Study: PTSD could be linked to heart disease

Researchers are finding that post-traumatic stress disorder might affect more than just a person's brain. A recent study showed that veterans with PTSD had a higher risk of heart disease as well.

The researchers followed 637 older combat veterans for three and a half years, and those with PTSD were more likely to have fatty build-up in their arteries, which causes heart disease. The disease also progressed more in those with PTSD. At the end of the study 17 percent of them had died, compared to 10 percent of their peers without PTSD.

House passes measure to repatriate remains of sailors buried in Tripoli

The House of Representatives has passed a measure calling for the Defense Department to bring home the remains of 13 sailors buried in Tripoli more than 200 years ago.

The sailors were aboard the USS Intrepid, which exploded and sank in 1804 while on a mission during the First Barbary War. After washing ashore, their bodies were fed to dogs. What was left was unceremoniously buried, although most of the remains were transferred to a cemetery in Tripoli more than 100 years later.

Gates compares two special ops raids at Naval Academy commencement

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates related his experiences helping oversee two very different secret military operations to a class of graduating midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday.

In the speech focused on the burdens and responsibilities of leadership, Gates said he would never forget being present as a CIA official in the White House on April 24, 1980, as Army special operatives prepared to mount a complex raid into Tehran to free 52 Americans held hostage in the wake of the Iranian revolution.

Website plans lasting memorials to fallen troops

WASHINGTON — For the last month, site administrators and online members of TogetherWeServed have been compiling basic profiles of every servicemember who died in the Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam wars. Now, they’re hoping that family members of those troops will pick up the project, providing a more complete profile of the fallen heroes.

Brian Foster, founder of the military-themed social networking site, said most of the profiles already contain some personal information, like photos and hometowns, thanks to the work of site members who “adopted” the pages.

Army will use cutting-edge video game technology for soldier training

WASHINGTON – Electronic gaming is a popular pastime for troops – so much so, in fact, that the Army’s most recent psychological assessment checked whether it was causing sleep deficits. Soon, what might be the world’s most advanced video game could become part of their training.

The Ashburn, Va.-based tech company Intelligent Decisions, Inc., on Wednesday introduced what it bills as “the first ever, fully immersive virtual simulation training program.” The Army is paying the company $57 million to design and field the portable system, which will eventually deploy in more than 100 locations worldwide, said program manager Floyd West.

Senators want condolence letters for families of suicide victims

WASHINGTON – A group of 11 senators is again asking the White House to send letters of condolence to families of servicemembers who commit suicide, saying the move could help reduce the stigma of mental health illnesses among troops.

“Perpetuating a policy that denies condolence letters to families of service members who die by suicide … further alienates families who are already struggling to cope with the death of a loved one,” the letter states. “It is simply unacceptable for the United States to be sending the message to these families that somehow their loved ones’ sacrifices are less important.”

Group plans convention for active-duty gay troops

WASHINGTON – “Don’t ask, don’t tell” still hasn’t been officially repealed, but gay rights groups are already planning a major post-repeal conference this fall to celebrate the end of the law and start planning a path ahead.

Officials from OutServe, an association of more than 3,000 gay active-duty troops and veterans, on Wednesday announced plans for their Armed Forces Leadership Summit this October, to be held in Las Vegas. The event’s goal is to “help better create an environment of respect in the military with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

House passes GI Bill fixes, but will the Senate act?

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers on Monday passed fixes to the GI Bill designed to help about 30,000 student veterans who could see their tuition bills soar this fall. But whether Senate lawmakers will follow their lead in coming weeks remains to be seen.

The problem stems from changes passed by Congress in December which will cap private college and out-of-state university tuition payouts at $17,500 per year. The House measure, supported by a host veterans groups, would grandfather in students already receiving more than that amount for the duration of their degree program, preventing them from having to take out unexpected student loans.

Still no details on July troop drawdown in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – Troop reductions in Afghanistan are coming soon, as President Barack Obama directed last year when he unleashed a surge of more than 30,000 troops in the country, the Defense Department said Monday. But the pace of the withdrawal and exactly when it will begin remain unknown.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of coalition operations in Afghanistan, is working on a recommendation to Obama about how to ramp down U.S. troop presence there.

More than 1,900 guardsmen activated to handle weather emergencies in 10 states

Updated Tuesday, 9:50 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The half-mile-wide tornado that ripped through Joplin, Mo., Monday morning has claimed the lives of 117 people so far, and it’s prompted the mobilization of the state’s National Guard troops, a common occurrence lately as violent weather has pummeled parts of the South and Midwest this spring.

DOD offers $15 million to better overseas voting

WASHINGTON -- Defense Department officials late last week announced more than $15 million in grants designed to improve how voter registration forms and absentee ballots are sent to overseas voters, in an effort to solve problems well in advance of the 2012 presidential election.

Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, said officials don't have any set plans on how many grants they'll award or exactly what the final projects will look like. The grants are open to state and local election officials, and the parameters call for using new technologies to decrease the delivery time for registration, ballot requests and changes of address.

Vets groups protest plan for wind farms off Normandy

Earlier this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a plan to build five wind farms off the western coast of France, one of them off the Normandy beaches of Juno and Omaha, stormed by Allied troops on D-Day.

Work is to start in 2015. The 525-foot turbines are to be erected about seven miles from the coast.

Sleep loss a chronic problem for Afghanistan troops, Army says

WASHINGTON – Combat troops in Afghanistan suffer from high rates of sleep deprivation, a recent Army mental health report indicates, but not from factors that might be suspected.

Only about 10 percent of soldiers and 15 percent of Marines reported sleep problems over a 30-day period because of combat stress. And another potential culprit – video gaming and movie watching – accounted for less than 5 percent of reported sleep problems.

Senators question delay in burn pit safety measures

WASHINGTON — In February, defense officials said they would find new ways to “promote greater access and use of protective equipment” around burn pits overseas, to keep troops from breathing in toxic fumes. Now, two senators want to know whether anything has been done.

Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have asked for an immediate update from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, noting that defense officials had promised results within 60 days. In a letter to the defense leaders, the lawmakers point to a new study suggesting that troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are eight times more likely to develop respiratory illness than veterans who deployed elsewhere.

Information overload, online chaos hurt wounded warrior care

WASHINGTON – Internet information chaos is hampering America's wounded and sick servicemembers in their attempts to get proper care, members of a task force set up in the wake of Walter Reed scandal said Wednesday.

Visits to Warrior Transition Units nationwide revealed that troops stationed in the units frequently didn't understand their transition plans – designed to either return them to the fighting force or move them to veteran status – or know where to look for information.

Republican lawmaker irked when told ship will be named after Cesar Chavez

UPDATED MAY 18. 9:24 A.M.

The Navy is getting too politically correct, according to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who said the Navy has notified him it is naming a ship under construction after Mexican-American activist Cesar Chavez.

U.S.-China military talks continued

WASHINGTON – It has been seven years since China sent its top military officer to Washington, and apparently the Pentagon and People’s Liberation Army have much to talk about.

A planned Pentagon press conference between China’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Chen Bingde and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen was postponed until Wednesday, just 30 minutes before it was to start.

Ham hints that Europe is favorite to continue hosting AFRICOM headquarters

STUTTGART, Germany — For several years now, speculation has swirled around where U.S. Africa Command headquarters, currently in Stuttgart, should be located. In the early days, there were discussions about setting up shop on the African continent. More recently there has been talk among some U.S. politicians about the need for the headquarters to relocate stateside. They argue such a move would save money and provide a boost to local economies.

AFRICOM’s boss, Gen. Carter F. Ham, is in the midst of a review of where to locate its permanent home. And Ham is expected to deliver his formal recommendation to the Pentagon in 2012. But for AFRICOM watchers trying to read the tea leaves, Ham recently offered some insight about which way he might be leaning during an encounter with local journalists in Uganda.

Obama administration lays out cyberspace plan

A bevy of top Obama administration officials on Monday laid out a vision for making the Internet safe for democracy and capitalism and invited the rest of the world to get on board.

The plan dubbed the International Strategy for Cyberspace aims at creating an online world “that is open to innovation, interoperable the world over, secure enough to earn people’s trust, and reliable enough to support their work.”

Fallen Army journalist among those honored

UPDATED MAY 17, 2:26 P.M.

WASHINGTON – A solemn ceremony at the Newseum on Monday commemorated the 59 journalists killed in the line of duty in 2010, including Army Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter of the Fort Campbell Courier.

China’s top general in Washington (finally)

WASHINGTON – When Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to China in January, he said it was a sign of real progress in the bilateral military relationship that the Chinese agreed to reciprocate the visit, keep the relationship open, and move forward after a year of false starts.

This week, China’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Chen Bingde arrived to honor that appointment with his counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who in December publicly called out China to help corral North Korea. It’s just visit, a few meetings, and lots of ceremony – but it’s a start.

Don't blow SEALs' cover, Pentagon asks media

Responding to safety concerns from the elite troops who killed Osama bin Laden, the Pentagon asked media outlets on Friday not to report their identities if the names somehow leak out.

Defense Department officials fear that the Navy SEALs and other special operations personnel who conducted the raid, as well as family members, could become targets of al-Qaida members or sympathizers seeking payback for the mission in Pakistan.

Next ISAF war commander speaks up for foreign aid

WASHINGTON – Before the next Afghanistan War commander has even stepped foot in country, Lt. Gen. John Allen is doing a bit of pre-deployment preparation in Washington: advocating for USAID.

Allen gave a lengthy interview to Frontlines, the in-house magazine of the U.S. Agency for International Development, singing the humanitarian agency’s praises and importance to the war effort, right as USAID’s budget was up before the House. He joins a long list of Obama’s national security leaders and military brass begging for more State Department/USAID funding, an advocacy message some think might finally be getting through to Congress.

