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Friday, January 5, 2018

#Veterans Military

#Veterans Military


The Problem With ‘Let Marines Be Marines’

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 03:24 PM PST

Proceedings, the monthly magazine of the U.S. Naval Institute founded in 1874, stands among Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Harper's as one of the nation's oldest continuously published magazine. But despite its prestige, it is occasionally the home of some terrible "think pieces."

In the latest issue, for example, Marine aviator Capt. Brendan Boley lays out his simple strategy for solving the Corps' growing retention deficit: Instead of investing in solutions like online training and reenlistment bonuses, simply "let Marines be Marines."

Sounds great! Where's the rub? Well, it's all in how you define being a Marine.

"Marine leaders currently are focused on the wrong things," writes Boley. "They need to cut back on Marine Net courses, transgender awareness training, mandatory safety stand downs, sexual assault prevention training, and other unnecessary activities that detract from operations."

Excessive training and sign-offs annoy practically everyone in the military establishment — even Defense Secretary James Mattis, who last summer directed the services to look for ways to lighten their non-operational training and administrative demands on service members. But in a Corps wracked by Class A aviation mishaps, misogyny, and revenge-porn scandals, it's fair to ask which wastes more time and energy: training Marines to do better, or letting this state of affairs continue.

Related: The Rise And Fall (And Rise) Of 'Marines United' »

Take sexual assault: An estimated 20% of reported assaults in the Corps involved an assailant who had also committed an assault before joining the service, according to the DoD's report on sexual assault in the armed forces during fiscal year 2016. In a year in which the Pentagon registered a record number of sexual assault complaints, the Marines' rate of repeat offending was rate twice that of all the other services.

Even before the spike in reports, a Rand Corporation study found that nearly 8% of women in the Marine Corps were sexually assaulted in 2013, far outstripping the other branches; after the "Marines United" nude-photo-sharing scandal broke in March, Marine vet Kate Hendricks Thomas recalled for Task & Purpose readers just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault were during the early years of the Global War on Terror.

The problem with "let Marines be Marines," as Boley means it, is that it thinks of culture as a matter of readiness — but doesn't appear to see sexism and assault as obstacles to readiness. "The flight of talent directly impacts operational readiness, safety, and combat effectiveness," writes Boley. "More money may help, but any solution must include a culture that focuses on combat effectiveness, the time and money for realistic training, and a focus on individual Marines as valued investments and not a replaceable commodity."

marine corps experimental unit combat logistics battalion 8 marinesU.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Tyler W. Stewart

U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 8, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, participate in helicopter support team (HST) training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 12, 2017. 

That culture is currently lacking. Indeed, it's the current culture of the Marines that led to the distribution of thousands of explicit photos of female service members, veterans and civilians — often taken without the subject’s knowledge — on the "Marines United" Facebook page. It's the culture that enabled 35-year decorated officer Col. Daniel Wilson to rise through the ranks while sexually abusing a subordinate's twin daughters. It's the culture that once he was exposed and charged, offered accommodations based on his stature in the Corps. Wilson isn't alone: general and special court-martial disposition overviews published by Headquarters Marine Corps in June indicated that 18% of judicial proceedings involved the sexual abuse of a child or child pornography-related offenses in the first six months of 2017 alone. One Marine sergeant allegedly used his position as a recruiter to sexually assault a teenage girl — not a proud moment for the few and the proud.

Boley (and plenty of other capable, war-tested Marines) appears not to understand that sexual abuse awareness training is about more than just operational readiness. While Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green decry sexual harassment and abuse as antithetical to the Marine Corps' ethos and unit cohesion, they can't directly intervene in the banter of the barracks and stamp out detrimental behavior. Sexual harassment and abuse training isn't just about reminding service members that revenge porn and aggressive comments are bad news; it's about encouraging individual Marines to intervene, spot-correct, make a report: to do something about problem behavior that they see.

