Entries in Military (37)


Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WEST POINT, N.Y.) -- Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military.

“You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stops it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect and dignity for every member of the military and society,” Hagel said as he delivered the commencement address at West Point. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal, a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.”

“We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead,” he said.

Hagel’s remarks at the esteemed military academy came during the same week as a U.S. Army sergeant was accused of secretly taking dozens of photos and videotaping naked female West Point cadets over five years.

President Obama addressed the issue of sexual assault in his speech at the commencement ceremonies for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Friday, telling the graduates that there is “no place” for sexual assaults in the military.

“We must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we’ve seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide,” Obama said at the Naval Academy commencement ceremony Friday. “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.  That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they’ve got no place in the greatest military on Earth.”

Over the past month, the military has dealt with a number of sexual assault scandals, causing military leaders and the president to speak out against the problem.

Earlier this month, the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for alleged sexual battery, and the Army  announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation “for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.”

The Pentagon reported this month that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, a 37 percent increase since last year.

The figure, coupled with the recent sexual assault cases involving those charged with leading programs to prevent such incidents, led Hagel to order the retraining, re-credentialing and re-screening of all sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters.

Several members of Congress have proposed legislation aiming to stop the sexual assaults occurring in the military.

Earlier this month, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill which would take the prosecution of sexual assaults in the military out of the chain of command, preventing commanders from handling the cases of their subordinates.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Gingrich, Santorum on Women in Combat: Infections, Emotions

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday’s announcement that women will be allowed to serve in combat was hardly the first time the subject has come up.

When it cropped up during the Clinton administration, it drew opposition from the likes of then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who offered a now-infamous medical assessment of why it was a bad idea to let them fight.

“Females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections, and they don’t have upper body strength,” The New York Times quoted Gingrich as saying in early 1995.  Men, on the other hand, ”are basically little piglets; you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it.”

More recently, Rick Santorum caused a minor controversy by bringing “emotions” into it.

“I do have concerns about women in front line combat.  I think that could be a very compromising situation where, where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved,” he told CNN in February 2012, in the heat of the GOP presidential primary.

He later clarified.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC soon after.  “I mean, there’s a lot of issues.  That’s just one of them.”

Opponents of women serving unrestricted have always risked offending their political adversaries, regardless of whether their words blow up into controversy.

“What I think was most troubling to us was less the comments of pundits and more the policy in place,” said one attorney who has pressed the Pentagon on female service, saying the combat-service ban sent a “message that … women were somehow less than” male soldiers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vying for Commander-in-Chief: 2 Men Who Never Served 

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time since 1944, the two primary candidates for president have no military background.

Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney enlisted in the armed forces, although both of them have histories that run tangent with the military.

Obama, for example, is related to a number of veterans, including an uncle who helped free Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz. The president, 50, has spoken about his family's military service but has said in speeches to soldiers that he can't know their battle experiences like they do. He often mentions his Kansas-born grandfather Stanley Dunham, who helped raise him, nearly every time he speaks to veterans, especially in connection with D-Day. As an Army Sgt. Dunham was stationed near the channel and crossed a few weeks after the surprise attack.

Romney, meanwhile, received a draft deferment because of his status as a Mormon minister of religion while he was a missionary in France. The former Massachusetts governor, 65, later signed up with the Selective Service, but his draft number was too high for him to be called into service.

It has been more than six decades since a presidential election didn't involve a veteran. Sen. John McCain was a prisoner of war as a Navy aviator; former President George W. Bush was in the Air National Guard and Sen. John Kerry served in Vietnam; Al Gore was in the Army; Bill Clinton never served but Bob Dole did; and every president from George H.W. Bush to Harry Truman was in a branch of the military.

Franklin Roosevelt didn't serve, but he was the assistant secretary of the Navy. His main opponent in 1944, Thomas Dewey, wasn't in the military either.

It's becoming increasingly likely that the United States will never have a president who served in theVietnam War, an event that is mostly history, not a memory, for the modern candidate.

Obama has tried to make up for his lack of service by starting campaigns from the White House for military families. The first lady has also made helping military families one of her chief causes.

