Veteran Services

The Oracle: Around The World

New security for US troops in Afghanistan

By: TheOracle

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012

WASHINGTON — U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” — troops that watch over their comrades even as they sleep — and have ordered a series of other increased security measures to protect troops against possible attacks by rogue Afghans.

The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. And they come in the wake of a spike in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Afghans, including the point-blank shooting deaths of two U.S. advisers in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.

Some of the changes have been subtle, others not so much.

In several Afghan ministries, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons. And they have been instructed to rearrange their office desks there to face the door, so they can see who is coming in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal directive.

While Allen did not detail the new measures in a briefing earlier this week, he acknowledged that changes had been made.

“We have taken steps necessary on our side to protect ourselves with respect to, in fact, sleeping arrangements, internal defenses associated with those small bases in which we operate,” Allen said, adding that now someone is “always overwatching our forces.”

The security measures came after the U.S. military mistakenly burned Qurans and other religious materials in February, triggering anti-American demonstrations and riots. And on Feb. 25, two U.S. military advisers were gunned down at their desks in one of the most heavily guarded ministry building in Kabul.

As a result of the shootings, more than 300 advisers were pulled out of the Afghan ministries. So far, several dozen have returned, but many will not go back until additional security measures are put in place by the Afghans. That would include better vetting procedures, background checks and physical security measures at the ministries. The military official also said some advisers may not return, since commanders have determined that some may no longer be needed in the jobs.

The military official said Allen issued the directive “to get every single troop in the war zone to read it and think” — and to emphasize that troops should be aware of their surroundings as they go about their jobs.

Veteran Outreach

Veterans' Friendly Gathering

USF, ranked 5th in nation as a “Best for Vets” college, recently hosted a group of Tillman Military Scholars, a USF’s Veterans’ Services event.

 

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2011) – The road from military service to college student is made smoother with the help of the University of South Florida’s Office of Veterans’ Services.  In fact, USF was ranked fifth in the nation recently by Military Times Edge, a military and veteran career and education resource publication, in its “Best for Vets: Colleges 2011,” up from number eight last year.

The Tillman Military Scholarship Program – a shining example of the how to serve those who served their country – provides further help. The program benefits service members and their family members who demonstrate an exceptional ability and desire to serve others. USF’s cohort of Tillman Military Scholars had the opportunity to meet with many of their counterparts last month for a southeast regional gathering.

Approximately 130 participants including Pat Tillman Foundation staff and board members were on hand to take part in a variety of activities which included workshops on “How to Work a Room” and “Motivating a Team in a Non-military Setting,” conducted by Dan Jenkins, a College of Education instructor who specializes in leadership.

Hosted by USF’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, “The Marie Tillman Story: Finding Purpose in the Face of Adversity” – a talk and panel presentation – was a highlight of the three-day conference.

“We received fantastic feedback for the reception and the panel discussion,” said Director of Veterans Services Lawrence Braue. “Many were amazed by Marie Tillman’s grace, humility and commitment to veterans and their families. And we talked about the difficulty of transitioning from a military environment to a campus environment.  Each one found it difficult to find meaning and purpose on campus after serving in a combat zone.  People on the campus (faculty, staff, and non-veteran students) didn’t understand them.  They often felt out of place.” 

A service project provided another team-building and community service activity.  They painted and refinished a gazebo at the Haley’s Cove Veterans Administration Community Living Center.

“Inadequate funding and resources presented us with an opportunity to help,” said Braue.  “The nursing home’s courtyard area had been neglected and was in need of various repairs. So the Tillman Scholars pitched in to give back to our veterans from a couple of generations back.  They had a great time and the place looks so much better. Our veterans deserve to have a nice place to relax.”