Related: A Disturbing Portion Of Marine Corps' Courts-Martial In 2017 Were For Child Sexual Abuse »

Consider Kate Hendricks Thomas, that vet who wrote of her ordeals with harassment for Task & Purpose. She was a Marine's Marine: Her last active-duty billet was as commander of the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island. But she recalled for T&P readers how she carried spray paint in her gear while deployed in Fallujah to "cover increasingly detailed and explicit drawings of me that decorated every porta john" in the city. "I laughed at the time and gave the 'artists' points for creative positioning," she wrote. "I was 25 and confident and refused to recognize the comments as harassment. I could have facilitated an honest and frank discussion with my young recruits who would potentially see that and much worse, and I did not. In that way, I'm complicit."

"Let Marines be Marines" isn't a misguided ideal. Theirs is the proudest service with good reason, embodied in that hymn: "First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean." But until the DoD recognizes that vague invocations of "honor" and "duty" from high-ranking branch officials aren't enough to stem the rising tide of misogyny in the armed forces, "let Marines be Marines" will remain part of the problem rather than a solution.

WATCH NEXT:

The post The Problem With 'Let Marines Be Marines' appeared first on Task & Purpose.

It’s 2018 And SFC Alwyn Cashe Still Hasn’t Been Awarded The Medal Of Honor. Why?

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 02:56 PM PST

Three. That's how many times Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe entered the burning carcass of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin on Oct. 17, 2005. Cashe, a 35-year-old Gulf War vet on his second combat deployment to Iraq since the 2003 invasion, had been in the gun turret when the IED went off below the vehicle, immediately killing the squad's translator and rupturing the fuel cell. By the time the Bradley rolled to a stop, it was fully engulfed in  flames. The crackle of incoming gunfire followed. It was a complex ambush.

Slightly injured and soaked in fuel, Cashe scrambled down into the hull and extracted the driver, who was on fire. After putting out the flames, Cashe returned to the vehicle, at which point he, too, caught fire. One of the six soldiers in the payload compartment managed to lower the back ramp, revealing the inferno inside. By the time he got every soldier out of the Bradley alive, Cashe was the most severely wounded. According to this Silver Star citation, 72% of his body was covered in second and third-degree burns, but he insisted on being the last man on the medevac bird. Later, people who knew Cashe would say that's just the sort of non-commissioned officer he was — selfless, tough as nails, old school. He always put his soldiers first.     

"Sgt. Cashe saved my life," Gary Mills, who was inside the burning Bradley, told Los Angeles Times in 2011. "With all the ammo inside that vehicle, and all those flames, we'd have been dead in another minute or two."

If the military scrutinizes the evidence and ultimately rejects Cashe's nomination, it should provide his supporters with "incontestable proof" that he did not earn the Medal of Honor.

Cashe died on Nov. 8, 2005, at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Those who were with him on his deathbed say he never stopped asking about his soldiers, four of whom ultimately died. Cashe was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for his actions. The medal had been recommended by his battalion commander, then-Col. Gary M Brito. Eventually, however, Brito came to realize that he had made a mistake. After learning more specific details of Cashe's actions that day, and that he had done it all while being shot at, Brito launched a campaign to have his Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The nomination was submitted to the Army in May 2011. It hasn't been heard from since.    

It takes a lot more than just extraordinary courage under fire to attain the Medal of Honor. The heroic act is the first of many monumental steps that must be taken before a service member is deemed worthy of the nation's highest award for combat valor. The success or failure of a Medal of Honor recommendation hinges less on the act itself than on how the story is told through the witness statements, after-action reports, news articles, and whatever other evidence is included in the nomination package. It is the only military medal that requires "incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct," and also the only one that must be approved by the president on behalf of Congress. But to reach the Oval Office, a nomination package must first travel through a vast bureaucratic labyrinth, undergoing numerous reviews and revisions along the way. A lot of signatures are necessary. Myriad known and unknown factors influence the length of the recommendation process, which begins at the battalion level and ends on the desk of the secretary of defense. According to the Army, it "can take in excess of 18 months with intense scrutiny every step of the way." That's a euphemistic way of saying that it can take a very, very long time. Even cases that seem open and shut have a way of, well, just disappearing.

