Last updated: August 11. 2014 10:42AM - 190 Views
Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist

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World War II-style full-frontal amphibious assaults are relegated to the annals of history, a top Marine general told reporters June 26 in Washington.

In the future, Marines will conduct amphibious invasions by setting ashore and massing in areas that are not hotly contested before assaulting towards enemy forces over land, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, the deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration Command at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

“The intent is not to go force on force,” Glueck said. “The intent is to find the seams and gaps. We are not going into the teeth of the enemy. We will go where they are not – where they are weak.”

Some of the most violent battles at Iwo Jima, Tarawa or Inchon, Korea, come to mind when considering Marine amphibious landings. Thousands died establishing beach heads during those assaults.

But today, the difficulties of taking a contested beach are compounded by advances in missile technology; missiles can strike not just the Marines storming ashore, but also the ships from which they launch.

The wide proliferation of cheap but deadly systems has forced amphibious ships out as much as 100 miles from the beach. Glueck acknowledged the challenges posed by relying on Navy ship-to-shore connectors, which have limited speed and capacity.

Only two of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1, now under development as a replacement for the Amphibious Assault Vehicle, will be able to fit on a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), he said. Marine officials are working to make more space on the next generation LCAC, officially called the Ship-to-Shore Connector, so that it can carry three or four ACVs.

Critics of the ACV have cited its inability to swim ashore under its own power and the slow speed of an LCAC traveling 100 miles over open water as reasons to scrap the ACV and focus on a platform that would be light enough to airlift ashore.

Two retired Marine infantry officers turned industry armor experts recently authored a paper arguing in favor of that, but Glueck says rotary airlift has never been used to move vehicles; tactically, that is not being considered. For now, distance, water speed and cargo space remain barriers to quickly massing forces ashore.

For that reason, the service will use advanced “high-speed – low signature” forces as part of its new Expeditionary Force 21 doctrine to maneuver ashore and secure a non-contested or lightly-contested area for the follow on forces to land and aggregate for battle. EF-21 aims to preposition gear near flash points and quickly aggregate scalable forces — ranging in size from a company to a Marine Expeditionary Force — to move ashore.

The idea of landing uncontested and assaulting over land is not without precedent, Glueck said. It was done on Tinian in the Pacific during WWII. There Japanese forces had heavily fortified the island’s southern beaches, where they believed Marines would land. Instead, Marines were able to traverse barrier reefs on the opposing side of the island.

By putting ashore on the north end and flanking the enemy, they secured the island with little contest. Landing where enemy forces are lightest will also allow for minimal risk to some of the Navy’s more vulnerable ship-to-shore connectors like the joint high speed vessel.

The catamaran is capable of traveling 40 miles per hour, which is significantly faster than 24 miles per hour for amphibious transport dock ships. But catamarans are constructed with a light aluminum hull that some critics have said makes them vulnerable to enemy fire.

While the Marine Corps continues to bet much of its future on amphibious landings, they will bear little resemblance to those in the past.

Suicides in the military dropped by 6 percent last year, a decline that Pentagon officials hope signals a reversal in a tragic trend — but that some advocates say does not reflect the true scope of the issue in the military and veterans’ community. According to data published 22 JUL by the Defense Department, 479 service members — 259 active-duty troops, 87 Reserve members and 133 National Guard members — died by suicide in 2013, down from 319 active-duty members and 203 non-activated Reserve and Guard members in 2012. The rate per 100,000 — a measure used to compare incidence across the services and the civilian population — also dropped for the active-duty force, from 22.7 to 18.7. The civilian rate, adjusted for demographics similar to those who serve in the military, is 18.8 per 100,000, according to calculations by the Army and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

A new method of accounting instituted this year by DoD presents a challenge in interpreting the extent of the drops within each service and the various force components. For the first time, the Pentagon counted as active duty only those in the active component, including academy cadets and midshipmen. Excluded were Reserve members and National Guard members who were mobilized at the time of their deaths, who previously had been counted as active-duty personnel.

The Pentagon also changed its methods for calculating rates. Under the old system, the rate in 2012 was 17.5 per 100,000. But the new system indicates the rate for that year — which saw the highest number of military suicides since the Pentagon began close tracking in 2001 — was 22.7 per 100,000. The new rate for 2013, 18.7 per 100,000 among active-duty members, was calculated using the new definition of active component.

