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IAVA Daily News Brief – May 15, 2015

A soldier holds a pilot helmet for a child posing on an Apache attack helicopter in Ploiesti, Romania. | Military Times >>

A soldier holds a pilot helmet for a child posing on an Apache attack helicopter in Ploiesti, Romania. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

12 Years Later, a Mystery of Chemical Exposure in Iraq Clears Slightly
Since last fall, the United States military has acknowledged that American soldiers found thousands of abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq, and that hundreds of troops notified the military medical system that they believed they had been exposed to them. The military acknowledged the exposures after years of secrecy — and of denying medical tracking and official recognition to victims — only after an investigation by The New York Times. | New York Times >>

Female veterans face woefully inadequate care
In September, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) published a study that revealed “America’s nearly 300,000 women Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are put at risk by a system designed for and dominated by male veterans.” | U-T San Diego >>

Veterans Affairs improperly spent $6 billion annually, senior official says
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk, according to an internal memo written by the agency’s senior official for procurement. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

The Afghan president on Thursday condemned the Taliban attack on a Kabul guesthouse the previous night that killed 14 people, including nine foreigners, and said the brutal slayings will not undermine his government’s efforts to achieve peace and stability. | Associated Press >>

American taxpayers have spent $62.5 billion on Afghanistan’s military and police forces since the U.S. invaded that country in 2001. It could all go to waste — or, worse, to extremists — if the Afghan and U.S. governments don’t increase their vigilance, according to the top watchdog for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. | Huffington Post >>

NATO and Afghan leaders on Wednesday agreed on a framework for a future joint military-civilian presence in Afghanistan when the alliance’s current mission ends, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. | AFP >>

Iraq

U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today. Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports. | Defense.gov >>

Islamic State group fighters have advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra on Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadis have already wreaked in Iraq. | The Guardian >>

ISIS issued a rare message purportedly from the group’s elusive leader Thursday, the first sign in months of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi amid speculation about his demise. In the audio recording — released by ISIS’ Al-Furqan Media arm — Baghdadi called on Muslims everywhere to take up arms and “march forth” to join his cause, saying his battle is not ISIS’ “war alone” to fight. | NBC News >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. Army has an established tradition of ruining things for service members that are fun for civilians. Just ask any soldier who’s been through the service’s grueling combat scuba diving course, or qualified to become a free-fall parachutist. Now, even the latest tech gadgets aren’t safe, as soldiers may no longer be able to use smartwatches as a way to get around strict regulations governing their use of cellphones, an Army spokesman tells U.S. News. | U.S. News & World Report >>

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus outlined Wednesday a wide ranging list of personnel initiatives the service plans to execute to include changes to the Navy’s promotion system, more paid maternity leave and a Career Intermission Program in hopes of attracting and keeping sailors in the service. | Military.com >>

Marines assigned to the task force’s infantry and weapons elements lived side-by-side in one- and two-man tents — regardless of gender — the way a future integrated unit might expect to live during field training or downrange on a deployment. Despite the close quarters and privacy challenges, Marines said they settled easily into the arrangement. | Marine Corps Times >>

#VetsRising

Stephen M. Smith’s application to the Georgia State Patrol last year came with the stipulation that no one would go easy on him because he was an amputee. “They said, ‘That’s awesome that you are trying out, but don’t expect any special treatment,’’’ Smith told the Telegraph, a local Georgia newspaper, in January. “I said, ‘I absolutely don’t expect that. In fact, I would be offended if I did receive special treatment.’ I had to do everything just like everybody else.” | Task & Purpose >>

“One of the first casualties of war is hope,” said Walt Rutherford. As the combat post-traumatic stress coordinator for Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), Rutherford’s seen it all — post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, homelessness and the accompanying guilt, anger and shame. The negative effect being at war brings to individual lives does not surprise him. | Ramona Sentinel >>

More and more military veterans are finding refuge in farming. They say digging in the dirt relieves psychological trauma, and it provides reliable work. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg visited two vets who say growing food for the nation is akin to protecting the country. | Valley Public Radio >>

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