Army image

Take, for example, the case of Cpl. David D. White, who served with the 37th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War. Soldiers who fought alongside White in the Battle of Sailor's Creek near Farmville, Virginia, credited him with capturing Maj. Gen. George Washington Custis Lee, the eldest son of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The government deemed it a Medal of Honor-worthy act — in part because it occurred amid one of the most decisive and brutal battles of the war — but White was never awarded the medal. Instead, it went to another Sailor's Creek veteran: Cpl. Harris S. Hawthorne of the 121st New York Infantry, who allegedly refused to return the medal to the War Department after an investigation prompted by protests from White's furious comrades discovered that key details of his story didn't add up.

More than a century later, White's great-great-grandson, Frank E. White, of Clinton, New Jersey, picked up the fight to set the record straight. White compiled decades of research on the controversy into a book he authored in 2008. He and his family then submitted a nomination for his ancestor to receive the Medal of Honor in 2011. Eventually, after years playing bureaucratic ping-pong with the Army, the family enlisted the aid of several influential lawmakers, who penned a July 2014 letter recommending that White receive the Medal of Honor. But the Army still refused to reopen the case. It was only after a review by the Defense Department inspector general's office concluded that the case hadn't been properly handled that Army Secretary Mark T. Esper directed the Senior Army Decorations Board to look at it again — as "an act of prudence," the Washington Post reported in December.

Many would argue that the White family's Kafkaesque saga is an example of the military award system operating exactly how it's supposed to. They'd applaud the bureaucrats for guarding the Medal of Honor like sentries, ready to rip apart any nomination that approaches the fortress gates. After all, the medal has no intrinsic value. You can't use it to, say, chop lumber or feed your family. The medal's value is solely derived from the notion that only the very best of the best are capable of attaining it. Handing out Medals of Honor willy-nilly would result in inflation. Which is not to say that it doesn't serve a significant practical function: Soldiers in combat draw courage from the belief that if they die going above and beyond the call of duty, their final heroic act will be enshrined in public memory.

Courtesy photo

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, in an undated photo.

With that in mind, it makes perfect sense why the military would resist calls to crack open old Medal of Honor cases. To acknowledge that mistakes were made — even if they were made more than century ago — is to also concede that the award system isn't perfect. But of course it's imperfect. There's no scientific method for measuring valor. The best we can do is establish and enforce criteria to make the evaluation less subjective. For example, Congress mandates that to earn the Distinguished Service Cross — the Army's second-highest valor award — a soldier in combat must distinguish themselves "by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor," and "the act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his comrades."      

The Medal of Honor criterion is both the most specific and most rigorously enforced. It's in a league of its own. To earn one, a service member must "distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." Furthermore, the "meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life." Perhaps the most perfect example of a Medal of Honor-worthy act is jumping on a grenade. In fact, four of the 18 service members awarded the medal for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan since the onset of the War on Terror jumped on grenades. It is an act of pure humanity performed under the most savage of circumstances. You don't earn the Medal of Honor by stacking bodies. You earn it by demonstrating a willingness to die so others may live.  

So then why hasn't Cashe been awarded the Medal of Honor? Those who knew him — especially the ones who witnessed the events incompletely described in his Silver Star citation and lived to tell the story — will argue, as they have exhaustively over the past 13 years, that Cashe was the embodiment of everything the medal symbolizes. Just like jumping on a grenade, it is impossible to walk into a furnace thinking you're not going to die, or, at the very least, be grievously wounded. The skin on your arms and face begins to bubble. The heat sears your eyes. Your lungs spasm. Cashe made that hellish trip three times. And his flesh was still smoldering when he refused to be medevaced until he knew all of his guys had been loaded onto the helicopters.      

