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January 6, 2015 at 7:00pm

Army leadership engage soldiers during virtual town hall at Google Headquarters

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, right, listens to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno answer a question during a virtual town hall at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkl

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler held a live virtual town hall meeting at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015.

For a little over an hour the Army leaders - speaking over a webcam - took questions from soldiers stationed around the country and around the world - including members of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Spc. Marabello of I Corps asked the two senior leaders about health care. She pointed out that U.S. troops are often deploying to environments with high concentrations of parasites and communicable diseases. She asked what the Army is doing to prepare soldiers for these dangers, and how they treat the afflicted. Recent deployments to West Africa to help contain Ebola - along with soldiers and airmen at JBLM currently undergoing quarantines after their return - have brought health issues to the forefront.

Odierno told her it's been a challenge. He explained soldiers returning from overseas are asked to fill out questionnaires, but he acknowledged they've had mixed results. "It's right when you get home from a deployment, you're in a rush, you don't want to take the time," he said. But Odierno stressed soldiers need to take the time to report any changes or symptoms.

It's about knowledge.

A soldier from Fort Lee, Virginia, asked how social media and quick spread of information are changing Army leadership. "Everybody has to realize that the world we live in has changed significantly," Odierno answered. "Like it or not, everything we do is going to be much more public."

He explained they need leaders who can comfortably navigate the new media landscape of the information age. But, Chandler weighed in and said the best way to communicate is still face-to-face contact where people actually talk to each other. He warned that intent could be misinterpreted in text and e-mail conversations.

It is indeed another a changing world.

A soldier with Ft. Benning's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade asked about the prestigious Ranger School accepting female candidates and women wearing Ranger tabs. "What do you define success as?" he asked.

Odierno answered there was no criteria for success or failure, explaining that it's about giving women the opportunity to go through the program with the same standards as the men, and letting the results speak for themselves.

Chandler turned the conversation to the instructor, asking him how he felt about it based on his experience.

"It's a great idea," the soldier replied. "I feel like this is something that could have come along years ago."

September 10, 2014 at 7:37am

Wednesday Morning Joe: Obama's three points tonight, ISIS vs al Qaeda, rocket dodging vehicle, Pixar supercut ...

99th Ground Combat Training Squadron participate in a fragmentation coffee pot training class at Silver Flag Alpha, Nev. This is the last time the course will take place at Silver Flag. Original photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen

GRAB A COFFEE POT AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 9.10.14 >>>

Tonight, President Barack Obama will outline his plan for combating the ISIS terror group. A senior administration official says he'll focus on three major themes: the threat posed by ISIS, his strategy to address that threat and proposals on how to fight and destroy the militant group.

Obama is reportedly open to ordering airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria targets in Syria in what would be a significant escalation of the military mission against the terror group.

Obama told leaders of Congress that he did not need for them to authorize his strategy to fight Islamic State, before he addresses Americans on the matter.  

The Long War: No end in sight for America in the Middle East.

ISIS vs. al Qaeda: Terror groups battle for hearts of young jihadists.

House members on Tuesday voted to condemn Obama for failing to notify Congress about plans to exchange five Taliban detainees for prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Russia carried out a successful test of its new Bulava intercontinental nuclear missile today and will perform two more test launches in October and November.

Ukraine's president said today Russia had removed the bulk of its forces from his country, raising hopes for a peace drive now underway after five months of conflict in which more than 3,000 people have been killed.

Russia said emphatically on Tuesday it did not want Ukraine to become a NATO member, describing such a possibility as an "unprecedented challenge to European security."

Ukraine isn't the only place where Russia is stirring up trouble. Since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Moscow has routinely supported secessionists in bordering states, to coerce those states into accepting its dictates. Its latest such effort is unfolding in the South Caucasus.

The first veteran provided an exoskeleton that enables him to walk will be in California as part of a veteran's health summit.

The military wants a vehicle that can dodge rockets by itself.

Future Army grenade could kill enemies hiding behind walls.

