Special Ops Task Force Rebuilds Syrian Bridge In 16 Hours

syrian bridge dec 2017

RAQQAH, SYRIA
12.27.2017
Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Lutz 
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve

The photo above and update below comes directly from U.S. Central Command Special Operations Joint Task Force:

In only 16 hours, a coalition of engineers – working with Syrian partners -erected a steel bridge Dec. 27, 2017, near the village of Hawi al-Hawa, west of Raqqah Province, Syria.

Engineers attached to the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve led the effort. The bridge allows better security to the people of Raqqah and greater humanitarian assistance and relief efforts there.

“The bridge provides much needed access to parts of Raqqah following the destruction to critical infrastructure caused by Daesh,” said the SOJTF-OIR Commanding General, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard. “The bridge will enable the Raqqah Civil Council to increase required humanitarian assistance efforts and will improve vital access by Improvised Explosive Device experts working to reduce threats to citizens.”

Coalition forces continue to train and support the Raqqah Internal Security Force as they ensure security and aid efforts that support citizens.

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2017 Tampa Bay Veterans Day Events

The James A. Haley VA Medical Center 2016 Veterans Day Parade.

You can find Veterans Day events celebrated in the nationwide at the Department of Veterans Affairs website. And you can find a listing of dates and times for the ceremonies at National Cemeteries for all the states here.

Listed below are special ceremonies throughout the Tampa Bay region, Florida and the nation that will recognize the sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently active-duty.

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017

PASCO COUNTY SCHOOLS – 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – A 4th annual district wide Veterans Day Ceremony with patriotic songs, flag demonstrations and featuring Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corely will honor veterans and encourage students to participate in the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program. The event is at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge,11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Supervisor of Elections Outreach Ambassadors also will conduct voter registration drives at all high schools once the Veterans Day Ceremony concludes.

TAMPA JAMES A. HALEY VA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The 10th Annual Veterans Day ceremony and parade will commemorate the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, which is celebrating 30 years. A brief ceremony is set at the Fisher House followed by the parade on the medical center grounds, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa.  Free and open to the public . More than 40 veteran and civic groups will march in the parade which includes several Gasparilla Krewes and a Santa Claus Drill Team. A performance by the University of South Florida Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity is planned before the parade.  And afterward, Operation Helping Hand and Lupton’s are sponsoring a cookout.

HILLSBOROUGH COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Dale Mabry Campus – noon – Those who have served will be commemorated during a ceremony scheduled at the campus flag pole in the courtyard.

242nd MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – 2 p.m. – The Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all area Marines active, retired and former to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview. The event begins at 2 p.m. with a reading of the 13th Commandant, General Lejeune’s, birthday message at 6 p.m., the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn and the cutting of the birthday cake.  Call 813-672-1778 for details.

NEW PORT RICHEY FREEDOM FEST – 5 p.m. – The two-day Freedom Fest kicks-off at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St., New Port Richey, with a dinner for invited Veterans and other dignitaries. There will be live entertainment, a kid’s zone, food and beer sales through a variety of vendors that will be open to the public.

Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017

FLORIDA STATE PARKS – Entry into all state parks is free to veterans and the general public as a tribute to Veterans Day. Here’s an interactive map to locate the state parks nearest you: https://www.floridastateparks.org/interactive-map

ST. PETERSBURG VETERANS AWARDS – 8 a.m. – Honored Veterans” is the theme for the fourth annual Veterans Day Celebration in Williams Park, corner of Fourth Street and First Avenue North, St. Petersburg.  Honored veterans for 2017 are Carrie W. Nero and Charles Claybaker. The event is free and open to the public.

OLD GLORY RELAY – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – You can watch the final leg of a journey of one flag that has traveled for 62 days and more than 4,600 miles. It’s the fourth iteration of Team Red, White & Blue’s cross-country run featuring hundreds of veterans from all branches and eras of service. In total, over 70 teams walked, ran and cycled carrying the American Flag from Seattle on September 11th to finish in Tampa on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th. That final Tampa leg starts in Citrus Park, moves south along County Road 576 eventually connecting to the Veterans Memorial Trail and down almost to MacDill AFB before turning onto Bayshore Boulevard, traveling north to downtown Tampa then east along Channelside Drive toward Brandon where the final destination is Westfield Brandon Mall for a retreat and celebration.