72% of his body was covered in second and third-degree burns, but he insisted on being the last man on the medevac bird. Later, people who knew Cashe would say that's just the sort of non-commissioned officer he was — selfless, tough as nails, old school. He always put his soldiers first.

Doing everything possible to ensure that the Medal of Honor never finds itself around the neck of an undeserving recipient is crucial to preserving the integrity of the entire award system. But so is finding out the truth, especially when presented with overwhelming evidence that a service member deserving of the medal was never awarded it. Cashe's case has been the subject of countless news articles over the years, including at least one that raised the question of whether racism is partly to blame for the Army's seeming lack of urgency. If Cashe is awarded the Medal of Honor, he'll be the first African-American of the post-9/11 generation to receive it. The Army's refusal to discuss the details of his case, or even disclose whether or not it is still under review, only fuels lingering suspicions that the award system is corrupted by politics and prejudice. If the military scrutinizes the evidence and ultimately rejects Cashe's nomination, it should provide his supporters with "incontestable proof" that he did not earn the Medal of Honor.

(A public affairs officer with the Army's Awards and Decorations Branch told Task & Purpose that his office was not allowed to discuss the case and referred us to the Office of the Secretary Defense, whose PAO then relayed our request back to the Army. We are still awaiting a response and will update this article if and when we receive one.)

When Cashe arrived at the U.S. Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base in Iraq, he was still fully conscious. Alisha Turner, then an Air Force medic, was part of the team that treated Cashe and three of his wounded comrades. When we spoke recently, Turner called the encounter her "Pandora's box." Cashe, she remembered, was the fourth casualty through the door. He was burned badly. What remained of his uniform was melted to his skin. Turner's team rushed Cashe into the ER, where he started fighting to get off the gurney. "He just kept saying, 'I'm good, I'm good, take care of my guys,'" Turner said. "He wanted us to focus on everyone else. It was as if they were his children."

It took about 10 minutes for the medics to calm Cashe down enough to begin working on him. Turner tried to keep track of him on the military's patient tracking system after he left Balad, but eventually she lost him. Years later, she typed his name into Google and discovered that he had died. She joined a Facebook page devoted to advocating for Cashe to receive the Medal of Honor and shared her story with the group, which was full of other people Cashe had made a strong impression on  — not just in Iraq, but throughout his life. "I hope he gets the credit he deserves, because he was remarkable that day," Turner told me. Then she wept.

The post It's 2018 And SFC Alwyn Cashe Still Hasn't Been Awarded The Medal Of Honor. Why? appeared first on Task & Purpose.

The Marine Corps Just Announced Its Next Experimental Unit

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:40 AM PST

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

Thank the Marine Corps‘ first experimental infantry unit, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, for the quadcopters that are coming to grunt squads and a host of high-speed technology that will follow.

But after two years of experimentation during training exercises and a deployment to the Pacific, 3/5 is standing down — and a logistics unit is on deck to take its place.

During a town hall address to Marines deployed to Bahrain in December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced that Combat Logistics Battalion 8, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be the next designated experimental unit for the Marine Corps.

Commanded by Lt. Col. Kenneth Gawronski, the unit most recently deployed with the Marines’ crisis response task force for Africa earlier in 2017. CLB-8 was briefly deactivated in 2013 following combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but restored in October 2015 as new operational demands surfaced.

The move from infantry experimentation to logistics is by design, Neller told Military.com in an interview.

“There’s probably as much innovation in logistics [as infantry], with additive manufacturing and distribution and every flying quadcopter, drone, delivery of supplies,” he said.

There is overlap, too, Neller added. The Marines in the logistics unit would often use the same weapons, same vehicles, and same communications at their infantry counterparts.

And as the Corps highlights a future strategy that emphasizes smaller units operating independently and at greater distances apart, logistics will spend more time in the spotlight.

