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IAVA Daily News Brief – Monday, December 1, 2014

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NATO soldiers have their Thanksgiving Day meals at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 27. Military Times >>

TODAY’S TOP STORIES

Selling VA: New Boss Works to Update His Outfit’s Image
The sales pitch always starts the same way: “My name is Bob. Good to meet you.” Robert McDonald was the CEO of a Fortune 50 company with $80 billion-plus in annual sales. He speaks four languages. He’s a sought-after expert on the corporate leadership circuit, with multiple lectures at Ivy League schools. Military Times >>

Bolster Mental Health Care For Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
Marine Corps veteran Clay Hunt was one of thousands. Hunt was 26 when he committed suicide, following tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, testified to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs last week about her son, who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, and his struggles to obtain adequate treatment. Hunt reported frustrations with the Department of Veterans Affairs bureaucracy and that, despite incapacitating depression and panic attacks, treatment amounted to little more than prescription drugs and little or no counselling. Selke said that her son tried to move forward in his life, working with other veterans and participating in volunteer humanitarian aid following earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Nonetheless, he took his own life in spring of 2011. Boston Globe >>

The Military’s Rough Justice On Sexual Assault
Col. Don Christensen, the chief prosecutor of the United States Air Force, sat in economy class on a flight to Venice and studied the folder of the sexual-assault case that would ultimately end his career. It was August 2012, and he was en route to Aviano Air Base to try a court-martial. Looking over the case, he could see why the judge advocate general, or JAG, at the base had requested him. Christensen had prosecuted more sexual-assault courts-martial than any other lawyer in the Air Force, and this case called for someone with experience. There would most likely be generals testifying. The accused himself was a senior officer. Even Christensen had seldom handled cases involving men of high rank. There was a simple reason for this: Victims were reluctant to report such officers, who enjoyed their own set of rules in the military justice system. New York Times Magazine >>

AFGHANISTAN
The White House on Saturday applauded the Afghan government’s approval of two agreements that will allow U.S. and NATO troops to stay beyond 2014. The Hill >>

The Department of Defense has identified 2,339 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. New York Times >>

Kabul’s police chief has resigned in the wake of several high-profile Taliban attacks targeting foreigners in the Afghan capital. Stars and Stripes >>

IRAQ
Falling oil prices have forced Iraq to scrap the draft 2015 budget it planned to present to parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi told lawmakers. Reuters >>

The holy Iraqi city of Najaf has a brand-new and appropriately holy shopping center: the Najaf City Mall. NPR >>

The Iraqi army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who don’t exist, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday, an indication of the level of corruption that permeates an institution that the United States has spent billions equipping and arming. Washington Post >>

MILITARY AFFAIRS
Nightmares of a friend dying beside him in a bunker years ago now waken Donald Vitkus. “There is stuff that you carry from the war,” the 71-year-old Vietnam veteran said. Wall Street Journal >>

Culinary Specialist Seaman Recruit Peter Wright, from Kitty Hawk, N.C., left, serves Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Carl Thompson and his family on November 27, 2014 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) during a Thanksgiving lunch hosted by the ship. Military Times >>

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A former lieutenant with the 82nd Airborne Division serving a 20-year prison sentence for the killings of two people in Afghanistan is asking for clemency from his commander. Associated Press >>

First Lt. Dawn Sanderson, a 25-year-old nuclear officer who works 24-hour shifts in the Air Force’s underground missile-launch command posts, admits that there is a funny smell down there. Military Times >>

The Pentagon wants women in combat roles by 2016. But before that goes forward, female soldiers have to prove their worth in training. Renee Montagne talks to Marine Sergeant Kelly Brown. NPR >>

NEW GREATEST GENERATION
Like their predecessors, these men are veterans, some having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over multiple years. They grew up in war, so it’s no shock they’ve decided to try to understand what it means. Homer said of war that “it would take a god to tell the tale,” though of course it only takes a writer with God-given gifts. Here are six. They know one another. They know the canon to which they are contributing. And they respect, but don’t mimic, their stylistic elders, from Wilfred Owen to Ernest Hemingway to Michael Herr. Though, as one of them, Elliot Ackerman, slyly puts it, “it might have been better to be part of the Lost Generation than the lost part of a generation.” Vanity Fair >>

A retired Marine sniper started a global volunteer group that would go onto assist victims of superstorm Sandy. Fox News >>

To put people at ease, Shilo Harris pulls his ears off. Abilene Reporter News >>

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, Shilo Harris shows his prosthetic ear to a student at Colorado High School in Colorado City, Texas. Harris, 40, is a former Army soldier who was injured when his Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device, how the military refers to homemade bombs, near Yusufiyah, Iraq, on February 19, 2007. The blast killed three men in the vehicle, all friends, and Harris received burns over much of his body. Abilene Reporter News >>

INSIDE WASHINGTON
On a trip to Afghanistan during President Barack Obama’s first term, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates was stunned to find a telephone line at the military’s special operations headquarters that linked directly back to a top White House national security official. Associated Press >>

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who is wrapping up his time as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, says he’ll work to pass legislation before year-end to address high suicide rates among veterans. Associated Press >>

Chuck Hagel arrived in the Pentagon as a soldier’s defense secretary, a former Army sergeant and Vietnam vet with the shrapnel still in his chest to prove it. And even if Hagel had problems articulating the White House’s elusive strategic goals on a world stage, he was most comfortable talking to the troops for whom he worked quietly to advocate. And now after his resignation Monday, veterans groups and military service organizations said they worry his departure could leave some of their issues in limbo. Defense One >>

President Obama celebrated his favorite holiday — Thanksgiving — with phone calls to U.S. troops, something he often does to mark the holiday. CNN >>

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