More U.S. Troops Headed to Iraq to Advise and Train

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the ship conducts flight operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, Oct. 27, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex King

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the ship conducts flight operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, Oct. 27, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex King

Based on a request from the Iraqi government and a force assessment from US Central Command, additional American troops are headed to Iraq according to a report in the New York Times.

President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, the Defense Department said on Friday, a move that will double the number of those sent to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the battle against the Islamic State.

The Pentagon also said that American military advisers would establish a number of additional training sites across Iraq, in a significant expansion of the American military campaign against the Sunni militant group in Iraq and Syria. Officials in the office of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that a number of American military personnel would deploy specifically to Anbar province.

The new forces will be sent in two groups, one to advise Iraqi commanders and the second to train Iraqi soldiers.

The Department of Defense News reports there has been “significant” progress three months since the start of U.S. airstrikes against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) forces.

“I think we’re having a significant effect on the ISIL element,” Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, told an audience at the Atlantic Council. “The question is, how soon can we get the Iraqis to develop a capability to do what they need to do to sustain the effects and conditions that we’re going to create.”


Women in the Military: An NPR Series Continues

Photo courtesy of the BBB Military website.

Photo courtesy of the BBB Military website.

The NPR series on women in the military continues with a look at the problem of sexual assault. Quil Lawrence reported Wednesday that the Pentagon’s own research showed that more than 1 in 4 women in the military will experience sexual assault during their careers.

About 19,000 sex crimes take place in the military each year, according to the Pentagon’s most recent estimate. Many of the victims are male, but men in the service face the same risk of sexual assault as civilian men do. It’s a different story for women. Women who join the military face a much higher risk of sexual assault than civilian women.

“It’s a complex problem because it involves a culture change,” says Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, the head of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We have to see a culture change where those victims of this crime are taken seriously at their unit level by every member of their unit, so you don’t see the divisiveness and the lack of support and the feeling of isolation that these victims feel.”

How U.S. families adjust to having a mother or daughter or wife head off to war is the topic of Tuesday’s story. And Monday, the series looked at the battle women have had to wage to get recognized for serving in combat. It dates back to 1779. Continue reading

A Veteran’s Tribute on Mother’s Day

The author’s mother, Diane Hoit, whose motto was never give up and no regrets.

 By Kate Hoit

It’s true—my mom is my biggest fan. When you walk into her kitchen she has an 8 X 11 sized photocopy of my VA business card taped to the refrigerator. On her desk, she has two (practically identical) graduation photos placed next to one another. “Katie, your smile is slightly different in this one.” Next to her bed, in a cheap wooden frame, sits a letter I wrote to her in eight grade: “Dear Mom, thank you for being the best mom ever! I love you sooo much!”

The letter is a little embarrassingly generic and at the time I didn’t know how to appreciate who my mom was.  I mean, what 13 year-old really does? Over the years though, it’s become much more apparent that my success as a daughter, friend, girlfriend (this is debatable), an Iraq War Veteran, honor grad student, and coworker is because of her.

I was raised by a woman who has drilled a few things into my head. Our conversations about life would go like this:

Continue reading


PTSD Name Change? A Veteran Says “It’s the Marketing!”

Cheyenne Forsythe while serving as an Army mental health specialist.

Here’s a response to the general who asked for a change in the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to encourage more military members to seek help for PTSD symptoms. Cheyenne Forsythe is a blog contributor, a student veteran and a former Army Combat Stress Control Team member who served in Iraq in 2003 and survived two IED attacks.


The general is onto something. He’s right that we aren’t getting clients in the door. How do other businesses handle that problem? Marketing!

Step 1. A little marketing research

I’ve done that. While monitoring a Facebook site called Military with PTSD, I came across an increase in spouses demanding change around the turn of the year. The exact same thing happened last year. So much so that the facilitators of the site retrieved an article they had written last year asking spouses to be more patient with their vets.

How do we get otherwise honorable people to change behavior? We get them to make a promise or resolution. In other words, we use their integrity to get them in the door.

Vets have to see the difference between those that get help and those that continue to allow themselves to suffer. They have to see where those two people end up.

Step 2. Getting the Word Out

I’ve come up with a commercial for the New Year resolution season when the will to make behavioral changes meets the need from spouses to see that change.

We see a veteran always promising to go to the VA to ask about PTSD. Always promising and promising, “Yeah, sure I’ll go honey.” We then see a New Year’s Eve party, drinking and then an altercation. We then see our veteran in jail where we hear a narrator make a resolution to go to the VA. We fade to black and see the VA contact information. We fade back to our veteran as we see him hugging family and friends in his graduation cap and gown, everyone smiling and happy.