“If we’re a distributed force or can operate at range, it’s one thing to put the force into the battlespace,” Neller said. “Maybe a more difficult thing is, how do you supply it, how do you sustain it? How do you do medical, how do you do evacuation, how do you do maintenance?”

Related: This Marine Unit Is The First To Deploy With Suppressors On Every Weapon »

The Marine Corps has already begun experimenting with the futuristic side of maintenance.

Neller mentioned a December experiment at Quantico, Virginia, that featured a UH-1 Huey helicopter equipped with a kit that allowed it to navigate and fly autonomously.

And in a July 2017 interview with Military.com, the Corps’ deputy commandant for installations and logistics, Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, revealed the service is actively pursuing swarming supply delivery drones and a 50-pound “hoverbike” pallet that can make autonomous supply runs.

The specifics of the experimentation cycle for CLB-8 are still unclear. Neller said he expects the unit to begin its experimentation program sometime this calendar year. But as there are no combat logistics battalion deployments to Okinawa as part of the Marines’ unit deployment program, it’s not yet clear if the unit will participate in an operational deployment while experimenting.

“There will probably be some capabilities of things we’ll give them, and we’ll train and practice and probably take them out to [Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms for the Integrated Training Exercise] and do some sort of mobilization readiness exercise,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do as far as an operational deployment.”

marine corps experimental unit combat logistics battalion 8U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Kassie L. McDole

A U.S. Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Marine Air Ground Task Force-8 (MAGTF-8) fires a M240B machine gun towards a simulated enemy while conducting a Motorized Fire and Movement Exercises (MFME) during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 5-17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 23, 2017.

The concept of an experimental unit that remains part of the operational force began with Neller in early 2016, when he announced 3/5 had been chosen for the job.

The unit not only tested new technology, including unmanned ground systems, aerial drones and more; it also tried out new concepts and configurations, such as changing the number of Marines in a squad and adding new leadership positions.

In an interview earlier in December, the commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com that the experiment cycle had yielded 41 separate recommendations, ranging from ideal squad size to what new gear and technology to buy.

While some decisions have already been made, he said, other recommendations will be evaluated later this month.

“Now we have to get together with the commandant and figure out which ones are we going to accept,” he said.

The article originally appeared on Military.com.

Read more from Military.com

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The post The Marine Corps Just Announced Its Next Experimental Unit appeared first on Task & Purpose.

A Failed North Korean Missile Test Reportedly Crashed On One Of North Korea’s Own Cities

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 08:31 AM PST

North Korea reportedly launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in April 2017 that failed a few seconds into flight and came crashing down on a North Korean city.

The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda and David Schmerler, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, cited a US government source as saying the missile failed a minute into flight and never went higher than 70 kilometers.

That initial minute of boosted flight propelled the missile 39 kilometers away to Tokchon, a city of about 200,000 people in North Korea’s interior, according to Panda and Schmerler’s investigation.

Satellite imagery scanned by the authors shows damage to industrial or agricultural buildings near a residential area. The Hwasong-12, with unburned liquid fuel, could still cause a massive explosion even without a warhead, though the authors concluded there were most likely few casualties.

Distance from Pukchang Airfield to the impact point in Tokchon

The wider threat of failed missile tests

But the fiery crash of a North Korean missile into a populated town demonstrates yet another threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has twice fired a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan. A similar failure in the launch process could see a large liquid-fueled missile crashing down on a populated Japanese town.

If such an accident were interpreted as a deliberate attack, it could spark a wider conflict.

Related: T&P’s Coverage Of North Korea »

Another danger pointed out by The Diplomat comes from North Korea’s newly demonstrated ability to carry out surprise tests.

Using mobile missile launchers, which sometimes even have treads like a tank, North Korea showed in 2017 it could launch from virtually anywhere within its borders.

The unpredictability and mobility of North Korea’s launches mean the U.S. or its allies would have a hard time preempting such a launch or even knowing where to look for one.

