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Army Reverses Child Care Closures Amid Outcry From Families
Just days after two Army bases announced closures to child care programs due to the hiring freeze, the service announced that it will take “corrective action” to combat those closures.
On Feb. 22, Army Installation Command spokesman Scott Malcolm told Military Times that post commanders “may employ a variety of tactics such as overtime pay, flex time or re-allocating current staffing to sustain higher priority programs (as determined at the local level), to mitigate concerns at [child development centers].”
The closures came as a result of a Jan. 23 executive order that put a hiring freeze into effect for the federal government. According to The Associated Press, the Pentagon issued a memo to all military department heads on Feb. 1 that listed personnel exempted from the freeze, which included "positions providing child care to the children of military personnel."
However, base commanders still require clearance from the secretary of the Army before making those hires. As a result, two U.S. military bases — Fort Knox in Kentucky and Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany — released memos to parents announcing partial and complete cuts to child care programs for military children.
Emily Bewley, an Army wife out of Wiesbaden, told Task & Purpose she received news of the cuts on Tuesday.
“Most of the reactions that we saw were either shock or anger because we had no idea that this was even a possibility of happening right now or that there was such a shortage that it was even close to happening,” Bewley said in an interview.
Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael further told the AP that the Defense Department is “working through the chain of command with these installations” to make sure they request the hiring-freeze exemptions that they’re entitled to.
Early Thursday morning, Wiesbaden’s official Twitter account announced a MWR survey entitled “Child and Youth Services Needs Assessment Survey” to let military families provide feedback about its on-post programming for their kids and teens.
— USAG Wiesbaden (@usagwiesbadenpa) February 23, 2017
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas and member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, told Task & Purpose, “I’m watching closely for the impacts of the President’s government hiring freeze on our military readiness.” He called the cuts “the sort of unintended consequences that the President should have considered.”
On Thursday afternoon, Military.com reported that despite getting the all clear from Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer to make the necessary hires, neither Fort Knox nor Wiesbaden has brought back their programs.
"About 60 Child and Youth Services hires were cleared for Fort Knox, while Wiesbaden requested and received permission to hire about 20 new workers," Military.com reported.
A U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden spokesman cited a "multistep process" in hiring qualified candidates as the primary hurdle, while Fort Knox said that they'd chosen people to fill the empty jobs, but that mandatory "background checks and pre-employment requirements" are delaying the child care programs' restoration.
In both cases, timelines for action were not provided.
UPDATE: The story was updated to include reporting from Military.com. (Updated 2/23/2017; 5:27 p.m. EST)
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.