The Air Force awaits a legal opinion whether an atheist can opt out of the phrase "so help me God" in his re-enlistment oath.

In one of the most ambitious product launches in its history, Apple unveiled two new iPhones, a smartwatch and a mobile payments platform yesterday.

Apple Inc's embrace of wireless charging for its new Watch may be a defining moment for a technology that's languished for years amid competing standards and consumer confusion.

Watch: Frances McDormand and Bill Murray stare at rural things.

Frozen food critic realizes what he's done, quits show mid-episode.

John Oliver gives Russia's horny space geckos a proper musical sendoff.

Trippy toonrific ...

ROYGBIV: A Pixar Supercut from Rishi Kaneria on Vimeo.

LINK: Original photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen

September 4, 2014 at 9:15am

Cool Desk Job: 5-20th Infantry Regiment virtually prepares for anything at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

5-20th Infantry Regiment soldiers work the VBS2, an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Photo credit: Sgt. James Bunn

"Enemy troops in the open, three o'clock," a soldier calls out. The gunner scans for the target and in less than a second identifies and engages the enemy combatants.

This was the scenario for soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team as they conducted Virtual Battlespace 2 training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 28.

The unit organized the training to familiarize soldiers with different terrain, weapons and vehicle procedures before an upcoming live-fire exercise next month at Yakima Training Center.

"The soldiers are getting used to the equipment," said 2nd Lt. John Howell, a platoon leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn. "They're going over fire commands today and learning to work together."

The VBS2 is an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Since its introduction in 2007, the system has helped better prepare soldiers and units for deployments and saved the Army millions of dollars according to Jeffery T. Du, a VBS2 facilitator.

This training saves the Army money by allowing units to go through scenarios based on the terrain they will experience at the upcoming exercise without stressing vehicles, equipment or using live ammunition, said Du. The soldiers will be more efficient when they go to the range because they have practiced multiple times in the simulator.

Through an advanced program editing system, VBS2 instructors can tailor training to the needs of individual units based on mission requirements, create realistic battlefield situations and allow Soldiers to operate simulated land, sea, and air vehicles.

"This training allows for a diverse amount of situations that we can encounter with the Stryker," said Spc. Ryan Sweeney, a fire team leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn.

Soldiers focused on marksmanship with mounted weapons, calling for indirect fire, identifying targets and maneuvering through various fighting positions in a simulated Stryker combat vehicle.

The scalable VBS2 system is able to train small teams in urban tactics, entire combat teams in combined arms operations or even squad and platoon offensive, defensive, and patrolling operations.

Leaders can use VBS2 to assist them in developing the organizational skills required to execute successful missions. Soldiers can use the system to learn and validate the unit's tactics, techniques and procedures before any exercise.

 "We have a lot of new soldiers and this is an easy way for them to get a baseline of how to operate in a fire team and build good habits early," said Sweeney.

Although it's a simulation and not the real world, the VBS2 system provides diverse training opportunities for the soldiers of the 5-20th Inf. Bn. and the skills necessary as a modern fighting force said Du.

"I like that we are diversifying our training techniques to match all fronts," said Sweeney. "This system is a good way for us to build up our new training strategies to meet the battlefield of tomorrow." 

Sgt. James J. Bunn is with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

July 28, 2014 at 12:21pm

Joint Base Lewis-McChord nerds and geeks unite!

8-bit hoo-ah!

Sure, there are spouses groups for Joint Base Lewis-McChord husbands and wives looking to integrate into the local community, make friends or learn more about how to navigate within the military world. There are resources galore, and yet sometimes spouses may want to connect and get together over a different topic than military resources. Spouses may simply want to get together and talk about shared interests - especially if those shared interests are something that maybe not everyone out there relates to.

For this exact reason, Monica Rice blazed a new trail and recently formed her own group - the JBLM Geeky/Nerdy Spouses, a Facebook group open to spouses of both genders so long as they identify as geeky and/or nerdy. After spending some time with the general spouse groups, she thought others out there might want to connect on all things geeky like she did.