More from Business Insider:

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The post A Failed North Korean Missile Test Reportedly Crashed On One Of North Korea’s Own Cities appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Lying About Military Service Is Not Uncommon, But It’s Rarely Prosecuted

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 05:43 AM PST

Editor’s note: The Times Free Press in November 2016 published a story that included information about Vietnam veteran Stephen D. Holloway, who was speaking at a Veterans Day event in Pikeville, Tennessee, and claimed to be the most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Holloway’s public claims were challenged by veterans of Vietnam and other conflicts, and the Times Free Press has spent more than a year investigating his military record. To date, Holloway maintains his claims are accurate, though few of his medals and awards have convincing documentation. This is part 2 of a two-day series.

The U.S. Supreme Court deemed lying about military service or medals a matter of free speech when in 2012 it struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Intentionally lying about, embellishing or fabricating one’s military service, medals or awards was protected speech under the First Amendment, the court ruled. But in 2013, President Barack Obama signed a revised version of the Stolen Valor Act that defined the violation as relating to fraudulent claims about military service “with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”

In other words, lies that materially benefited the person who uttered them could be a criminal violation. That’s aside from the fact that many veterans feel lies about military records or medals diminishes the sacrifices made by others.

The embellishment of military service records is not rare. But it is rarely prosecuted by federal authorities under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.

Mary Schantag, chairwoman of the POW Network, has investigated hundreds of cases in which people’s lofty claims about their military service turned out to be false.

She said that, without a prosecutor willing to take on a stolen valor case, the best way to fight back usually is to publicly question a person’s claims.

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Ryan Conroy

The Silver Star Medal

“If he was asked, did he refuse to provide orders? Did he claim they burned? Did he claim he lost them? Did he claim they’re secret?” Schantag said.

“The ball basically is in his court, and there would be a lot of guys out there asking the same question: Why is it on his DD-214? [military discharge papers] Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the orders? Where’s the evidence?”

Schantag said she has seen close to 100 cases in which false information got into military records, whether through self-editing, intimidation of a clerk who handled documents or other means.

“Unless there are orders for this someplace, unless [the claimant] has witnesses, it’s still questionable,” she said.

Violation of the Stolen Valor Act is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. The problem is finding a federal agency with the resources and staffing to devote to the cases, Schantag said.

“They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,” Schantag said. “It’s common sense. That’s reality. But the state level may have the ability to pick that up. It’s a federal crime in most instances, falsifying military records but it pales in comparison to the level of other crimes going on that the FBI has to go after.”

Several states have stolen valor laws on the books, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to news reports.

Schantag’s voice began to break when she described her passion for the issue.

“It is to make sure our military history and the lives lost to fight for freedom, to make sure those things are accurately told,” she said. “These liars are changing military history and if you think about it, 50 to 100 years from now, who’s going to be able to figure out the truth or a lie?”

Stolen valor takes away from those who spilled blood and, in some cases, lost their lives, she said.

“You get these guys that want that status,” Schantag said. “But they didn’t earn it. They don’t have the nightmares these other guys wake up with because of what they went through. They just want the recognition. They don’t want the pain. They don’t want the nightmares. They just want to be somebody’s hero, and it doesn’t work that way.”

+++

Stolen valor has been a high-profile issue in East Tennessee and the region before.

Charles Kaczmarczyk and his wife, Martha, were the focus of an NBC “Dateline” program titled “Secrets in the Smoky Mountains” that aired in the fall of 2016, revealing how a Veterans Affairs investigation showed they faked military service and disabilities to obtain fraudulent benefits.

The investigation also led to the revelation that Martha Kaczmarczyk murdered her ex-husband as the con began. News reports detailed an initial indictment accusing Charles Kaczmarczyk of creating fake Air Force documents showing medals and decorations he did not earn, as the couple reaped benefits in their social status and finances.

