Off The Base

Off The Base
4:41 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker on a Refueling Mission

F-16 Thunderbirds fly near the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker.
Lottie Watts WUSF 89.7

When you're about to run out of gas in your car, you don't think too much about pulling into the closest station to fill up.  The process is a bit more complicated if you're a pilot flying an F-16 Thunderbird with the United States Air Force. That requires an airborne filling station. 

For our series Off The Base, we went on a refueling mission in a KC-135 Stratotanker out of Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

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Off The Base
3:22 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Chili Cook-Off Connects Veterans on Campus

Naming your chili is half the fun of participating in the annual Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by the USF Office of Veterans Affairs.
Credit Office of Veterans Affairs / USF

Over the last five years the University of South Florida Office of Veterans Services has worked to raise its visibility among the estimated 1,400 student veterans on campus and provide them resources.

One way USF Veterans Services has gained a lot of notice is its annual Chili Cook-Off.

This year, the Office of Veterans Services 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off is scheduled 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5th at the Marshall Center Amphitheater on the Tampa Campus, 4202 E. Fowler Ave.

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Off The Base
9:50 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Military Suicide Survivors Gather in St. Pete Beach

Kim Ruoco is a Marine spouse and military suicide survivor who helped develop a program for families dealing with a loved one in the military who died by suicide.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This weekend marks the 6th annual National Military Suicide Survivors Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors organized by TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. About 500 adults and 170 children will participate in workshops, art therapy and outdoor activities learning skills to cope with the suicide of a loved one who served in the military.

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Off The Base
7:25 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Tampa's Director to Help Troubled Phoenix VA

Youth volunteer Mairyn Harris, 14, and Kathleen Fogarty, director of James A. Haley VA Medical Center, summer 2014.
Credit Tessa Wiseman / WUSF Public Media

The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has temporarily assigned Kathleen Fogarty, the director of Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center, to help restore trust and transparency at one of the most troubled VA networks that oversees the Phoenix VA hospital.

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Off The Base
8:25 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Veterans Secretary Wants VA Whistleblowers

VA Secretary Bob McDonald (left) watches as paralyzed Navy Veteran Dwayne Scheuneman (right) demonstrates the Exoskeleton during the new leader's visit Wednesday at the James A. Haley VA Polytrauma Center.
Credit U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Secret patient waiting lists, delayed medical care, retaliation against whistleblowers  are all reasons why trust in the VA hit an all-time low this spring especially on Capitol Hill.

The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert “Bob” McDonald is trying to restore that trust. He’s started by visiting as many VA facilities as possible during his first 90 days in office.

McDonald toured several Florida VA facilities this week and he invited U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee of Veterans Affairs, to come along.

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Off The Base
6:52 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Full Impact of Wars on VA System Will Take 40 Years

On the left, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-R) and at the podium is new, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Looking for suggestions on how to improve service and shorten wait times throughout the VA system, the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs visited Florida this week to hear directly from veterans, VA employees, veteran service organizations and VA administrators.

Secretary Robert McDonald- who likes to be called Bob - said progress is being made on speeding up medical appointments and decreasing the wait for benefit claims. As an example, McDonald said the national backlog of disability claims has been reduced 57 percent from its peak in March 2013.

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Off The Base
7:23 am
Wed October 1, 2014

VA Secretary Visits Florida Facilities

VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
Credit U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

The new Secretary of Veteran Affairs is in Florida today to hear from veterans and talk to VA employees about his initiative to restore trust in the VA and eliminate the backlog of claims and long waits for health care.

Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, is spending his first 90 days in office visiting VA facilities nationwide to explain his reform plan dubbed Road to Veterans Day 2014.

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Off The Base
4:35 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Mud Run to Benefit Saint Leo Student Vets

A portion of the Mud Endeavor obstacle course in Brooksville.
Credit Courtesy Mud Endeavor

Sometimes you’ve got to get down and dirty to raise money for your charity. And that’s exactly what Saint Leo University is doing.

