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IAVA October 1, 2015

Two members from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6, Platoon 621, climb a ladder from a SH-60F Sea Hawk Helicopter from the Dragonslayers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 11 aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. | Military TImes >>

Two members from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6, Platoon 621, climb a ladder from a SH-60F Sea Hawk Helicopter from the Dragonslayers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 11 aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. | Military TImes >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

VA urged to favor veterans on toxic exposure claims
The Veterans Affairs Department must learn to favor veterans when deciding whether to approve claims for illnesses related to environmental exposures and contaminants, senators said during a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill. | Military Times >>

Record-keeping at St. Louis VA mental health practice draws criticism from Inspector General
A new Inspector General’s report says an employee at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s mental health area wrongly listed the status of patient consults “completed” before patients had seen a psychiatrist, bolstering a whistleblower’s claims of lax practices at the facility. | St. Louis Post Dispatch >>

Congress agrees to deal on VA hospital in Aurora
A last-minute fight over funding for a VA hospital in Aurora was settled peacefully Wednesday and now Colorado lawmakers say Congress is ready to fully pay for the construction of the $1.675 billion facility. | The Denver Post >>

Afghanistan

Amid reports of extrajudicial executions, abductions and other abuses in Kunduz following this week’s attack by the Taliban, the United Nations today reminded all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan of their obligations to protect civilians and to respect human rights at all times. | UN News Centre >>

In a potential major shift in policy, U.S. military commanders want to keep at least a few thousand American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, citing a fragile security situation highlighted by the Taliban’s capture of the northern city of Kunduz this week as well as recent militant inroads in the south. | Associated Press >>

Afghan security forces started retaking parts of Kunduz from the Taliban, officials said, one day after the key city had largely fallen in a major victory for the insurgents. “A big military operation to clear all Kunduz city is about to start,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Tuesday. | CNN >>

Iraq

Sixteen Turkish workers kidnapped from a construction site in Baghdad and held for nearly a month were released on Wednesday, Turkey’s prime minister and Iraqi officials said. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said through his Twitter account that the workers were handed over to the Turkish ambassador in Iraq and that they were all in good health. He did not provide information on the circumstances of the release. | Associated Press >>

Kurdish forces said they drove Islamic State militants out of villages near the oil city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Wednesday, in an offensive backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition. The assault consolidated their control over Kirkuk and brought the peshmerga, the military forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, closer to the insurgents’ bastion of Hawijah, around 55 km (34 miles) west of Kirkuk. | Reuters >>
Aziza Hamad, then 14, was one of more than 30 desperate civilians who made a mad scramble to get onto an Iraqi military helicopter — with a CNN team on board — in August 2014. Their dramatic journey was captured on camera. Thousands of civilians from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority had fled to higher ground to escape the murderous advance of ISIS militants. | CNN >>

Military Affairs

The Army is looking for qualified female captains and sergeants first class to serve as observer/advisers at Ranger School. Interested soldiers have until Friday to submit their applications, according to an All-Army Activities message obtained by Army Times. | Army Times >>

As the Navy closes in on its 240th birthday, it has reached a milestone: Only one ship remaining in its fleet has ever sunk an enemy vessel—and it’s the USS Constitution, which earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” for withstanding British bombardment during the War of 1812. | Washington Post >>

Defense Secretary Ash Carter soon may have to mediate a military culture clash between an Army that is prepared to open combat infantry jobs to women and a Marine Corps that may seek an official policy exemption to keep those same jobs limited to men. | Military Times >>

#VetsRising

Surrounded by family, corporate reps and passers-by sipping on free Slurpees, Salil Gautam officially assumed the reins of a local 7-Eleven store Tuesday afternoon that he won in a contest earlier this year. Gautam, 36, was one of three winners of the Operation: Take Command contest, which allowed veterans or people soon leaving the military to enter for the chance to win a 7-Eleven franchise. | The Virginian-Pilot >>

US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mike Rios was on his fourth combat tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011 when he was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade. Today, he is on a different sort of mission, joining nearly 200 injured veterans and their supporters cycling down the east coast in the UnitedHealthcare Army/Navy Challenge, which passed through Mercer County. | NJ.com >>

A man who wants to become a woman, a soldier who turned anti-war activist and an Iraqi girl who lost her legs when an unexploded bomb fell on her house. These are some of the stories captured in the Veterans Book Project, a collection of 50 books written by veterans under the direction of Minneapolis-based artist Monica Haller. The exhibit has been traveling around various SUNY campuses and will be at SUNY Adirondack through Nov. 12. | The Post Star >>

Inside Washington

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to increase pharmacy co-pays that largely affect military retirees as part of a sweeping defense bill. The issue became a sticking point between negotiators in the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was one of the main items stalling passage of the legislation, known as the Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending goals for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. | Military.com >>

Legislation designed to encourage doctors to work for the Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics has been introduced in Congress. Wisconsin’s 3rd District Democrat Ron Kind says the bipartisan bill would address recruitment problems in Tomah, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, and other parts of the state to help get more care for veterans. | WSAU >>

The American Legion has renewed its call for Under Secretary of Veterans Benefits Allison Hickey to resign or be fired. The Legion, which first sought her removal along with other department officials in connection with a wait-times scandal in 2014, said Hickey now should go because of her connection to officials who used coercion to assume the directorships of regional offices in Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minnesota. | Military.com >>

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