1. National Guard responds to Hurricane Sandy
More than 7,400 members of the National Guard had been mobilized in 11 states to respond to Hurricane Sandy.
National Guard assistance to local first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency included support at evacuation shelters, route clearance, search and rescue and delivery of essential equipment and supplies.
The focus of National Guard's missions has shifted to recovery in the aftermath of the storm. The governors of 12 states and the mayor of the District of Columbia had declared a state of emergency because of the storm. Guard members were assembling and staging in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia, according to the National Guard Coordination Center, which monitors the response spearheaded by the states.
In Connecticut, Guard members were responding to evacuation security support and high-wheeled search and rescue missions. High-wheeled vehicles were supporting civilian authorities in Maryland. In Massachusetts, a National Guard Civil Support Team was on stand-by for a possible hazardous materials response. In New Jersey, Guard members were assisting state police. In New York and Pennsylvania, they were assisting state emergency managers. In Virginia, citizen-soldiers and –airmen were assisting with debris removal.
National Guard officials were ready for the possibility of state requests for mutual aid. Emergency Management Assistance Compacts -- ratified by Congress and law in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- allow states to provide mutual aid if needed.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta agreed with the governors of Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to appoint dual status commanders as Hurricane Sandy approached, according to Defense Department reports.
Dual status commanders can command both federal and state National Guard forces. This special authority enables them to effectively integrate defense support operations and capabilities requested by governors. Panetta is prepared to agree to similar requests from other states, the Defense Department reported.
A state of emergency typically mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and suspends regulations that would impede rapid response. It also empowers emergency managers to use all available resources and personnel as deemed necessary.
2. FEMA has $3.6B for Sandy relief
While Congress is facing several unresolved issues in a potentially busy post-election lame-duck session, finding additional disaster relief money for Hurricane Sandy likely won't be on the list, as FEMA and lawmakers say available funds should be sufficient.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate told reporters Tuesday he has $3.6 billion in disaster-relief funding immediately at his disposal that will "provide all of the funds we need for the response, as well as continuing recovery for all of our previous open disasters."
The agency's disaster-relief coffers are in good better shape, as Congress in September added to the fund at an annual rate of $7.1 billion for fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1. Since lawmakers only passed a six-month "continuing resolution" instead of a full one-year budget, FEMA technically was allocated half that amount, though the agency has relatively easy access to the rest.
An additional $1 billion in unused disaster-relief money also rolled over into this year's account owing to fewer major natural disasters during the 12-month fiscal year that ended after September, he said. "The [disaster-relief fund] has sufficient cash in the short term," a senior aide with the Senate Appropriations Committee said.
As millions of Americans still are coping with Sandy's aftermath, no reliable damage estimates are available. But should it become apparent in the coming weeks that FEMA will deplete its disaster-relief money, Congress will have the opportunity to allocate more during its lame-duck session scheduled to begin a week after Tuesday's elections.
-- Business losses: Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties in New York and New Jersey can begin applying for assistance by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
-- Emergency declarations: President Barack Obama has signed declarations for New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The President's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to provide assistance for required emergency measures, directly to state, tribal and local governments, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety.
-- FEMA's inventory: FEMA distribution centers have an overall inventory of more than 5 million liters of water, 3 million meals, 900,000 blankets and 100,000 cots. FEMA and the Department of Defense established Incident Support Bases in Westover, Mass. and Lakehurst, New Jersey to pre-position supplies including water, meals, blankets and other resources closer to potentially impacted areas, should they be needed and requested by states. As of this morning, FEMA has moved roughly 245,000 liters of water, more than 174,000 meals and thousands of blankets and cots to Westover Air Reserve Base; and more than 400,000 liters of water and more than 390,000 meals and thousands of cots to Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and more commodities are en route, as weather conditions permit.
-- Shelter services: States, localities and the American Red Cross continue to operate emergency shelters along the East Coast. To find a shelter, individuals can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check local media outlets. They should also register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website, a secure and easy-to-use online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. To register, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.
-- National Guard services: More than 7,400 forces are on duty supporting the governors of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland. These forces are providing assistance to local first responders and FEMA with critical tasks such and assistance at evacuation shelters, route clearance, search and rescue and delivery of essential equipment and supplies.
-- Power restoration: The Department of Energy (DOE) is working closely with FEMA, and in support of state and local officials who are responsible for working with utilities as they prepare for storms, deployed emergency response personnel to FEMA Regional Response Coordination Centers (RRCC) in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and additional personnel are on standby to assist. DOE is working with states and local partners as the electric industry engages in power restoration efforts. Daily Situation Reports that detail the storm's impacts and the restoration activities being taken by the energy sector are available at www.doe.gov.
-- Nuclear power plants: In preparation for the storm, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) placed inspectors in all nuclear power plants that could potentially experience impacts from the storm. Inspectors independently verify that plant operators are making the proper preparations and taking actions to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm. Out of an abundance of caution, three reactors were shutdown during the storm while another plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, is being closely monitored due to high water levels in its water intake structure. The NRC will continue to coordinate with other federal and state agencies prior to the restart of the affected plants.