There it is. A real effort to get troops in the door that has a better chance than, yet again, another name change.

Step 3. A Name Change vs. Credible Outreach

The name isn’t the primary problem, it’s the marketing. Before I could get soldiers to talk to me, I had to sell myself by volunteering and going on as many missions as I could. In the end, the Buffalo Soldiers, 1-10 CAV, only wanted to speak to me out of my entire four man CSC Team, which included a psychologist and a social worker.

They had to see for themselves what I was all about before they sent one of their own to talk to me. They had to see that I took this serious enough to risk my life for them. In the end, it worked and I didn’t get killed.

Step 4. Marketing Can Build Relationships

Marketing says, look, we can help and here’s how. It says, its important that you get this help from us and here’s why. It says we are located here and this is how you benefit.

We’re making this way more complicated than it needs to be.


6 Tips for Getting Psychologically Fit for the New Year

Physical fitness is important to staying mentally healthy. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Luther Boothe Jr./Released

Improve your memory, mood and get mentally fit. Dr. James Bender offers some tips on why and how to improve your mental outlook for 2012.

He suggests making it one of your New Year’s Resolutions.

Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas.

The following tips are from his monthly contribution to the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

  1. Good nutrition is important for your physical and mental health. There’s a lot of evidence showing that omega-3 fatty acids and folate help the brain.
  2. Aerobic exercise isn’t only good for you physically; it’s great for your brain. It improves cognitive performance and lowers stress.
  3. Get a professional opinion if you’re often feeling depressed, anxious or suspect you may have a psychological health condition.
  4. Give your brain a workout. Learning a new language, musical instrument or playing chess are all ways to improve concentration.
  5. Sleep is very important for memory and overall mental health.
  6. Be socially active and foster relationships. This tends to reduce stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and provide support.

Additional tips on how to stay mentally fit are available on the Real Warriors – Real Battles – Real Strength website.


Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq, But 16,000 from State Remain

Watch the footage from a predator drone as it monitors the final convoy to leave Iraq. There is no audio, just the silent black and white video that lasts under two minutes.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator provides over-watch as the last convoys cross the border out of Iraq at 11:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). U.S. Air Forces Central Command provided more than 14 Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft to ensure safe passage for more than 125 vehicles filled with Soldiers and Airmen as they make the historic trek across the border.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait — The last U.S. troops crossed the border out of Iraq shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday, officially ending a war that gave rise to a fledgling and still unstable democracy in Iraq but also cost almost $1 trillion and the lives of some 4,500 American service members.

The troops crossed a berm at the Kuwaiti border that was lit with floodlights and ringed with barbed wire, and were met by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who until Friday was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The convoy’s arrival in Kuwait, after a week of ceremonies in Baghdad marking the end of the war, was kept shrouded in secrecy to protect the almost 500 troops and more than 110 vehicles that were part of the last convoy. – Washington Post

As the final U.S. troops leave Iraq, they leave behind the largest U.S. Embassy in the world.

There will be about 16,000 people working for the State Department at the embassy in Baghdad and consulates elsewhere in Iraq.

At least 5,000 of those in Iraq will be private security contractors, and there are lots of questions about whether the State Department is ready to run such a big operation in such a volatile country. – NPR.



Iraq Prime Minister: U.S. Forces Have a Role and May Return

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, center, is seen with Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey, left, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, right, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Biden arrived on a surprise visit to Iraq late Tuesday in a trip designed to chart a new relationship between the two countries after all American forces have left the country in just over a month. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

December 31, 2011 is the deadline for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. But, that might not be a one-way road out of Baghdad.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has indicated he’s willing to have American troops return as trainers for the Iraqi forces.

The New York Times reports:

“No doubt, the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces,” said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki after meeting Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is here to mark the withdrawal and to inaugurate a new phase in ties between the United States and Iraq.

Mr. Maliki insisted that Iraq could provide for its internal security. And he made much of Iraq’s desire to build a relationship with the United States as a sovereign country, dealing with Washington on the basis of national interest and “mutual respect.”

The Wall Street Journal reports:

U.S. and Iraqi leaders signaled Wednesday that the two governments are working toward an agreement to return some American forces to Iraq after completion of next month’s troop withdrawal to help train Iraqi units and maintain security gains.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said there is “no doubt the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces.” Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday night.

Discussions continue between Iraq and the U.S. on security arrangements, including training, intelligence and counter-terrorism.

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