The Monroe County couple is in prison now, with Martha sentenced to 50 years for her ex-husband’s murder.

In April, military veteran and former Holly Springs, Ga., police officer Shane Ladner was convicted by a Cherokee County jury on six felony counts of making false statements. Jurors found he lied about awards he received from the Army in the early 1990s, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Ladner had told people he carried out top-secret missions in Central America, Cuba and Somalia. He led people to believe he was a decorated war hero who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during a firefight in Central America, according to the Journal.

Jurors convicted Ladner of submitting a falsified DD-214 to his former employers and to the Cherokee County Tag Office to obtain a tax-exempt Purple Heart license plate for his Ford F-150.

+++

In a 2016 story about a Veterans Day ceremony in Pikeville, Tenn., Vietnam veteran Stephen Douglas Holloway told the Times Free Press he was a POW and had earned more than 50 medals, including nine Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, three Army Commendation Medals, three presidential citations and scores of others.

But those medals were not all listed on Holloway’s military severance documents the newspaper obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, part of the National Archives.

A primary release paper, the DD-214, is given to all military service members when they are discharged. Holloway has two DD-214s filed in the National Archive for his first enlistment. They’re identical except for the awards listed.

One of the National Archive copies and a matching copy provided by a family member show Holloway earned a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal.

The other says he also earned “(9) PURPLE HEARTS, BRONZE STAR, ARCOM W/V, SILVER STAR.”

Veteran students of military documents and fakery contacted by the Times Free Press saw several problems with that DD-214.

The awards are out of order, for one thing, and the rarity of a Silver Star, in combination with the other suspicious claims, raises questions about that award, as well. Of the 60 million people to have served in the American military, only about 130,000 earned the Silver Star, experts said.

Bruce Kendrick, a member of Ernie Pyle Chapter 1945 of the Military Order of Purple Hearts, said Holloway’s failure to provide proof of his awards is suspicious, too. Decorated veterans usually are happy to produce documentation of their service and medals, he said.

“If somebody sees me wearing this [military veteran’s] hat and they say, ‘I don’t believe you,’ then I’ll prove it. I don’t mind it. It’s not going to offend me or anything like that,” Kendrick said. “I’ll get out my DD-214 and if that doesn’t satisfy them, I’ll meet them somewhere else and I’ll bring them these things, and I’ll bring these pictures and I’ll bring them these orders and let them read them.

“It’s that important to me,” he said.

Two national experts in the area of stolen valor contend that anyone awarded nine Purple Hearts would be a national hero, a legend.

The fact that no one has heard of Holloway is one of many red flags raised, said Anthony Anderson, founder and CEO of Guardian of Valor LLC and a retired Army staff sergeant.

Virginian Doug Sterner, founder of the organization Home of Heroes and its website, echoes Anderson’s assessment. Sterner and his wife, Pam, in the last decade or so played a role in the early versions of the federal legislation.

Sterner noted details of the major decorations listed on Holloway’s DD-214. Pointing to horizontal alignment of the type and some differences in the shape of the characters and the spaces between them, he said the document looks like “it went through at least two iterations on at least two typewriters.”

Also, Sterner said the awards are in reverse order of the way they should be listed, with the most valorous medals first and the lesser ones — the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal — last.

“It’s obvious to me that those four awards were added to the DD-214 and were not put on there when the DD-214 was actually generated,” Sterner said.

Sterner said a fire at the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, destroyed 16-18 million military personnel files. Because of that, veterans are allowed to submit paperwork to be placed in their files, an opportunity that could be tempting for people who wanted to embellish their records.

Records show Holloway is a Vietnam veteran who served almost 27 months as a supply clerk with the 71st Transportation Battalion between Jan. 5, 1967, and Aug. 17, 1969, before being honorably discharged as an E-5, or Specialist Second-Class.

A Statement of Service obtained by the newspaper dated Aug. 1, 1983, said Holloway was honorably transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve on Aug. 17, 1969, where he remained until he was honorably discharged Sept. 7, 1971. Then he re-enlisted Sept. 8, 1971, for four years but was discharged “under honorable conditions” in just over 11 months.

According to The Fort Hood Sentinel, an Army newspaper, there are five types of discharge: Honorable; General, Under Honorable Conditions; Under Other than Honorable Conditions; Bad Conduct; and Dishonorable.

The documents obtained by the newspaper show Holloway’s rank at his second discharge as E-4, which is lower than E-5. The documents did not explain the difference, and other paperwork obtained by the Times Free Press — “2-1” jackets, manila document holders with an index listing the contents — link many of the claimed medals to the time period associated with the Army Reserve, despite the fact that the box for listing “wounds” is empty though Holloway claimed to have been wounded in combat nine times. Officials have said the 2-1 forms can be modified by civilians or veterans.

Anderson said that, given the medals he claims, Holloway should have at least maintained his rank or been given a significant promotion, unless there was a problem with his service.

The Times Free Press has asked the National Personnel Records Center for documents related to Holloway’s second tour of duty. The paper also contacted Holloway’s family members throughout the past year but, beyond providing one of the DD-214s the newspaper has now obtained, they have declined to participate in the story.

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There are three vehicles at Holloway’s Hixson residence, two that bear Tennessee-issued Purple Heart license plates and one that has a Tennessee-issued Silver Star plate. The Times Free Press has verified that all three are registered in Holloway’s name.

Is there an investigation underway in Holloway’s case?

Since early summer, Anderson and Sterner’s requests for Holloway’s military service records have been stymied. Both say they were told the records had been released to someone else or possibly another government agency. The Times Free Press shared the records it obtained so far with the military experts and veterans who assisted with the story.

Anderson and Sterner said they have encountered only two reasons for the files to be removed by another government agency: an investigation to add earned commendations or awards or an investigation into a problem in the record.

When the United States as a nation was in its infancy, President George Washington even weighed in on the issue of claiming unearned military awards. On Aug. 7, 1782, as a military general, Washington issued a general order creating several new military decorations for the Continental Army, among them the Badge of Military Merit, which would later become the Purple Heart when it was reconstituted by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, according to the website dedicated to the history of the first president, mountvernon.org.

“[S]hould any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished,” Washington states in the order.

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©2018 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Guam Raises Tobacco Age From 18 To 21; Military Bases Will Observe New Law

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 05:09 AM PST

Commissaries and exchange stores on Guam have been ordered to stop selling tobacco products — including electronic cigarettes — to personnel under age 21 because of a new law that took effect Monday on the U.S. island territory.

The order, which was relayed Tuesday in a message from Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, says the restriction applies to all Joint Region Marianas facilities, including Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam. Before the new year, the minimum age for purchasing tobacco on the island was 18.

Spencer also directed under-21 servicemembers, dependents and civilian workers to refrain from possessing, distributing and using tobacco products on shore-based installations.

"Although state laws generally do not regulate federal activities, as a matter of policy, all military and civilian personnel, dependents, family members, residents, and guests on Joint Region Marianas installations and facilities … shall comply with the revised age limitations associated with the purchase, possession, use, and distribution prohibitions of Guam's new tobacco law," he wrote in the message.

Temporary workers and servicemembers passing through must also abide by the restriction; however, it does not apply to Navy vessels and areas that are exclusively under federal control.

Anyone who does not follow the territory's new regulation or who tries to purchase tobacco products using fake identification off-base will be subject to civil penalties, according to the new law, which was cited in the Navy message. Fines range from $1,000 to $10,000 for those caught selling or distributing tobacco products to someone younger than 21.

The Navy message said Joint Region Marianas, its installations and tenant commands will promote compliance of the new law.

"Attention should be given to educating transient and temporarily assigned personnel, including visiting aircraft and ship crews," it said.

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©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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