The Scout Report 380th Edition
Military Families and Veterans News and Analysis
Monday, August 13, 2018
Happy Monday and happy NDAA day!
In this week’s Scout Report, we cover three stories worth your time, including two long reads on the Marine Corps’ first female infantry officer and three men advising the VA from Florida. We’ve also got analysis of some good news regarding the Army’s enlistment program for immigrants with special abilities.
Tradeshows and Conferences:
EANGUS: 2018 Conference (Sat – Thur, August 11-16, 2018); Charleston Civic Center, Charleston, WV
Veterans Campaign and University of San Francisco: Master of Arts in Public Leadership
Who: Veterans and military families, but open to anyone interested in public service.
When: Applications open now! (Spring Enrollment: Nov. 1, 2018)
Where: The hybrid curriculum combines online learning with five intensive weekend seminars in D.C. and San Francisco.
Independence Project: Veterans Study
What: A research study that helps veterans find a job.
Who: Veterans who meet the following requirements: Interested in getting a job; Discharged in the past 12 months OR have a discharge date in the next 8 months; Served at least 6 months of active duty; Be/have been an enlisted service-member between ranks E1 – E9; Have applied for a disability rating; Under 45 years of age.
When: Study participation open now!
Military and Veteran Issues:
The Marines Didn’t Think Women Belonged in the Infantry. She’s Proving Them Wrong.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff), The New York Times
After initially resisting the Pentagon’s 2013 order to allow women into combat jobs, the U.S. Marine Corps began accepting women into infantry positions in 2015. Since then, only 80 female Marines have successfully qualified to enter combat roles. Among them is 1st Lt. Marina A. Hierl, the first woman assigned to lead an infantry platoon and one of only two women to complete the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course since 2015. Her platoon bore at first the brunt of “sexist, if unspecified, insults by others” but her abilities, confidence and desire to be a “leader, not a trailblazer” has earned her respect and approval from the platoon and battalion as a whole. –KG
Bottom line: From all accounts, it sounds like Hierl joined the Marines for the same reason her male colleagues did. She went through the same training and is being asked to display leadership in the same settings. This parity is exactly what proponents of a gender-neutral approach to combat jobs desired to achieve, even if the number of women walking the same path as Hierl in the Corps remains very small. At the same time, given that Hierl did not provide an extensive interview to the Times, we are largely constrained to viewing her from a distance, where we apparently are obligated to talk about her hairstyle and reassure readers that she is not the least-talented Marine at donning a gas mask. Such comments seem out of place with the broader story, but do not mar the general picture provided of the Corps coming to terms, in small ways, with the increased opportunities available to women. This is not to say that the Corps has solved its problems with gender imbalance and cases of toxic masculinity. Hierl serves in a company whose leadership looked at her and saw a Marine likely to persevere and succeed, and just as importantly, wanted her to succeed. Not all women are going to have the same support as they continue to break down gender barriers, but Hierl is helping lay the groundwork for their success by doing her job and looking after her Marines. –BW
The Shadow Rulers of the VA
Isaac Arnsdorf (@iarnsdorf), ProPublica
Bruce Moskowitz, Ike Perlmutter, and Marc Sherman make up an informal council that is influencing decisions made at the Department of Veterans Affairs from the reaches of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. No member of the council has any official government affiliation or U.S. military experience and were instead brought together by Perlmutter thanks to his personal connection with Trump. Documents show that the troika conversed with VA officials daily, involving themselves in policy and personnel decisions – sometimes seemingly for their own personal gain or that of close friends. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie now faces the decision of whether or not to continue taking direction from the Mar-a-Lago group. –LB
Bottom line: Like many other “new normal” situations in this administration, the unmasking of “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd” and the “unofficial” role they play in day-to-day VA operations walks a very fine ethical line. While many will say that this arrangement violates a whole host of ethical protocols and accepted norms, it’s seemingly hard to pinpoint violations that would lead Congress to intervene, given its current political makeup. The same applies to what each of the three have personally gained from this role and their involvement. Does their involvement, as reported by ProPublica, seem to be an improper way to run a government agency? Yes, but politicians have always sought and accepted outside advice. Given the current dynamic, the role of VA Secretary seems to be that of a gatekeeper, and puts the newly confirmed Secretary Wilkie in the unique position of both “kissing the ring” of the group and ensuring they feel heard and involved while also protecting the VA from any further scandals or sinking morale. –CB
For now, Army suspends discharges of immigrant recruits
Martha Mendoza (@mendozamartha) and Garance Burke (@garanceburke), Associated Press
The U.S. Army is temporarily suspending administrative discharges of immigrant recruits who had enlisted through a special skills program. The Army says the stay on discharges is to review the separation process, but in the meantime it gives a reprieve to hundreds of recruits whose contracts could have been canceled. –SM
Bottom line: As the former Army officer who created the program notes, the fact that the Army is temporarily halting these discharges to review the process implies that there was a policy that improperly canceled recruits’ contracts. What should happen next is the Army reversing the discharges for hundreds of immigrants who’ve had their contracts canceled–something that has already happened for at least one recruit who filed suit against the Army. A judge presiding over a class action lawsuit filed by a number of enlistees has requested clarity from the Army about how that one reversal affects other recruits in limbo. In the memo suspending discharges, the assistant secretary asks Army leaders to make a recommendation on whether the Army should issue more guidance on the immigrant recruitment program–not the boldest of statements, but an indication that there should be more clarity for the hundreds of people hoping for a future as American citizens and American veterans. –LJ
Want job search help and $320?
Natalie Gross (@ByNatalieGross), Military Times Reboot Camp
The Independence Project is searching for 400 participants to take part in its study, which assists veterans with disabilities who are transitioning into the civilian workforce. There are various programs and benefits available to veterans who participate in the study, and each participant will be compensated at least $320. –SM
Tricare customers have ‘increasing dissatisfaction,’ skip treatment because of costs, survey says
Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
Results from a survey conducted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) show that many military families have experienced challenges with their Tricare medical insurance. The survey, which polled more than 8,500 people who receive Tricare, uses data to illustrate the frustrations that beneficiaries face. MOAA reports that military spouses had a higher likelihood of cancelling or postponing treatment due to cost barriers. The percentage of Tricare beneficiaries who reported being satisfied with their medical costs experienced a marked decrease from last year. Forty-two percent of beneficiaries said they were satisfied with costs last year, while just 28 percent said the same in this year’s survey. Among the respondents, retirees exhibited the greatest levels of satisfaction of coverage, with 80 percent reporting that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their plans. –NJ
Pentagon bans use of fitness trackers, other devices from areas deemed sensitive
Corey Dickstein (@CDicksteinDC), Stars and Stripes
Fitness trackers and other devices with geolocation capabilities will now be restricted in certain operational areas and warzones, according to an announcement by the Pentagon last week. While the devices, ranging from smartphones to some tablet applications and fitness bands, are not completely banned, service members must be able to turn off the geolocation capabilities. Months of research led to the decision, according to Pentagon officials, that such capabilities pose a security threat to personnel. “These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” said Patrick Shanahan, Deputy Defense Secretary. –KG
For the first time, domestic violence will be a crime under military law
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
President Trump is expected to sign the annual defense authorization act into law today, Aug. 13, making domestic violence a crime under military law. Domestic violence has been prosecuted by military officials in the past under other classifications, but the punishments didn’t always communicate the gravity of the crime. This law will help to report military domestic violence crimes fully to outside agencies, grow the eligibility of victims’ counsel in these cases and will regulate policies for securely moving victims away from accused troops. –LB