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ReserveVoice: February 15, 2017

Legislative Update

Reserve Component Cyber Seminar

ROA will host a Defense Education Forum, Reserve Component Cyber Seminar, on March 15, 2017, 0830-1030 at ROA Headquarters.  The event is being held to spotlight how Guard and Reserve forces support the cyber strategy.  In 2015, The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy stated, “Draw on the National Guard and Reserve. Throughout the course of this strategy, DoD will draw on the National Guard and Reserve Components as a resource for expertise and to foster creative solutions to cybersecurity problems. The Reserve Component offers a unique capability for supporting each of DoD’s missions, including for engaging the defense industrial base and the commercial sector. It represents DoD’s critical surge capacity for cyber responders.”  Guard and Reserve service speakers will be provided in the February 28, 2017 Reserve Voice.  The seminar will follow ROA’s Senior Leader Conference from March 11-14, 2017 and ROA’s STARs Foundation Gala on March 14, 2017.

House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Roundtable

ROA attended the HVAC roundtable on February 1, 2017 to discuss priorities for the 115th Congress.  Legislative Director, Susan Lukas, shared ROA’s veteran’s priorities were parity for mobilization benefits under Title 10 Section 12304b, need to change veteran status for federal hiring preference to 180 days’ cumulative service and to improve the approval rating for Guard and Reserve disability applications.  The HVAC Oversight Committee is considering “…needed actions to improve the Choice program” to increase availability of healthcare along with other issues such as mental health and suicide prevention, VA organizational and management structure, and pain and medication management.

Army Update

Vinnie Viola Withdraws His Name for Consideration for Army Secretary

Vincent Viola withdrew his name from consideration to be President Trump’s Army Secretary. Citing difficulty meeting the Pentagon’s divestment standards from his business, Viola stated he would be unable to meet the requirements given his large business investments (Viola is a multi-billionaire).
Sec. of Defense James Mattis reportedly was frustrated with President Trump’s transition team for not consulting him when selecting Viola for Army Secretary. However, Mattis expressed sadness when hearing Viola withdrawing from the Army Secretary nomination process.  Through a spokesman, Mattis said he “is disappointed but understands and respects Mr. Viola's decision. The Secretary is confident that Mr. Viola will remain a stalwart supporter of America's soldiers." Mattis also said he would start considering a new Army Secretary.
For now, the acting Army Secretary will remain Robert Speer.

U.S. Army Reserve Companies Getting Remote-Controlled
Gun Turrets

27 Army Reserve company sized units will receive the commonly remote-operated weapon stations (CROWs) to replace their manned units. Currently, Army Reserve Humvees operate with manned turrets, which leave soldiers exposed to enemy fire. CROWs will be operated via a remote in the vehicle allowing for soldiers to remain under cover while they operate the turret.
The first units who will begin receiving them in fiscal year 2017 are military police and chemical units. The CROWs have daytime and thermal cameras which can see up to 1,500 meters permitting daytime and nighttime operations. The weapons system is compatible with the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, the MK19 automatic grenade launcher the M240B rifle and the M249 squad automatic weapon.

U.S. Afghan Commander Believes Thousands of More Troops Needed

Gen. John Nicholson stated in Senate testimony that thousands of more troops are needed to stabilize Afghanistan. Gen. Nicholson reported Afghan soldiers have been taking heavy casualties, while the Taliban have regained control of large swaths of Afghanistan. Increasingly, terrorist organizations have been able to regroup and strengthen themselves due to safe havens in Pakistan.
Nicholson argued combat troops are not what is needed at this point, but rather advise and assist units who can augment Afghan forces. Rather than supplanting Afghan forces, the aim is to make them fight more effectively. Problems have arisen though because reduced troop levels have made the U.S. more reliant on contractors. This has imposed additional costs and reduced troop cohesion. Both Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain and Gen. Nicholson concurred more troops are needed to correct this unit cohesion and effectiveness.
Currently, the U.S. has 8,400 troops out of the total 13,000 NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. The additional troops need not necessarily come strictly from the U.S., but from other NATO allies as well. However, since the bulk of the mission is still under the U.S., it seems likely most of the troops will be from the U.S.

Naval Services

Naval Reserve Update:

New Navy Secretary has roots in Reserve Components

ROA is happy to work with every government leader as we serve the Guard and Reserve members across all of our uniformed services.  That responsibility is made much easier when there is some innate understanding of the necessity and value of a robust Reserve structure.  Which is why it is a comfort to note that Philip Bilden served for 10 years as an Army Reserve Intelligence officer following his graduation from Georgetown University.  Something the Navy Times article did not speculate on is whether Mr. Bilden, if confirmed, would be cheering “Beat Army” at the next Army-Navy football game….

Marine Reserve Update

USMC Aviation Readiness drives a change in F-35C transition plN  

An InsideDefense article highlights that the whole of USMC F/A-18 inventory – 171 Hornets including training squadrons and Reserve squadrons – only 72 are ready to fly.  That situation has driven the Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Lt. Gen. Davis) to choose three Hornet squadrons to transition to the new F-35C.  Those transitions were originally planned for Harrier units.

Coast Guard Reserve Update

VMI Grad, now Grad Student at George Mason, has served in USCGR since Freshman year

There are those uniformed members you meet every once in a while who simply exude what is means to be American from every pore and in everything they do.  Coast Guard reservist Petty Officer 3rd Class Casondra Minifield is exactly one of those people.  Her inspiring story is highlighted in an article on

Air Force Update

Comedian Dave Chappelle visits Joint Base Charleston

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tom Brading)
Actor/comedian Dave Chappelle rode his black Ducati motorcycle up to Joint Base Charleston’s main gate where he met an aircrew of Reservists from the 315th Airlift Wing.  He was accompanied by Chappelle Show alumnus Donnell Rawlings, a four-year Air Force veteran.

How Versatile are Air Force Reservists?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Hilda M. Becerra / Released)

Just ask Individual Mobilization Augmentee Col. Carl Magnusson, who has travelled the globe in support of a variety of U.S. operations, if he ever imagined he would be helping contain an attempted coup.  A one year voluntary tour became two as he filled multiple roles with the U.S. Pacific Command.

Departments & Members

ROA Golden West Department Hosts JOPDS Program

Consistent with its commitment to today's serving Reservists, the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) Defense Education Forum (DEF) in conjunction with the Department of the Golden West will host a Joint Officer Professional Development Seminar (JOPDS) Program, 21-23 April at The Bard Mansion, Pt Hueneme, CA.
JOPDS is one of the premier professional development opportunities available to our younger officers and is one of the only professional development seminars to emphasize joint service participation.  To date, more than a thousand young officers from all services have benefited from these ROA DEF events. The JOPDS Program includes the following ranks: O-1/4, WO1-4, and E-7/9.
Note: I will be out of country on a 30-day Inca cruise (South America) with no or little email capability and no phone service.  Dates out of state 19 Feb, then depart out of country 22 February-23 March and back to Tucson late 26 March.
The DoGW conducts its department convention during the same date as the JOPDS. Registration form and Syllabus for the JOPDS program can be downloaded below and is also available on both the Department of Golden West and National Websites.
  • JOPDS Syllabus (pdf)            • JOPDS Registration Form (Word)
Our DoGW Sentinel Newsletter: January 2017 edition is now available on the Department of Golden West Website and includes JOPDS & Convention Registrations

Members, spouses and guests of the MG JEB Stuart Chapter, Richmond, VA gathered for a dinner meeting to launch 2017.  The chapter meets periodically thru the year, and is active in legislative affairs, ROTC awards, Virginia War Memorial events, and in the past has supported both the Bedford D-Day Memorial and the Honor Flight program.

ROA Red Caps Attend Nebraska State Legislature Hearing

Richard Spencer and Dale Anderson attended the Nebraska State Legislature Hearing on LB 121, exemption for retired military state income taxes. (Left) Following the hearing, Spencer and Anderson met Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer, who was a sponsor of the bill. (Right) ROA members Richard Spencer and Dale Anderson outside the Nebraska State Capital sporting their Red Caps.”

Military Families

New Calculations Reveal Commissaries Save Less Than Previous Estimations

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) has revised the estimated amount of shoppers save at commissaries from 30% to 23.7%. The new estimate does not reflect a change in commissary prices, but rather a change in how commissaries calculate price differences. Instead of basing cost comparisons on a national basis, DeCA has started to compare regional price differences between commissaries and local stores.
The change will provide a more accurate picture of how much each shopper is saving because it no longer simply averages price savings, but looks at the regional price savings. Now regional shoppers from Alaska to Florida and overseas can know about how much comparably they are saving to other shoppers in their region.

The new cost saving levels will be influential because DeCA has begun changing how it calculates prices. DeCA is shifting to variable pricing where it will change the price to reflect comparable pricing to local stores. This will result in some items to lower their price while others raise their price so they can stay cost-competitive with local store prices while covering the maintenance and labor costs of the commissaries. The estimated commissary savings will impact how much commissaries vary these prices to maintain those savings.