The group of Tillman Military Scholars also took part in team building activities around tackling USF’s high and low ropes courses.  And they enjoyed some of Tampa’s favorite tourist activities. They had dinner at Channelside and saw the Bucs vs. Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

The Pat Tillman Foundation was created to memorialize the late football player who died after leaving his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to fight in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment. His wife has honored her late husband’s legacy with scholarships for veterans to pay tribute to his commitment to leadership and service.  

USF became a partner in January of this year and there are now four Tillman Military Scholars: Josiah Hill, Grey Leonard, Quincy Lopez and Robert Warden. They are among a total of 171 Tillman Military Scholars representing 32 states and attending 59 academic institutions nationwide.  So far over $2.2 million in scholarship support has been distributed among them. The program provides educational scholarships for veteran and active service members and their dependents.

Grey Leonard, a former second lieutenant in the Air Force, is studying medicine at the College of Medicine. He welcomes relief from the financial strength the scholarship offers.  But his feelings go deeper.


“The program allows me to network with other scholars across the nation,” Leonard said. “Being a Tillman scholar also instills in me a continued duty to serve. Particularly, I am motivated to study harder and serve more because I represent the Tillman Foundation on the medical campus and in my local community.”

Originally from Winter Park, he and his wife, also a USF student, now live in Tampa.

He describes the USF veteran's office as “excellent. They have worked with me directly with sorting out the GI-Bill and Tillman scholarship. They helped to set up a work-study program at the local VA hospital for me so I could get some clinical experience.  The office is friendly, efficient and helpful.”  

USF’s Office of Veterans’ Services works in close cooperation with the Veterans Administration to assist veterans, active duty servicepersons and members of the Selected Reserve, as well as dependents of benefits eligible veterans, enrolled at USF, with their financial and academic needs.  It can be can be accessed by visiting http://www.veterans.usf.edu/. 

To learn more about Tillman Scholarship eligibility and criteria, visit www.pattillmanfoundation.org/tillman-military-scholars.php.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.

For a slide show of event pictures, please visit http://news.usf.edu/article/templates/?a=3920&z=158.

 

USF Team Spirit

USF unveils special uniforms

By Michael Manganello, sports editor

Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

USF fans may not recognize the home team Saturday, as the Bulls don special uniforms for their game against Miami in honor of Military Appreciation Day.

Along with partners Under Armour, Schutt and the Wounded Warrior Project, USF presented its special-edition uniforms Tuesday at coach Skip Holtz's weekly press luncheon.

The uniforms are different than anything USF has ever worn before, from special helmets with a maze-like design to limited-edition cleats featuring a USA wordmark. The set also includes white gloves that feature an American flag pattern on the palms and the word "freedom" on both index fingers.

"There's so many great causes out there, but I don't think there's any cause any stronger than having the opportunity to support the men and women that … make the sacrifices that they do on a daily basis for us to live in the free society that we do," Holtz said. "It's an honor for us to have the opportunity to wear these uniforms and to honor the men and women in the military."

Instead of players' names, the jerseys will feature the words: Duty, Honor, Courage, Commitment, Integrity, Country or Service. The phrase "Believe in heroes" appears just below the belt on the back of the pants.

Next week, the jerseys will be auctioned off on gousfbulls.com, with all proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness and assists wounded soldiers returning from military duty.

Holtz said he displayed the uniforms early so his players could get used to them.

"As I told the players, I want to show this early," Holtz said. "We don't want to be a bunch of giddy schoolgirls in the locker room before the game talking about how fresh this uniform looks."

South Carolina and Texas Tech have previously worn Wounded Warrior Project uniforms this season, though both teams lost in them. The Gamecocks lost 16-13 to Auburn on Oct. 1, while the Red Raiders lost 66-6 to No. 2 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

 

Sept. 11 Event at USF SM

The Sarasota Observer featured an article on September 15, 2011 on the "Triumph over Tragedy" event that occured on campus on September 7.

