ScoutReport – October 18, 2019
There is a lot going on in the world and a lot going on at home. The fast moving Syria situation has us praying for our soldiers as some 1,000 are rapidly moving out of the area to safety and even more so for our Kurdish partners who find themselves under attack. Here at home the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium had all the pomp and weapons displays it always does, but tough issues were being talked about, from falling down family housing to drastic changes in military healthcare. It’s hard to keep up with it all but we hope you can get some clarity here as we discuss those issues and more. Meanwhile, we have launched the Veterans Research Network and need eligible participants to register and help us impact the veteran and military family communities. Check it all out, tell your friends and have a great safe weekend keeping our allies and service members in your thoughts. – Fred
Here are Army Leaders’ Lessons Learned From Housing Problems
The military community tends to be a pretty loyal bunch, so it’s exceedingly rare to see issues take on momentum like the growing chorus of anger and activism surrounding military housing problems around the world. The situation has turned military spouses into hardcore activists as story after story appears showing black mold infesting homes, poisoned water systems, families being put into hotels for extended periods as their homes are gutted and accusations of corruption and malfeasance against privatized housing contractors. The Army leadership walked straight into the controversy at this week’s Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium in Washington D.C. during one of the very popular Family Forum’s and then had to face questions again during a later session for the top leaders of the service. I attended both sessions and overall they seemed sincere and serious about the issue and heard some gut wrenching stories from attendees. Newly installed Chief of Staff General James McConville was direct in his self criticism of the service along with new Secretary Ryan McCarthy as well. One of their key points is admitting that all the way from the installation to the highest levels the Army essentially outsourced and abdicated their responsibility to supervise the contractors. They now feel that leadership at all levels on the ground at installations wasn’t empowered to intervene to help families when contractors failed and were not effectively listening to their soldiers and families as problems grew. Everyone was suckered into believing things were going great as pretty, new and modern housing complexes were built only to find they didn’t meet code many times or were built with shoddy techniques to minimize costs. Then came the mold and mildew from poor environmental units bringing on health problems for families that will be felt for decades to come. It is encouraging to hear leadership addressing the problem head on and the courage of family members to get up and tell a 4-star to his face they are angry, but we will have to see if change comes and how fast it happens. The price we pay in these kinds of issues aren’t just for the families in those houses. The overwhelming majority of new recruits come from military families and young service members looking to re-enlist are watching how we treat their families. These kinds of issues manifest in failed recruiting goals and mission readiness shortfalls. It’s hard to be focused on your job in Afghanistan when your child is being treated for mold induced asthma and your family is living in a motel off post. Fixing this matters for everyone. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms
Real People, Events Inspire Military Storylines in NBC Show ‘This Is Us’
This article discusses how the fourth season of the emmy award winning t.v. show “This Is Us” features a cast of characters built off the real world experiences of military service members. I haven’t watched the episodes of the show, however, in reading the article, I found myself smiling in appreciation for what sounds like an intense effort to “get it right” when depicting military life in film. Hollywood has struggled with getting it right for a long time leading to heavy criticism over the past few years against the academy from the military and veteran community. Yet, getting it right is crucial due to the power of influence that Hollywood has with regards to shaping the national narrative around military service, and ultimately, who a military service member is. NBC relied on extensive consultation from James LaPorta, a Marine Corps veteran and Newsweek reporter hired to help shape the storyline and characters for the show. He worked with the writers and directors by drawing from his own experiences as a service member. In fact, the lead character for the show, Cassidy Sharp, is an homage to a real-world Marine: Lance Cpl. Charles “Seth” Sharp, who was killed in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009. As noted, LaPorta highlights a frequent problem in Hollywood portrayals of service members. They too often are depicted in a hero/broken dichotomy which fails to show a true narrative of the breadth of military service and what life is actually like. What caught my eye is that the show decided to cast the lead character, Cassidy, as a woman marine. This is important, because for too long, the experiences of women service members have been largely absent in military film. Usually, military service members are cast as perfectly chiseled, heterosexual, strikingly handsome white males like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Jake Gyllenhall in Jar Head and of course who can forget Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun. Racial and ethnic disparities are prevalent as well with black and brown people more often than not cast as villains or secondary characters. Rarely in lead roles. With grassroots mobilization, advocacy, more women choosing to publicly identify as military veterans and speak and write about their experiences, we are slowly starting to see our presence along with more accurate depictions of our contributions in service on screen. The only thing that would make me like what I am reading more is if it was clearly stated that the show also brought in a woman marine to consult alongside her male counterparts. The value of bringing in actual service members into writing and film teams cannot be underestimated. The truth is, the beauty is in the details, and we owe it to current and former service members to care enough to “get it right.” If you don’t, you can expect that we will let you know. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms
Only War Heroes Can Be Awarded Purple Heart Medals. Anyone Can Join the Purple Heart Trail
The first Purple Heart medals were given out in 1782 to recognize the acts of heroism during the Revolutionary Way; now recipients of the prestigious modern Purple Heart must have been wounded or killed in combat. The dwindling membership pool for the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) and recent fundraising shortfalls have led to a reduction in expenses for outreach programs. Enter in the Purple Heart Trail Program, a network of signs that designate an entity as supporting the military and those who serve. Entities of all kinds are able to receive one, including cities, schools and sports teams. The only requirement is to write a proclamation explaining why they want a Purple Heart designation. In response to whether the limited requirements undermine the prestige of the medal, Retired Army Col. Gordon Sumner says, “If anything, it brings awareness. It’s the one medal that none of us ever wanted to earn, but unfortunately or fortunately, some of us have it. And because of that we want to make sure the history is continued.”
