Veterans Roundup: Sexual Assault at DC VA, Navy SEAL Hazing Ritual Goes Awry, Changes in Faces, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Woman Trying to End Sexual Assault at V.A. Centers Says She Is Attacked in One
New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer (@jestei)

A senior policy advisor came forward last week after being sexually assaulted at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Washington D.C. It undoubtedly has taken great bravery on behalf of Ms. Goldstein to come forward. As lead staff member for the Women Veterans Task Force on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, she has the ear of Congress and has assisted in the writing of multiple pieces of proposed legislation to support women veterans. However, the framing of the issue across the media is problematic. This article reports that this issue has been a priority since the committee’s inception. Yet, important to understand is that dedicated advocates, many who are minority women veterans, have been outspoken about safety concerns and reports of sexual assault and harassment happening in VA facilities for at least a decade. Just as with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, their impassioned testimonies too often were dismissed. Headlines tell us the committee appears to now be taking this issue more seriously after a senior staffer fell victim herself. The unfortunate reality is that it shouldn’t take an assault on one of their own for Congress to act. Too often leaders, especially women of color and other minority women, don’t have the same access to certain people and platforms that result in an immediate feature story. In light of the assault, the issue is being treated as if it is new, yet this story is not unique or new. It is just that in our society, some people are visible and the rest, who have suffered insurmountable injustice, are not. The dropping of this article should not be the precipice for action, yet this is how it appears. This story reifies the reactive instead of proactive nature of our political system. Our community is better served when action is a direct result of grassroots organizing and the elevation and support of those leading the movements, not through perpetuation of continued invisibility. -Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

How a bet on a land nav question left a SEAL student in a coma
Navy Times, Geoff Ziezulewicz (@JournoGeoffZ)

The Navy’s SEAL leadership has been very public in recent months in their efforts to re-instill discipline and professionalism in the elite special operations community that has seen a flood of disciplinary issues. Recent stories have come out about downrange July 4th parties with alcohol and reports of sexual assault leading to firings of leaders and criminal trials. In that environment of scrutiny, this story from Geoff Ziezulewicz about a Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL student being slapped so hard in a classroom that he ended up unconscious with a fractured skull rings louder in a host of ways. The 2017 incident has just come to light and involved what appears to be a common practice among students and instructors to place “bets” and challenges for training requirements where if a student fails he pays some sort of price. In this case a slap of the face was the price and left him sprawled on the floor. Aside from the troubling aspect of hazing in the schoolhouse, what struck me was that when medical personnel and leadership arrived the students and instructor initially lied about the causes of the injury in an effort to cover up the incident. Nothing in the story says that any of the students or even the instructor were punished at all about that aspect of the incident. It appears the default position of lying to cover up a negative act was already the default position during basic training for the SEAL’s, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a surprise that a couple of years later an entire SEAL team would refuse to testify in an investigation of an actual sexual assault investigation and find themselves shipped home because of it. There has been a lot of talk about adhering to grooming standards and basic discipline but this incident shows that a creeping culture of silence and lying has somehow become so common in the community after 18 years of war that it will take much more to right the ship than haircut inspections. Our elite warriors are being tested and losing members steadily in our ongoing wars, but if we don’t address the deep challenges amongst their ranks, the price will be immeasurable with war crimes, suicide and mental health damages for decades to come. The Navy has their work cut out for them. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms

DOD Releases Report on Suicide Among Troops, Military Family Members
U.S. Department of Defense, C. Todd Lopez (@lopezARNEWS)

Last week the Department of Defense published a report examining data related to suicide rates of military personnel and, for the first time, their family members. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, the DOD’s executive director of force resiliency, points out that while the 2018 suicide rate across the entire military population was “statistically consistent over the past two years,” the suicide rate specifically within the population of active service members was statistically higher. This report will influence how the Defense Suicide Prevention Office implements a “multifaceted public health approach to suicide prevention” targeting at-risk groups of service members while supporting military families.

Trump’s New Joint Chiefs Chair Is A Savvy Political Leader
Defense One, Marcus Weisgerber (@MarcusReports)

President Donald Trump’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs is U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, who previously worked with President Barack Obama. Supporters see Milley’s ability to command a room and his detail oriented personality to be positive attributes for the position. However, as he wasn’t expecting to be in this particular position, there are questions as to how he is going to handle being a part of a “deeply unsettled moment in American politics.” 

Lawmakers Urge Approval of New Cash Allotment for Low-Income Military Families, Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are urging the House and Senate committees in charge of passing annual defense legislation to include a proposal for a new “basic needs” allotment for low-income military families. The proposal is to give low-income service members a monthly allotment that would make up the difference between the household income and 130 percent of the federal poverty rate. A letter sent by 31 Republican and Democrat representatives states, “Military hunger and troop readiness go hand in hand. The Military Family Basic Needs Allowance would ensure that service members are able to provide the basic needs for their family members, eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety and contribute to optimal mission readiness.”

USCIS is reducing when and where naturalization services are available to US troops around the world
Task & Purpose, Haley Britzky (@halbritz)

Naturalization services for service members and their families will now be available at four locations, one week per quarter to help streamline the immigration process. According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), focusing on just four offices will help to “maximize agency resources.” USCIS says it is open to revisit additional offices if they find it difficult to keep up with demand in the future. USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli stated, “Ensuring that the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting the United States of America can become citizens while serving abroad is of paramount importance.” However, retired Army lieutenant colonel and former West Point professor specializing in immigration and citizenship law, Margaret Stock, said, “this will make the process more difficult,” in’s The Naturalization Process Just Got Harder for Noncitizen Troops Stationed Overseas.

Obama defense secretary talks Trump administration, transgender troops and how to lead half the federal government
Military Times, Meghann Myers (@Meghann_MT)

Former defense secretary Ash Carter was interviewed by Military Times to discuss his book, “Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon,” as well as his time in office and his take on aspects of the current administration. When discussing the future of leadership, Carter enforced the value of “sticking up for your people,” stating, “Stick up for the institution and for its values and its honor and its excellence. And from the point of view of the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, or civilian, or officer looking up, they need the boss to reinforce right or wrong. They know the right thing to do. Our people our excellent. But they need someone to stick up for them against politicization, un-careful use of the military ― or non-use of the military ― that is giving ground to enemies.”

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, October 07, 2019 2:36 pm

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