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IAVA Daily News Brief – October 29, 2015

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Sgt. Bobo, a military working dog, responds to his handler’s commands after exiting a CH-53E Super Stallion in support of Blue Chromite 16 in the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan. Bobo was tasked with tracking down the pilot and aircrew of a simulated downed aircraft. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Policy guide doubles as veterans playbook for campaigns
When staffers from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America meet with presidential campaigns later today, they won’t just be urging them to talk about veterans issues. They’ll also hand them a playbook on how to do it. | Military Times >>

Watchdog: VA lacks data to track mental health progress
Department of Veterans Affairs officials are using two different wait-time standards for veterans seeking mental health evaluations and could be underestimating how long it takes to schedule those appointments because they lack consistent data, according to a report from a government watchdog. | Stars and Stripes >>

Study: Uncertainty Top Issue for Troops, Families
Troops and their families continue to feel very uncertain about the future of the military as a career and their own military benefits, according to the results of an annual survey set for release today. | Military.com >>

Afghanistan

Freezing weather, blocked roads and a lack of shelter are endangering the lives of the survivors of the earthquake that rocked Afghanistan and Pakistan, aid agencies have warned. The powerful 7.5 magnitude quake on Monday has killed 370 people and destroyed thousands of homes. Two days after the disaster, rescue workers were still struggling to get to far-flung areas in the mountainous and poverty-stricken region. | The Guardian >>

U.S. photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg has seen more of Afghanistan, and recent Afghan history, than many Afghans themselves. Since 1988, he’s visited Afghanistan dozens of times, covering the country for Time and The New York Times. He returned most recently last month, for the launch of an exhibition of his photography at the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University. | NPR >>

Flying over this country’s capital city, Spec. Robert Godboldt squatted on the rear ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. He spends hours like this most days, flying coalition service members and employees over a metropolis that is both reaching for the future and mired in its 14th year of war. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told NBC News, “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations. We have enough soldiers on the ground.” The spokesperson added that Iraq wasn’t trying to get rid of the U.S. completely, as its efforts concerning “arming and training our forces” were still extremely useful. | New York Magazine >>

A financial squeeze is forcing Iraq to put major weapons deals on hold, but the country will hire 10,000 additional paramilitary forces seen as critical in the fight against Islamic State, its finance minister said on Wednesday. | Reuters >>

U.S. troops in Iraq are in combat. That’s what the Baghdad-based spokesman for the American-led, anti-Islamic State coalition told reporters Wednesday. | Stars and Stripes >>

Military Affairs

One of the most iconic pictures of the Second World War depicts a swarm of barrage balloons floating above the small armada gathered on Normandy Beach — an image re-created in Hollywood films such as “Saving Private Ryan.” But missing from most Hollywood films is the history of the men who braved enemy fire to set up those barrage balloons — mostly African Americans from the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. | Task & Purpose >>

The U.S. military has two giant unmanned surveillance blimps it uses to watch the East coast from a base in Maryland. And one of them escaped its tethering Wednesday and floated aimlessly over Pennsylvania. | Washington Post >>

Nearly 30 years after the first U.S. stealth bomber took flight, the Air Force’s aging fleet is primed for a makeover; albeit an expensive one. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III on Tuesday afternoon will announce the contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber, the Pentagon said. | CNN >>

#VetsRising

Veterans suffering from PTSD now have options other than traditional treatment and medication. It’s called wolf therapy. At Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, these veterans are getting back their nature. | Great Big Story >>

It was only a photo of the stands at a Texas A&M home football game. But the commandant of the Corps of Cadets took to social media to say that the story behind that photograph captured what the “Aggie Spirit” is all about. The cadet in the center of the photo is Kevin Ivey, 28, a college student who has already served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. | KHOU >>

The Bob Woodruff Foundation today announced grants of nearly $1.1 million to nonprofits running innovative programs that meet the needs of post-9/11 injured veterans and their families. With these funds, more than $4.2 million has been awarded by the foundation in 2015. | Bob Woodruff Foundation >>

Inside Washington

A veterans treatment court will open in Lawrence next week, the third in Massachusetts initiated to provide probation and treatment programs for ex-service members. The Essex County Veterans Treatment Court will seek to treat veterans in the criminal justice system affected by traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and mental health problems, according to presiding Judge Kevin J. Gaffney. | Boston Globe >>

The details of a surprise budget agreement began leaking out from Congress on Monday—a fitting beginning to the week before Halloween. Much like the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2013, the new proposal is a two-year deal full of treats for both the defense and non-defense parts of the budget. | Defense One >>

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have made progress creating interoperable electronic health records systems, but their divergent approaches to developing those systems means full compatibility will be a “concern for years to come,” a Government Accountability Office official told Congress on Tuesday. | Military Times >>

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