Marine Corps/DoD News

Marine Vet helping other Vets with PTSD

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  • 13 Mar 2014 7:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Secretary Sebelius:

    We write to you regarding the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) ongoing work regarding the historic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and its designation as a National Priority List site. We remain significantly concerned about many aspects of ATSDR's ongoing work on this very serious matter. 

    We have significant concerns regarding ATSDR's critical relationship with the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel (CAP.) This panel has proven invaluable in assisting with research for past ATSDR studies and is a vital link to the affected community. In the past few months, we have heard growing concerns about the level of communication from ATSDR to the CAP.  While we understand that the most recent leadership change at ATSDR contributed somewhat to a delay in scheduling the quarterly CAP meeting at ATSDR, we remain concerned that ATSDR has not been consulting openly and in a spirit of collaboration with current CAP members and has in some instances displayed a lack of urgency in regard to filling vacancies on the CAP.

    Furthermore, since the departure ofthe last permanent Director of ATSDR, there has been what we see as a growing lack of trust and cooperation between ATSDR and the CAP. This is concerning to us because the CAP is the formal forum designed for the affected community to express its concerns and ATSDR has previously stated that the agency needs to have a trusting and constructive relationship with the CAP. For reasons we cannot yet discern, the desire for open communication seems to have waned within ATSDR in recent months. For example, in Dr. Frieden's September 16, 2013 letter to us, he stated that "ATSDR plans to revise the 1997 Public Health Assessment (PHA) based on available data and input from the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel." We are dismayed that the CAP has not yet been consulted on there-issuance of the PHA for Camp Lejeune or included in the discussions underway at ATSDR regarding the PHA.

    It is our sincere expectation that repairing relationships with the CAP will be a top priority for Dr. Tanja Popovic and that Dr. Frieden will ensure the community continues to have a voice in future ATSDR activities related to Camp Lejeune.

    Another significant area of concern pertains to what we see as a compelling case for ATSDR to conduct a cancer incidence study of the population at Camp Lejeune. Last month, we met with Dr. Tanja Popovic, Acting Director of ATSDR, regarding the recent studies her agency released and a cancer incidence study. Such a study would be critically important to help Lejeune veterans and the American people get the best possible scientific understanding of the contamination that occurred at the base. While we were very pleased that Dr. Popovic committed to responding to us within four weeks regarding the way forward on a cancer incidence study of the population at Camp Lejeune, we were also dismayed that Dr. Popovic took the position that ATSDR does not have the authority or expertise to conduct a cancer incidence study. Conducting public health studies ofthis nature on National Priority List sites was precisely the reason the agency was created.

    The water contamination at Camp Lejeune is likely the largest environmental contamination in the history of this nation. It is the responsibility of our government to provide a full and complete account of what happened. Therefore, we are concerned that Dr. Popovic suggested a non-governmental organization would be better suited to assess the feasibility of a cancer incidence study and possibly conduct the study itself. Given the nature and history of this contamination and the disturbing findings of recent studies released by ATSDR, both Congress and the public reasonably expect the government to conduct this type of study and for your department to leverage its resources toward that end. Furthermore, we respectfully request answers to the following questions outlined below.

    1) The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act of 1980 states that the Administrator of ATSDR shall "in cases of public health emergencies caused or believed to be caused by exposure to toxic substances, provide medical care and testing to exposed individuals, including... epidemiological studies, or any other assistance appropriate under the circumstances." Does the agency believe this statutory authority to conduct epidemiological studies is sufficient to conduct a cancer incidence study on the population at Camp Lejeune? Please provide a detailed response.

    2) Does ATSDR have access to sufficient gov't personnel and resources to fulfill the agency's statutory obligation to conduct epidemiological studies that are warranted given that serious exposures occurred and the agency's own studies indicated that health effects have been observed? If not, please provide a detailed response of the resources the agency needs or provide us with resources resident in other agencies within your department.

    3) Has ATSDR previously worked with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on public health studies, including a cancer incidence study? If so, please provide a list of specific studies on which the two agencies have collaborated, as well as a description of the inter-agency process used in these ....for full letter click here

    The letter was signed by:

    Senator Kay Hagan, Richard Burr  Congressman Dingell


  • 06 Mar 2014 7:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today the president released his Fiscal Year 2015 budget request for the Department of Defense. This defense budget contains the recommendations I announced last week and is responsible, balanced and realistic. It matches our strategy to our resources.

