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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 2, 2015

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle sits after shortly landing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-ISIL missions in Iraq and Syria. | Military Times >>

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle sits after shortly landing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-ISIL missions in Iraq and Syria. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

VA Choice program expands eligibility
The Veterans Affairs Department has announced new eligibility criteria for the Veterans Choice Program that should allow more veterans to access private health services closer to home. | Military Times >>

The Never-Ending Appeals Process at VA Hurts All Vets
The claims backlog the Veterans Benefits Administration has been dealing with for years is finally below 100,000, according to numbers from late summer. The agency promoted the backlog reduction then as a sign that its management strategy was working, in contrast to scandals inside the agency’s other main branch, the Veterans Health Administration. | Government Executive >>

This Book Is Changing The Conversation Around Post-Traumatic Stress
“Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance” explores possibility of training military to win mental battles as they do physical ones. Where, exactly, is the intersection between religious faith and good science? Does it even exist? And might both be used by today’s military to build more resilient warriors? | Task & Purpose >>

Afghanistan

The NATO allies decided on Tuesday to hold alliance troop levels in Afghanistan steady at about 12,000 next year and launched a campaign to fund the 350,000 Afghan forces it hopes can some day secure the country against Taliban militants. | Reuters >>

An Afghan police official says that an explosion has struck a group of children who were playing on the outskirts of a provincial capital in the country’s north, killing three boys and wounding 12 children, four of them critically. | Associated Press >>

Riding on horseback and motorbikes, commander Naeem’s fighters combed a fog-enveloped Taliban infiltration route in Afghanistan’s northern badlands, as the government expands anti-insurgent militias across a patchwork of fiefdoms. | AFP >>

Iraq

The recapture of Sinjar by Kurdish forces backed by U.S. airstrikes on Nov. 13 was an important strategic victory in the ongoing fight against ISIS. Taking back Sinjar cuts the strategic 75-mile-long Highway 47, the main supply line between the two largest ISIS strongholds of Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, isolating the two cities and making the transport of weapons, fighters, and oil between them much more difficult. | Slate >>

The Pentagon plans to send additional U.S. special operations forces to Iraq to conduct raids on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Tuesday. | USA Today >>

The United Nations says 888 people were killed in violence in Iraq in November, up from 714 the previous month. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq says in a statement Tuesday that 489 of those killed in November were civilians, including police. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

The 5th Special Forces Group is headed back to its Vietnam past for its future beret flash. The all-black U-shaped shield it has worn on its Green Berets since the mid-1980s is being retired in favor of the Vietnam-era flash that was both a nod toward the Republic of Vietnam as well as the two Special Forces groups that preceded the 5th into the war. | Military.com >>

Lt. Col. Lauren Edwards became the first woman in Marine Corps history to assume command of an engineer support battalion. Edwards took the helm of 8th Engineer Support Battalion from Lt. Col. David Morris during a ceremony Monday at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. | Marine Corps Times >>

A good season just got a bit better for Navy. On Monday, Navy released its new custom-designed, hand-painted helmets for the Midshipmen’s upcoming game with Army and they are stunning. With the help of Under Armour, the Midshipmen became the first team in NCAA history to have position-specific helmets, which they will wear when they take on Army on Dec. 12. Each helmet features a battle ship from the U.S. Naval Fleet that correlates with a specific position. | Fox Sports >>

#VetsRising

A soldier who lost all four limbs during a 2012 explosion in Afghanistan is raising his family, delivering motivational speeches and helping other wounded warriors through his foundation. Add author to his list of accomplishments. | Associated Press >>

Lalli is lifted out of his wheelchair by a mechanical device that transfers him to a saddle. It’s Tuesday morning, which means his horse, Sonic, is ready for a therapy lesson. “Oh, it’s the most relaxing thing I do all week,” he said. Dealing with the stress associated with his accident are easier now that he’s on top of a horse. At Quantum Leap Farm, therapy rides are helping veterans, children and adults deal with a variety of issues. | WTSP >>

He’s 30 and fit, owner of an impressive dark beard. He’s happy to show anyone how Cognito’s chickens, raised on pasture and organic feed, take the next step toward markets, where he can’t yet keep up with the demand of shoppers looking for local meat, for what he calls “real food.” Griffis is an Army combat veteran, once a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent a year in Iraq from 2009-2010 and sixth months in Afghanistan in 2012. | The Florida Times-Union >>

Inside Washington

Tucked inside the 2016 Defense Department budget bill signed by President Obama is a new law that directs the military to bring home all working dogs stateside if they are being retired. With the government now paying the freight, the measure greatly improves the chances dogs will be reunited with battlefield handlers who wish to adopt them. | Washington Times >>

A new report lists three areas where National VA Healthcare is at least as good or even better than private providers. Those areas include: in-patient hospital care, post-operative death rates, and certain types of infection prevention. | WOWT >>

One message rose above all others Monday night when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs held its first public hearing on the draft plan to realign the VA Black Health Care System. As expected, some of the 30 people present at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel made clear their opinion that the VA should not close its historic hospital in Hot Springs in favor of expanding its services in Rapid City. | Rapid City Journal >>

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