Category Archives: Wounded Warriors

Memorial Day 2020 Remembering Two of Hastings, Minnesota’s Best

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Gordon Charles Schmidt, 69, of Hastings, MN, passed
away unexpectedly Saturday June 6th 2015 while gardening at the Minnesota Veterans Home of Hastings. 


I often met Gordy Schmidt at Lake Rebecca in Hastings on one of his many long walks.
I would fish and he would take in some sun along the trails and at the park. 

I learned of his tremendous craftsmanship with wood and also observed his love of gardening.  

Together with Doug, his gardening buddy at the Vets home, the two had beautiful showcases every year. Gordy specialized in flowers and Doug was the vegetable expert.  I worked with them to get soil samples sent to the U of M and watched their artistry through my window in Building 25 just above the Vermillion River.

Another fond memory is Gordy’s keen eye for dangerous tree limbs along the trails and holes in the ground in the parks that could break an ankle.  Together we would take photos of the dangerous areas and send an email to my contacts at the city parks department and they would come out to cut the limbs and fill the holes.  With 25 miles of trails to maintain, they appreciated Gordy’s keen eye.

We miss Gordy and his artistry in several venues. 
William (Bob) Niederkorn died peacefully in his home at 96 years of age on 12 August 2013.
I first met Bob on the shore of Lake Rebecca near Hastings, Minnesota in 2006.   He was perched on a small stool catching sunfish, that I later learned he carefully cleaned on a glass-topped coffee table in his garage, then cooked for his lady friend Myra, who is pictured above with Bob.  Myra passed away a couple years ago. 
I fished with Bob for the next 5 years, until his health became too frail to make it to the lake he had frequented for well over 70 years. 
I learned Bob was a decorated combat veteran of WW II and the Korean War, who had been shot down twice over Europe flying B-17’s. Bob and I often discussed our combat experiences, he in his era and I in mine.  He was a big help in my recovery from PTSD.
After his service abroad,  Bob returned to Hastings where he was a fixture at the Hastings Country Club, managing the facility for many years while also establishing a musical instrument retail store and a couple restaurants in the area.
I brought some Veteran friends who were golf enthusiasts by Bob’s garage at his invitation, where he would wander down a line of equipment he had accumulated over the years, filling up a bag with clubs, balls and other tools for the links, then handing it to each vet as a gift, or for a pittance if the man felt he had to pay. 
Bob was a self-effacing man who liked a laugh and a good story;  he had many to tell, with his roles in business and social settings as well as foreign travel and wars.   I met several local, prominent people through Bob, which contributed to my feel for the community.  I admired his easy, friendly demeanor with everyone. 
Bob often asked me to accompany he and Myra to the local casino for dinner.  I noted he had the same look on his face when he was playing the slots as he did when he was fishing – always waiting for that big one. I met Bob’s two adopted daughters, and many of his extended family in the area and in Canada.

Bob Niederkorn was a genuine, generous individual who served his country, his community and his friends from his heart.
We miss him at Lake Rebecca,








New Frontier In “Challenge Procurement” At Veterans Administration

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Image: Shutterstock

FCW By Steve Kelman

The basic idea behind a procurement challenge is that the government announces a problem it seeks to have solved. Anyone may then submit their solution, and the government chooses a winner or winners. 

You don’t need to be an expert on government procurement to submit an entry. There is no proposal — it is a great example of the idea of “show, don’t tell” that should be more important in government procurement in general.

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“Many blog readers will be aware that I have over the years been a big fan of challenges (also known as prizes) as a procurement technique. 

When it announces a challenge, the government also specifies a monetary prize (hence the moniker “contest”) and further steps the government might take to support the winner or winners.

I first wrote enthusiastically about these way back in 2009, based on a DARPA contest for developing an all-terrain vehicle. Most recently I wrote about the Army using a challenge to develop a better and cheaper ventilator in the context of COVID-19. I have written, and continue to believe, that the use of challenges in procurement is the most significant procurement innovation of the last decade.