Defense officials say the change was made to improve programs to serve the individual components. According to Defense Suicide Prevention Office director Jacqueline Garrick, the new accounting methods provide a better perspective on which communities are affected, allowing DoD to tailor programs to the components. For example, while reserve members on active duty have access to numerous programs and initiatives on base and in their workplace, they may return home to areas where there is less support.Understanding how many reservists have been affected will improve strategies to help them, Garrick said.

“We’re trying to really target in on specific things…we’re looking at access to care in remote and rural areas,” she said. DoD has implemented numerous mental health and suicide prevention programs to reverse what has been a growing problem since the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While military suicides are often thought to be linked to combat service and the psychological stresses of war, Pentagon reports show that more than half the service members who commit suicide never deployed to a combat zone.

Military suicides began rising in 2006 and hit 284 active-duty deaths before dipping slightly in 2010 and 2011, then soaring to 319 in 2012. The Army, the largest service, had the highest number of suicides among active-duty troops in 2013, 123. The Air Force recorded 48 suicides, down from 50 in 2012, while the Marine Corps had 45, down from 48. The Navy saw the largest percentage decrease — a 25-percent drop to 43. Among Reserve and National Guard troops, the Army Reserve had the highest number of suicides in 2013, 60, for a rate of 30.1 per 100,000.

The Army National Guard also recorded a high rate, 33.4 percent per 100,000, with 119 suicides in 2013. Those numbers do not incorporate the Veterans Affairs Department estimate of 22 veterans — those who served at some point but have left the military — who die each day by suicide.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, cautioned against declaring victory over the declining active-duty figures because the data is offset by the alarming increased numbers in the Reserves and National Guard. “We know that most post-9/11 suicides happen after veterans leave the Department of Defense. To get a full picture of the scope of veterans suicides, we must assess the rate for the entire population of veterans who have served since 9/11,” Rieckhoff said. DoD officials said that

while they are heartened to see a decline, they continue to pursue the goal of zero suicides in the U.S. military. “One loss to suicide is one too many. We will continue to do everything possible to prevent [it],” Garrick said. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-273-8255.

Filing a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs has always been easier and more efficient with the help of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. But seeking DAV’s help may be more important now than ever before with the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program. Over the past several years, much attention has been rightly focused on efforts to reform VBA’s claims processing system and reduce the unacceptable backlog of pending disability compensation claims. There are now statistically significant signs of progress.

That progress, which has been made at least in part because more and more veterans are taking advantage of the FDC program. The FDC is an optional initiative that offers veterans and survivors faster decisions from VA on compensation, pension and survivor benefits claims. Veterans and survivors simply submit all relevant records in their possession and certify that they have no further evidence to submit.

The VA can then review and process the claim more quickly. A veteran can have his or her claim processed much faster and more accurately if the package is put together correctly, which is where a DAV National Service Officer is prepared to assist. While it is as straightforward as possible, it can be rendered useless if the claim is not assembled correctly.

DAV’s National Service officers have been intimately involved with the transition, with unmatched access to the decision makers within the VA, and there is no other veterans service organization more familiar with the ins and outs of the FDC program. The FDC program is unique because the claimant is actively involved in the process, gathering evidence needed to adequately reach a determination.

However, the concept is not new. For decade, DAV and other VSOs have been able to submit a complete “fully developed” or “ready-to-rate” claim to VBA. DAV NSOs have long urged claimants to obtain as much of the evidence as possible prior to submitting the claim. However, prior to the inception of the current FDC program, claims considered “fully developed” were handled on a case-by-case basis. There was no formal program with standard procedures or consistency throughout VBA. Even though these claims required less work by VBA and should have resulted in quicker decisions, they were too often treated as just another claim, often sitting for months or years awaiting decisions.

An FDC still requires the completion of several forms and the compilation of records and medical opinions, the VA is rightfully recommending every claimant work with a VSO when filing an FDC. With this tremendous breakthrough and the increasing need for help with claims, DAV has grown its NSO corps to historic highs, with about 280 highly-trained NSOs on staff around the country. If you are need of representation, contact a DAV NSO today. At http://www.dav.org/veterans/find-your-local-office offices can be located online.

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