-- Mail service: USPS will continue to post Mail Service updates for residential customers on their front home page on usps.com, located in the bottom right corner. Access this information directly at http://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome.htm Also, USPS will continue to post updated information for business mailers on the following web site. Access this information at https://ribbs.usps.gov/.
-- Smartphone apps: States, localities and the Red Cross have emergency shelters open in many affected communities. The FEMA smartphone app provides safety tips and displays open shelter information at www.fema.gov/smartphone-app. To find a shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
-- Online links to follow: More information about what to do before, during and after a disaster can also be found visiting www.ready.gov and www.listo.gov. The FEMA mobile site (http://m.fema.gov), smartphone app (www.fema.gov/smartphone-app), and text messages (www.fema.gov/text-messages) also provide regular updates. Sharing information using social media tools is also a good way for residents to stay informed. Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema.
3. Marine Corps drops second female from infantry course
The Marine Corps' effort to evaluate whether more combat jobs should open to women marked another milestone last week when the second of two female volunteers washed out of infantry officer training.
A second lieutenant, she was dropped from the program Friday after failing to complete required training due to unspecified medical reasons, a Marine official told Marine Corps Times. It's unclear whether she was injured or if she became ill.
The other volunteer, also a second lieutenant, dropped out Sept. 28 after she was unable to complete the program's introductory combat endurance test. Nearly 30 men also washed out on the first day.
Known as the Infantry Officers Course, the demanding 13-week program is based at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The current class, which began with 109 students, is the first to have included women. On average, about 25 percent of the men who enroll in IOC fail to complete it and voluntarily withdraw.
The Corps sought female volunteers for the course as part of a broader research effort to assess how female Marines might perform in assignments whose primary mission is direct ground combat — jobs they are prohibited from filling now. Just the two women stepped forward. Marine officials have declined to identify them, citing a desire to protect their privacy.
Upon completing IOC's combat endurance test in September, the woman dropped from the program Friday issued the following statement via Marine Corps public affairs personnel: "I want to try to open up a door, maybe, for women after me. I don't know how far it will open, but I'm hoping to make a difference for women down the road."
At Quantico, those overseeing the IOC experiment have said that it will involve up to 100 female officers and take at least a year to complete. The Marine official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reaffirmed the Corps' intent to recruit female volunteers for subsequent iterations of the course.
1. U.S. yanks support for Syrian opposition group, warns of extremist takeover of uprising
The Obama administration on Wednesday renounced the proclaimed leaders of the Syrian political opposition and said any group seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad must reject attempts by extremists to "hijack" a legitimate revolution.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Syrian National Council, or SNC, should no longer be considered the "visible leader" of the opposition. That made official what has been the increasingly obvious sidelining of an opposition group led mostly by middle-age Syrian expatriates.
The United States has no direct power to anoint the would-be new leaders of Syria, but U.S. backing will be essential for any hopefuls seeking outside financial, diplomatic or possible military assistance. The United States is supporting new opposition leaders who will attend a strategy session in Qatar next week, Clinton said.
Clinton and other U.S. officials are reportedly fed up with infighting among the SNC leaders seeking recognition as a shadow government and have become convinced that the group does not represent the interests of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria. It also has little legitimacy among on-the-ground activists and fighters, and has done little to stem the infiltration of Islamist extremists into the opposition forces. Clinton had some of her strongest words to date about the risk that the uprising against Assad could be overtaken by militants who do not seek a democratic replacement.
The United States and other Western and Arab nations have called on Assad to step down. Russia, China and Iran continue to back him. Anti-regime activists say that in recent weeks, about 150 people a day have been killed in fighting.
2. Israeli prime minister says strike on Iran would calm Arab world
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that a strike on Iran would be a positive step for the rest of the Arab world.
"Five minutes after [an attack], contrary to what the skeptics say, I think a feeling of relief will spread across the region," Netanyahu said in an interview with French magazine Paris Match, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
"Iran isn't popular in the Arab world, far from it," Netanyahu said. "Some governments in the region, as well as their citizens, have understood that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous for them, not just for Israel."
The United States, Israel and their Western allies suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
President Obama has said he wants a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute, but that he is not taking any options off the table to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
During the joint session of The American Legion's National Security and Foreign Relations commissions in October, Roey Gilad, Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, addressed the U.S./Israeli strategic relationship and challenges, including Iran's nuclear ambitions.
3. Afghans to hold presidential election 2014
Political leaders in Afghanistan welcomed Wednesday's announcement that a presidential election will be held in April 2014 but expressed concerns the President Hamid Karzai may try to muscle in a successor.
"There is one problem, the campaign period is two months before the elections and it will be winter, so there will not be access to many parts of the country during that period," said Fazel Sangcharaki, a spokesman for the opposition National Front.
