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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 6, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

What We Still Don’t Understand about Military Suicides
Military suicides have been climbing since the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan began. But it’s not because soldiers are going off to war. Overall, the majority of soldiers who have taken their own lives have had no history of deployment, a finding that was confirmed by the largest study of its kind in the journal JAMA Psychiatry this week. | PBS Frontline >>

Army Seeks to Identify Troops, Veterans Exposed to Chemical Weapons
The Army is reaching out to specific units that service officials believe could have been exposed to chemical warfare agents as the Army tries to ensure troops across all four services receive the right medical support – in some cases, years after the exposure might have occurred. | Military.com >>

VA Pushes Back Against Claims Its Officials Lied to Congress
The VA’s Carol Clancy condemned reports that its officials lied about improvements to patient waiting times during recent Congressional testimony. The Veterans Affairs Department defended its improvement and newfound transparency in vets’ wait times for care, while taking issue with media reports challenging senior officials’ public testimony. | Defense One >>

Afghanistan

Afghan officials say that at least five Afghan civilians have been killed and 17 others wounded in two separate roadside bomb explosions in the country’s north. | Associated Press >>

There are increasing fears in Afghanistan over the emergence of the so-called Islamic State or Dai’sh in parts of the country. It is not alone as there are similar fears in neighbouring states and even Russia. | The Express Tribune >>

The Afghan government announced earlier this year that it was ready to hold peace talks aimed at ending the country’s 13-year Taliban insurgency and helping one of the world’s poorest countries emerge from decades of war. Here’s a look at the issues, challenges and who the players are. | NBC News >>

Iraq

Iraqi military commanders have been ordered to drive ISIS militants out of the country and into Syria by the end of the year. A day after forces loyal to the government of Iraq scored a major victory in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, a senior military source told NBC News that politicians were aiming to defeat the extremists “within a few months.” | NBC News >>

Since its recapture two days ago, the Sunni city of Tikrit has been the scene of violence and looting. In addition to the killing of the extremist combatant, Reuters correspondents also saw a convoy of Shi’ite paramilitary fighters – the government’s partners in liberating the city – drag a corpse through the streets behind their car. | Reuters >>

U.S. and coalition forces have trained two brigades’ worth of Iraqi troops, with three more underway, a top U.S. general in country told Army Times. “We’re making progress at all the Building Partner Capacity sites,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Coalition Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq and the 1st Infantry Division. | Army Times >>

Military Affairs

The Army has spelled out eligibility criteria for the award of the Global War on Terrorism Medals to soldier’s serving in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, one of two follow-on missions to Operation Enduring Freedom. | Army Times >>

The Pacific may be a priority, but the Navy is waving a pretty big flag at Russia’s front door. The destroyer Jason Dunham entered the Black Sea on April 3 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a series of NATO drills launched more than a year ago. | Navy Times >>

The end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Corps’ efforts to prepare for a fight against a tech-savvy enemy has prompted Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 to put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

It’s estimated that 22 veterans take their lives every day. One veteran is trying to put a spotlight on the issue with a call to help from people on social media. The challenge is simple: 22 push-ups and a $5 donation. | KUSI >>

One man. One dog. One mission. A Marine veteran is taking on a new mission after being saved by his adopted dog. Dan Spangler was hurt — physically and emotionally — after his final deployment to Iraq. The Marine returned from a 2003 deployment to Iraq after being injured while jumping from a truck when gunfire broke out. | Jacksonville Daily News >>

A Minnesota National Guardsman will make his UFC debut Saturday in Fairfax, Virginia, though he’ll do it without his cheering section. | Army Times >>

Inside Washington

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) last week became the third Democrat with experience in the armed forces to jump into a Senate race, announcing a bid against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Duckworth, a double amputee who fought in Iraq, followed in the footsteps of Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and former Rep. Joe Sestak, two other veterans who are seeking the Democratic nomination in crucial Senate races. | The Hill >>

During eight months at the helm, VA Secretary Bob McDonald has struggled with a dysfunctional department, a critical Congress and burgeoning rolls of veterans in need of help at a time of belt-tightening across the federal government.  | Stars and Stripes >>

The White House is looking to military bases and job-seeking veterans to boost its solar energy initiatives, calling it a win for the economy and the environment. On Friday, administration officials announced a pair of new industry training programs for active-duty troops and unemployed veterans, as well plans to expand GI Bill benefits to cover new solar power programs. | Military Times >>

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