SARASOTA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The Sarasota Veterans’ Day Parade, with the theme “We Can Do It!” The phrase, made famous by the fictional icon Rosie the Riveter, represented the contributions of thousands of women both in the military and at home during World War II. This year’s parade and ceremony will honor those women. The parade opens at Main Street and Osprey Avenue and proceeds down Main to J. D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream. A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. after the parade ends.

CLEARWATER VETERANS DAY DEDICATION & CEREMONY – 10:30 a.m. – Hosted by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, the event features a tribute to Navy SEAL Danny Dietz and the dedication of State Road 60 as a Purple Heart Trail. The ceremony is at Crest Lake Park, 201 S. Glenwood Ave., Clearwater. Former Congressman David Jolly will host the event, which features speaker Cindy Dietz, a Gold Star Mother of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, who died during a firefight in Afghanistan. Capt. Ward Sandlin, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos will also make remarks. The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be a symbolic national network of roadways to commemorate and honor all men and women who were wounded or killed in combat while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The ceremony will also include a fly-over by the U.S. Coast Guard, entertainment and food.

AVON PARK VETERANS DAY PROGRAM – 11 a.m. – American Legion Post 69 is holding a Veterans Day ceremony to honor all those who have served in the United States Military. It’s a chance to learn about the history of Veterans Day. Post 69 is situated on almost five acres, 1301 W. Bell St., Avon Park, and sponsors the local police K-8 unit as well as the high school JROTC. Larry Roberts is service officer (850)718-7773.

BAY PINES VA CEREMONY – 11 AM – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the courtyard of buildings 2 and 37 on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, St. Petersburg.  The event is open to all veterans, their families and friends and the general public. Highlights include guest speaker U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Ret.) John Kirby, who now works as a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, local VA leaders and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13). Musical performances by the Keswick Christian School Choir; a special parade of colors by local Veteran Service Organizations and the playing of taps. A shuttle service will be available to provide transportation from parking lots to the ceremony area.

BUSHNELL FLORIDA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 11 AM – A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned in the Assembly Area. Seating is limited, so you’re encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL.

HILLSBOROUGH VETERANS MEMORIAL CEREMONY  – 11 a.m. – The 53rd Annual Veterans Day of Remembrance ceremony has the theme of “Honoring America’s Veterans,” and feature speakers Col. S. Troy Pananon, Vice Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base; Col. Jim Waurishuk, USAF, Retired; There will be a POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony, rifle salute, and taps. And JROTC students from several high schools will perform exhibition drills. The event at the Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa. The tribue is free and open to the public. Visitors may bring lawn chairs, enjoy patriotic music, and stay for refreshments following the ceremony.

TEMPLE TERRACE VETERAN EVENT – 11 a.m. – The City of Temple Terrace will observe Veterans Day during the Temple Terrace Arts and Crafts Festival, hosted by the Temple Terrace Arts Council at Newly-Woodmont Park, 407 Woodmont Ave.

SARASOTA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 3 p.m. – A Veterans’ Day ceremony is planned at Patriot Plaza. The service honors the men and women who have served our country and are serving us today. There will be ample seating and parking. Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota.

VETERANS ART CENTER TAMPA BAY – Noon – 4 p.m. – “The Art of Remembrance”  is an event scheduled to honor veterans and first responders through art, music and community. The VACTB is located at 6798 Crosswinds Drive North, B106, St. Petersburg.

BOK TOWER VETERANS CONCERT – 1 & 3 p.m. – Two Veteran’s Day Carillon Concerts – a musical salute of gratitude by carillonneur Geert D’hollander – is open to the public. It’s free admission for military veterans and active-duty with a valid ID.