    This budget also supports - and is informed by - our updated defense strategy outlined in the recently completed 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is also being released today. This QDR defines the historic transition unfolding throughout our defense enterprise. As we move off the longest continuous war footing in our nation's history, this QDR explains how we will adapt, reshape, and rebalance our military for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

    The QDR prioritizes America's highest security interests by focusing on three strategic pillars: defending the homeland against all threats; building security globally by projecting U.S. influence and deterring aggression; and remaining prepared to win decisively against any adversary should deterrence fail.
    The QDR outlines key missions of our strategy - including the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, sustaining our security commitments in the Middle East and Europe, and building partnership capacity throughout the world.
    The QDR highlights the critical capabilities - enduring and emerging - the military will need to operate across the full spectrum of conflict - including special operations, space, cyber, missile defense as well as certain conventional, high-intensity capabilities we should emphasize in today's fast moving security environment. It also recognizes the emerging technological capabilities of adversaries that will present new threats and challenges to the United States.
    This year's QDR also considers resource constraints. These continued fiscal constraints cannot be ignored. It would be dishonest and irresponsible to present a QDR articulating a strategy disconnected from the reality of resource constraints. A strategy must have the resources for its implementation.
    Today's world requires a strategy that is neither budget driven nor budget blind. We need a strategy that can be implemented with a realistic level of resources, and that is what this QDR provides. This QDR clearly articulates the consequences - and risks - of budgetary constraints. In particular, it shows that sequestration-level cuts would result in unacceptable risks to our national security if they are re-imposed in Fiscal Year 2016, as is currently the law. The QDR shows that continued sequestration requires dangerous reductions to readiness and modernization.
    It would mean that DoD would be unable to fulfill its defense strategy, and it would put at risk America's traditional role as a guarantor of global
    security. That's why the president's budget plan adds $115 billion above sequestration levels. These additional resources will be required to meet the president's defense strategy, although we will still be assuming higher risk for certain military missions because of continued fiscal constraints. It would have been irresponsible not to request these additional resources.
    No strategy or budget is risk-free. Even the largest defense budgets have limits - as does our knowledge and ability to predict the future. But the strategy articulated by the QDR is one that department leaders and I believe is the right strategy given the reality we face.
    There are difficult decisions ahead, but there are also opportunities. We have an opportunity to reshape our defense enterprise to be better prepared, positioned, and equipped to secure America's interests in the years ahead.
  • 06 Mar 2014 7:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    President Barack Obama today sent Congress a proposed defense budget of $495.6 billion in discretionary budget authority to fund base defense programs in fiscal year 2015.

    The request is $0.4 billion less than the enacted FY 2014 appropriation and is consistent with the current budget caps. The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative -- a government-wide initiative -- requests an additional $26 billion in FY 2015 to address significant readiness and modernization challenges. In the years from FY 2016 to FY 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for funding that exceeds the current budget caps by a total of approximately $115 billion in order to meet defense requirements.

