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Author: TriSec    Date: 10/06/2015 10:16:10

Good Morning.

I'm still working through how best to track where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are increasingly obscure dates we could use as markers...so for now I'm going to stop counting.

But that doesn't mean the toll doesn't stop adding up. You no doubt heard about the crash of a C-130 outside Jalalabad (Afghanistan), that killed six troops?

BEDFORD, Mass. —Two of the six U.S. airmen who died this week when a U.S. Air Force C-130J military transport plane crashed in eastern Afghanistan were deployed out of Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

Hansom officials made the announcement on the base's website Friday.

The two airmen were Senior Airman Nathan Sartain, 29, of Pensacola, Florida and 1st Class Airman Kcey Ruiz, 21, of McDonoguh, Georgia.

The other four airmen were deployed from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. Five civilian passengers on the plane also died, as did some people on the ground.

Base commander Col. Mike Vogel knew both airmen.

"They were incredible airmen who served their country voluntarily and lost their lives protecting this great nation," he said.

The crash happened shortly after midnight Thursday at Jalalabad air field, 80 miles from Kabul.

The airmen from Hanscom were members of the 66th Security Forces Squadron and were deployed to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Officials said neither airmen was a Massachusetts native, but both lived in the state for the past 15 months. They were both four months into a six month deployment.

The Taliban claimed that it shot down the plane, but American military officials said that was unlikely.

The Defense Department said engine failure likely caused the aircraft to crash.

And as long as we're looking at Afghanistan, it also looks like we're going nowhere fast. I believe the 'exit window' is rapidly closing, and if a Republican should take the White House next time, I'd look for us to be there even longer...not to mention what will probably happen to our presence in Iraq.

WASHINGTON -- With the Taliban gaining new ground, U.S. military commanders are arguing for keeping at least a few thousand American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, a move that would mark a departure from President Barack Obama's current policy.

Afghan forces on Wednesday were preparing for what is expected to be a protracted battle to retake Kunduz, a key city that was overrun by the Taliban on Monday, and the U.S. was assisting with at least five airstrikes over the past two days. The struggle highlighted concerns about the apparent fragility of U.S.-trained Afghan security forces.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, including the current trouble in Kunduz, would be taken into account as Obama considers how to proceed with his planned drawdown of troops. Under his existing plan, only an embassy-based security cooperation presence of about 1,000 military personnel would remain at the end of next year.

Obama has made it a centerpiece of his second-term foreign policy message that he would end the U.S. war in Afghanistan and get American troops out by the time he left office in January 2017.

About 9,800 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. But the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John F. Campbell, has given the administration several options for gradually reducing that number over the next 15-months, said U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak about plans still under consideration.

Campbell's options all call for keeping a higher-than-planned troop presence based on his judgment of what it would take to sustain the Afghan army and minimize the chances of losing more ground gained over more than a decade of costly U.S. combat, they said.

According to U.S. officials, Campbell's options would postpone any major cuts in troop levels this year and give him more leeway on the pace of any reductions next year. The options, officials said, include keeping as many as 8,000 troops there well into next year and maintaining several thousand troops as a counterterrorism force into 2017. The options would allow for a gradual decline in troop numbers over the coming year, depending on the security conditions in Afghanistan and the capabilities of the Afghan forces, who sustained heavy combat losses this year and last.

The timing of a new decision on U.S. troop levels is unclear. Campbell is scheduled to testify to Congress next week on the security situation, including the effectiveness of Afghan security forces after a tough summer of fighting.

So we'll shift gears a little bit and talk about budget. While the immediate crisis and shutdown threat is now past, there's another one looming in December. It probably seems likely that there will be a shutdown. For most of us, we can just shrug and carry on with our lives...but have you considered what a shutdown might mean to military families, especially those with members overseas, and who are heavily reliant on Uncle Sam for some things we take for granted as civilians?

Military Pay
Yes, your active duty service member still has to go to work during a shutdown. No, he might not get paid for it until later.

Unless congress passes a law funding pay for active duty military members during a shutdown like they did in 2013, a government shutdown would mean no paychecks starting October 15 (if the shutdown were to last that long). It could probably also mean canceled drill for National Guard and Reserve members (and, therefore, no drill pay).

