Entries in Troops (22)


Grinch Steals Christmas Care Packages Meant for Troops in Afghanistan

Move America Forward(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A Sacramento, Calif., group that sends out hundreds of Christmas care packages to America’s troops serving abroad has fallen victim to a Grinch.

Dec. 17 was the cut-off day for Move America Forward to get 350 care packages to the post office with the guarantee they’d be there by Christmas.  As the boxes sat in a trailer on Dec. 16, waiting to be shipped the next day, some Christmas ne’er do well broke the trailer’s lock and stole 25 of the packages -- all of them intended for soldiers in Afghanistan.

Scott Raab, outreach coordinator for Move America Forward, said the contents of the boxes were probably worth around $5,000, but the cost isn’t the issue.  The care packages were intended to give soldiers a reminder of the comforts of home, he said.  And, since the boxes were all individually addressed, there will be 25 soldiers going without this year.

“We pack pretty much everything in there,” Raab told ABC News.  “Deodorant, coffee, candy.  But also notes from school kids here at home thanking them for their service, Christmas cards, everything we can.”

Raab, who is himself a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said the packages really mean a lot to soldiers serving overseas who miss the comforts we take for granted at home.

“This can mean the whole world to these troops.  We send packages year-round, but during the holidays it’s even more special.  And we get some of the packages out to specific soldiers whose family is not able, for whatever reason, to send them anything.”

The packages were all clearly marked for military personnel and contain literature about Move America Forward, Raab said, so whoever the culprit is knows precisely who they’ve stolen from.

Raab is working with various organizations and accepting donations through to replace the stolen items and help ensure the soldiers whose packages were stolen get their Christmas gifts, even if they are a few days late.

Though disappointed, Raab said he remains confident his organization will get all the losses covered.

“These people are the definition of a Grinch,” he said.  “It is disheartening for those of us who worked so hard to get all these Christmas packages together.  But we’ve had an overwhelming response from people wanting to help out and it just shows how much support there is out there for our troops.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Military Suicides Up to Nearly One Per Day

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After leveling off the past two years, suicides among active duty service members are up in 2012, averaging to about one per day, according to new figures from the Pentagon.

ABC News has confirmed that through the first 155 days of this year, 154 troops have taken their lives, marking the fastest pace of suicides since the war in Afghanistan began.  That number is far greater in comparison to the same time period in 2010 and 2011, when 123 and 130 suicides, respectively, were reported.

The latest figure is also higher than the 136.2 suicides the Pentagon had projected through June 3, 2012, based on previous statistics.

Broken down by each branch of the Armed Forces, the Army had 80 suicides, the Air Force had 32, the Navy had 24 and the Marines -- the only branch that was on pace with the Pentagon's projection -- had 18.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Army Suicide Rate Falls by 9%

ISAF/Pfc. Cameron Boyd(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon announced Thursday that the suicide rate among active duty soldiers and those in the National Guard and Reserve had fallen in 2011 for the first time in four years.

Suicides dropped nine percent, from 305 in 2010 to 278 last year.  However, the number of soldiers killing themselves is far higher than the 200 suicides reported in 2008.

Still, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the outgoing vice chief of staff, praised the military's efforts to really begin addressing the problem by identifying soldiers engaged in risky or self-destructive behavior.

Chiarelli said, "I think we've at least arrested this problem and hopefully will start to push it down.  For all practical purposes … it has leveled off."

Overall, the Army's rate of suicides is 24 per 100,000 soliders, but it's much higher among those who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan -- 38 per 100,000.  Both rates are higher than that of the civilian population, which is 19 suicides per 100,000.


The wars and multiple deployments are blamed for the rise of suicide deaths as well as for an increase in sexual assaults and instances of domestic and child abuse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Book: Petraeus Rejected Advice to Quit as NATO Commander

DoD photo by Cherie Cullen/Released(WASHINGTON) -- Former Gen. David Petraeus was reportedly not happy earlier this year when President Obama announced plans to draw down 33,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of next summer.

In fact, a new biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, claims that a conservative writer urged Petraeus to resign as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan over his opposition to the withdrawal.

It would have been a particularly controversial move on Petraeus' part since he had already accepted the job of CIA director to replace Leon Panetta, who was named the new secretary of defense.

However, author Paula Broadwell writes that the former four-star general ultimately rejected the advice of Max Boot and stayed on at his post until he became head of the spy agency, figuring that quitting would look like a "selfish, grandstanding move with huge political ramifications."

Boot had promised to run a Petraeus for President campaign, which the former general also had no stomach for.

Meanwhile, the CIA issued a statement Thursday disputing Broadwell's depiction of events, saying, "Director Petraeus has publicly stated that he never contemplated resignation."

All In: The Education of General David Petraeus will hit bookstores next month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bidens Visit Wounded Troops on Christmas

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann(WASHINGTON) -- While President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spent part of their Christmas day visiting with troops and their families in Hawaii, Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, spent some of their Christmas day at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The White House released an official photo of the visit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Thank Fort Bragg Troops Ahead of Iraq Withdrawal

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel with the first lady to Fort Bragg Wednesday morning, where he will deliver a speech to troops and their families, thanking them for their service.

The Obamas' visit to the North Carolina military base comes as America's involvement in the near nine-year war in Iraq comes to an end later this month. Just over 5,000 U.S. troops remain there in advance of the Dec. 31 withdraw deadline, down from the peak of 170,000, during the successful "surge" in 2007.

