afghanistan. These veterans had world class leadership experience that would be perfect for leading employees.

Walmart hired 150 of these vets and trained them in retail. They re now expanding the program to every level of the company.

There are other companies that are military and veteran friendly. These include Home Depot, Lowes, State Farm, ATT, Merck, Bank of America, and of course Walmart. Others include Pepsico and GE.

Some of our best and brightest people serve in the military. It makes only sense that companies recognize the benefits that their experience brings is top notch.

We also need to do something about the unemployment rate of our returning enlisted men and women. We are pleased to know that more businesses are opening their arms to these people. They need and deserve it.

The military is unique in that it takes 18 to 20 something year olds and puts them in charge of various degrees of operations. Nothing beats that kind of leadership and experience. These veterans have proven they can work under pressure and excel.

Let's not forget that these young people are put in charge of multimillion dollar equipment and operations. All levels. They're lives depend on not making mistakes.

If you own a business, why not offer a job to an experienced leader, one who has been well groomed, can follow directions, and gets the job done no matter what?

Not every person joining the military will make it a career. Let's help them out and reward them with jobs.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Veterans and Home Loans: Is it a good time to buy?

Veterans have one of the greatest benefits. A VA Veterans Home Loan. Many advantages of that, including no down and less mortgage insurance. But is it a good time to buy a house? Certainly there is an extra incentive of the $8,000 first time home buyer credit that veterans can qualify for also.

Since the invention of real estate agents, there has always been the phrase, "Now is a good time to buy." And real estate agents have always bought into the notion that home prices don't fall. They did this big time in 2005-2006. The truth is, real estate prices do fall and they fall sharply. So no matter what year it is, now will always be a good time to buy a home if you are a real estate agent.

But how about you? Is this really a good time to buy? Is any time a really good time to buy?

You and your family are really the only ones that can determine that. There are many factors that you need to consider. There are three very important factors. Do you really need to buy a home, can you afford it, and does it matter over time if the price goes up or down.

If all those are set, then you are good to go. Now is a good time to buy a home.

Having your own home is good, but many people get buy with an apartment or a rental home. The tax deduction is good, but not great. There are more headaches that come with being a homeowner than a renter.

Can you afford it? You need a place to stay, so you will need to pay rent. Will the rent be the same as a mortgage? Does a mortgage payment take such a big bite out of your wallet that you will need to pinch pennies? If you can comfortably make a mortgage payment, then it is indeed a good time to buy.

What if your home goes down in value? Does that matter? One of the falsehoods of home buying is that you are making an investment. You should not look at it that way. You should look at it as being in a home for a long period of time. Whether the house goes up or down, should be secondary. If you need a place to live and you can afford the payments, why should it matter? You have to pay rent anyway. If you can comfortably buy a home and not worry about home value, it is a good time to buy.

But you also need to do a reality check. Is your job stable? Do you have any unforeseen circumstances that may come up? You may be forced to move or downsize if your income and situation is not stable.

Forget about the hype of real estate. One should buy a home because it provides a comfortable long term place to live in your current price range. It should not be looked upon as a future ATM. Those that did that, got themselves in trouble.

Military veterans who are thinking about buying a home should consider it very thoroughly. Now may be a good time to buy. Next month may be a good time to buy. Any time can be a good time to buy if it fits you financially!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Army training changes: No more 5 mile runs

If you were in the Army, you knew the 5 mile runs. Well say goodbye to that drill, because the Army is changing. No more 5 mile runs. No more using a bayonet either, for that matter.

Today's Army does not really need young men and women who can run 5 miles. The need soldiers who are equipped to fight in today's Army.

Just exactly what does that mean? Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, training is now geared towards that. Instead of long runs, more short, zig zag runs like going back and forth a street. Wind sprints if you will. That and getting the core muscles in shape. Soldiers need to run back and forth in places like alleys. They need to be able to carry a heavy pack while patrolling. The need skills like tossing themselves out of a Humvee that got bombed. Bayonet drills are out. Calisthenics are in. Close range hand to hand combat is back in style too.

The Army figures that today's recruit has computer, cell phone, and other technological skills. And they like that. The future warrior will find enemies using those devices. They will recon and communicate using those skills. But because of the sedentary lifestyle of today's youth, getting in shape and hand to hand combat are now job one.

How many fist fights do kids get into today? The Army, believe it or not, says this is a dying skill. But soldiers need to be able to fight. And close up. So the pugil sticks are back in fashion with a vengeance. It lets soldiers know what it's like to be smacked up side the head. Without getting hurt, that is. That might put a dose of reality in them real quick.

And that little thing about bayonets? Traditions die hard. Soldiers for years have trained with the bayonets, those long knife blades on the end of rifles. But here's the thing. Those things are not used on an M16. They were just a holdover. The old guard dies hard, so they stuck around.