NEW PORT RICHEY PARADE & THROW DOWN  – 3 p.m. & 6 p.m. – It’s the first ever Veterans Day Parade for the city of New Port Richey that begins at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St.,  led by a fly-over of veteran aircraft.  Following the parade, the Veterans Alternative’s 3rd Annual Boxing Throw-Down will take place at 6 p.m. The Boxing Throw-Down is a separate, ticketed event, and tickets can be purchased through Veterans Alternative. Vendors, live music, entertainment, and family activities are also planned.

CARROLLWOOD VETERANS CONCERT & MOVIE – 4 p.m. – A Veteran’s Day Concert & Movie in the park, presented by the Carrollwood Village HOAs, starts with a free concert and is followed with festivities and the showing of the movie “Hollywood Canteen” at 6 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.

BRANDON OLD GLORY PARADE – 5:00-8:00 p.m. – A parade and celebration welcoming Team RWB is planned at the Westfield Brandon Mall, 459 Brandon Town Center Dr., Brandon. Highlights include live entertainment with special MC Roxanne Wilder, Q105 Radio, Military Exhibits, Health & Fitness Demonstrations. Family Crafts & Activities, Food & Beverage Sampling, Interactive Art Display & Photo Opportunities and giveaways.

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Sunday – Nov. 12, 2017

FLORIDA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART  – 2 p.m. – “Florida and World War II” is the topic of this Veterans Day Weekend lecture by Gary Mormino, PhD. The FMoPA is located at 400 N. Ashley Drive, Cube 200, Tampa. There will be free admission to all veterans and their families as well as museum members on Saturday and Sunday. Non-members are asked to give a donation.

ST. PETERSBURG CONCERT HONORS VETERANS – 7 p.m. Una Voce, the Gay Men’s Chorus, honors veterans with a performance of the “Testament of Freedom” at the Palladium, 253 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free for veterans and those with military ID for Sunday.  Tickets are available at www.mypalladium.org.

 

Monday – Nov. 13, 2017

BAY PINES VETERANS TOWN HALL – 4-6 p.m. – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) and St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, will host a Veterans town hall meeting in the J.C. Cobb room located on the first floor of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center (building 100) located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines. VA leaders will provide updates. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

 

Free Offerings and Discounts for Veterans & Active-Duty Military

RESTAURANTS – From Applebee’s to Village Inn – Military.Com has a full, national listing of restaurants offering free meals or discounts to veterans and active-duty military on Nov. 11, 2017 Veterans Day. A list of Retail Deals and Discounts is available here.

ATTRACTIONS & MUSEUMS – Several museums and local attractions are offering free admission to military personnel from active-duty to retired veterans and discounts for additional guests and family.

 

World War I Veterans Remembered With Wreaths

American gunners battle through the Argonne Forest.
(NARA, 111-SC-95980)

I had an interview this morning at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA on a topic far removed from the United States’ entry into World War I.

But I couldn’t help but reflect on the 100th anniversary of the day the U.S. officially entered that global conflict in 1917. At the VA, I passed by the bus stop where two WWII veterans were waiting for a ride. They were easily identified by their ball caps declaring their veteran status.

I over heard one veteran say to the other, “Well they’re about to get back in it again over there, from what I hear.”

I can only speculate that the veteran was referring to Syria or somewhere else on the globe. But it reminded me that the subtitle to World War I was “The war to end all wars.” That’s a variation of an H.G. Wells’ article according to Mental Floss.com:

… the British futurist writer H.G. Wells wrote in an article titled “The War That Will End War,” published in The Daily News on August 14, 1914. Commonly cited as “the war to end all wars” or a similar variant, the phrase was quickly adopted as a slogan to explain British and later American participation in the war…

But no matter the war, there will always be veterans and casualties. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration is hosting wreath-laying ceremonies the week of April 6 to commemorate the 353,082 World War I Veterans interred in VA sites across the country. A list, by state, of the ceremonies planned at National Cemeteries is available here.

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war on the German Empire. When the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, more than 2 million Americans had served.