Obama clearly has room to gain. A Gallup poll released today, Memorial Day, reported that veterans support Romney over Obama by 58 percent to 34 percent. People who aren't veterans give Obama a 4-point lead over Romney, the survey said.

Obama is scheduled to speak today about service at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

In a statement this morning, Romney said he's celebrating Memorial Day with McCain, Obama's 2008 opponent who has a decorated military record.

"A lot of young Americans are risking their lives in distant battlefields today," Romney said in his statement. "Memorial Day is a day to give thanks to them, and to remember all of America's soldiers who have laid down their lives to defend our country."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Courts Veterans’ Votes with Outreach Campaign

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is making a targeted effort to court the votes of military veterans and their families, believing the constituency is in play for November and could make a difference in key battleground states.

The Obama campaign Thursday kicked off a grassroots organizing effort -- dubbed “Veterans and Military Families for Obama” -- led by retired Naval officer and Iraq war veteran Rob Diamond.

“It’s no secret to anyone where our military bases are in this country and where our veterans and military communities are located,” Diamond said of the strategy on a conference call with reporters. “And the goal of our program is to mobilize and energize and activate those folks where they live."

“Obviously, a state like Virginia is a critically important state with a large military presence, and that’s where our veterans and military families live, states like North Carolina and a state like Florida,” he said.

Obama lost the veterans’ vote in 2008 to John McCain (himself a veteran), 55 to 45 percent. But campaign officials now believe that changing demographics in the country and the military, coupled with Obama’s record on veterans issues, could give him an edge.

“We’re going to break down that mythology about the military voting history and veteran voting history,” Diamond said.

The campaign is highlighting Obama’s support for the post-9/11 GI Bill, tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, public-private partnerships to boost veteran employment, and increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as foreign policy achievements like ending the war in Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden.

Central to the pitch to veteran voters is first lady Michelle Obama, who appears with the president in a web video announcing the political outreach effort.  She has spent the past few months traveling the country to mark the one-year anniversary of her Joining Forces initiative, which promotes support for veterans and their families.

The White House and Obama campaign have insisted her efforts have had no ties to politics.  “Obviously the first lady’s Joining Forces effort is part of her initiatives at the White House and not linked to the campaign,” campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Thursday.

But the president himself suggested that his wife’s advocacy is a part of his pitch for a second term.

“There’s nothing I take more seriously than my responsibility to those who sacrifice their own safety to defend ours,” Obama says in the video. “That’s why Michelle and I have made supporting veterans and military families a top priority from the start.”

The president’s backers say “tens of thousands” of veterans have already enlisted with the Obama campaign group.

“They’re stepping up because they know voters will face a clear choice in November,” said Delaware Attorney General, Army veteran and son of the vice president, Beau Biden. “Veterans know the vision and leadership we need in a commander-in-chief and they know the stakes and the consequences of sitting on the sidelines and would wake up on the morning after election day would be too late.”

The campaign has been sharply critical of Romney on veterans issues, claiming that his support of the House Republican budget would mean veterans programs would be cut by $11 billion a year. They also say he would reduce veterans health care benefits by privatizing the system, pointing to the governor’s November 2011 suggestion that benefits could be delivered as vouchers.

Romney allies have pointed to his record as governor of Massachusetts as evidence that he would be a staunch advocate for veterans and their families. They also say his economic policies would do more to boost economic status of veterans overall.

Veterans “are not being well served today because of some of the policies in place under the Obama administration,” said former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who served in the Bush administration and is a Romney supporter.

“Today, we see a significantly higher unemployment rate amongst those young men and women who are coming home and can’t find meaningful jobs. And it impacts their well being; it impacts their mental health which is another area that they are not being well served,” he said.

The unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan was 9.2 percent in April, according to the Labor Department.  Among all veterans, the jobless rate was 7.1 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent during the same period, the government reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta Introduces Initiatives to Fight Sexual Assault in the Military

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon proposed initiatives Monday aimed at curtailing sexual assault in the armed forces. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the measures on Capitol Hill after closed-door meetings on the issue with members of Congress.

Calling the crime a “violation of everything that the U.S. military stands for,” Panetta said he hoped Congress would adopt the package into the 2012 defense budget.