To view their photo gallery, please follow this link:

http://www.yourobserver.com/news/sarasota/Front-Page/0907201113915/PHOTO-GALLERY-Triumph-Over-Tragedy-event-at-USFSM

USF Vets in the News

Pat Tillman’s wife addresses student veterans

By Ricardo Angulo, CORRESPONDENT

The Oracle

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011

When former-NFL player Pat Tillman was killed during combat in Afghanistan in 2004, the national media jumped on the story with books, movies and multiple headlines probing into the events surrounding his death.

However, Tillman's wife, Marie Tillman, wanted to ensure that the stories of other military members and their families would not go unnoticed. After her husband's death, Marie Tillman created the Pat Tillman Foundation to provide educational scholarships to veterans and their dependents.

On Monday, Marie Tillman and a panel of USF's Tillman scholars told their stories as part of the foundation's Southeast Regional Gathering, a three-day conference aimed at highlighting issues facing military members and their families.

"I spent my days planning events and catering to athletes and celebrities, and my nights drowning in grief," she said of the days following her husband's death.

Pat Tillman left the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 to become an Army Ranger in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Pat Tillman received the Silver Star for valor after the Army ruled that he had been killed by enemy fire. However, when she heard that her husband was really killed by the fire of Rangers in his own regiment, an accident dubbed "friendly fire" by the Pentagon, Marie Tillman said her world crumbled.

"There was something strange that happened in those first days or weeks after he was killed," she said. "There was a certain clarity … I had this realization that life was really precious and sometimes it was really short and I knew that I wanted my time on this planet to be worth something. I wanted to do something that was meaningful and impactful."

Tillman then decided to create the foundation to help returning veterans and their families interact with their communities and prevent the sense of helplessness she felt in the wake of her husband's death.

Tillman recipient Rick Schumacher, who graduated from Park University in Montana in the spring, said it was difficult for him to get the education he hoped for after coming back from Iraq.

"I got back in 2004 and I started drinking a lot," he said. "I went to a bar and stayed there for about a year. I got on the GI Bill, but it didn't click."

The GI Bill was created after World War II to fund the education of returned veterans.

After receiving the Tillman scholarship, Schumacher said life adjusted for him in the U.S. He currently has a GPA of 3.95.

Tony Rivera, Assistant Director of Veterans Services at USF, said a major part of the foundation is about service and giving back to the community.

"The Tillman Scholarship is not just about finances and attaining money," he said during the panel. "It's a prestigious award where they have to adhere to community service and giving back to the community, because that's what it's all about: giving back."

Some scholarship recipients started nonprofit organizations such as Cover Six Risk Management, the 6th Branch, and the Student Veterans of America in order to fulfill this requirement.

The scholarship is also designed to provide support systems for its recipients. Josiah Hill, a 2011 Tillman Scholar from USF who is a Coast Guard veteran and graduate student studying medicine, said he had to fend for himself upon returning to the civilian world.

"I think the biggest thing I'd been faced with is the difference between the military and civilian mindset as far as teamwork versus individual," he said. "In the military we've often learned that a strong team does better than fighting by yourself. I think that has been kind of difficult to go from the transition of a team dynamic to suddenly having to be by yourself."

USF, which became one of 12 Tillman Military Scholar University partners in January, has also begun several initiatives to make veterans feel more at home.

Director of Veterans Services Larry Braue said USF is creating a new lounge in the Administration Building in hopes of creating a better sense of community for veterans on campus. At the Southeast Regional Gathering, veterans participated in a ropes course Saturday, and Sunday they participated in a gardening and decorating the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital as well as attended leadership workshops.

Director of Programs for the Pat Tillman Foundation Hunter Riley said the foundation is trying to maintain its growth. Last year, 1,242 students applied for scholarships and 60 were selected.

Marie Tillman said creating a sense of community for returning veterans falls on the shoulders of all.

"When the men and women who volunteer to serve our country do so, they give up a lot of freedoms," she said. "They are giving their lives up to us and they expect us in turn to be knowledgeable and engaged. It's a really big responsibility that we have."