    This DoD budget request supports the strategy in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is being released in conjunction with the budget request. The 2014 QDR builds upon and updates the strategy submitted in January 2012, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” preparing for the future by rebalancing our defense efforts in a period of fiscal challenges.
    The DoD budget request reflects a balance between readiness, capacity, and capability. It seeks efficiencies, including another round of base realignment and closure, and slower growth in military compensation in order to free up funds to minimize cuts in force size and readiness. Even with these initiatives, the force gets smaller and modernization programs are streamlined under this budget – with changes made in a manner that reflects the new QDR. The net result is a military force that can fulfill the defense strategy, but with some increased levels of risk. The department can manage these risks under the President’s 2015 Budget plan, but risks would grow significantly if as current law requires sequester-level cuts return in 2016, if proposed reforms are not accepted, or if uncertainty over budget levels continues.
    Commenting on the DoD request for FY 2015, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military’s unique and indispensable role in this country and in today’s volatile world.”
    For Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) operations in FY 2015, the budget only includes a placeholder of $79 billion, an amount equal to the request for FY 2014. Once conditions permit a decision about the scope of the enduring U.S. presence in Afghanistan, a formal budget amendment will be proposed to specify and fund OCO needs in FY 2015.
    The QDR advances a broader strategic framework emphasizing three pillars - protect the homeland, to deter and defeat threats to the United States and to mitigate the effects of potential attacks and natural disasters; build security globally, to preserve regional stability, deter adversaries, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others to address common security challenges; and project power and win decisively, to defeat aggression, disrupt and destroy terrorist networks, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
    The QDR highlights the imperative for institutional reform to implement this strategy. Controlling cost growth and generating greater efficiencies will allow the DoD to maximize its readiness and combat power over the long term.  “This QDR defines the historic transition unfolding throughout our defense enterprise. As we move off the longest continuous war footing in our nation's history, this QDR explains how we will adapt, reshape, and rebalance our military for the challenges and opportunities of the future,” said Hagel.
    “Today's world requires a strategy that is neither budget driven nor budget blind. We need a strategy that can be implemented with a realistic level of resources, and that is what this QDR provides,” said Hagel.
    The QDR establishes DoD’s force planning construct to ensure U.S. forces are sized to conduct key types of operations in overlapping timeframes.
    “We have throughout my 40-year career always adapted to changes in the security environment and changes in the budget environment," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.
    “This QDR is a pragmatic reflection of who we can and must be for the nation. We must do more than talk about institutional reform. We must do more than seek innovation in organizational designs, concepts, strategies, and plans. We must do more than prioritize our commitment to the development our people. We must actually achieve these things,” said Dempsey.
    Given the major changes in our nation’s security and fiscal environment, the QDR requires that DoD rebalance the joint force in several important areas to prepare for the future, specifically shifting the focus toward greater emphasis on the full spectrum of possible operations; sustain our presence and posture abroad to better protect U.S. national security interests; and adjust the balance of capability, capacity, and readiness with the joint force.
    Highlights of the proposed DoD budget are outlined below and in the attached chart. The entire fiscal 2015 budget proposal is available at The department’s “FY 2015 Budget Request Overview Book,” can be downloaded there as well. Key highlights of the DoD 2014 QDR are outlined in the attached summary and fact sheets.   
    For more information and to view the entire fiscal 2014 QDR and budget proposal, please visit
  • 31 Jan 2014 6:56 PM | Anonymous
    The Army National Guard and Marine Corps Reserve announced this week a decrease in activated National Guard members and reservists, while the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve announced an increase of activated reservists. The net collective result is 105 fewer activated National Guard members and reservists in comparison to last week. At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 29,081; Navy Reserve, 3,917; Marine Corps Reserve, 1,872; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 7,087; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 392. This brings the total National Guard and reserve personnel who have been activated to 42,349, including both units and individual augmentees. For a view of the trend for mobilization click here
  • 30 Jan 2014 5:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I attended a briefing yesterday with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.  The purpose of this briefing was to not only gain support from the Marine Corps Reserve Association but from all of the Veterans Service Organizations on proposed legislation he is going to introduce. That legislation is the “

    S.1950, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.”

    I will tell you up front this is a pretty sweeping piece of legislation, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. Here are a few of the highlights:

    1. Restoration of FULL COLA for ALL military retirees.
    2. Advanced appropriations for the VA.
    3. Instate tuition assistance for post 9/11 veterans.
    4. Expansion of benefits for surviving spouses.
    5. Expanded access to complementary & alternative medicine
    6. Improvement & expansion of dental care.
    7. Extending eligibility to enroll in VA health care.
    8. Renewing OUR VOW to hire heroes
    9. Claims processing enhancement
    10. Accountability & administrative improvement easier for us to collate responses

    These are not all that the bill addresses. When you read the attachment, one of the pieces of legislation I did not talk about in the above is the

    HONOR THE SERVICE OF RESERVE RETIREES. Now before any of you get excited, let me tell you what this means. There are a significant number of GUARDSMAN & RESERVESthat have served this country for a number of years, 3 – 5 – 10 – 20+ that were never mobilized. Thus, they never received a DD214 & as such are not considered “VETERANS.” This would correct that.

    The cost of this legislation would be between $27 – 54 BILLION! The Senator is awaiting the costs from the CBO. Sen Sanders knows he can deliver all the members on the Democratic side, he informed us that he would need 6 10 Republicans to support this legislation to ensure its passing. Now – I must inform you, this legislation is not final & as all of us are aware, there will be compromises made to the final legislation coming out of the Senate. The single biggest question we had for the Senator was “where are these funds going to come from?” The Senator is going to propose funding of this bill by reprograming the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, for FY2014 this is $79.4 billion. Currently these funds are being used to:

    1. Continuing the responsible drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, including costs to return/retrograde equipment;
    2. Strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to maintain and expand security in the face of the insurgency;
    3. Repair and replacement of equipment to reset the U.S. military forces, including small sums for equipment still returning after service in Iraq; and
    4. Support costs such as those for intelligence and support to partner nations

    Before you answer my question, I want you to think about this. During a press conference on May 20, 2013, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said of the $79.4 billion, DoD was asking Congress to allow Pentagon officials to reprogram $9.6 billion in fiscal 2013 funding, “to offset the effects of sequestration.” The $9.6 billion request looks to fix large shortfalls in overseas contingency operations funding and larger than expected fuel bills. I am providing this information to make a point, if you look at the list above notice item #3, “repair & replacement of equipment….” Some of the services have planned on using their portion of the funds to make up for shortfalls due to sequestration. Supporting this bill could take away funds targeted to be used for operations & maintenance costs.

    The other piece of this puzzle is we both know that our Republican friends believe in a strong defense, how are they going to feel about taking funds away from those forces still engaged or those forces preparing to engage, those out there on the pointy tip? Sen Sanders did not address how the Republicans would feel, other than to state “we need 6 10 to support this bill to get it passed. I hope you are now beginning to grasp the dilemma here. Do we endorse this legislation, which will no doubt enhance support to veterans that have returned from the fight or do we not support and allow DoD to use the funds to prepare the services, including the Marine Corps to recock for the next fight. I must let you know that Sen Sanders stated, “this is really not reallocating OCO funds. Remember these funds were provided to DoD to support service members engaged in Afghanistan. As those service members are withdrawn, fewer funds are required to support them in country, so we can use these funds to support service members returning here.”

    So what do you think? The Association must either provide a letter of endorsement or decline. I know how I feel, but this is bigger than me, I represent YOU so I need to know what you think & what we should do. To assist you in learning more about this proposed legislation I have attached the complete briefing letter.

    To read the briefings of all the pieces of legislation you will need to click here, I do need to know how you feel pretty quick. At the beginning of the discussion, the Senator anticipated 3 4 months before the legislation came up for a vote. Within 20 mins of his departure, his chief Executive Aide informed us the legislation could come up for a vote within a couple of weeks.

    Pass this on to your fellow Marines, get their opinion(s). PLEASE let me know what you think.

    I remain…..

    Semper Fidelis,

    Ken Hopper

    National President

  • 21 Jan 2014 6:55 PM | Anonymous
    PARKVILLE, Md. -- After spending six months in the mild climes of Italy and the sweltering humidity of Africa, the ice and snow that greeted them in Baltimore was a drastic change for the Marines of 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. The Marines returned home to their families and civilian lives, Jan. 21, 2014. During their deployment, 4th CEB served as the primary element of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13.3. Joined by 32 other Reserve units, 4th CEB trained militaries across the African continent, gained knowledge and expanded their brotherhood of warriors. During their deployment, the unit traveled to Ghana, Mauritania, Uganda, Burundi, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Djibouti. Special-Purpose MAGTF teams provided assistance and training to the African nations in areas such as logistics, counterterrorism, communications, non-lethal weapons training, maritime security force assistance, military planning, small-unit leadership and vehicle maintenance. “The Marines went down into the continent and trained their host nations in those specific areas, so their militaries could be self-sufficient,” said Sgt. Maj. Athanasios K. Verros, the sergeant major of 4th CEB.

    After African partner nations requested training engagements with Marines, the Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department developed Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa in 2011. Not only did the African nations receive their requested training, but soldiers who completed the training cycles with the Marines earn additional certifications and pay raises. The training also gave service members from all nations the unique opportunity for international networking. “Our Marines did their best to learn about the country they are deploying to prior to getting there, but a lot of that real education occurs when making friends within the host nation, learning their customs and how they train their soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Marble, commanding officer of 4th CEB. The new connections contribute to sustaining global diplomatic relations, stabilizing war-torn regions and effectively countering terrorism, Verros added. Participating in overseas security cooperation is a low-cost, high-impact way for Marines to assist African host nations in addressing their security challenges, Marble said.