"I'm still pretty new to the military lifestyle and haven't made many friends with spouses," says Rice. "Also, because of my passion in computers and programming, I don't have many lady friends with those same interests. I knew I couldn't have been the only woman with what I think are pretty niche hobbies, so I wanted to reach out while simultaneously forming a small network wherein all members could talk about their favorite passions without feeling like an oddity."

Read more...

July 11, 2014 at 12:58pm

UNITE US connects veterans online

There are two types of connections that UNITE US, an emerging technology platform aimed at enabling the military community, is focused on: peer to peer and peer to organization.

"We wanted to create something that helped connect the dots - to connect the demand side with the supply side," explained UNITE US co-founder Taylor Justice.

Justice, who graduated from West Point in 2006 and served for a few years before being medically retired, created Unite US with two other veterans, Dan Brillman and Kareem Elsirafy, as well as a civilian partner, Andrew Price.

The four men began work in 2012 and after raising seed money, cultivating relationships and building their virtual platform, UNITE US went live in November 2013.

Read more...

Filed under: Veterans, Community, Web/Tech,

June 14, 2014 at 7:56am

Saturday Morning Joe: Army 239th birthday, troop plane down, US vs. Sunni Islamists, web series, Led Zepp doc ...

Navy Embedded Training Team 3-205th Garrison throws coffee during weapons familiarization training. Original photo by Chief Petty officer David Votroubek

GRAB A CUP AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 6.14.14 >>>

Kicking off observances for the Army 239th birthday, Army leaders paid tribute to the service's first commander-in-chief, and presented Purple Hearts to two Soldiers.

Pro-Russian separatists shot down an army transport plane in east Ukraine, killing 49 servicemen and dealing a blow to a military campaign to defeat the rebels and hold the country together. 

A Sunni Islamist offensive threatening to dismember Iraq seemed to slow today after days of lightning advances as government forces reported regaining territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on Baghdad's Shi'ite-led government.

Iraqis answering top Shiite cleric's rare call to arms.

President Obama said Friday he is considering military action in Iraq, but will not deploy U.S. troops there.

On Iraq, President Obama has chosen the tough-love option. Here is a list of other options he can use.

Pros and cons of drone strikes in Iraq.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "looked good" after arriving back in the United States and is working daily with health professionals after being held by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson promised VA employees that whistleblowers will not face harassment or punishment for reporting misbehavior in the department.

Sen. Tom Coburn will release an oversight report next week exposing shortcomings at the VA.

Navy test pilots are conducting shore landings of the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter to get ready for an at-sea landing later this year.

The request for proposal on the US Air Force's long range strike-bomber program will be issued soon.

The entrance to hell is in the center of Asia and it's terrifying.

How to stop Facebook from using your browsing history.

Bill Murray's hilarious costumes in Late Show with David Letterman.

Steve Buscemi's Park Bench Web series features Fred Armisen, Dick Cavett, Debbie Harry and others this week.

Chef Mario Batali delivers another delicious Web series (this time, for Hulu) featuring George Stephanopoulos, and look for Jimmy Fallon and Anthony Bourdain on upcoming installments.

Jeff Krulik's doc Led Zeppelin Played Here, which tries to find out if the rock legends really played a school gymnasium in 1969.

Here's Ice Cube saying "nice things" in an extremely angry way. ...

LINK: Original photo by Chief Petty officer David Votroubek

May 31, 2014 at 8:07am

Saturday Morning Joe: U.S. and China square off, VA bonuses, Shinseki still hero, Air Force ISR, iOS8 wish list ...

Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), throws a coffee during a Combat Fitness Test. Original photo by Sgt. Aaron Rooks

GRAB A CUP AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 5.31.14 >>>

Soldier dies in aircraft accident in Afghanistan.

The United States and China squared off at an Asian security forum, with the U.S. defense secretary accusing Beijing of destabilizing the region and a top Chinese general retorting that his comments were "threat and intimidation".

Ukraine's government vowed on Friday to press ahead with a military offensive against separatists.

Just three months after being named Veterans Affairs deputy secretary, Sloan Gibson is taking the helm - albeit temporarily - of an embattled Cabinet department.

