Military

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'These Soldiers Are My Children'

Mar 5, 2018
Master Sergeat Judy Betancourt in 2009 with her six year old son Christian.
Courtesy Judy Betancourt

Master Sergeant Judy Betancourt found her calling in military service. A self-described female warrior, she's served 24 years in the Army, deploying overseas six times. But the job she loves has come at a personal cost. Her decision to remain on active duty after the birth of her son Christian meant months and years away from him.

As part of a recently released plan, the Trump Administration is proposing an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Finding Peace In The Present'

Feb 25, 2018
Portrait of Phil Sussman
Courtesy Phil Sussman

Before coming to Fort Bragg in 2016, Phil Sussman fractured his spine in a training accident, an injury he feared would end his military career.

"The pain was hands down the worst thing I've ever felt in my life, I can't even describe it," said Sussman. "I couldn't move, couldn’t roll over. It would bring my wife to tears every time she'd try to move me."

Still, Sussman was determined to continue his rigorous course of training.  His physical therapist, a former Green Beret, gave his blessing.

When veterans with war injuries need accessible housing, they often have few options.

U.S. advisors practice training “Afghan soldiers” — actually American troops  brought to Fort Polk to augment civilian role players actually from Afghanistan. Looking on are trainers who are evaluating the advisors’ performance
Jay Price / WUNC

The Army is creating a new kind of large unit for a mission that American troops have performed for decades: helping troops of friendly foreign nations train and fight.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Not A Shrinking Violet'

Feb 18, 2018
Portrait of Christina Railey, circa 1975.
Courtesy Patrick Railey

Patrick Railey was nine years old in 1970 when his father was killed in Vietnam. On the same day Chief Warrant Officer George Railey was fatally wounded, Patrick, his sister, and his mother were moving from Florida to their new house near Fort Bragg.

"I remember the scene of a military vehicle pulling up, well-dressed soldiers getting out and coming up to the house," Railey recalled. "You always knew that was bad news. You didn't want that to be your family."

The VA hopes to roll out a national "whole health" program for veterans, offering them acupuncture, tai chi, yoga,and other alternative mental health therapies.

Portrait of CPT. Kenisha Wilkerson
Matt Couch / WUNC

Kenisha Wilkerson was drawn to military service, despite some initial uncertainty.

"I was a little confused at first," said Wilkerson. "I was going back and forth, like, 'uhh, I might not be built for the Army.' But I knew I wanted to serve."

Photo of the Uncle Sam 'I want you for the U.S. Army' poster
Wikimedia Commons

Last spring, the Army told recruiters it expected them to enlist 6,000 new soldiers – the largest mid-year increase in its history. It recently also upped its yearly recruitment goal to an unexpected high of 80,000.

The Veterans Health Administration is planning to make mental health care more available to help reduce veteran suicide. But veterans advocates worry about the impact on the already strained VA health system.

courtesy of Daniel Bolger

In 1968, brothers Tom and Chuck Hagel volunteered for an infantry unit bound for Vietnam. One of them believed in the war; one was staunchly opposed to it. 

 

Portrait of Libby Brice
Matt Couch / WUNC

Libby Brice was 20 years old in 1961 when she got a job on post as a secretary for the Criminal Investigation Division, one of only three women in the unit.

The average military family moves every two to three years. Their household goods are supposed to move with them, but that doesn’t always happen ... and some families say the military doesn't do much to help.

Billy (left) and his brother Dewey, playing soldiers as children at Fort Bragg during World War II.
Courtesy Billy Herring

Billy Herring was seven years old when his family moved on to Fort Bragg in 1939, one of only three civilian families on post at the time. His father ran the dairy farm, supplying milk to the soldiers.

The Trump Administration wants to grow the Army substantially, even as potential recruits get harder to find. That's putting more pressure on recruiters than they've seen in years.

Lorie Southerland, with her husband Eric, at the opening of the new Fort Bragg Fisher House facility.
Keri Childress/Fort Bragg Fisher House

Lorie Southerland didn’t know the Fort Bragg Fisher House existed until the day she needed it.  

Her son, Spc. Michael Rodriguez, had just been killed in Iraq, and her out-of-town family needed somewhere to stay for his memorial service.  Fisher House opened its doors, as it has for hundreds of other military families, offering respite when loved ones come to Fort Bragg for medical treatment, or to mourn.

About 1.7 million troops are eligible to switch from a traditional pension plan to a blended plan that works more like a 401(k). But some lack the financial skills to evaluate their options.

Portrait of Col. (Ret.) Fred Black
Courtesy of Fred Black

As a young lieutenant in 1969, Fred Black was one of a handful of African-American officers at Fort Bragg. He said racial tensions rarely came to a head on post, but black soldiers could face discrimination when they ventured into the wider community.

California has become the eighth state to legalize recreational marijuana.  But using the drug can still end a military career.

"The Secret Ops of the CIA" calendars spotlight an unusual art genre: meticulous paintings of spy missions.

Portrait of Mike Thomas.
Matt Couch / WUNC

Mike Thomas was a young captain in the summer of 1990 when he got orders to deploy to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. After spending nine months in the Gulf, he flew home to Fort Bragg.

Ft. Bragg Stories uses personal narratives to explore life on and around this country's largest military base.  And, now it's available as a podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher

Fewer than one percent of Americans are in the military, compared with about nine percent during World War II. Researchers say that's helped create a divide between veterans and non-veterans.

EPICENTER PRESS / 2017

When they got married, Weaverville residents Dennis and Christine McClure never dreamed they would write a book together. That was before they learned the harrowing tale of the construction of the Alaska Highway during World War II. The U.S. government feared an invasion from the north by the Japanese and needed a way to get troops and supplies to Alaska in eight months. Commanding Army officers were reluctant to hire black regiments for the project, but they needed the manpower.

The TOWR Mobil Unit is currently used for testing and housed at RTI International’s facility in RTP.
Courtesy of RTI International

North Carolina-based RTI International is developing something that could reduce the number of troops injured while supporting forward operating bases: a new latrine system.

Homelessness often looks different for veterans living in rural communities: Rather than living in the streets, they may be couch-surfacing, sleeping in their cars, or camping in the woods.

A World War II era aircraft drops candy to children below as it flies over Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

In Manteo yesterday, hundreds of people turned out for an annual reenactment of a heartwarming part of the Cold War -- when American pilots dropped candy from the sky for the children of Berlin during the Soviet blockade.

A workshop in New York uses creative writing and Shakespearean monologues to help veterans heal.

Contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune military base has been linked to adverse health effects.
Sanjay Parekh, via Flickr

The state Agriculture Department plans to ask the legislature for $13 million to help buffer military bases from encroaching development.

The new veterans ID cards were mandated by a 2015 law. But some veterans groups are raising questions about the possibility that the cards will include corporate branding.

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