ScoutReport – September 20, 2019
It’s Friday, which means that we will likely see some 5 pm news dumps that no one saw coming. But we’re here to tide you over for the morning. This week saw the release of a long-awaited report from our colleague Kris Goldsmith of Vietnam Veterans of America on foreign influence operations targeting veterans. It doesn’t disappoint. Kris has been relentless in his efforts and you should check out the reporting below and the full report here on VVA’s website. The Army will meet its lower recruiting goal this year by changing its tactics, with some help from the student loan debt crisis as aspiring soldiers look to the opportunity service offers. Our client Vet Tix has developed a cool relationship with NASCAR star Kurt Busch. Make sure to read this edition and share with your friends and neighbors too.
Overseas trolls targeting veterans on social media: Report
For two years our friend Kris Goldsmith has been researching the influence of foreign groups on U.S. veterans as the lead researcher in an effort by Vietnam Veterans of America. His mission started in 2017 when he discovered that VVA was being mimicked on Facebook by ‘Vietnam Vets of America’ using their branding but run out of a Bulgarian ‘troll farm’. Since then he has dived deep into the darkest corners of social media, from fake profiles of service members being used for romance scams to the bizarre case where a pro-Trump veterans page was taken over by Macedonians. Veterans have long been a target of influence operations as groups try to use the respect and high esteem which veterans garner in American society to shape political agendas and make money. Even after two years of badgering social media companies it appears they are making little headway in identifying and quickly removing fake pages or blatantly manipulative groups. The veterans and military communities need to look carefully at the content they are being fed and not fall for the scams, memes and fake news that are causing so much trouble and discord. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms
U.S. Army Tries New Recruiting Tactics After Missing Targets
When the economy recovers, the military suffers. That’s one of the strongest “laws” governing military recruiting. When Americans have other options, they are less likely to choose military service. This is especially true in 2019, when current overseas military operations are not particularly popular among or well understood by the American people. In 2018, the Army in particular realized the consequences of this dichotomy when it failed to meet its recruiting targets for the year. In 2019, the Army not only wisely lowered its recruiting goals, it also pursued some new strategies. Like corporate America, the Army is increasingly driven and educated by big data, and they are crunching the numbers to try to gain every insight possible into what motivates Americans in a specific city or cultural group to consider military service, and what holds them back. As part of this effort, they are reinvigorating their efforts in large population centers like Chicago, where they had pulled back in previous years due to the relative inefficiency of their outreach. To succeed when faced by a strong economy and by other factors, recruiters are not only using data, but are trying to present themselves and military service in ways that are palatable to urban Americans. While the military continues to emphasize warfighting and lethality, which continues to serve Marine Corps recruiting efforts well, both recruiting and advertising efforts are increasingly telling the story of the “white collar” military jobs in fields like information technology, and also are emphasizing that you can serve in the military and spend time with your family. The Army should not delude itself that there are any magic bullets, but its continued willingness to reinvest its recruiting efforts bodes well for its continued resilience in filling its ranks. – Brian Wagner, President of ScoutComms
DoD to Military Members, Dependents: Steer Clear of Vaping
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) connected almost 400 severe lung disease cases with vaping, leading the Defense Health Agency to alert service members and their families. Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense, Health Services Policy and Oversight, said, “While the CDC investigation of the possible cases of lung illness and deaths reportedly associated with the use of e-cigarette products is ongoing, service members and their families or dependents are encouraged not to use e-cigarette products.”
Why fewer people are using the GI Bill
The number of people using the GI Bill in 2018 was down 7 percent from 2017. Officials have noted the decrease that started in 2016, but while remaining watchful they are currently unconcerned. “It’s a little bit too early, after only two years of watching this unfold, [to say] that it’s time to be alarmed, because I don’t think it is,” Keith Hauk, an associate vice president at University of Maryland Global Campus said. According to experts, there are several probable explanation, ranging from the strong economy to changing GI Bill rules that may discourage some veterans from utilizing their benefits.
Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were the ‘ground zero’ of the opioid crisis: Study
According to research distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, post-9/11 veterans are “experiencing an opioid epidemic nearly twice as severe as the one plaguing civilians.” The study found that this is related to chronic pain that is treated when returning from war zones, as well as a coping mechanism when dealing with post-traumatic stress. The authors of the research stated that, “While grim national statistics about the ‘worst drug overdose epidemic in history’ are increasingly well known to the American public, far less well known is that combat veterans constitute a population at ground zero of this crisis.”
Student loan crisis, not Mideast wars, helped Army leaders exceed recruiting goals this year
The Army has surpassed their recruiting goal for 2019 by signing up more than 68,000 active duty soldiers. The goal was surpassed with a recruitment push featuring GI Bill benefits and ROTC scholarships. Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command said, “One of the national crises right now is student loans, so $31,000 is [about] the average. You can get out [of the Army] after four years, 100 percent paid for state college anywhere in the United States.”
A New Way to Help Our Local Heroes: First Responders
Veteran Tickets Foundation, known for providing event tickets to the military and veteran community, saw a need in the first responder community when they launched 1st Tix in 2018. Steven Weintraub, chief strategy officer at the Vet Tix and a retired Marine colonel, explains that there are strong similarities between the two communities of service members and first responders. Yet, veterans have a more structured system of support. “We rely on our first responders as much as the military to keep us safe, and we put a great burden on their shoulders in dealing with these challenges. We owe it to them to take their challenges seriously, and to apply what’s working for the military to enhance the lives of the first responders we depend on every day.”
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch is investing in military veterans to help them ‘reintegrate’ into civilian life
Kurt Busch’s dedication to giving back to veterans is apparent in his partnership with Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix). Kurt donated 100 tickets to every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this season for the military and veteran community, knowing opportunities like that provide priceless quality time with friends and family. “It’s not just money, it’s not time. It’s relationships,” he explained, “It’s finding unique ways to help them reintegrate themselves.”
Twenty Too Many
Vets4Warriors’ Director Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Mark Graham joined episode four of the DAV Podcast to discuss the growing concern of veteran suicide. While discussing the impact suicide has had in his own family, Gen. Graham encourages listeners to have hope, and to not be afraid to seek help. Vets4Warriors is a 24/7 confidential peer support network for the veteran and military communities. You can contact them at 1-855-838-8255 or by visiting www.vets4warriors.com.
People On The Move
Melissa Bryant has joined the team at The American Legion, serving as the National Legislative Director.