At least one key measure will be enacted immediately by the secretary’s own executive order. Central to the proposed regulations is the elevation of the most serious reports to the attention of a Special Court Martial Convening Authority, an officer that holds at least the rank of colonel. Panetta says the heightened status would keep cases from being forgotten at the unit level.

“At the local unit level sometimes these matters are put aside, they’re not followed up with,” Panetta said. “This requires that any time a complaint is received that it is referred up the chain of command for action.”

Panetta said he plans to issue the mandate in the next few days.

In addition to new training for troops and their commanders, the proposed regulations include new centralized records of disciplinary proceedings stemming from incidents, as well as more therapeutic outlets for victims. The Pentagon will also provide investigators specially trained for dealing with assault victims and evidence collection -- what the department is calling “Special Victims Unit” capabilities.

While admitting there was no “silver bullet” to curtailing sexual assault, Panetta said responsibility for prevention lay with every service member from the top down.

“The most important thing we can do is prosecute the offenders, deal with those who have broken the law,” he said.

Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were joined at the press conference by members of the Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus. Co-chair Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said every lawmaker present had their own stories from military constituents.

“For me it was a nurse, someone who had served multiple times both in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” she said. “When I asked if it were true, the statistics, she said, ‘Ma’am, I am more afraid of my own soldiers than I am of the enemy.’”

Tsongas said she hoped the measures would curtail “the same alarming statistics that we hear over and over again.”

The announcement comes days after a Defense Department report indicated incidents of sexual assault in the military had risen slightly in the last year. In a report issued Friday the Pentagon said 3,192 claims involving U.S. service members as perpetrators or victims had been reported in budget year 2011, an uptick of one percent since 2010. The trend has stayed relatively the same since 2009, which saw 3,230 reports filed.

The military says 56 percent of incidents are carried out by service members against their peers. An estimated 86 percent of incidents are not reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Mom’s Story Has Romney Questioning How Obama Sleeps 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(BEAVERCREEK, Ohio) -- After a military mother told him her daughter doesn’t understand her mission in the Air Force, Mitt Romney questioned how President Obama can “sleep at night,” knowing troops overseas don’t understand “precisely what they’re doing there.”

“If your daughter is not familiar with the mission that she’s on, how in the world can the commander-in-chief sleep at night, knowing that we have soldiers in harm’s way that don’t know exactly, precisely, what it is that they’re doing there,” Romney said.

Vicki Chura, from Fairfield, Ohio, was one of several people who stood to ask Romney a question this afternoon, explaining that her daughter, who she didn’t name for privacy reasons, constantly tells her than she is desperate to come home from her deployment in Afghanistan.

“This is her second deployment. Her first deployment, she never once said I want to come home,” Chura said, choking up as she spoke about her daughter, who is a first lieutenant in the Air Force. “This deployment has been extremely hard not only for her, but for my husband and I. Every email, every time we Skype, we hear ‘I want to come home now. There is no mission here. We have no definition of a mission.’”

In his reply, Romney lambasted Obama for not keeping Americans in the know about the mission overseas.

“One of the things I’ve found most disturbing and hard to explain is how we can have our sons and daughters in conflict, risking their lives, and not have the president on a regular basis addressing the American people, describing what’s happening, describing what our mission is, describing what the goals will be, describing how much progress we’re making or whether there were setbacks and informing the people of America that there are other Americans making enormous sacrifices for our purposes and for our liberty,” he said.

“Let me tell you this,” he continued. “I know why we’re involved in Afghanistan, and I know what it’s going to take for us to be successful and bring our troops home. I want that to happen as soon as humanly possible. As soon as that mission is complete. And that mission is to pass along to Afghanistan a security force there that is capable of maintaining the sovereignty of that nation, such that we can get out and they can have the capacity to build their own nation.

“We will not, we will not be able to hand on a silver platter their freedom,” he said. “They will have to fight for that, earn it, keep the Taliban from taking it away from them. But we’ve given them that opportunity. We need to finish the job of passing it off to them, and bring our troops home as soon as humanly possible.”

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama re-election campaign said in a statement following Romney’s remarks, “Mitt Romney has no credibility to attack President Obama on Afghanistan.”