A closer look at the House’s defense authorization bill

UPDATED, 5/13: WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services committee finalized its version of the annual defense authorization bill early Thursday morning, providing $553 billion for the military’s base budget next fiscal year and another $119 billion for overseas combat efforts. The move is the first major step in the lengthy defense budget debate, which likely won’t be finalized before this fall.

The measure contains a 1.6 pay hike for troops next January and reauthorization for dozens of enlistment and retention bonuses. Most of the major changes in the measure have already been seized on by defense reporters – the DADT provisions, the Tricare increases, the JSF alternate engine rebirth – but many of the smaller items will have the lasting impact on troops and their families as well.

SEAL team worried identities will leak

WASHINGTON – The team that killed Osama bin Laden told Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week that they are worried that their identities will be leaked. The secretary is not happy.

“Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden,” he said. “That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.”

U.S. slaps sanctions on Haqqani leader

WASHINGTON – If you were thinking of selling any golf clubs or spare parts to a certain insurgent commander in Pakistan, think again. As of today the State Department has made it illegal to conduct business with Badruddin Haqqani, commander of the famed Haqqani Network.

Why? “This action will help stem the flow of financial and other assistance to this dangerous individual,” State Department said, in a release on Wednesday. Why now? That’s less clear.

Pentagon reconsiders gay marriage by chaplains

WASHINGTON – In the wake of a protest this week by more than 60 lawmakers, the Pentagon General Counsel and Navy lawyers are taking another look at whether military chaplains can marry gay servicemembers without violating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Pentagon previously stated that such marriages by chaplains on military installations would not violate the law once “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations are repealed. But that’s up in the air, said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.

'Gold Star Children' examines grief across two generations

UPDATED MAY 10, 3:18 P.M.

Mitty Griffis Mirrer was only 16 hours old when her father was killed in Vietnam. Shortly afterward, her mother learned not to talk about her loss after an encounter with a neighbor.

Lawmaker wants service chiefs to review DADT repeal

WASHINGTON – Conservatives still angry at last year’s last-minute passage of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal have vowed to re-examine the issue this year, and now it appears that fight will start on Wednesday.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., said he’ll offer an amendment during the House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense budget debate that would require all four service chiefs certify their personnel are ready for openly gay troops before the repeal can take place. Pentagon leaders rejected that idea last year, saying that having the defense secretary and joint chiefs chairman certify the process is enough.

Obama to personally thank team that killed bin Laden

WASHINGTON — The American public may never know the names of the SEAL Team Six fighters who killed Osama bin Laden, but tomorrow the president will get to meet some of the troops involved face-to-face.

Administration officials just confirmed that as part of his trip to Fort Campbell, President Barack Obama will meet privately with some of the special operators involved in the mission. A White House aide said that on Wednesday, Obama met with Vice Adm. William McRaven, head of Joint Special Operations Command, to thank him for his work.

What’s so special about SEAL Team Six?

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials remain tight-lipped about why Navy SEAL Team 6 got the call to confront Osama bin Laden, the most coveted target in the world. After all, each service has elite special operations forces that train for precision missions.

But Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Mills wasn’t surprised.

Freedom costs a buck-o-five: Dead Osama T-shirts hit the web

The capitalism instinct kicked in quick after Osama bin Laden's death. And who doesn't love a pithy T-shirt? 

Within hours of the president's announcement Sunday night, websites started hawking T-shirts, mugs and other memorabilia to celebrate bin Laden's demise - some more crass than others. 

The 'bin Laden death video' is a hoax

UPDATED: 9:02 p.m. May 4, EDT

You despised Osama bin Laden. You’re not sorry he’s dead; you’re just sorry you couldn’t be there to see it with your own eyes. And then a friend emails you a link to the next best thing: photos of the body. Or a video of the shooting.

If torture led to bin Laden, does America approve?

WASHINGTON — Details about how covert agents tracked down Osama bin Laden on Sunday are still sketchy and incomplete, but that the first bread crumb in the intelligence trail possibly came from prisoners subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” is reigniting the debate over torture.

A senior White House official told reporters on Sunday that post-9/11 detainees gave up the nom de guerre of a trusted bin Laden courier, intelligence that eventually, years later, led to the U.S. discovery of bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan.

Good riddance, Osama bin Laden. But celebrate? No

I hadn’t given any thought this morning to my personal feelings toward the news of Osama bin Laden’s death until my coworker suggested I write about it.

Bin Laden’s ‘master plan,’ executed on Sept. 11, 2001, is personal. I was at the Pentagon that day.

Osama bin Laden is dead. What comes next?

NAPLES, Italy -- It was one of those "where were you when you heard" moments in history; the Twin Towers attacked, reports coming out that the Pentagon had been hit, another plane reportedly hijacked.

The news that Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday in Pakistan nearly 10 years later is certain to be another.

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