West Point Women Reflect On Marines’ Nude Photo Scandal


Laura Westley and Carol Barkalow are both West Point graduates and authors of memoires about their military experiences.
Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

The recent scandal over Marines sharing nude photos of female Marines online hasn’t demoralized some women veterans. Two female West Point graduates from Florida refuse to let it overshadow recent gains women have made in the military. And they have some ideas on how to prevent similar incidents.

The United States Military Academy at West Point didn’t even accept women in their ranks until 1976. Carol Barkalow was in that first class. She graduated in 1980 and served 22 years in the Army.

Barkalow remembers how female cadets were hazed and harassed back then. But she said women have made progress since, even in light of the nude photos.

“There is some good news with this, even though what they did was horrible,” Barkalow said. “Now, we have the social media and the interest to try at last to get the military to understand that we are a vital part of this force. We are never going away and some very basic things have to change within our military.”

West Point has come a long way over the last 40 years, she said. It now has a female dean of students and female commandant.

“But what we have to have – we have to have women, general officers admirals in every rank in each of the services. So much so that, when you walk in a room, it’s not just one woman, it’s not just two women, it’s a number of women sitting at the table and have the ability to influence our future,” Barkalow said.

Barkalow, who lives in Pinellas County, is friends with 2001 West Point graduate Laura Westley, who grew up in New Port Richey. Continue reading

Photo Scandal Hurts Effort To Change Marine Corps Culture

Preparing for change with U.S. Marine Corps Integration Education Plan

Major Misty Posey leads a 2016 class for Marine Corps leaders about integrating women into combat roles. Credit: Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson/U.S. Marine Corps

My colleague with the American Homefront Project, Jay Price,  reports on efforts to change the culture within the Marine Corps after revelations that hundreds of Marines shared lewd photos of women.

The Marines are famous for their close-knit team spirit, a cohesion that Marine leaders say the Corps’ recent photo sharing scandal has undermined.

Photographs of female Marines, some of them explicit, were passed around on social media by male Marines and veterans. Some of the women apparently did not know they were being photographed. The images were shared in a Facebook group which has more than 30,000 members.

The existence of the photos was revealed by Thomas Brennan, a North Carolina investigative journalist.

In a video posted by the Pentagon after the revelations, Marine Commandant General Robert Neller was blunt.

“We are all-in 24/7,” Neller said, “and if that commitment to your excellence interferes with your ‘me time,’ or if you can’t or are unwilling to commit to contributing 100 percent to our Corps’ war fighting ability by being a good teammate and improving cohesion and trust, then I have to ask you, ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?'”

But comments posted under online stories about the scandal make it clear that some Marines disagree, like this one in the Marine Corps Times:

“How bout giving homage to a female that takes care of her body and looks good? We can do that anymore?” Continue reading

Military Sexual Assault Report From The Academies

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

There’s a bit of good news, but more not-so-good news in this year’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies just released by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The good news comes from the Air Force Academy “which received 32 reports of sexual assault (15 Unrestricted and 17 Restricted Reports) down from 49 reports in academic program year 2014-2015” according to the report.

But there were increased incidents from both the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy:

The Military Academy received 26 reports (20 Unrestricted and 6 Restricted Reports) up from 17 reports and the Naval Academy received 28 reports (20 Unrestricted and 8 Restricted Reports) up from 25 reports in academic program year 2014- 2015.

Another conclusion by the report, 89 percent of cadets and midshipmen who experienced sexual harassment or gender discrimination report it was committed by another academy student. The full report in PDF is available here.

One Dead, Four Wounded, Plane Lost During Yemen Raid

centcomlogoA U.S. ground raid against al-Qa’ida in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 resulted in the death of a service member and wounding of four more in two different instances, according to a release from U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa.

But the operation did resulted in an estimated 14 al-Qa’ida members being killed and the gathering of information and insight into possible, future terror attacks.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite servicemembers,” said Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel. “The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”

Three U.S. service members were hurt during the raid and another was injured during the landing of an aircraft.

The release stated that the “military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location, resulting in an additional U.S. injury.”

The military intentionally destroyed the plane where it landed after it was determined it could not fly.

The name of the service member killed in action is being withheld pending next of kin notification.

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