Veterans Roundup: Better Names for Bases, Sex Trafficking in Bahrain, PREVENTS Disappoints, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Five Women Veterans Who Deserve to Have Army Bases Named After Them
Smithsonian Magazine, Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) 

Over the past week, debates and strong opinions were revived around whether or not the U.S. military should rename southern bases currently memorializing Confederate generals. This story reveals jarring insights, including the fact that ten Army installations are named after Confederates, yet zero are named after women. This likely isn’t a surprise to any women who have served, as we have been fighting for recognition and equity across all military-connected issues and spaces for…well, forever. Robert Gates, former defense secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, even stated publicly this week that he’s always been puzzled as to why there are no bases named after George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant or an African American Medal of Honor recipient. Historians have been participating in the conversations surrounding the renaming debate and Kara Vuic, a professor and expert studying war, gender and the U.S. military, argues that renaming the bases makes sense and falls in line with the Army’s goals to name installations after people who can be an inspiration to fellow soldiers. Army installations were originally named to “reflect a series of choices” to uplift a variety of individuals like distinctive officers, engineers and even Confederate generals. Yet, these choices don’t reflect the important role that women have played in the history of the Army, dating all the way back to the earliest of its days. In a recent piece published in the Washington Post, David Von Drehle makes a strong argument against conservative senators, like Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, who are always quick to politicize veterans and are now making the claim that this is an “attempt to erase that part of our history.” However, in agreement with Drehle, their stances on the subject are weak. The military bases weren’t named in honor of the service of these Confederate generals, it was actually a propaganda campaign meant to rewrite history in favor of a false narrative trapped in nostalgia for men that, in reality, led the South through an attempt to break up with the U.S. Ultimately, this failed mission caused a “human and economic disaster for the South.” Yet, women service members, although a critical component of the U.S. military since the Civil War, have always been erased from the historical narrative of our country, as have been service members of color. Seize this moment, do the right thing and make our service publicly present just as you would do for any man. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

Tinder, Sailor, Hooker, Pimp: The U.S. Navy’s sex trafficking scandal in Bahrain
Military Times, Geoff Ziezulewicz (@JournoGeoffZ)

Military Times journalist Geoff Ziezulewicz is out with a terrific multi-media story built on a series of Freedom of Information Act requests dating back a few years and surrounding reports of sex trafficking among sailors stationed in Bahrain — it’s an ugly one. The Navy uncovered a massive network of prostitution and trafficking of women to area surrounding the important U.S. headquarters and port, dating back several years and involving women from Thailand and U.S. sailors running prostitution rings out of their off-base apartments. Much of the tale surrounds one madam who was not only importing girls for sailors, but was also serving as an informant for Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents in rolling up service members involved in the illegal and dangerous crime. The investigation finds several cases with an unfortunately small number of successful convictions due to the challenges of using witnesses that don’t want to cooperate and cannot be compelled to do so. Several senior non-commissioned officers got caught in NCIS stings and lost their careers for the attempts. But, when you look at the arc of the story, you do see Navy leadership taking on the problem head first. The commanders in theater attacked the issue and unleashed their criminal investigators to shake things up. It is not easy and will take a lot of time to make sailors understand that the overseas sex trade is much more than prostitution. Many of the women are essentially enslaved to their pimps, with their passports taken from them and forced to pay exorbitant fees. The U.S. military has to fight this scourge and this story shows that they are trying. With everything else going on in the world and the military, this effort still matters and must be addressed. We cannot serve overseas as examples of a moral and professional military while trafficking and abusing vulnerable women for profit and sexual enslavement. There is no middle ground on putting an end to the abuse. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Trump unveils ‘bold’ plan to prevent veteran suicide, but critics say it’s not enough
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

The overdue plan that is a result of an executive order Donald Trump signed in March 2019 to create a Cabinet-level task force titled PREVENTS — short for “President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide”– was unveiled on Wednesday. The task force issues a 60-page plan with 10 recommendations that are expected to take two years to fully implement. There have been mixed reactions, including Republican representatives praising Trump’s plan and some Democrats criticizing the plan for not going far enough to address the deeply rooted issues and causes of veteran suicide. The VA’s budget request for the coming year includes $53.4 million to the PREVENTS initiative.

American war profiteers should share the cost of veterans’ care, Jon Stewart says
ConnectingVets, Abbie Bennett (@AbbieRBennett)

Jon Stewart, former Daily Show host, and Derek Fronabarger, Wounded Warrior Project’s Legislative Director, are advocating for veterans exposed to burn pits and those drafting legislation to address military toxic exposures. Despite the convenience of burn pits for disposing of trash, their danger lies in the other toxic items that made their way into the pits. The VA has registries for individuals affected by burn pits, however service members must opt-in and the registries are notoriously unorganized. “I would like to see the people who profit off of war have to kick in for the people who suffer from the effects of war … I think war profiteers should kick in a 10 percent contingency plan,” Stewart said.

Fort Hood families sue privatized housing provider over ‘pervasive mold’ that resulted in ‘catastrophic’ health issues
Task and Purpose, Haley Britzky (@halbritz)

Nine military families have filed a lawsuit against Lendlease, the housing provider for Fort Hood, citing “clear evidence of dangerous mold” in military housing that caused extensive physical and psychological trauma to residents. The complaint alleged that Lendlease “[refused] to remedy the underlying conditions that cause mold in the houses they lease to service members” and instead moved residents to temporary housing, which one family claimed was “furnished with blood-stained mattresses.” Plaintiffs in the lawsuit also cited other “horrors” in Fort Hood homes, including “massive” infestations of rodents and fire ants, but the families say that these experiences are “nothing out of the ordinary,” alleging that “inaction from both their housing providers and the military” have allowed their complaints to go unaddressed for years. Earlier this year, Lendlease executives were involved in a Congressional hearing where Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chairwoman of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, called the company a “gravy train” without proper accountability and oversight mechanisms.

Court approves plan to fix visa delays for war zone interpreters
Stars and Stripes, J.P. Lawrence (@jplawrence3)

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan approved a plan to speed up visa applications for more than 9,000 interpreters who assisted U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This plan was the second attempt at responding to a class action lawsuit identifying the mistreatment and extreme delays that interpreters were experiencing, some having to wait years before being allowed to resettle in the U.S. The approved plan requires the governments to grant or deny approvals within 120 days, as well as provide updates on the clearing of the backlogged applications every 90 days.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms

This entry was posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 9:30 am

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