“Under the President’s leadership, we are decimating al Qaeda and the Afghans are preparing to step up and take control of their security,” said Smith. “Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has failed to outline any plan at all for what he would do in Afghanistan and has even made clear that he would leave our troops there indefinitely.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Veterans for Ron Paul Rally at White House

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Current and former service members staged a rally outside the White House Monday in support of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Several hundred troops and their supporters attended the event.  The veterans were men and women, young and old, some in uniform and some in plain clothes.

The demonstration was a mostly silent affair, with the veterans standing calmly at attention in rows.  An organizer bellowed that each second of quiet was for every military suicide since President Obama took office. A second moment of silence was for each soldier who died abroad under the current commander-in-chief.

One protester held a sign reading, “Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America to be a policeman of the whole world.”  The line was paraphrased from remarks by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding the Vietnam War.

The event concluded with an organizer parading the procession away, complete with color guard.

Ron Paul shares an unusually high percentage of supporters in the military compared to the other candidates, and it shows in his campaign funding.  The Center for Responsible Politics reports the candidate touted more than $95,000 between September 2011 and January in individual donations from current and former members of the military -- higher than any other candidate.  Obama comes in second at roughly $72,000.

It is an attribute the libertarian lawmaker is quick to highlight on the campaign trail.  As a former Air Force flight surgeon, Dr. Paul is the only former serviceman campaigning for president, now that Rick Perry is no longer in contention.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Santorum's Comments on Women in Combat Arouse Public

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth, U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Santorum’s comments that “the front line of combat” is not the best place for women appear to put the Republican presidential candidate on the other side of public and expert opinion.

Santorum raised some eyebrows by saying women should not be in combat because of the “the types of emotions involved.” Now, Santorum says, he is also concerned about “physical strength and capability” of women in combat situations.

First, on those “emotions,” Santorum says he was not talking about the emotions of women.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC News. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”

What emotional issues? Santorum says he believes that the men serving with women would put the protection of women in their unit above the overall the mission.

“So my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position,” Santorum said.

A number of recent studies have concluded that the U.S. military should stop excluding women from ground-combat units, which some believe denies them a chance to climb the ranks as quickly as their male counterparts.

Three-quarters of Americans believe that women should be allowed to engage in direct combat, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released in March, a sharp rise from the early 1990s when only 45 percent supported such a move. Politically, Democrats and independents are more in favor of lifting these requirements, but even a majority of Republicans, 62 percent, thought this should be the case and the poll found that in no political group was a majority opposed.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday that it will end a decades-old rule and allow women to serve in battalions closer to the front lines. The changes would open up 14,000 support jobs to women in ground-combat units.

The new rule still bars women from serving directly in combat roles. Still, given the technology and the landscape today, many observers say those lines are blurred. Women already serve in dangerous support roles in war zones such as Afghanistan, as pilots flying combat aircrafts or on combat ships. In recent years, two women have been given the prestigious Silver Star for valor in a combat zone.

A study by the Rand Corporation in 2007 found that support units, where women were serving with direct combat units based on proximity and those returning from the battlefield in Iraq, believed that the military’s current policy, if implemented strictly, was “a backward step in the successful execution of the mission” and that it “could even prevent women from participating in Army operations in Iraq, which would preclude the Army from completing its mission.”

A review by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission last year concluded that restrictions on combat roles “seems obsolete” in today’s age.

“The nature of the current battlefield makes it impossible to apply strictly the existing rules for excluding women from combat without serious reduction in combat capabilities, degrading the professional development and thus status of women, and producing a potentially serious reduction in overall readiness,” another study in 2008 by the Strategic Studies Institute stated.

Adm. Eric T. Olson, the top commander of U.S. special operations and a Navy SEAL himself, told ABC News in July that he’s ready to see female SEALs in combat roles.

Still, some experts say the recent studies focus on diversity, but don’t take into account the realities on the ground.

Elaine Donnelly, who served as a member of the 1992 presidential commission on the assignment of women in the armed forces, says it’s a cultural issue and that Santorum’s concerns are legitimate. The commission voted against sending women in close combat because “that would [be] endorsement of violence against women,” she said.