The White House says the president, "will speak about the enormous sacrifices and achievements of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq War, and he will speak about the extraordinary milestone of bringing the war in Iraq to an end."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Google Doodle Honors Troops

Google(NEW YORK) -- Google is honoring Veterans Day with a watercolor "Doodle" by Mike Dutton, a Google staff member who is the son of a Vietnam vet.

And behind it is a new project the company has sponsored to help returning veterans get help, connect with their fellow service members and explain their experiences to their loved ones.

The company says there will be links called "Vet Connect" on Google+, its social network, to help veterans find one another, and there will be videos on YouTube to reassure returning service members that they are not alone.

The face of the project, who talks to the camera in some of the YouTube videos, is Mike Reeves, a former Army Ranger who did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: Guns, Tattoos and Eyebrow Threading

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Battle hardened troops in Afghanistan have added a new  dimension to military fashion that goes beyond the traditional tough guy tattoo -- having their eyebrows threaded, shaved or plucked.

“It’s one of those wartime oddities, if you can call it that,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Conner at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.  "When I was in Iraq, we had guys, they used to do it to clean up mustaches and sideburns...The new thing now is getting your eyebrows done.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that soldiers stationed in eastern Afghanistan are going to local barbers to get their eyebrows shaped into thin arches.

Pfc. Richard Guillemette, stationed at Forward Operating Base Joyce in Shinwar, told the paper  that the first time his eyebrows were shaped was an accident.  He went for a haircut to a local barber and realized before it was too late that the barber was shaping his brows with a razor. He liked the way it looked and kept it up.

Sgt. Matthew Cordwell said that he got his brows threaded in Iraq and continued threading even when he returned to his home base in Hawaii. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make me look like a girl,’” Cordwell told the paper.

Army regulations don’t say anything about how recruits should keep their eyebrows. Sideburns and mustaches must be neatly trimmed and goatees, “Fu Manchu” beards and handlebar mustaches are prohibited, according to Army regulations.

“The commander doesn’t have a problem with it and a lot of these things, these regulations are left up to commanders,” said Conner.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Panetta to Service Members: ‘You Will Get What Is Promised to You’

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had some strong words on Wednesday for men and women of the military: “We made a promise and I intend to keep it.”

As the Defense Department considers how and where to make budget cuts to meet the over $450 billion it has been asked to make, military officials have been trying to assure service members that their retirement pay and health benefits will not be touched.

“We will stand by the promise made to you,” Panetta told a roomful of active-duty and retired service members Wednesday at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, Panetta spoke at the nearby Woodrow Wilson Center -- warning members of Congress to work together to avoid “sequestration" -- a mechanism in the Budget Control Act that would cut the Defense Budget by additional hundreds of billions of dollars if members could not agree on $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.

Panetta called sequestration a “goofy meat-axe approach,” that would bring about “salami slicing cuts of the worst kind.”

He warned members of Congress not to drastically reduce the military force.

“It’s a mistake we made time and time again,” he said.  ”It will not happen under my watch.”

Even so, he acknowledged the Army would draw down its numbers, and the “steep rise in personnel costs.”  But he appealed to the military services to work together, and ”weather budget storms as a team.”

And he said that all those who have served and were promised benefits would receive them.

“You will get what is promised to you,” he said.  “It is my duty.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rising Suicides Stump US Military Leaders

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military doesn't need September's Suicide Prevention Month to realize it has a problem within its ranks.

The increase in suicide deaths is one of the most distressing issues facing military leaders who want to reduce the rates among active-duty service members.  More than 2,000 of them have killed themselves in the past decade, including 295 last year -- compared with 153 in 2001.

Despite their best suicide-prevention efforts, reducing the number of military suicides has been a frustrating challenge, military leaders acknowledged earlier this month at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Recent efforts have included increasing at-risk service members' access to mental health professionals, while reducing the stigma attached to mental health care. Internet outreach, including "video chats," has also shown some promise.

The difficulty, however, is in identifying which initiatives work best and deciphering the multiple triggers that can lead to suicide within the armed services.

The most commonly identified risk factors and "stressors," according to the leaders who testified, are relationship issues, work-related problems, financial pressure, legal concerns, and alcohol and substance abuse.

Defense Department statistics indicate that since January, 2001, 2,293 active-duty service members have taken their own lives, including soldiers who never deployed overseas.  By comparison, 6,139 service members have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period.

On the brighter side, the number of service members who killed themselves in 2010 declined slightly to 295 from 309 the year before, according to the "The DOD Suicide Event Report," which was released last week.

About a third of last year's service members had told at least one person they planned to kill themselves, according to the report.

Despite conventional wisdom, military suicides are not necessarily linked to overseas deployments.  For the first time, however, there's evidence of an increase in suicides among those who have had more than one deployment, Army Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick testified.

Historically, suicides have spiked after periods of "great drawdown" in the active-duty force, particularly in the Navy, said Rear Adm. Anthony Kurta, director of Navy military personnel.

"The next year, we often see a spike in our suicide rate," he said. "So we've seen that three times over the past 20 years. So it makes us remain ever vigilant as we go into a period now here of potential end-strength reductions."

Pending military budget cuts worry Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee. "I am very concerned those stressors will only get worse in the coming months as debate regarding cuts to the Department of Defense budget intensifies."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio