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Alexander: Obama Has No ‘Serious Plan’ for Border, Should Send Nat’l Guard

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; July 30, 2014:

“First, President Obama should secure the border by using the National Guard if necessary. Second, the United States should cut off foreign aid to countries that don’t help us send these children home safely. Third, since a Democratic amendment to legislation that passed in 2008 makes it more difficult to send these unaccompanied children back to a safe place in their own countries, Congress needs to change the law.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted against the Democrats’ Emergency Supplemental Appropriations legislation, which includes the president’s request for funding to address the recent influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border.

“I voted against President Obama’s funding request for the border crisis because he still has not proposed a serious plan to secure the border and deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors entering our country,” said Alexander. “Earlier this month I proposed a three-part plan on how to do so. First, President Obama should secure the border by using the National Guard if necessary. Second, the United States should cut off foreign aid to countries that don’t help us send these children home safely. Third, since a Democratic amendment to legislation that passed in 2008 makes it more difficult to send these unaccompanied children back to a safe place in their own countries, Congress needs to change the law.”

In response to the immigration crisis, Alexander has cosponsored the HUMANE Act, which would expedite the process for reviewing immigration claims of unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally and authorizes 40 new judges to handle these immigration claims. Alexander first called on President Obama to consider deploying the National Guard to the border on July 9, and laid out his three-step proposal at an Appropriations Committee hearing to deal with the border crisis. His full remarks at that hearing are available here. Additionally, Alexander joined 42 senators last month in sending a letter to President Obama calling on him to “make clear” that the U.S. will enforce its “strict rules about how people get into our country.”

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Understanding Soldiers the Focus of Mental Health ‘Boot Camp’

With one of the largest military populations in the country, Tennessee is trying to ensure that service men and women coming home from war with mental illnesses are comfortable enough to get themselves treated.

One way to aid that effort, state officials say, is to put their health care professionals into boot camp first.

Last week, Tennessee enrolled state and private health care workers from around the country into a new program called “Operation Immersion,” a three-day event meant to increase understanding of military culture and the treatment of personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

About 80 officials from as far away as Hawaii and Washington, D.C., spent three days and two nights bunking at the Tennessee National Guard Training Center in Smyrna. Meals consisted of packaged food rations known as MREs. Wake up calls were at 0500 hours. And physical training and chores kicked off the day.

“They don’t live the way of life that we’ve grown up in, so by educating them it helps them, basically, help us,” said Maj. Paul Gonzales, a National Guard psychological health expert and speaker at last week’s boot camp.

The attendees spent much of their time listening to professionals from the field who detailed PTSD issues and behavioral problems unique to soldiers. They also taught the health care providers how to create similar programs in their own states.

The sessions were designed for counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and any other type of civilian practitioner who works with military personnel and wants to immerse themselves into the culture.

Trainers hope to have an impact in Tennessee, which boasts the sixth-largest National Guard in the nation and shares with Kentucky the distinction of housing the third-largest military population in the Army at Fort Campbell. It’s the seventh-largest in the Department of Defense.

More than 50,000 troops from the Volunteer State have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war, including nearly 20,000 Tennessee National Guard troops.

The number of servicemen and women in the National Guard with mental health illnesses is slightly higher than those in active duty, according Noël Riley-Philpo, a licensed clinical social worker and director of Psychological Health for the Tennessee National Guard.

Guard members live dual lives, she said. They struggle readjusting to civilian life, are unsure whether their jobs will be there when they come back from war or have trouble reconciling the difference between who they are out in the field and their identity at home.

And those who do recognize they have may have a problem still attach a stigma to it, she said, where guardsmen are expected to “suck up, drive on and move forward.”

When members of the military do decide to seek treatment, it’s important that they’re met with health care workers who can understand their perspective, said Maggie Throckmorton, director of Special Projects for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.

“We want to make certain that when behavior and health providers interact with a service member for the first time, that they don’t lose that opportunity to connect for ongoing services simply because they come from an uninformed place,” said Throckmorton, who is also one of the event’s main organizer.

This is the third such boot camp in Tenessee. The first two camps attracted almost 100 participants each, and neither made much of a dent on the department’s budget because they were using existing personnel to organize and host the events, she said.

“We do it as inexpensively as possible,” said Throckmorton.

The program is hosted by a consortium of agencies, including the state Department of Mental Health and Development Disabilities, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Tennessee National Guard and the Tennessee Veterans Task Force.

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Ramsey Wins ‘Patriotic Employer Award’

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; June 30, 2010:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today received the Patriotic Employer Award from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). ESGR is a Department of Defense (DoD) organization established to promote cooperation and understanding between Guard and Reserve component members and their civilian employers. ESGR’s state committee chooses award winners.

“I am truly honored to receive this award,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “We owe our veterans a great deal and I want to say a special thanks to them and their civilian employers who are indispensable to the success of the National Guard and Reserve.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey led several veteran-friendly efforts in this year’s legislative session. He sponsored legislation which created a Veterans’ Honor Medal program because Tennessee does not have an award that honors the military service of both Active Duty and Guard and Reserve components. He also worked to pass a bill to help service-disabled small business owners.

According to Mark Cashio, a service-disabled veteran business owner and retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, “Lt. Governor Ramsey was instrumental in supporting the Tennessee Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business Enterprise Opportunity Act, which allows service-disabled small business owners who have at least a 20% service-connected disability and who own and control at least 51% of a business to be included with minority-owned businesses when competing for state contracts.”

“This legislation will help level the playing field when service-disabled veteran owned small businesses are competing for state contracts,” Cashio said. “Lt. Governor Ramsey’s support for this legislation demonstrates his concern and willingness to assist service-disabled veteran-owned businesses in Tennessee.”

ESGR is a Department of Defense (DoD) organization established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Guard and Reserve component members and their civilian employers. ESGR’s state committee chooses award winners.

On the web:

http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/senate/members/s2.htm

http://esgr.org/site/

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Brig. Gen. Haston Appointed TN Adjutant General

State of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 4, 2009:

Gov. Phil Bredesen today appointed Brigadier General Terry M. “Max” Haston as Tennessee’s 75th Adjutant General. Haston will replace Major General Gus L. Hargett, Jr., who announced his retirement earlier this year. Haston is currently the Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Tennessee National Guard.

“I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Max Haston as Tennessee’s Adjutant General,” said Bredesen. “His years of experience as a commander and staff officer are vital to the continued professional leadership of our Tennessee Guard. I am confident that under his leadership, our soldiers and airmen will continue to uphold the time honored tradition set forth by the generations of Tennesseans who have served our state and nation.”

“I also want to express my appreciation once again to his predecessor, General Gus Hargett, for his service to our country and the state of Tennessee,” Bredesen continued. “He has been a trusted advisor to me and a true leader for Tennessee.”

Haston is a native of McMinnville and currently resides in Knoxville. He was commissioned in 1979 as an Armor Officer in the U.S. Army from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

“I’m honored to receive this appointment from Governor Bredesen,” said Haston. “The Tennessee National Guard leads the way both here at home and abroad, and I look forward to serving the state soldiers and airmen in this new appointment.”

After completing a tour on active duty at Ft. Hood, Texas, Haston joined the Tennessee Army National Guard in 1983. He has served in numerous command and leadership positions within the National Guard, including Armor Company Commander, Squadron and Regimental Training Officer, and Squadron Commander.

In 2001, Haston assumed command as the seventh Colonel of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, headquartered in Knoxville. Following command of the 278th, he was assigned as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and J-3, Joint Forces Headquarters, Tennessee. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Penn.

In May 2005, Haston mobilized and deployed as the Chief of Reserve Components, Multi-National Corps Iraq (XVIII Airborne Corps). Upon completion of his tour in the Middle East, he returned as the J-3, JFHQ TN. He was appointed the Assistant Adjutant General, Army, on May 6, 2008.

“Governor Bredesen could not have picked a more qualified person to command, train, mentor and serve with the outstanding and professional men and women of our Tennessee Guard,” said Hargett.

The Tennessee Army and Air National Guard stands at almost 17,000 officers and enlisted personnel. The Military Department oversees a total budget, including state and federal funds of over $400 million. The Adjutant General, a constitutional officer of the state appointed by the Governor, is responsible for the leadership and command of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Bureau of War Records.

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State Budget Shortfalls Could Close Three Vet Centers

Veterans Affairs offices in Memphis, Dickson and Cookeville could close if the state opts to cut the department’s budget by 9 percent next year, say VA officials.

Eliminating three field offices, eight staff positions and slashing travel and supply costs would save the department $407,300, according to John Keys, commissioner for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department’s current budget is $5.6 million.

Veterans now using those facilities would be absorbed by other branches, Keys said.

The Memphis office would relocate to the local VA Medical Center, though visitors of the Dickson and Cookeville offices would likely travel to Nashville or Chattanooga for assistance.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to meet that need,” Keys told Gov. Phil Bredesen at a budget hearing last month.

Bredesen requested that state agencies prepare scenarios that reflect 9 percent and 6 percent cuts to trim the overall state budget.

At field offices, veterans can file paperwork for benefits ranging from G.I. Bill tuition applications to health services for medical conditions and disabilities. Veterans also use those offices to check in on the status of their claims, or to inquire about other programs.

With 532,000 living Tennessee veterans, and more serving in ongoing U.S. wars, department budget officer Norman Nash says now isn’t the time to reduce staff.

“If we had no cuts at all, we would still need additional people,” he said.