Challenges have varied from very elementary and not very consequential (e.g. a contest to develop an agency logo) to much more mission-critical. For example, a few years ago the IRS conducted a challenge to design an online experience that more clearly and easily organizes and presents a person’s tax information, including ways to more easily use tax data to help people with other financial decisions, such as applying for a loan.

However, even more difficult and complex challenges have up to now been one-off efforts: the government publishes the challenge, bidders respond, and the government chooses winners. Now, though, the Department of Veterans Affairs has published an RFI for a challenge that will take this procurement tool where it has never been before. VA officials are seeking to develop approaches to reduce suicide among veterans

The agency is envisioning creation of a user-friendly platform where veterans (and possibly others in at-risk groups) can gain enhanced access to a range of suicide-prevention services, such as scheduling, assessments and mental health resources, while preserving their identities and privacy. The VA also hopes to personalize and customize services to directly meet veterans’ needs and recognize certain risks in users’ personal lives, information about care paths and more.

The VA’s vision is that the platform would involve automated learning to update information provided the user. Data analytics and AI would learn from the “user journey” through the VA ecosystem, adapting and responding to the individual user’s needs, fears and concerns. Over time, the information presented to that user would be increasingly curated for their specific needs. 

Not only is the topic of the challenge difficult and high-visibility — about as far from designing an agency logo as you can get — but the way the challenge will be organized will be far more ambitious than any the government has attempted in the past. The VA will be doing a procurement not for the challenge itself but to manage challenges that then would be put out for submissions.

As the VA puts it in their RFI, “the chosen partner would need to provide management support services necessary to help build the program from the ground up—and seamlessly execute the competition from beginning to end. The dedicated collaborator would support the delivery of everything from the timeline, scope and design of the complex challenge, to technical support, Though VA would provide some of those funds, said. in raising money for the prizes winners will receive. “the hope is the vendor would be able to facilitate outreach and increase fundraising for the prize purse, so that it’s not just taxpayer-funded money that goes to support this effort, but actually potentially private funds from companies and others who are interested in solving this problem,” the VA states.

This will be a complex and large enough activity that the VA doesn’t have the bandwidth to do it with in-house resources. So, to allow development of challenges at scale, it is actually seeking to let a contractor organize that effort.

This is a first, and an amazing innovation by the VA. The idea has been shepherded by the VA’s Chief Innovation Officer Michael Akinyele. It was in the works before COVID-19, but the explosion of unemployment will make the suicide problem worse and hence has prompted the VA to move the effort faster.

If this works, it will add an important new tool to the government’s contracting toolkit, available to others across government. VA, congratulations on a great idea, and good luck making it work.”

https://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2020/05/kelman-va-challenge-at-scale.aspx

Citizen-Soldiers Vs. Soldier-Citizens

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Image Courtesy “Spike.com”

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

The divide between America’s soldier-citizens and the society they serve has a significant impact on policy decisions and military budgets.

Exploring the differences between the citizen-soldier and the soldier-citizen in “Killing for the Republic” with  Dr. Steele Brand.”

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“The veneration of service members in the United States today manifests benignly in the refrain, “Thank you for your service,” and the much appreciated discounts at the local home improvement center, but this reverence can also have less benign effects. The number of retired flag officers serving in high government positions, sitting on the boards of defense contractors, and appearing as talking heads on television shapes policy, which in turn drives Pentagon budgets.

Dr. Steele Brand, a professor of history at The King’s College in New York City, explored the differences between the citizen-soldier and the soldier-citizen in his recent book, “Killing for the Republic.Republican Rome produced highly adaptive armies with farmers who would moonlight as effective soldiers during the campaigning season and then return to their families and plows—a practice that helped to remove the barriers between the military and the society it served, according to Brand. He says Rome’s part-time soldiers faced an uphill battle against enemy professionals, but that their ability to adapt meant they usually prevailed in the end. In this interview, Dr. Brand explains the differences between the Roman and American models of training soldiers and how those differences contribute to the civilian-military divide.”

https://www.pogo.org/podcast/citizen-soldiers-versus-soldier-citizens-with-dr-steele-brand/

Vietnam And Modern Memory

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A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street April 29, 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

MILITARY TIMES By Edward F. Palm

Vietnam today is what we had tried to make it: a free-market consumer society. The tragedy of it is that over 58,000 Americans and some 2 million Vietnamese had to die just so that Vietnam could get there on its own timetable rather than ours.

