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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 11, 2015

A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, N.C. | Military Times >>

A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, N.C. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

VA official pushes back against lawmakers, saying ‘You can’t fire your way to excellence’
A Veterans Affairs official on Wednesday defended the department’s decision to demote but not fire two senior executives who collected $400,000 in a relocation scheme, and pushed back sharply against lawmakers for pressing for punishment rather than accountability for the VA workforce. | Washington Post >>

Survivor benefit offset needs fix, family advocates say
Advocacy groups still have hope that Congress can fix a longstanding problem with survivor payouts to some military families, despite the fact that it rejected the newest proposal circulating on Capitol Hill as “no solution at all” earlier this week. | Military Times >>

Las Vegas urged to help other cities cut veteran homelessness
The Las Vegas area should help other cities match its success in fighting homelessness among veterans, the nation’s top housing official said Wednesday during an appearance here. The Las Vegas Valley has been certified as having met the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a national initiative announced in 2014 by First Lady Michelle Obama. | Las Vegas Review-Journal >>

Afghanistan

Fifty people have died in an attack at a market bazaar and a school near Kandahar airport that began late Tuesday, Afghan officials said. The number included 38 civilians, 10 Afghan National Army soldiers and two policemen, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday. | CNN >>

The head of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency resigned on Thursday over disagreements with President Ashraf Ghani, laying bare divisions that have hindered efforts to fight the growing Taliban insurgency. | Reuters >>

Bergdahl who spent five years a captive of the Taliban after walking off his post in 2009, was recovered in a controversial prisoner swap, then charged with desertion and misconduct. He spoke publicly for the first time Thursday in the first episode of “Dustwun” of the podcast “Serial.” | Stars and Stripes >>

Iraq

The commando force that President Barack Obama is dispatching to Iraq to conduct clandestine raids against the Islamic State group does not fit neatly into a picture of the U.S. military strategy for defeating the extremist army. | Associated Press >>

A suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 20 in an assault claimed by the Islamic State. The attacker detonated a bomb in the doorway of the mosque as worshipers were exiting after midday prayer, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan. | Associated Press >>

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said it was out of the question that Turkish troops would withdraw from Iraq after Baghdad accused Ankara of deploying soldiers there without permission. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

An early morning missile test over a remote part of New Mexico is expected to produce a contrail that will be visible across the Southwest on Thursday, and authorities says they’re preparing for a flood of phone calls and emails from curious onlookers. | Associated Press >>

More than 1,000 Marines from eight countries took partnership to new levels as “UNITAS Amphibious 2015” deployed combined platoons, companies — even a combined Marine Air-Ground Task Force, a first for the South American area of operations. | Marine Corps Times >>

The Navy is taking a hard look at who it recruits, how it employs them in the fleet and how to keep them around, the chief of personnel told an audience in Washington on Wednesday. It will take years to tackle it all, but some initiatives are on track to see the light of day as early as next year, Vice Adm. Bill Moran said. | Navy Times >>

#VetsRising

Concordia University, St. Paul defensive lineman Hank Goff, who is using football to help him overcome post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from an Afghanistan combat tour in the U.S. Marines, is this year’s Disney Sports Spirit Award recipient. | Disney Sports News >>

Serving in the military can be a stressful job. Long hours, difficult assignments and sometimes dangerous deployments—the career is never an easy one. But for some members of the military, American Paint Horses provide a welcome diversion from their jobs. Even more than that, these riders know their horses bring comfort and balance to their lives. | HorseChannel.com >>

He’s one of the fastest rising stars in boxing — and undefeated welterweight Sammy Vasquez says he gives a lot of credit to his military background … telling us it helps him “tremendously” in the ring. Vasquez — who served 2 tours in Iraq with the National Guard — is 20-0 as a pro fighter and has a HUGE fight coming up in January against Aron Martinez. | TMZ >>

Inside Washington

Good boys and girls can rest easier this holiday season knowing that they will be able to track Santa Claus’ movements on Christmas Eve. Holiday cheer suddenly appeared on Wednesday during a Senate Armed Services hearing on “U.S. Strategy to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. Policy Toward Iraq and Syria,” when Sen. Tom Cotton posed on question far removed from anti-terrorism strategy. | CNN >>

Last month, the U.S. Senate passed legislation with a provision that would allow Veterans Affairs Department doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where the drug is legal. The language, which hasn’t yet passed the House, would not change existing laws that prevent possessing or distributing marijuana on VA property, nor does it do anything for veterans in the states where medical marijuana is not legal. But for veterans and their caregivers pushing to make the drug a legal option for all, it’s a welcomed start. | Military.com >>

The VA would be allowed to sell a piece of property it owns in Paris — now the site of a ritzy hotel — under legislation introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora. The Paris property has come under scrutiny since the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced earlier this year that it would need hundreds of millions of dollars more to pay for a new VA hospital in Aurora. | The Denver Post >>

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