The Marines are changing too. Now drills include carrying bodies over long distances, more obstacle courses, and moving heavy objects like ammunition cans. They can get quite heavy.

If you are thinking of joining the Army or Marines, and you are a couch potato, get ready to step it up or ship out! Boot camp physical fitness has changed!

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The Wounded Artist Project

The Wounded Artist Project is a nonprofit organization in Michigan that sends art kits to wounded veterans.

They want wounded veterans to be encouraged by someone looking over their shoulder and saying, "Wow, you really drew that?"

The art kits range from beginner to advanced. Don't worry if you think you or the soldier has no artistic ability. The kits are designed to keep the wounded soldiers busy and encouraged. So, no artistic ability is needed!

Soldiers can progress at their own rates. One of the goals is to get the soldier thinking of what they could do with a little drawing ability--go to art school, become an architect, become an illustrator, or some other profession that takes skill in drawing.

The soldiers are always encouraged to develop their own style, not be constrained with a set of rules.

Be sure and visit The Wounded Artist Project and donate if you can!

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hurt Locker real? Not Really

The Hurt Locker has won the Oscar for Best Picture, depicting bomb diffusing and explosive experts in Iraq.

The Hurt Locker is set in 2004 Iraq. In the film, the explosive team is under pressure to clear the bombs.

The title character is Staff Sergeant William James. James acts like both a bomb expert and an egomaniac.

But is it real? How close to the real thing is it? Do these soldiers really act like that?

In a word, no. Many soldiers who are part of these teams say they are no arrogant, nor are they flippant about their jobs. They take it seriously.

The kind of person that Sgt. James is depicted as is not the kind of person these bomb teams look for. Some even say his character is really a caricature, very exaggerated. Let's even call his actions inappropriate. The movie is even sexed up quite a bit.

But does that mean it's a bad movie? That is is so unlife-like that it ruins the story of these soldiers? Hollywood always seems to embellish real life to titillate the viewers.

Just look out for the embellishments. Soldiers would not be doing things like looking for bombmakers in dark alleys alone. You would not keep bomb parts as trophies. Those bomb parts are used to track down bomb makers. Not hide under your bed.

The "Hurt Locker" in the film probably refers to the bomb suit. But those suits are hardly ever used now and never as a first resort. Most bomb diffusing techniques are done from a safe distance.

One thing's for sure. If you are part of these teams you do indeed have adrenaline rushes and love to get the job done.

And that part of the movie that makes these soldiers look like heroes, going into places and doing things normal people wouldn't, does warrant some applause.

We always like to give publicity and kudos to soldiers in the field. This movie does bring them some recognition.

On a side not. The war in Iraq is not nearly what it was in 2004. It is on the strength of our military that these type of occurrences, while not completely wiped out, are rare today.

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Not really.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Administration turns around on Gitmo, terror trials

Looks like political pressure has made the Obama administration open to doing an about face on trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court, let alone New York City.

Now they are talking about maybe, just maybe, putting them back in military tribunals. This is where the should have been in the first place. These are military captured suspects, doing acts against the country in a war like situation.

This has been said to be a way to close Gitmo and open a new prison just for convicted suspects.

The problem is, this still does not solve what to do with prisoners who are deemed too dangerous to release. Ever.

Obama's liberal pals also would not like switching them back to military courts.

But the liberals were in a monority. Both sides of the politcal aisle are against civilian trials. Plus, Obama could use this about face to show some Republicans that they should support funding to close Gitmo.

Fox news was also reporting that the Department of Defense is now letting lawyers see their terrorist clients in Gitmo on approval from them only. Makes sense. The military is in charge of them, right?

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pentagon okays using Social Media

The military has always worried about it's personnel using social sites like twitter and facebook. There could be a lot of things go wrong when soldiers and employees are tweeting or facebooking what may seem harmless, but could do harm.

Well rest easy! Last Friday the Pentagon has begun tweaking it's networks to actual allow access to twitter and facebook.

But before you think soldiers and sailors are going to go all out tweeting, the guidelines are still in place about what you can and cannot do.

Military persons will be asked to refrain doing or revealing anything that may jeopardize the military's mission or lives.

It goes further than that. Allowing access on base and other military commands does not mean the military will not frown on other sites: gambling, porn, warez, etc. In fact, commands can at will shut down access.

If you were a little worried that the military was allowing anything and everything, forget it.

The Pentagon just realizes that using twitter and facebook is a good way for officials to interact with the public. It can also be a useful tool for military families to stay in touch, but precautions still must be made.

Facebook released a statement:
"Facebook is heartened by today's decision to begin to allow our nation's men and women in uniform and civilian employees across the Department of Defense responsible access to social media, which plays an important role in people's daily lives."

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