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IAVA Daily News Brief – October 19, 2015

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Two Air Force A-10 Warthogs, assigned to the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, release flares after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron, over Southwest Asia. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

In defense bill battle, military pay and benefits are casualties
Military advocates lost on almost every big benefits fight they waged in the legislative run-up to the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill. The legislation is still in limbo, awaiting a presidential veto that could end up scuttling nine months of Capitol Hill work on the annual military policy measure. | Military Times >>

Phoenix VA fiscal officer wins whistleblower reprisal case
When Tonja Laney’s superiors at the Department of Veterans Affairs suspended her, searched her office, and investigated her based on an anonymous accusation of sexual misconduct, they were engaging in whistleblower retaliation. That was the ruling this week by a U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board judge who found that Laney, as chief fiscal officer for the Phoenix VA medical center, became a target of harassment as she tried to expose financial wrongdoing and mismanagement. | The Arizona Republic >>

Has Afghanistan become ‘Forgotistan’?: Veteran Paul Rieckhoff on America’s Longest War
Iraq War veteran, Paul Rieckhoff says the president’s about face to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2016 may have fallen on deaf ears in a country that has moved on. | NBC Nightly News >>

Afghanistan

The Taliban on Friday brushed aside a U.S. decision to delay withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, saying it would do nothing to save an “unwinnable war” and promising to step up its campaign against the Western-backed government in Kabul. | Reuters >>

A German aid worker who was kidnapped in Afghanistan in August has been released and is in good health, her employer has said. The condition of the woman, who has not been named, was “good, considering the circumstances”, the GIZ development organisation said. | BBC News >>

Obama’s plan to leave 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term means he won’t fulfill a promise to remove all American forces from that war zone. While he added the disclaimer, “I do not support the idea of endless war,” he also said he’s not disappointed. | NPR >>

Iraq

Iraqi forces and the Shiite militias fighting alongside them announced Friday that they had retaken the oil refinery at Baiji from Islamic State militants, in some of the first significant progress against the extremist group after months of stalled efforts. | New York Times >>

For civilians leaving the Islamic State-ruled city of Mosul, the ending can be deadly. Residents say the northern Iraqi city has become a prison since the militants seized it in June 2014 and imposed brutal control. The Iraqi capital, Baghdad, once a drive of about six hours down the highway, may as well be a foreign country. One man’s story of escape sheds light on just how hard it has become to get out. | Washington Post >>

Iraqi forces pressed Saturday their biggest offensive in months to resume their long-stalled northward advance and disrupt jihadist lines, security officers said. After recapturing parts of Baiji and the huge nearby refinery complex from the Islamic State group, security and allied paramilitary forces thrust further northward up the main highway leading to Mosul. | AFP >>

Military Affairs

The first female Army Reserve officer — and third woman — received her coveted black and gold Ranger tab Friday. A total of 88 soldiers graduated from Ranger School during a ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga. | USA Today >>

Sometimes old school is best. In today’s U.S. Navy, navigating a warship by the stars instead of GPS is making a comeback. The Naval Academy stopped teaching celestial navigation in the late 1990s, deeming the hard-to-learn skill irrelevant in an era when satellites can relay a ship’s location with remarkable ease and precision. But satellites and GPS are vulnerable to cyber attack. The tools of yesteryear—sextants, nautical almanacs, volumes of tables—are not. | NextGov >>

The Marine Corps’ top weapons experts will converge on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Monday to discuss the most important challenges facing Marine marksmanship today. At the annual Combat Marksmanship Symposium, from Oct.19-22, representatives from major commands will break into working groups focused on weapons, ranges and facilities, combat marksmanship, competition in arms, and simulated and distance learning.  | Navy Times >>

#VetsRising

Once a Marine, always a Marine. Just ask Matias Ferreira, who, despite already losing both legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, risked his health and safety Wednesday to save a baby from a smoking car in Queens. | NY Daily News >>

At a weekly meeting in the country’s oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars post, a Marine began by asking members to close their eyes and inhale. “Bring your hands to your heart center,” he said. “Notice all the air that is moving around you.” | New York Times >>

Erik Booker is a seventh-grade teacher in Sumter, S.C. He also happens to be an Army veteran who served in Iraq — just like the father of one of his students last year, Jenna Power. So, when Jenna and Erik visited with StoryCorps, Jenna wanted to know more about his experiences — including the most difficult thing he experienced there. | NPR >>

Inside Washington

A Veterans Affairs Department decision to appoint as head of a Southwest regional health network an official who allegedly gave false testimony to Congress about appointment wait times has drawn the ire of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who says “veterans in my state deserve better than to have a director who misled Congress about patient wait times or understated the severity of the VA’s failures.” | Military.com >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ new top tech official can check off “job No. 1” from her lengthy to-do list. LaVerne Council, the assistant VA secretary for information and technology and the agency’s chief information officer, said the agency submitted an enterprise cybersecurity strategy to Congress on Sept. 28, ahead of schedule. | NextGov >>

Critical staffing shortages in the Phoenix VA Health Care System’s urology department contributed to the deaths of at least four patients and placed other veterans at risk for advanced cancer, a new government report has found. | Military Times >>

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