#veterans

Liking Tulsi Gabbard more and more

Sensible head on her shoulders. The one thing that can be said of Rep Tulsi Gabbard is that she is no run of the mill, toe the line Democrat. Unfortunately the DNC seemingly want to stick to doubling down on what got the party repudiated last election. Heart attack Bernie, Sleepy/creepy/floppy/sloppy Joe Biden, Fauxcahontas, “take your guns” Beto, lacking substance Kamala Harris, Pete ‘I drive a Chevy’ Buttigieg, Andrew ‘stand for nothing’ Yang or Juan ‘give illegals free healthcare’ Castro. Are the Dems serious?

Gabbard’s has attacked the status quo within partisan politics. Her policy platform can be seen here. CM doesn’t agree with half of it but that’s a far cry from not agreeing with all of the other candidates’ policy positions. The greatest irony in the debates is that, with the exception of Gabbard, the other candidates all attack each other despite having almost identical policies.

Gabbard is articulate, intelligent, grounded and doesn’t sound like the rest of the virtue signaling tax to the death rabble she is debating against. Unfortunately Gabbard doesn’t have enough of the poison that is needed to succeed within the Dems. She should go independent.

If America is desperate for its first female (not that should ever be a reason) president surely one can realize that Gabbard, on merit alone, is a far superior choice to Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Fauxcahontas Warren? She ticks more diversity boxes without having to fill out forms claiming she is someone she is not.

That’s Tulsi Gabbard’s greatest strength – authenticity. She seems to be listening to the American people about not seeking to divide the country any further.

Completely despicable

Another reason to like Rep Tulsi Gabbard, although she is nowhere in the polls despite her straight talking. If there was a Democratic Party candidate that even marginal Republicans could lean toward she is it.

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked what Gabbard thought of Trump’s withdrawal from Syria. The answer he got was a little more pointed than he expected.

Gabbard said,

Well, first of all, we’ve got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we’ve been waging in Syria…

…Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011 — along with many in the mainstream media who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war…”

…now she gets really serious…

“…The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war…Just two days ago, The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist, and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”

Nazi scum?

Just a day before the 75th anniversary of D-Day, where 156,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to defeat the Nazis, unhinged protestors in London can scream at a person with different views as  “Nazi scum”. We can always count on the tolerant left to engage in thoughtful, respectful and open debate. Their generosity has now spread to offering unsolicited milkshakes to those they disagree with.

What is striking within all of this, is 1) the police did absolutely nothing (no surprise in Mayor Khan’s London and to be honest the constable looked riddled with fear);  2) every other grievance of the left seems present at the march from the Extinction Rebellion, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism (ironically practiced by numerous members of the Labour Party which aligns with many of their protests), a call for a general election (which would likely see even bigger swings against this lot) etc; and 3) so many protesters hiding behind masks. What is it with these people who can’t own their protest?  Maybe the Univesity of Mons can hand her an honorary doctorate for standing up to Trump?

Welcome to 2019. To think of the 4,500 poor young allied soldiers who lost their lives on that fateful day 75 years ago trying to defend against the very tyranny these people wish to reintroduce. Those calling others Nazis should take a long stone cold look in the mirror to see what true fascism looks like.

She should be demoted with immediate effect

And so should her superiors. Our armed forces are being turned into a joke. Commanding Officer of HMAS Albatross, Captain Fiona Sneath, has deemed the 500m walk to the Anzac memorial on Anzac Day too dangerous citing occupational health and safety. These are our brave and proud military personnel who are trained to shoot back in anger if required. CM is sure they’ll cope.

In recent years our armed forces have pushed hard on gender balance (despite strong evidence from the ADF’s own internal audit to say it is dismally failing even more so when targets were lowered), discouraged the words ‘him’ and ‘her’, we’ve banned death symbols, painted finger nails pink for diversity and the Air Force is being asked to think of the roles of women when bombing enemy targets.

The Navy has just raised the white flag of stupidity again. Are our able seamen so poorly trained they can’t walk down a well lit trail?

What do these military chiefs think China must make of all this? To invade Australia, all they’ll need is a couple of terra-cotta warriors and we’ll surrender. Our military chiefs need a major clean out. They are disgracing the proud soldiers that served and continue to serve.

Thank you for your service?

Australian PM Scott Morrison gave a speech at the PM’s Veterans’ Employment Awards in Canberra tonight. He spoke about how we as a nation should be indebted to the bravery and dedication of our armed forces and emphatically thanked them for their service. If indeed he believed what he spoke about, surely he could honour their sacrifice and efforts by not disappearing 30 minutes into the gig. Deeds not words. Telling.

Tommy trouble

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It seems the UK Armed Forces are finding it difficult to recruit their own. So much so that they have lifted a 5-yr waiting period for Commonwealth citizens to join up. The National Audit Office states the armed forces are suffering the worst shortage of new recruits since 2010, being short 8,200 from desired levels. Therefore Aussies, Canadians, Indians and other Commonwealth citizens can sign up.

According to official Ministry of Defence (MOD) in the year leading to November 2017 1,759 of the 15,325 regular troops quit  because their time was up. Nearly half (7,439 ) quit early because of worsening conditions and falling morale. 3,325 were kicked out on disciplinary grounds and another 2,337 were medically discharged.

The MOD’s UK Regular Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey 2015 revealed,

-The number of personnel stating that they are dissatisfied with Service life has risen to 32%, up from 27% in 2014. Not a good start.

-There has been a fall in the number of personnel reporting that they are proud to be in their Service, from 81% in 2014 to 77% in 2015.

-25% “state that they plan to leave as soon as they can, or have put in notice to leave” (+9% on 2011).

