October 4, 2015

Sen. Fischer: really disturbed by Russian bombings in Syria

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

Russia’s military maneuvers in Syria have the attention of Congress.

“I’m really disturbed by the Russian bombings that we’re seeing in Syria,” U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.

Fischer says Russia has become more emboldened the past few years.

“With their actions in Crimea, Ukraine, cyber-attacks in Estonia, they are becoming more and more belligerent in many areas around the area, around their borders,” according to Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Fischer says though Russia insists it has been attacking the Islamic State, reports from the region indicate Russia might have fired upon rebel groups backed by the United States.

Fischer lays part of the blame on President Barack Obama.

“I just find it really disturbing. I think it just reflects the vacuum of leadership that we now have, because of the lack of American leadership through this administration,” Fischer says.

Though the United States opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he is supported by Russia.

Russian officials have acknowledged the airstrikes in Syria have targeted groups other than the Islamic State, as known as ISIL and ISIS. Those groups though, according to Russian officials, are known terrorist groups. They deny rebel groups backed by the United States have been targeted. Those groups have been fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.


U.S. Sen. Fischer calls Obama ISIL strategy a failure (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

United States Senator Deb Fischer calls the Obama Administration strategy to fight the Islamic State a failure.

The assessment comes on the heels of an Armed Services Committee hearing in which U.S. Central Command Commander, General Lloyd Austin III, admitted only four or five trained Syrians remain in the fight against ISIL.

The admission shocked the committee, on which Sen. Fischer serves, and disclosed the dismal results of a program that began with the goal of assembling an army of 5,000 to 12,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight ISIL.

The “train and equip” program began with high aspirations and a $500 million budget. Fischer supported it as did Congress. Instead of thousands, it assembled only 60 troops who were routed in their first conflict, leaving at best five troops.

Fischer says the problem didn’t start with the program. She sees the problem beginning in 2012, when President Barack Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be a red line in the escalating crisis sparked by the Syrian civil war.

The United Nations confirmed the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime to kill an estimated 1,400 people in 2013.

“When we have a president who draws the red line in the sand and there’s no follow-up, I think that was the beginning of descent into chaos,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.

Fischer says the West is just now becoming aware of the real nature of the crisis with the flood of refugees washing up on Europe’s shores. She says it’s no new development, but one that began four years ago; one she observed first-hand when visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.

The Obama Administration has stated its goal is to degrade and destroy ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State. Fischer says the steps taken so far will not defeat ISIL. Fischer says the root of the problem seems to be the strategy does not connect with events on the ground.

Fischer says it is time for the president to consider other options.

“But, I just do not think that we can continue down the path that we’re on now with half efforts that result in failure.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

September is Veterans Suicide Prevention Month

The U-S Department of Veterans Affairs is rallying Nebraskans and those across the country for community support during Suicide Prevention Month. Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Caitlin Thompson says they are encouraging everyone to use “The Power of 1” to support veterans in need. She urges everyone to be aware of the warning signs.

Dr. Thompson says, “When you notice significant changes in their behavior or in their mood. If you notice if someone seems more despondent or angrier than usual. If you notice if someone is sleeping more than usual or if they are drinking more alcohol than they usually are, those are the times you should reach out and say hey, I just want to let you know I’m concerned about you. Is there something going on?”

Dr. Thompson says some veterans are more at risk of suicide than others. She says veterans that have not been deployed have a higher rate of suicide than those who have been. Older veterans are more at risk of suicide. Men who are 50 years of age and older have a higher rate of suicide but that is true with the general population as well. She says they are also seeing higher suicide rates in younger veterans, those 26 years of age.

Dr. Thompson says family and friends are urged to contact the Veterans Crisis Line if they suspect problems. Help is available by using their hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is also available by online chat by logging on to VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or through text-messaging at 838255.


Ben Kuroki, Nebraska native and WWII hero, dies

Ben Kuroki/Army Air Corps photo

Ben Kuroki/Army Air Corps photo

A Nebraska native believed to be the only Japanese-American to fly bombing missions over Japan has died.

Ben Kuroki, a native of Hershey, was 98.

Kuroki, a tail gunner in World War II, flew 30 missions over Europe, then 28 over Japan. Kuroki was actually taken prisoner in Morocco after his B-24 crashed. Upon release by authorities in Spain, he returned to his unit and to service.

He had to overcome a War Department (as the Defense Department was called at the time) prohibition for Japanese-Americans to fly missions over their native land.

Kuroki receive the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2005.

Kuroki died last week at his home in Camarillo, California.

A Few Good Jobs For Vets seminar

The job search may be a strange and unknown “battlefield” for our soldiers leaving the military, settling back into civilian life and getting a job. A free seminar, “A Few Good Jobs for Vets in Transition” will be held on Thursday, August 27th. Paul Madsen is leading the seminar and says their goal is to help put the skills soldiers learned in the military and transfer them to work in the private sector.

Madsen says, “One of the parts is to really help veterans access the skills they do have. Sometimes their skills they learned in the military don’t necessarily translate to the civilian marketplace so we are going to help them to learn exactly what skills transfer and how to sell those skills.”

Madsen says part two of the seminar is how to conquer the interview process.   The seminar is from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Military Veterans Service Center at 21st and Harvell Circle in Bellevue. There is no charge for the seminar but space is limited and advance registration is suggested.