For many in military, Shinseki remains an American hero.

More than 60 percent of Veterans Affairs health facilities surveyed in an audit directed by senior VA leadership were found to have toyed with appointment dates and, in some cases, schedulers were pressured to game wait times to make them appear more favorable.

It's one of the more disturbing revelations to arise from an investigation into fatal delays in care at Veterans Affairs medical centers: Employee bonuses appear to be one factor behind the manipulation of patient wait times in at least one hospital.    

The Associated Press reached out to veterans in Arizona and several other states to recount their experiences with VA care.

One U.S. cybersecurity expert is arguing that world nations should jointly pledge they will spare civil nuclear facilities from computer attacks for humanitarian reasons.

With no sign that the sequestration-imposed budget cuts are going away, the Air Force is going to have to change how it handles its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture.

Land Power: A personal theory of power.

Man stuck in South Korea after his kid doodled all over his passport.

iOS8 Wish List: What we want (and what we'll get).

Skin Deep app points out harmful ingredients in the beauty products we use every day.

The story of the largest T-Rex fossil ever discovered is certainly worthy of the documentary treatment.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Flavor Creme Oreos go on sale June 9 nationwide.

You don’t see this everyday …

LINK: Original photo by Sgt. Aaron Rooks

May 23, 2014 at 6:57am

Friday Morning Joe: Defense bill action, Shinseki speaks, Terminator-like soldiers, 10 awesome algorithms ...

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit practices throwing a training coffee at Range 109 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. Original photo by Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos

GRAB A CUP AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 5.23.14 >>>

Armed pro-Russian separatists clashed with Ukrainian self-defense fighters near the eastern city of Donetsk today, two days before the presidential election, and at least two people were killed.

The Kremlin's crazy shock troops.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki issued a message to veterans defending his leadership and promising to fix delays in care that have rocked his agency and the Obama administration in recent days.

The House approved a measure that would authorize just over $600 billion in 2015 U.S. defense spending, while blocking A-10 retirement plans and ordering an independent group to study the Army's future.

The House passed legislation that tacitly approves a 1.8 percent pay raise for military service members next year, and includes a number of other pay, benefits and workforce provisions.

The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled a $514 billion defense bill that differs in several ways from the version approved by the House.

The Senate Armed Services committee wants to put $320 million saved from cutting personnel to pay for flying the A-10 another year.

The Navy has dispatched a cruiser to the Black Sea in the latest sign that Washington is ramping up pressure on the Kremlin's power play in Ukraine ahead of a disputed referendum.

The intelligence community is on the verge of "revolutionary" technical advances.

DARPA has invented a device that gives soldiers Terminator vision.

The 10 algorithms that dominate our world.

Here comes the Headfoams.

Veruca Salt played for the first time in 18 years on Conan.

Watch the big drum-off between Will Ferrell and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith.

See a trailer for the new season of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Finally: This lengthy piece explores the history of Don and Peggy's relationship on Mad Men.

Suddenly American idol is much better ...

LINK: Original photo by Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos

May 19, 2014 at 7:17am

Monday Morning Joe: VA scandal grows, AFRICOM challenges, JBLM vs Godzilla, Dracula's castle for sale ...

Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Proof hurls an M67 fragmentation coffee at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan. Original photo by Cpl. Adam Miller

GRAB A CUP OF JOE AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 5.19.14 >>>

VA scandal hits new hospital.

President Obama and Congress are moving quickly to respond to a growing political firestorm over VA patient care allegations.

The international outcry over the abductions of Nigerian schoolgirls added to the growing list of challenges faced by AFRICOM.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey plans to push his NATO counterparts to increase security contributions in southern Europe along the Mediterranean.

On high seas, Vietnam and China play tense game.

John Kerry's doctrine: More intervention.

Why the military can't get enough of Amphibious Ready Groups.

Ukraine wants the U.S. to provide it with military body armor, vehicles and reconnaissance equipment left over from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to help it deter Russian forces in the eastern region of the country.