The great majority of us served honorably and proved ourselves to be better than the muddle-headed politicians who had sent us. That’s something to be proud of.

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“Back in the mid-80s, an Army officer of my acquaintance succinctly summed up the mood of the post-Vietnam military: “It’s OK to be a Vietnam veteran in today’s military,” he observed, “so long as you don’t dwell on it or refer back to it.”

He was right. He had intuited the largely unspoken, but widely understood, politically correct attitude toward our humiliating defeat. Vietnam had been an aberration, the kind of war we would never fight again. And the less said about it, the better.

Ironically, this same spirit of denial and revision has spread to American society in general in recent years. It’s OK to be a Vietnam veteran in today’s America, so long as you remember that war the way President Reagan portrayed it, as a “noble crusade,” and so long as you profess utter admiration for our armed forces and unwavering support for our current crusades.

Thursday, April 30, marked the 45th anniversary of the fall of Saigon — and the end of our Vietnam misadventure. The Vietnam War I remember, and later studied, was anything but a “noble crusade.” It was a profoundly existential experience. Survival was the only moral touchstone, and getting through to our rotation tour dates the only goal we cared about. All the Marines I knew “in country” were profoundly skeptical of the official rationales for why we were there and increasingly embittered by the reluctance of the South Vietnamese to fight their own war.

My fellow Vietnam veterans seem to have forgotten how traumatized we were about all this. We have been co-opted, bought off with belated handshakes and glib expressions of gratitude. We have forgotten what really occasioned all the bitterness and fueled the post-traumatic stress of our generation.

It wasn’t that the country failed to welcome us home or to honor our service with parades. It was the discovery that our leaders had lied to us about the nature and the necessity of the war and that the conduct of the war put the lie to the ideals and values in which we had all been raised to believe.

Would that we all knew then what we know now. Ho Chi Minh was first and foremost a nationalist. Early on, he had appealed to us to help dissuade France from reclaiming its former colony at the end of World War II. But we needed France’s help in blocking communist expansion in Europe, and the ensuing Cold War clouded our judgment. We feared falling dominoes. By 1950, we were mired in Korea and bankrolling France’s Indochina War. With the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, we took over. We sent in intelligence operatives to subvert the Geneva Accords, especially the plebiscite that would have reunited North and South Vietnam under whichever government the majority chose. Having defeated the French, Ho Chi Minh was the hands-down favorite to win. The South Vietnamese president we had installed, Ngo Dinh Diem, was almost as alien to his own people as we were. Ho Chi Minh had cornered the market on Vietnamese nationalism, and out in the countryside, most of the people seemed to want no part of what we were selling.

What’s worse, once we had taken over in our own right, we began to take that indifference personally. Contrary to popular belief, we weren’t forced to fight with one hand tied behind our back. We unleashed a greater tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II. We declared free-fire zones. We defoliated large areas with Agent Orange. We made liberal use of close-air support and indirect fire weapons with little regard for the so-called “collateral damage” such weapons inevitably inflict.

Racists that we were, we dehumanized the Vietnamese as “gooks” and “slopes.” Unable to distinguish friend from foe, we viewed them all as potential threats. Hence, the worst atrocity of the war — the My Lai Massacre. Hell hath no fury like a country scorned, especially one that considers itself to be exceptional and eminently deserving of admiration and emulation.

This is not to say that, because we were wrong, the other side was wholly righteous. They resorted to terror. They mistreated our POWs. They were hardly magnanimous in victory. But the irony is that we seem to have won after all.