-Satisfaction with pension benefits has dropped 18% since 2011

– Less than a third (27%) of Service personnel agree that the level of compensation is enough

-In 2015, job security was the top retention factor, followed by dental and healthcare provision, pension and opportunities for sport.

  • Individual morale 40% (-6% on 2011)
  • Unit morale 21% (-6% on 2011)
  • Service morale 14% (-4% on 2011)
  • Service life satisfaction 47% (-10% on 2011)
  • Job satisfaction 56% (-8% on 2011)

UK morale.png

Apart from the appalling trajectory of morale, it is clear that care once out of the military doesn’t fare much better.

While the MoD total budget will increase from GBP23bn to GBP50bn by 2020, data about how it is spent is highly opaque. More is learnt by some of the history surrounding the treatment of Tommies.

Support of  veterans has been so lacking that charities such as Help for Heroes has been active picking up the shortfall. It raises over GBP30 million per annum to support the 2,500 British veterans discharged for medical reasons every year to cope with civilian life.

Despite the American Psychiatric Association acknowledging PTSD in 1980, it took the UK another five years to officially recognize PTSD after the sharp increase in veterans suffering from mental health issues post the Falklands War of 1982. Of the 30,000 troops that were sent to fight, the UK armed forces allocated only one psychiatrist to the far away battlefield.

The problem was compounded in the 1990s with widespread closures of UK military hospitals as a cost cutting measure. Seven of the eight military hospitals had been shut or transferred to the NHS by 1999.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote in its recent report on those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan about how low suicide rates were. It stated, “While rates of mental disorder are lower in the military (3.1%) than the general population (4.5%), the MOD routinely carries out research into those who have served on large scale combat operations, in order to more accurately assess the effects of deployment.” Note there is no data on veteran suicide in the UK.

The UK MOD’s ‘Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy’ is supposedly in place to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues, to ensure that all who serve, and have served, can enjoy a state of positive physical and mental health. The MOD has committed £22 million a year on mental health with the establishment of two 24/7 helplines for serving personnel and veterans. How is it a charity funds 1.5x what the government does?

To put that in context, Australia spends 20x this amount every year just on veterans counseling services. America, albeit a larger veteran base, spends $9bn on mental health for its soldiers.

One wonders why the MOD doesn’t listen to the surveys and act. Then it wouldn’t have to go down the mercenary route.

Losing my Virgin-ity to the veteran community

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Virgin Australia has copped a lot of flack over its unsolicited offer to prioritize veterans when boarding and to announce gratitude for their service. Sadly the plan has been savaged in the media as virtue signaling and riding the political wave of the PM to back discounts for those who served. Many veterans have come forward saying they have not asked to be saluted in this manner. Many of them wish to be thought of like you and I.

We can sit back and criticize the airline for not doing more due diligence with the veteran community, yet we should not overlook that CEO John Borghetti would have made this decision with absolute rock solid sincerity, thinking of the vets, not how he could win free publicity which is often the norm these days. Had preferential boarding treatment been given to an oppressed minority community he would have probably been championed as a hero of social justice. All of the media that smashed the airline – The Guardian, Fairfax et al would have praised the progressive action. Let us not forget that Virgin’s move was above all made with “good intentions.”

My first recollection of John Borghetti happened almost 20 years ago after some utterly dreadful Qantas service, where he happened to be working at the time. Despite receiving a relatively textbook letter of apology from the Chairman, John personally called me to “connect” with this disgruntled customer. No excuses were given. No attempts were made to cover up the pitiful customer service. He listened because he wanted to learn. He was authentic. No training manual could have taught John what he did. You cannot learn sincerity from a textbook. You either are or you aren’t. The veteran community should know that they will undoubtedly get the exact same ‘ear’ from the CEO to best address needs going forward and I encourage them to speak frankly to him.

As a civilian who is now working alongside veterans I’ve learnt more this year about how wrong many of my preformed notions were with respect to former service men and women. I’ve met veterans suffering from PTSD. I’ve met a war widows who lost veteran husbands to suicide. I spent a week at the Invictus Games seeing how these amazing warriors were ‘unconquered.’ I’ve met veterans, young and old, who are struggling to reintegrate into the workforce at an event. The issues are real. I have seen the amazing work done by veterans trying to find unique ways to help their former mates reintegrate into society. I suggest we embrace Virgin and refocus their positivity.

I am honoured to be given the opportunity to work alongside veterans to make this journey and learn every day. In a sense my mission is in part to represent the civilian community to make them understand veteran needs. There are so many positive ways to affect change and move away from the growing negativity thrown at events like Anzac Day as a celebration of warmongers where our media can be as brazen to criticize brave diggers as rapists, murderers and thieves.

Put simply, we civilians absolutely owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served. How we do it is open to debate. This is at its very roots of the Virgin move. To see the board cower to public pressure and look to rescind the offer on the basis of the constant negativity so prevalent today is the wrong move. Better still, Borghetti’s sincerity should be front and centre here. There is no market collapsing “damage control” risk for Virgin at stake. It is doubtful that veterans will desert the boarding gates of Virgin to punish it.

It would be nice to see that corporate governance today teaches that holding firm on the courage of their convictions is paramount. If the board learns that it must do more due diligence, then so be it. Learn and move on. Don’t wave the white flag. I sincerely hope that the Virgin board doesn’t flake. The board represents shareholders, not the mainstream media.

If I know John Borghetti from my own personal experience, Virgin Australia can achieve what it set out to do. Helping vets.  Does Virgin divert its planes to alternative airports when bad weather arises or do they ditch the aircraft into the sea?  The board should approach this episode with the same attitude.