    “We go there to try to help streamline and professionalize their militaries,” Marble said. “The Marine Corps does very well in leadership and organization and a lot of these countries know our history and seek us out. This gives our Marines a chance to see the differences between how we operate and our host nations’ militaries operate.” Now the Marines are back home, bringing with them months of experiences to share and develop throughout their military careers and civilian lives. “We met a lot of good people, and we were able to conduct and be a part of a lot of good training,” said Cpl. Eric Tyree, a data systems technician. “I would definitely go back if given the chance.”
  • 15 Jan 2014 5:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A BCD panel was convened on Maj Brezler last week in New Orleans and they have recommended to discharge the Major from the Marine Corps with an "honorable discharge." Yet this still may not be the end of the story. There are now politicians involved and they are saying this outcome is not good enough.  The Major was deployed to Afghanistan, and got into trouble for using unsecured email to send his former commanding officer classified information alerting him to a corrupt Afghan cop, Sarwar Jan, who had
    gained access to a Marine base. Less than a month later, a teenage boy kept on the base by Jan grabbed a gun and killed three Marines and seriously wounded a fourth.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and FDNY
    Commissioner Sal Cassano have urged the Marine Corps to clear the
    record of the Major. Brezler was deployed to Now Zad, Afghanistan, in
    2009 as a reservist with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. He was in the
    U.S. in 2012 when he got an email from his former commanding officer,
    Capt. Andy Terrell, telling him Sarwar Jan, a corrupt Afghan cop with
    Taliban ties, had gained access to a Marine base in Afghanistan. From his personal Yahoo email account, Maj Brezler sent Capt Terrell a classified briefing document about Sarwar Jan, hoping it would help run him off the premises. Nearly three weeks after Brezler sent the warning, a 15-year-old boy kept on the base by Jan grabbed an AK-47 and murdered three Marines and seriously wounded a fourth. Brezler soon reported his indiscretion to his superiors, and military investigators opened a probe with his cooperation.


  • 02 Jan 2014 5:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Equipment upkeep, training and command visits at risk

    NEW ORLEANS undefined Deep budget cuts and belt-tightening became a reality in 2013, but all those changes will be felt most fully in 2014, said the commander of Marine Forces Reserve. Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who also commands Marine Forces North, told Marine Corps Times in an exclusive interview that the effects of long-term sequestration budget cuts would be felt at full severity in 2014, and the impact on the reserves would be intensified.

    Fewer reservists may travel to large-scale training exercises, such as Bold Alligator off the Carolina coast; equipment might be sidelined because the reserves are unable to maintain it; and reserve unit commanders could be forced to cut out visits to their units, all on account of fiscal austerity. Mills said officials are already examining ways to restructure training and reexamine equipment use so they can make the best of reserve time and resources. For the full article click

  • 10 Apr 2013 5:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Cpl. Marcin Platek | U. S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve | April 10, 2013

    Camp Pendleton, Calif. --
    1st Sgt. Anthony J. Velarde, the first sergeant with 1st Civil Affairs Group, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device during a ceremony here, March 11. Velarde was recognized for his actions during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The First Sergeant, at the time a company gunnery sergeant with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (known as the Blackhearts), demonstrated acts of heroism during an eight-hour firefight near a town of Kashta Jelijay, March 22, 2012.
    “This award is for the company. It’s really for the Blackhearts,” said Velarde, a native of Baldwin Park, Calif. “It was a company effort because we were out there hooking and jabbing all night and day. I am always going to be proud to wear that for the company.” While overseeing the operation from a command operating center as a senior tactical advisor, Velarde received reports of roadside bombs and two pinned-down Marine platoons, he quickly assembled and led a small reaction force to assist the Marines.
    “I was in the COC and I heard that my boys were in trouble down there,” said Velarde. “It was eating me up that they needed help. I just needed to get out there and make sure they all got back safely.” Driving seven kilometers in off-road terrain, Velarde navigated to the battle site without knowledge of the terrain, said Capt. Travis R. Martin, Velarde’s company commander while deployed in Afghanistan. Upon arrival he set up a security cordon and used his tactical skills to seize a piece of contested high-ground from the enemy, said Martin. When one of the platoons became pinned down again, he ordered his vehicle into the line of enemy fire to provide cover and regenerate forward momentum for a counter-attack. Velarde also redirected fire from other vehicles and effectively suppressed enemy machine gun and rocket teams. Finally, he enabled trapped units to withdraw by directing mortar fire to wrestle off the insurgents. Martin, currently the commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Company, 2/25, said he would seek Velarde to have at his side in combat anytime. “Our (Marines) took the fight to the enemy with great credit to his force of will and constant energy towards the mission,” said Martin. “He worked himself ragged for the Marines of Fox Company. 1st Sgt. Velarde is my hero.
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