Undersecretary of the Army Brad R. Carson focuses on the service's top modernization priorities: the tactical communications network.

More than 13,000 troops from 24 countries are to take part in the annual "Eager Lion" military exercise in Jordan.

The House ducks on defense.

The high cost of the U.S. Defense Department's weapon programs threatens national security, the head of the Pentagon's advanced research-and-development arm said.

Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development take protective eyewear into the future.

The Army's capability to project land power grew this week with the induction of the M109A7 self-propelled howitzer and its companion M992A3 carrier ammunition tracked vehicle into low-rate initial production.

JBLM played a part in new Godzilla film.

U.S. Air Force Academy parachute team, Wings of Blue, celebrated 50 years of "standing in the door."

The gay widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan has received word from the Department of Veterans Affairs that she will receive the same full benefits that heterosexual widows and widowers receive.

How corruption guts militaries: The Ukraine case study.

The British will allow Lockheed Martin's F-35B to make its first flight outside of the United States on July 4 when the country's newest aircraft carrier is christened by Her Majesty the Queen.

A-10 Thunderbolt attack jet lands on German highway.

Exploring the great outdoors from a remote control iPad-bot.

You can make an offer to buy Dracula's castle.

Facebook is building an app to take on Snapchat (again).

Morrissey says his Twitter account is fake.

The Coen brothers have announced their next film.

Watch Arcade Fire's new music video for We Exist.

Finally: When you mix Cruise and Yorke you get Thom Cruise.

What are you going to do today?

LINK: Original photo by Cpl. Adam Miller

April 30, 2014 at 7:22am

Wednesday Morning Joe: Iraqis vote, Black Hawk Drone, more A-10 anger, House rejects cuts, new super group ...

Morning Joe History: M-203 coffee launcher training at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Original photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

GRAB A CUP AND READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 4.30.14 >>>

Masked gunmen in military fatigues took control of a government building in another Ukrainian town.

Unshaken by the latest surge in violence, Iraqis braved the threat of bombs and attacks to vote today in key elections for a new parliament amid a massive security operation as the country slides deeper into sectarian strife.

A new defense pact reflects closer U.S.-Philippine ties.

President Obama's pivot to Asia will lack a crucial military underpinning next year, when for four months, the Navy will not have an aircraft carrier in the region.

China's A2/AD capabilities have many in Washington worried. America's land forces could help

Senator: Benghazi e-mails reveal White House misinformation.

Secretary of State John Kerry accused Moscow of accelerating the crisis in Ukraine instead of sticking to an agreement to ratchet back tensions.

The United States has proof that the Russian government in Moscow is running a network of spies inside eastern Ukraine.

The fate of the A-10 close-air support platform has been the most contentious issue between the Air Force and Congress over the last six months. If comments made yesterday are any indication, it's a fight that isn't going away.

House lawmakers have rejected proposed cuts in housing allowances and commissary funding, as well as an overhaul of the Tricare system that would increase out-of-pocket costs for some beneficiaries.

The House Seapower subcommittee markup that was revealed yesterday offered at least one surprise - cutting the Navy's request for three littoral combat ships to only two - but the bill supports the other new ship requests, including two destroyers and two submarines.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed all of the services to review their hairstyle policies in response to a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Hagel's defense cuts: a good idea.

The Air Force chief of staff explored the proper force ratio between the service's active duty and reserve components in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Army's most iconic helicopter is about to go pilotless.

Michael D. Shear examines how popular culture has incorporated the issues that President Obama has faced.

What happens when a normal guy gets to fly in a Thunderbird F-16.

Finally: Sunglasses that ping your phone when you leave them behind.

The cast of the new Star Wars movie has been announced.

Carrie Fisher is auctioning a bunch of her rare Star Wars stuff.

Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), Bill Rieflin (Swans, Ministry), and Kurt Bloch (ex-Fastbacks) have formed the band super-Earth.

Finally: Road House fight chart.

OK, stop doing whatever the heck you're doing, because this is it. ...

LINK: Original photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

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