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Uncomfortable in that hospital chair? How about a neck pillow?

WASHINGTON - Taking a look at the little things that affect family members at the bedside of wounded troops – like long hours in uncomfortable hospital chairs -- the Wounded Warrior Project recently went back to its roots and came up with a tote bag for the families.

Much like the WWP's original backpack program for injured troops who often had nothing but a hospital gown, the nonprofit selected comfort items for caregivers " we hope make their lives a little easier,” Anna Frese, director of family support, said.

Iran eases off on maritime confrontation, Greenert says

WASHINGTON—From a naval perspective at least, the United States’ confrontation with Iran over the regime’s nuclear program has cooled off, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said Wednesday.

Around the beginning of 2012, Iran took an increasingly bellicose line over U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf, threatening to mine the Strait of Hormuz and sending small craft to harass U.S. ships in the area. But such threats have mostly evaporated in recent months, Greenert said in a Pentagon press conference.

2012 Warrior Games competitors honored

WASHINGTON—Some blind, some on crutches and some missing limbs, the fifty competitors from the 2012 Warrior Games honored in a Pentagon ceremony on Monday sent a loud message to America’s enemies, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

“You can wound me and you can hurt me, but you can never take my life, my spirit or my hope away,” Panetta said.

Dueling editorials show difficulties with sequestration fix

WASHINGTON — The two top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee this weekend offered their takes on how to avoid the looming defense budget cuts in a pair of editorials in Politico.

Both agree the cuts must be avoided. Beyond that, there doesn’t appear to be much compromise.

Republican lawmakers charge Air Force hostile to religious freedom

WASHINGTON—A group of 66 Republican lawmakers this week blasted the Air Force for taking what it termed “a series of steps signaling hostility toward religious freedom.”

Since an order last September by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz mandating that chaplains themselves – and not commanders – publicize religious programs, the Air Force has gone beyond what the Constitution requires in an attempt to set up “complete separation” between religion and military service, the legislators allege.

Report: Peralta's Medal of Honor nomination reaches Panetta's desk

The grenade exploded beneath Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who died that day, Nov. 15, 2004. Peralta’s body blunted the violent burst of the grenade, preventing several of his fellow Marines from sharing his fate.

These facts are not in dispute.

New protections for troops with PCS moves

WASHINGTON — Officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday offered new guidance designed to provide better education and notification for troops facing housing struggles related to permanent change of station moves, calling it an important step toward protecting those who serve.

The guidance also more clearly spells out unfair and abusive practices by mortgage companies in an effort to help regulators go after deceptive lenders. That includes companies that require troops’ waive legal rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to keep their homes, or withhold information about financial assistance programs from them.

House GOP calls for immediate answers to sequestration cuts

WASHINGTON – In a new video released Tuesday, Republican leaders from the House Armed Services Committee predict massive civilian layoffs and cuts in military end strength starting in July if lawmakers don’t find alternatives to billions in automatic defense funding cuts set for January.

The committee for months has railed against the so-called sequestration cuts, passed by lawmakers last summer. Lawmakers from both parties have argued that the $500 billion in defense budget reductions over the next 10 years could cripple the force, but haven’t had serious discussions on a compromise solution.

Panetta video thanks gay troops for service, sacrifice

WASHINGTON — Nine months after repeal of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law forbidding gays from serving openly in the military, the Defense Department is publicly embracing the once-shunned community.

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that it is planning an event to recognize gay and lesbian troops later in June, which is gay pride month. On Friday, a video message was released in which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta  addressed those servicemembers directly, thanking them for their service both before and after repeal.

Silver Star sets the record straight, say children of Francis Gary Powers

WASHINGTON—The posthumous Silver Star that the Air Force will award Friday to Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, helps set the record straight on a key episode of the Cold War, his children said Thursday at the Pentagon.

Powers was detained for two years and underwent 107 days of intense interrogations at Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. Though pressured with threats of death, as well as sleep and food deprivation, “Captain Powers steadfastly refused all attempts to give sensitive defense information or be exploited for propaganda purposes,” the medal citation reads.

The Army's birthday and the sweetest tank ever

Georgetown Cupcake owners Katherine Kallinis, center and Sophie LaMontagne, right, test out the cupcake-shooting capabilities of a cupcake-covered "tank" in the Pentagon courtyard Thursday, commemorating the Army's 237th birthday. The tank was donated by Georgetown Cupcake, which also regularly donates sweets to troops downrange. It weighed 2,500 pounds and was covered with 5,000 cupcakes.

The United States Army is 237 years old today. What, you might wonder, is an appropriate gift for a 237-year-old fighting force?

For the owners of Washington-based Georgetown Cupcake, that was a no-brainer.  Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne visited the Pentagon on Thursday with a 2,500-pound “tank,” covered with 5,000 cupcakes and fully capable of launching a barrage of frosting-topped goodness at anything that gets in its way.

Hope for a sequestration compromise?

WASHINGTON — In his remarks at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that Republicans would have to back off their inflexible stance on new taxes if Congress wants to avoid $500 billion in automatic defense cuts scheduled for next year. A few hours later, one of GOP his colleagues from the committee suggested that could already be in the works.

In an interview with ABC News, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he’d be willing to reassign some money from closing tax loopholes to debt-reduction plans. That goes against conservative groups’ insistence that any tax reform be used to reduce taxes, dollar for dollar.

Exiting soldiers could leave up to a year early

WASHINGTON – Army officials will start discharging some soldiers up to a year before their scheduled departure date under a change in the enlisted early separation program, which went into effect this month.

Jim Bragg, chief of the Army’s Retention and Reclassification Branch, said the move is not related to planned cuts in the service’s end strength, but instead is a readiness move designed to get personnel in deploying units stabilized well before they head overseas.

Will federal workers see a pay raise next year?

WASHINGTON — Members of the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee approved a budget plan Wednesday that extends the federal pay freeze for another year. It’s at least the third time in the last month that the committee has denied a pay increase for government employees in 2013, despite White House requests for a modest 0.5 percent boost.

Military personnel are expected to see only a 1.7 percent pay increase next year, their third consecutive year of pay increases under 2.0 percent. But their civilian counterparts in the Defense Department haven’t seen any increases since President Barack Obama announced a government-wide pay freeze in November 2010.

Plans for a reverse boot camp nearing completion

WASHINGTON – Defense and Veterans Affairs officials are finalizing plans for a “reverse boot camp” for troops leaving the military, part of a series of efforts to better prepare soon-to-be veterans for the challenges of civilian life.

The idea, announced by the White House last summer, is designed to be a dramatic improvement to the services’ Transition Assistance Program, which critics have said doesn’t fully prepare troops for challenges like navigating civilian job interviews, attending college classes and understanding veterans benefits.

 
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