Metro-East News

The Pentagon’s controversial plan to hire military leaders off the street

Here’s an idea that may not please career military folks: The Pentagon is exploring the idea of hiring civilians off the street to fill many officer-grade positions, according to Military Times.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants to open the door for more “lateral entry” into the military’s upper ranks, clearing the way for lifelong civilians with vital skills and strong résumés to enter the officer corps as high as the O-6 paygrade.

The idea is controversial, to say the very least. For many in the rank-and-file military, it seems absurd, a bewildering cultural change that threatens to upend many assumptions about military life and traditional career paths. But while it’s not universally embraced, there is interest in Congress and among some of the military’s uniformed leaders.

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Is this the beginning of the end for the Islamic State?

Iraqi forces hunted down holdout jihadists in Fallujah on June 18 after retaking the city center and trained their sights on Mosul, the Islamic State’s last remaining major hub in the country, according to Agence France Presse.

While not fully under government control yet, Fallujah is the latest in a string of battlefield losses for IS, which has seen its two-year-old “caliphate” shrink significantly in recent months.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on June 17 declared Fallujah retaken after the national flag was raised over the main government compound, but IS fighters still hold most northern neighborhoods.

Elite Iraqi forces “are continuing their progress in the liberation of neighborhoods in northern Fallujah,” Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, overall commander of the operation, told AFP.

Forces led by the police of Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, were meanwhile combing reconquered southern neighborhoods for pockets of IS fighters and explosive devices, he said.

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They are known as the Agent Orange of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: Massive open-air burn pits at U.S. military bases that billowed the toxic smoke and ash of everything from Styrofoam, metals and plastics to electrical equipment and even human body parts.

The flames were stoked with jet fuel.

While it took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link Agent Orange, the defoliant used in Vietnam, to cancer, President Obama has pledged quick action to make determinations about the effect of the burn pits on perhaps as many as 60,000 U.S. troops, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

To date, the VA’s official position is that research has not established evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits. The magnitude of the issue, however, may not be clear for decades as delayed war casualties slowly emerge.

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The aftermath of mass shootings such as the one in Orlando, Fla., can look like a war zone. Now a panel of medical experts says the lessons the U.S. military has learned over the past 15 years by treating trauma on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq can save tens of thousands of lives at home, according to Bloomberg.com.

Traumatic injuries, from vehicle crashes to gunshot wounds, are the leading cause of death for Americans under 46, according to a new report published Friday by a committee from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine. Those injuries have killed 2 million Americans since 2001. The panel estimates that as many as one in five trauma deaths could be prevented with better care, saving 30,000 lives a year.

The committee identified “a number of important and badly needed changes in trauma care” and called for the White House to lead the integration of military and civilian trauma-care systems. The goal is to make sure the best practices get applied consistently, both across the military and in civilian settings, and to help the medical system institutionalize the lessons from wartime medicine. Getting military medical staff to rotate regularly into civilian hospitals was a key recommendation in the report.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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