“It’s not an equal opportunity or diversity issue. It’s a matter of effectiveness,” Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told ABC News. If a soldier is injured and his support soldier is a woman, “that man dies because she’s not going to be able to meet the physical requirements and it doesn’t matter how brave and courageous she is. ...We respect women in the military, but when you’re talking about direct ground combat, if you start making diversity the most important factor then you put lives at risk.”

Women were barred from partaking even in non-combat positions until 1994, when President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary, Les Aspin, lifted that rule.

The number of women in the military has jumped since the 1970s, when the United States ended the draft. Since 1973, the number of women who have joined the military has risen rapidly. The share of women among the enlisted ranks has increased from two percent to 14 percent, and the share among commissioned officers has jumped four percent to 16 percent, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

The Pentagon wouldn’t comment directly on Santorum’s comments, but spokesman George Little said there’s “a broad consensus” in the military that they should maintain the goal of opening more positions to women.

“I believe that men and women can serve ably on the battlefield men and women of the U.S. military are focused on the mission and in protecting our nation’s interest. And I think that’s a value that we have regardless of gender,” Little said Friday. “The presumption is that going forward that we’re going to find as many opportunities for women as possible.”

As of Sept. 30, women comprised roughly 15 percent of the U.S. armed forces, with their numbers reaching 205,000. Of the 2.4 million ever deployed in support of Iraq and Afghanistan, 280,000 have been women and 144 of them have been killed in those two countries while 865 have been wounded.

A number of U.S. partners in the battlefield allow women to serve in combat roles, including Canada, Israel, France and Germany.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


On Women in Combat, Rick Santorum Meant to Say 'Men's Emotional Issues'

Whitney Curtis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Santorum raised some eyebrows by saying women should not be in combat because of the “the types of emotions involved.” Now, Santorum says, he is also concerned about “physical strength and capability” of women in combat situations.

First, on those “emotions,” Santorum says he was not talking about the emotions of women.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC News. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”

What emotional issues? Santorum says he believes that the men serving with women would put the protection of women in their unit above the overall the mission.

“So my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position,” Santorum said.

But Santorum says he is concerned about more than just the “emotional issues.”

“You throw on top of that just simply physical strength and capability and you may be out there on a mission where it’s you and a woman and if you’re injured, the ability to transport that person back. And you know, there’s just, there are physical limitations,” Santorum said.

Santorum acknowledged that women already serve in harm’s way.

“Women have served and do serve and do wonderful things within the military and … they do have opportunities to serve in very dangerous positions,” Santorum said. “I mean they serve in very dangerous positions. And I certainly understand that and respect that and admire women for doing so, but I think on the front line of combat is not the best place and its not maximizing what they can bring to the table.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul Questions US Military Presence Around the World

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEWTON, Iowa) -- Ron Paul returned to the campaign trail in Iowa on Wednesday, questioning why the United States needed to maintain a military presence in Australia, Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il raised concerns about the region’s stability.

“How long do we have to stay in Korea?” he asked at a campaign event at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. “We were there since I was in high school.”

Paul’s non-interventionist view for America is sure to incite even more criticism from his GOP rivals, who have been hammering the Texas congressman for his view that Iran should be able to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

Just Wednesday morning Mitt Romney became the latest Republican challenger to pounce.

“We have differing views on this,” said Romney. “Some of the people, actually one of the people, running for president thinks it’s O.K. for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don’t.”

Despite talking at great length on foreign affairs, Paul’s foreign policy views are apparently one of his greatest weaknesses. Almost half of all respondents said Paul’s foreign policy views were a major reason to reject him, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll.

And an uneasy embrace was evident at Wednesday’s event when Paul took a question from a member of the audience who asked at what point the congressman would use force against another country.

“I don’t foresee a lot of times when there [are] fights going on around the world that we should get involved in,” said Paul. “I think our goal should be to avoid that.”

Paul returned to the campaign trail after being off for five days for the Christmas holiday. He looked out at all the reporters and television cameras and remarked on his rising popularity in the state.

“There does look like there are more cameras than there used to be,” said Paul adding “For many years, the crowds were very small.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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