So how then should those of us who served in Vietnam feel about participating in such an unnecessary and misguided war? While so many of our contemporaries sat in self-indulgent safety and comfort, we put ourselves on the line. Some of us went in believing. Others suspended judgment or even went against our better judgment. But the great majority of us served honorably and proved ourselves to be better than the muddle-headed politicians who had sent us. That’s something to be proud of.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2020/04/30/vietnam-and-modern-memory/

Edward Palm

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A native of New Castle, Delaware, Edward Palm served as an enlisted Marine with the Combined Action Program in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Returning to the Marine Corps in later life, Palm served as the Marine Officer Instructor with the NROTC unit at University of California, Berkeley and taught English at the Naval Academy before retiring as a major in 1993. His civilian academic career included appointments as a tenured professor and college dean. He now lives in Forest, Virginia. Contact Ed Palm at majorpalm@gmail.com

Minnesota COVID-19 Financial Assistance For Veterans

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“April 8, 2020

On March 26, 2020, the Minnesota State Legislature voted to fund a special appropriation to assist Veterans who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programs have been activated to mitigate the economic effects COVID-19 is having on our Veterans and their families.

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“The purpose of the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Grant is to mitigate the negative effects and economic impact COVID-19 has had on Veterans and their families by providing a one-time financial relief grant in the amount of $1,000.

Applications for the disaster relief grant must be dated no earlier than March 13, 2020.  A closing date for the disaster relief grant has yet to be determined and will depend on the length of the peacetime emergency declared by the Governor of the State of Minnesota and the availability of funding.

To qualify for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse (who has not remarried) of a deceased veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447, and
  2. A Minnesota Resident, and
  3. Have been negatively financial impacted by COVID-19.
    * Note: Two Veterans married to each other are both authorized to apply for and receive the disaster relief grant.

Application Resources:

Visit our Disaster Relief Grant page for more details and application information.

COVID-19 Special Needs Grant

The purpose of the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant is to provide one-time financial assistance to a Veteran or surviving spouse who needs assistance due to a COVID-19-related event. Any funding awarded from this grant would go directly to a vendor or creditor of the applicant, and no money awarded goes directly to an applicant or an applicant’s family member.

Applications for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant must be dated no earlier than March 13, 2020. A closing date for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant is subject to the length of the peacetime emergency declared by the Governor of the State of Minnesota, and the funding available.

To qualify for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse (who has not remarried) of a deceased veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447
  2. A Minnesota Resident, and  
  3. Have been negatively financial impacted by COVID-19.
    *Note: two Veterans married to each other are only authorized one COVID-19 Special Needs Grant.
Covered by COVID-19 Special Needs Grant: utility bills, auto insurance, rent/mortgage/contract for deed, security deposit, medical bills, auto loan payment, auto repairs, furnace/AC unit, home repairs (related to habitability).

Application Resources:

Visit our Special Needs Grant page for more details and application information.


Other Programs

The State Soldiers Assistance Program (SSAP) typically provides seven different programs year-round that are not tied to our COVID-19 response. Although they are not specifically intended to assist with our COVID-19 response, SSAP programs may be helpful to any Veteran or dependent who may have been affected by COVID-19.

Special Needs Grant

The purpose of the Special Needs Grant is to provide one-time financial assistance to a Veteran or surviving spouse to assist in their financial crisis and to promote stability and prevent homelessness.

Special Needs Grants are open year round. To qualify for a Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447.
  2. A Minnesota Resident.
    * Note: Two Veterans married to each other are entitled to their own separate Special Needs Grants

Application Resources:

Learn more at our Special Needs Grant page.

Subsistence Assistance (Short Term Disability)

Subsistence Assistance provides financial assistance for up to six months to a Veteran or surviving spouse when they are disabled and prevented from working at their usual/normal occupation for at least 30 days, or without a disabling medical condition within one year of the Veterans death.

Subsistence Assistance is available year round, and provides help with:

  1. Shelter associated payments (rent / mortgage / room & board / property taxes / association dues / homeowners’ insurance).
  2. Utility Assistance (i.e. electric, gas, propane, water, sanitation/sewer, etc.).
  3. Healthcare Premiums
  4. Personal Needs Funds (Cash grant).