The last presidential election in 2009 gave rise to complaints of voter intimidation and fraud on Karzai's behalf at the expense of National Front candidate Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai insisted the elections were fair. Ahmed Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute, expressed doubts about a legitimate election taking place even if it is more than a year off.
"I think the conditions right now for holding clear, transparent and fair elections are not in place," he said.
American and Afghan forces have brought security to many populated regions but several rural provinces continue to be havens for the Taliban and other militants. Conflict prevented a turnout in many parts of Afghanistan during the last elections.
By the spring 2014, thousands of U.S. forces present today will be gone from the battlefield under a withdrawal ordered by President Obama. He has ordered all combat forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
4. POW/MIA Update
On August 29, 2012 the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Casimir F. Walczak, 18, of Harvey, Ill., was buried Sept. 2, in Nordman, Idaho. On Aug. 17, 1950, Walczak and the other soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, came under attack as they took a hill, near the town of Waegwan, South Korea. After the battle, Walczak was reported missing in action.
In 1951, U.S. Army Graves Registration Service (AGRD) personnel recovered remains and a cigarette lighter bearing the initials "E.H.P.," found near Waegwan. The AGRD transferred the remains to a nearby U.N. Military Cemetery in Tanggok, South Korea, where mortuary personnel were unable to identify the remains and they were buried as "unknown" at the cemetery.
Due to advances in technology, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the records in 2011 and concluded that if the remains were exhumed they could be identified. Once the remains were exhumed, scientists from the JPAC determined the identity of Walczak using circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including radiograph and dental comparisons.
Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously buried as unknown. Today, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
On October 30, 2012 the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, were identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. James C. Mullins, 20, of Dunham, Ky., will be buried on Nov. 2, near Fort Bragg, N.C. On July 22, 1950, Mullins and his unit, H Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, battled enemy forces near Yugong-ni, South Korea. After the battle, Mullins was listed as missing in action.
In 1951, remains of nine unidentified U.S. service members, from the battlefield near Yugong-ni, were buried as "unknown" in Pusan Cemetery. Later that year, the U.S. consolidated cemeteries on the Korean peninsula. The unknown remains were re-interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii—the "Punchbowl."
In 2012, due to advances in identification technology, analysts from DPMO and JPAC reevaluated the information associated with the remains interred in Hawaii and concluded that if exhumed they could likely be identified. Based on available evidence such as metal identification tags, military clothing, and wartime records, analysts confirmed that the remains were a soldier who died at Yugong-ni.
To determine Mullins identification, scientists from JPAC used the circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including radiograph and dental comparisons.
MILITARY REVIEW BOARDS
This week ending November 2, 2012 our Military Review Boards staff assisted 18 former service members with new, upcoming and pending petitions prepare their case for review by the Military Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military Records. Case development included: 22 phone calls, 15 emails, 2 correspondences, and 2 service officer inquiries.
One of our success stories for this week was a former Electronics Technician Second Class (ET2), now 44 years of age, discharged Under Other Than Honorable Conditions in April 1996 following 4 years and 6 months of active duty service due to Misconduct in accordance with the Navy Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN), Paragraph 3630620.
Positive aspects of this former Sailor's service included award of the National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and excellent performance/behavior markings of 4.0/4.0 for an overall total average (OTA) of 4.0.
Unfortunately, his service record was marred by nonjudicial punishment (NJP) on 19911031 for violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 121 (Larceny, collecting unauthorized Variable Housing Allowance (VHA), Article 132 (Fraud, presented fraudulent VHA certificate to disbursing) and NJP on 19960306 for violation of Article 112a (Wrongful use of controlled substance).
This Applicant contended his misconduct was an isolated incident in a period of otherwise honorable service and that he has been a productive citizen since his discharge.
The Navy Discharge Review Board (NDRB) noted that certain serious offenses warrant separation from the service to maintain proper order and discipline. Violation of Article 112a is one such offense requiring mandatory processing for administrative separation regardless of grade or time in service. This usually results in an unfavorable characterization of discharge or, at a maximum, a punitive discharge and possible confinement if adjudicated and awarded as part of a sentence by a special or general court-martial. The command did not pursue a punitive discharge but opted instead for the more lenient administrative discharge. Further, the Applicant's commanding officer provided the following comments in his administrative separation recommendation: "The Applicant has been an outstanding performer since reporting aboard this command. He has accepted responsibility and accountability for his drug use…It is therefore my recommendation that the Applicant's service be characterized as General Under Honorable Conditions." The Board further noted that this former sailor provided a detailed personal statement, evidence of financial stability and continuous employment, three character references, a clean state police background check, and two advanced technical education certificates related to his current occupation.
After a thorough review of the Applicant's service records, hearing testimony from the Applicant, and taking into consideration the circumstances unique to this case, the NDRB determined that relief is warranted in an upgrade to General (Under Honorable Conditions).