The Military Offers Women Pay Equity and Opportunity, but Few Still Make Top Ranks
For the first time in Army history, Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi became the first sisters to make the rank of general. As barriers to senior leadership lift, women still find themselves promoted at a lesser rate than their male counterparts. Numerous barriers are slow to move, including sexual harassment; Pentagon spokeswoman, Lisa Lawrence said in a statement, “The Defense Department has taken a number of actions to actively address harassment including the issuance of its first-ever military harassment policy in 2018 and enhancing a commander’s ability to set appropriate command climate by taking steps to make sexual harassment a stand-alone military crime.”
This Pararescueman Will Be the Next Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramon “CZ” Colon-Lopez, current senior enlisted leader for U.S. Africa Command, will be the first airman to serve as the senior enlisted leader to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. News of his new position was announced on Wednesday, October 16 by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. Colon-Lopez joined the Air Force in 1990, serving as an air traffic controller before becoming a pararescueman. From June 2014 to June 2016, Colon-Lopez served as command chief for U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
Husband First, Provider Second: What Life is Like for Male Military Caregivers
A 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 40 percent of caregivers were men, and that population is expected to continue growing. Military male caregivers are seeking assistance and community from outside organizations, such as the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Brian Vines, a caregiver to his wife, Natalie, attended an “all-male caregiving retreat” with The Independence Fund. Brian said about his experience, “We went to the NASCAR museum, we went to a firing range, we went to a high-end barbershop and got our faces shaved. It was really good that they were trying to make it special and directed towards us.”
Army Chief: New Talent Management Will Start With Officers, Then Go To Enlisted
The Army has started implementing new talent management initiatives, which will be tested on officers and then expanded to include enlisted soldiers. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville stated at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual gathering that a top priority is to make sure that the Army’s soldier’s, family members, service civilians and retirees are taken care of. The Army is continuing to put their focus in progressing and modernizing their tactics in order to stay efficient in their strategies. As technology continues to develop, the Army’s leadership is making sure to incorporate new developments, while continuing to keep the soldiers as the centerpiece of their mission.
These Afghan and Iraqi Interpreters Faced ‘Life-Threatening Delays’ To Get Their US Visas. They Sued the Government and Won
A group of Afghan and Iraqi citizens who worked for American military efforts in the Middle East have won a lawsuit against the Trump administration “challenging the government’s justification for delays beyond the…deadline [to consider visa applications] that is spelled out in the Special Immigrant Visa law.” The group applied for visas under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which was established to protect U.S. allies who are persecuted in their homelands for their work with American military coalitions; the plaintiffs recounted how they were forced to flee their homes after receiving death threats from the Taliban. However, it is the “norm rather than the exception” for individuals who apply for these special visas to wait years for their applications to be processed while facing considerable danger in the meantime. The U.S. District Court ruled that the Trump administration’s arguments in favor of delays was “a ‘tortured and untenable’ interpretation of the law,” and ordered the administration to produce a plan to streamline the remaining SIV applications.
Marine Corps and Navy Museums Grapple with a Mission That’s Only Getting More Complex
The “storytelling” of the National Museums of the Marine Corps and Navy seek to educate visitors on the reality of our military’s past while embracing the future. In discussing the “disparate audiences” that come to visit the museums, Marine Corps museum curator Owen Conner notes that “it’s always a critical balance…it’s good as long as you’re aware of the complexities.” Mark Weber of the Navy museum shares the same sentiment, saying, “We’re here to tell the story of the Navy, the good and the bad.” Both museums “document some difficult aspects” of the branches’ history and make efforts to “better reflect diversity” of service members while sparking discussions of why the Navy and Marine Corps are critical to national defense efforts and how they protect the U.S. Weber said, “We want to communicate to the public…what the Navy has done for us,” and inspire gratitude towards the generation of service members who have sacrificed for our country.
The Veterans Research Network
ScoutInsight, the market research division of ScoutComms, is building a unique online research community of veterans, service members, military family members and caregivers. Through the Veterans Research Network, you will be able to share your opinions and knowledge with decision-makers running the organizations that impact your lives. We would be honored if you would register to be part of this standing panel for future surveys, polls and focus groups on issues that matter and help shape impactful programs for our community. It’s secure and we will never share your personal data with anyone. Learn more here at VeteransResearchNetwork.com and share it with your eligible friends and family!