Application Resources:

Learn more at our Subsistence Assistance page.

Important Message

We understand that many County Veterans Service Offices are currently closed or operating at a reduced capacity and that situations around the state are changing daily. If you are in need of assistance with applying for any of our programs and you cannot receive assistance from your County Veterans Service Officer our Field Operations Team has staff standing by and ready to assist you. They can be reached at FO.MDVA@state.mn.us.Permalink: http://mn.gov/mdva/blog/index.jsp?id=1066-425565

Labor Department Waives COVID-19 Contractor Affirmative Action Requirements

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FCW

The waiver applies to clauses in federal construction and service/supply contracts for COVID-19 relief which require contractors to hire and advance minorities, women and veterans.

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“The Labor Department’s compliance office has waived some contractor affirmative action requirements for three months as the COVID-19 pandemic presses companies and federal agencies to quickly meet demands.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) on March 17 temporarily waived some contractors’ affirmative action requirements under the three statutes it oversees.

The waiver will last until June 17, but it doesn’t put aside requirements for those contractors to enforce other federal, state and local civil rights laws, nor does it stop processing of discrimination complaints.

“Following President Trump’s direction, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is committed to swiftly responding to COVID-19,” said OFCCP Director Craig Leen, in the statement. “Today’s memorandum helps federal agencies and federal contractors engaged in relief efforts to protect the safety, security and health of the American people.”

“The waiver is not uncommon” in times of big crisis situations, Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity, a Washington D.C.-based equal opportunity advocacy and training group, told FCW on March 23.

Similar contracting actions have been taken in the wake of other major disasters such as catastrophic hurricanes to help speed response, but they’re hardly welcomed with open arms, according to Wilcher. “Equal opportunity shouldn’t take a holiday.”

In 2005, the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Office issued a similar three-month waiver for contractor affirmative action rules to aid in Hurricane Katrina recovery.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/03/23/labor-dept-contract-requirements.aspx?oly_enc_id=

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Veterans Administration COVID-19 Control Program And Regular Stats On Hospital Virus Occurrences

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

“Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

See here for the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus information.

What is VA doing?

VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk. We are working directly with the CDC and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the virus.

On March 27, VA shared its COVID-19 response plan. This best-practice guide is a valuable tool, which may be useful nationwide for the medical community.

VA has administered over 13,216 COVID-19 tests nationwide, while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

These measures include outreach to Veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.

What should Veterans do?

Any Veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should immediately contact their local VA facility. VA urges Veterans to call before visiting – you can find contact information for your closest VA facility.

Alternatively, Veterans can sign into My HealtheVet to send a secure message to VA or use telehealth options to explain their condition and receive a prompt diagnosis.

Upon arriving at VA, all patients will be screened for flu-like symptoms before they enter in order to protect other patients and staff. A VA health care professional will assist you with next steps once this screening process is complete.

At this time, VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to please postpone their visits to VA facilities.

How to protect yourself

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the COVID-19 infection and no medication to treat it. CDC believes symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Avoid exposure and avoid exposing others to an infection with these simple steps.

  • Learn to use VA Video Connect through the VA mobile app store or by contacting your VA care team, before any urgent problems arise.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to mark the time is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice while scrubbing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick or becoming sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (not your hands) and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Getting a flu shot is recommended.

VA COVID-19 Cases

Nationally, as of March 30, 2020, VA is tracking the following Veteran patients with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. This is a rapidly evolving situation and VA will provide updated information as it becomes available and verified.”

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/

Returning Troops Denied Water, Bathrooms Under Quarantine

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(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Zach VanDyke via AP)

MILITARY TIMES

 “It wasn’t the welcome home that U.S. soldiers expected when they returned from war zones in the Middle East in the past week.

When their planes landed at Fort Bliss, Texas, they were herded into buses, denied water and the use of bathrooms, then quarantined in packed barracks, with little food or access to the outdoors.

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“This is no way to treat Soldiers returning from war,” one soldier told The Associated Press in an email.