To raise money for the veteran student emergency fund (now known as Military Education Excellence), the Saint Leo Veteran Student Services office is partnering with Mud Endeavor to sponsor the Mud Endeavor V Saturday, Oct. 4, at 29251 Wildlife Lane, Brooksville, FL.

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Off The Base
10:22 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Saint Leo Takes on Transitioning Veterans

Standing next to the 'teacher statue at Saint Leo Unviersity is Tedd "Gunny" Weiser, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and interim director of Veteran Student Services.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

It’s difficult to define today’s military veteran. But there is one thing they have in common - they don’t like being painted with the same broad brush.

“Just because I’m a veteran, particularly me because I’m a Marine, a combat Marine, don’t think you know my political affiliation, my beliefs, my values,” said Tedd “Gunny” Weiser, short for Gunnery Sergeant. “There is a label and we want to shed that, we want people to know that we are our own person.”

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Off The Base
2:09 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Video: Air Strike Against ISIL Refinery

The Jeribe West Refinery being run by ISIL is targeted for bombing Sept. 24, 2014.
Credit U.S. Central Command

The United States Central Command has released unclassified video of an air strike Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, on the Jeribe West Modular Refinery in Syria.

The Islamic State militants (ISIL) reportedly earn an estimated $2 million daily from several oil fields and refineries in the region.

The Associated Press reports:

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Off The Base
6:03 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Congressman Jolly Helps Kick Off Cell Phones for Soldiers Campaign

People can drop off unused cell phones at Freedom Square in Seminole.
Credit Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Freedom Square, a continuing care community in Seminole, is a drop-off site for Cell Phones for Soldiers: a program that lets soldiers serving overseas connect with their families.

The Cell Phones for Soldiers program collects unused cell phones. Funds from recycled, unused cell phones and cash donations go towards mailing free calling cards to soldiers.

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Off The Base
12:24 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg 'Leads the Way'

Dr. Steven Scott, director of the Polytrauma Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital, talks with his former patient, Army Ranger Cory Remsburg.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain.

He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley.

More than 800 patients have come through the polytrauma system according to Haley Chief of Staff Dr. Edward Cutolo, but he remembers Remsburg.

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Off The Base
7:30 am
Thu September 18, 2014

MacDill Gives President Rousing Response

President Barack Obama addressing service members at MacDill Air Force Base, home to US Central Command, US Special Operations Command and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.
Marine Sgt. Fredrick Coleman CENTCOM

The pride of “wearing the uniform” was clear and present inside the MacDill Air Force Base sports center Wednesday where 1,200 service members from all branches crowded together to hear President Barack Obama.

Most were dressed in the everyday, camo uniform. They greeted the president with an enthusiasm that belied the rainy, gray skies outside.

President Obama talked directly to the men and women. He said he came to thank them for their sacrifice and for their commitment to the country.

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Off The Base
11:05 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

President Obama Arrives at MacDill, Stops by Military Spouse Appreciation Event

A map of U.S. Central Command's AOR, area of responsibility.
Credit CENTCOM / U.S. Department of Defense

President Barack Obama landed at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base shortly before 7  p.m. Tuesday, following a flight from Atlanta where he announced a major U.S. response to  the Ebola crisis in Africa.

The President was greeted by the Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin, the newly installed Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of MacDill and the 6th Air Mobility Wing Col. Daniel Tulley, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-D).

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Off The Base
7:30 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Deployed Troops at Risk for Accidents Back Home

A U.S. military cargo truck bypasses a charred vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb while moving building materials to Forward Operating Base Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Nov. 24, 2009.
Credit U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg / Department of Defense

Evasive driving maneuvers like speeding and sudden lane changes are a must for troops driving in dangerous environments where there may be roadside bombs, like Afghanistan.

But the driving habits that can save a soldier’s life when deployed can cause an accident and maybe death when the soldier returns home.

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