DeCA Boss Announces Retirement

The Defense Commissary Agency Director Joseph J. Jeu announced he will step down as head of DeCA on June 3, 2017. There are no immediate plans to replace him.
Jeu leaves after nearly forty years of service in the federal government working first as a commissary specialist. Jeu steps down during a time when the commissaries are undergoing increased scrutiny from Congress. Congress is concerned about how much taxpayers are footing the bill for maintaining the commissaries. There have been discussions about privatizing the commissaries, but no solid indications whether Congress will move forward with that proposal.

Commissary Announce Their Store Brand Names

Beginning in May, military commissaries will offer commissary store brand products. Freedom’s Choice will tag food items, while HomeBase will label non-food items like household appliances and paper products.

When unveiling them, DeCA Director Joseph J. Jeu said, “Freedom's Choice and HomeBase will give our patrons another chance to save money without sacrificing quality on brands priced significantly lower than national brands. Our private label products will also be equal or lower in price to commercial grocery store brands. These products will give our patrons the quality they expect and the savings they deserve." The intention it seems is to be more cost-competitive to national store brands, which have sometimes had lower-priced products than commissaries.

Online Financial Training for New Blended Retirement System Is Now Available

The Department of Defense has posted the online financial training for all those who want to switch into the new blended retirement system.  The online training is required for all servicemembers who want to participate in the new blended retirement system. Active duty members who have served less than 12 years by Dec. 31, 2017 and reserve component members who have less than 4,320 retirement points can opt into the new blended retirement plan.

The course is required for any member who decides they want to switch to the blended retirement plan. Servicemembers have until Dec. 31, 2018 to finish the courses and opt into the blended retirement plan. For servicemembers entering after Jan. 1, 2018, they will automatically be enrolled in the blended retirement plan and be required to take the online financial training.

The online training is available at Joint Knowledge Online for those with a CAC. Servicemembers and military family members without a CAC can access the training at at

Did you know that TRICARE offers free publications that explain your TRICARE benefit? Check out the new publications at


USS Waldron DD-699

April 27-May 1, 2017,
Doubletree by Hilton at the Houston Hobby Airport
8181 Airport Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77061
Contact: Ron Wells,  Phone: 512-282-4507

U.S.S. Lawrence Association (DDG-4 & DD-250)

May 2-7, 2017 Website:
Doubletree by Hilton, Jacksonville Riverfront
1201 Riverplace Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207
Hotel: 904-398-8800
Contact Craig Bernat, Phone: 814-322-4150

U.S.S. Carpenter DD 825 Reunion

May 18-22, 2017
891 So. Walnut, #205, Nashville, Tenn.
Contact: Jimmie Kennedy

U.S.S. Yellowstone (AD-27) Association Reunion

August 23-27, 2017
Hilton Gardens, Columbus , Ga.
Contact: Paul W. Bowen, Secretary/Treasurer & Reunion Planner
Cell: 352-208-5400  Email:

U.S.S. John R. Craig DD885

September 6-10, 2017
Norfolk, VA
Contact: Jerry Chwalek
Phone: 734-525-1469

U.S.S. Randolph/CV-CVA-CVS 15

September 17-24, 2017
2008 Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront
668 West Fifth St., Covington, KY 41011
Contact Sal Rizza,  321-454-2344

USS Ranger CVA/CV-61

(all former crew members, Squadrons, Marine detachment or T.A.D.’s
September 20-23, 2017
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Warwick RI
Contact: George Meoli   Email:
Phone: 203-453-4279

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society Biennial Convention

September 24-28, 2017,
Dallas, Texas,
Contact: Bruce Huffman, Phone: 518-578-7089,

USS Wilhoite DE/DER 397

Date: October 2-5, 2017
Crowne Plaza Dayton  Ph: 1-800-689-5586
33 East Fifth Street, Dayton, Ohio
Contact: Elisabeth Kimball  Email:
Ph: 479-280-2776

Law Reviews:

Legal analysis on the issues impacting your life in and out of uniform

Former Service Member’s Law Center director, retired USNR Capt. Sam Wright, provides periodic law review updates.  Please see ROA’s Law Center webpage for more information on service members’ law.
  • No. 17006 Military Pension Division: The Frozen Benefit Rule
  • No. 17007 Hazlewood Act’s Requirement of Texas Residence at Time of Enlistment Is Not Unconstitutional
  • No. 17008 Am I Stuck with my “Domicile” in Puerto Rico?
  • No. 17009 If you Are Claiming that the Firing Violates USERRA, you Can Appeal
  • No. 17010 USERRA Entitles You to Return to a Position of like Status
Visit the Service Members Law Center
Reserve Voice is published on the 15th and 30th of each month by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, the nation’s leading advocate for Reserve Component policy and resourcing, and support of RC service members and their families.

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