The soldiers posted notes on social media about the poor conditions. Their complaints got quick attention from senior Army and Pentagon leaders. Now changes are under way at Fort Bliss and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where the first soldiers placed under quarantine also complained of poor, cramped conditions.

Quarantining troops on military bases is becoming a greater challenge for military officials. While continuing missions and training, they also have to try to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus by enforcing two-week quarantines of soldiers who have spent months overseas.

In one of Bragg’s remote training areas, large white tents have popped up over the past few days to house hundreds of 82nd Airborne Division troops returning to the base from Afghanistan and Middle East deployments. The tent city, being called Forward Operating Base Patriot (FOB Patriot), materialized almost overnight, after commanders realized the limits of the barracks when troops began arriving on Saturday.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said senior leaders were looking into soldiers’ complaints and seeking answers from Fort Bliss. Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters that Defense Secretary Mark Esper had heard about the problems and “his response is, we can do better and we need to do better.”

Hoffman said the commander at Fort Bliss has met with all of the quarantined soldiers and “talked through some of their concerns. The spokesman added, “We are going to do better. This is something unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they are doing the best they can.”

In the early days of the quarantine, soldiers at Fort Bliss posted photos on social media showing foam food trays dotted with small piles of peas and rice. On Thursday, in an email statement, Fort Bliss described changes that have been made.

“The dining facility we initially used could not keep pace with demand,” said the statement. “The portions were inadequate, and led to our number one complaint. Fort Bliss leaders saw photos and immediately took action.”

One soldier, in an email to the AP, said when soldiers got off the plane from Afghanistan, they were loaded onto buses and did not get water or permission to use the bathroom for hours.

“We can’t walk down the hall, go outside, or exercise. We finally received drinking water at 0900 this morning,” said the soldier, describing Day Two. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly. ”

The AP is not identifying soldiers who described the conditions, in order to protect their identity so they could speak freely and not worry about potential reprisals.

Fort Bliss said that the food service plan has already increased to give troops three hot meals a day and that soldiers are now getting donated snacks and are allowed to order food and have it delivered to a central location. The troops are also allowed to go outside more and will get more access to gym equipment.

Another soldier at Bliss, who had been deployed to Kuwait, said in a message that the food has gotten better and troops are now allowed to go outside more. But as they begin Day Six there, packages have been held up and there has been no access to laundry facilities.

At Fort Bragg, some of the first soldiers to return on Saturday were sent to rooms in barracks that had been quickly emptied. Soldiers previously living in those rooms were moved to make room.

According to officials, soldiers are being separated into groups that returned from overseas together for the two-week quarantine. But realizing the need for more space, the 82nd Airborne decided on Saturday to build a new facility, and on Monday morning the first tent stakes were being pounded into the ground.

Because the area has been used for training in the past, workers were able to quickly bring in and hook up shower and toilet trailers and set up food tents and other facilities. By Thursday, several hundred troops had already moved in.

The 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Brigade has been deployed to Afghanistan, and is steadily returning home. Members of the 1st Brigade had gone to Kuwait and Iraq to help bolster security due to threats from Iranian-backed militias. Some members of that group have also come home.

According to Army Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, FOB Patriot will be able to hold as many as 600 soldiers, but numbers have been changing as adjustments are made. He said Maj. Gen. James Mingus wanted to ensure that the returning troops knew “we were proud of what they accomplished and were doing everything we can to take care of them and stop the spread of the virus.”

Of the 1,700 82nd Airborne troops that have returned so far to Bragg, a bit less than half are housed in barracks and at FOB Patriot, and the rest are in quarantine in their homes. As of Friday about 200 were at FOB Patriot.

Anyone who exhibits symptoms of the virus will go into isolation and medical treatment.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three weeks to six weeks to recover.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/03/20/military-works-to-improve-conditions-for-quarantined-troops/

Veterans And Caregivers Can Now Shop Military Commissaries On-Line

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MILITARY .COM

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said.

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“However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

Related: Your Questions Answered: New Commissary Access for Vets and Caregivers

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/02/28/online-commissary-privileges-finally-available-newly-eligible-shoppers.html