Starting to freak out about how you’re going to cover your bills during that time? Several banks, like USAA, are planning to offer their active duty users interest-free pay advance loan in the event of a missed paycheck. USAA officials said they will work with their members on repayment details should this become a needed option.

Military Commissaries
Just like in 2013, most military commissaries would close in the event of a shutdown. Rural and overseas stores, however, would stay open according to a DoD memo issued late this month.

Although officials at the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) haven’t given specific details, the process would probably work much as it did in 2013. At that time stores were open on October 1 but shuttered October 2. They were closed five to six days until the DoD ordered civilian employees back to work.

Like last time, the commissary is unlikely to put food on clearance in preparation for the closures. (That probably won’t keep shoppers from rushing the stores, though, like it’s the beginning of some kind of serious chicken shortage.)

Because military exchanges aren’t run through taxpayer dollars, they will still be open.
Military Hospitals and Healthcare

According to a memo issued by the DoD, the only hospital activities that will continue in the event of a shutdown are: inpatient care at military treatment facilities (MTF), emergency and acute care at MTFs and active duty dental clinics, any care provided off-base by Tricare (at civilian, non-MTF clinics) and wounded warrior medical care.

That means if you have an appointment at a clinic at an MTF with your primary care provider or a specialist, it’s not going to be happening during a shutdown.

On-Base Schools
If your kid attends a DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) school, he will continue to go if there is a shutdown. However, all outside school hours activities, like sporting events, will be canceled, according to the memo. The only exception would be if the event is funded by non-taxpayer money, such as through an outside sponsorship or through MWR.

On-Base Childcare and Recreation
This is a tricky category. The DoD said childcare centers will definitely stay open, but MWR activities (and employees) will only keep working if they are totally funded by non-tax payer dollars.

The snag here is that MWR does functions regularly with a little book-keeping switcheroo where they convert tax-payer money into their non-taxpayer fund accounts to help with cash flow. That’s completely well and good normally, but in the event of a shutdown it means that any activities funded with that money have to stop.

That means some of the MWR closures will be on a case-by-case basis. In 2013, for example, we saw that many on-base libraries closed while many on-base gyms remained open. This one is going to be more of a wait and see.

Military PCS Moves and TDY Travel
Unless you’re supporting one of the exempted activities (and the best thing to do is to ask your chain of command if that’s the case) your military move will be postponed your TDY canceled.

And so the GOP continues to support the troops.

Finally, we'll end with a historical footnote. You might have heard about this - the USS Simpson was retired and de-commissioned last week. She exchanged gunfire with some Iranian vessels back about 1988, and actually sank one. What this means is that the venerable USS Constitution here in Boston is currently the only US Naval vessel in commission that has sunk an enemy ship in battle. (Circa 1812).

The United States Navy decommissioned its last Perry-class frigate, reducing the Navy's number of ships that have sunk an enemy vessel to just one. The end of the Navy's frigates marks a new era of naval warfare where ships are less likely to go to battle in the open sea.

The USS Simpson removed its weapons, covered its windows, and on Tuesday, it lowered its flags. Now, the ship will travel to Philadelphia until a foreign nation buys it.

After 30 years of service -- including an April 1988 battle when it fired missiles at and sunk an Iranian oil platform and an Iranian Navy vessel -- the ship's service came to an end Tuesday with a ceremony at Mayport Naval Station.

Now the only Navy ship that has sunk an enemy is the USS Constitution, which did so during the War of 1812.

About 90 percent of the Simpson's final crew will face new assignments in Jacksonville, according to the ship's final commanding officer, Commander Casey Roskelly.

"I love being out at sea," he said. "You get into the rhythm, the routine. There's just something peaceful, you know, going up on the bridge wing at 2 o'clock in the morning, and it's your own planetarium. You can just see forever. The stars are just everywhere, and then watching the sunrise and sunset. There's peace. ... It's a time for self-reflection."

The Simpson was built and commissioned in the waning years of the Cold War. It searched for and escorted submarines, and it fought narcotics traffickers and pirates. Roskelly couldn't detail the ship's most recent security missions other than to say it occurred in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Navy has focused its energies on close-to-shore littoral combat ships.

"There is really no deep-water threat now," Roskelly said. "It's now in closer."

26 comments (Latest Comment: 10/06/2015 19:49:23 by Mondobubba)
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