Podcast: Off The Base Archives

Guardsman Takes Over As MacDill AFB Commander
Commanding an Air Force Wing – like the 6th Air Mobility Wing in Tampa – is challenging enough. Add to that being accountable for the security and daily operations of a high profile military base that is headquarters for U.S. Central Command, and those responsibilities grow "huge." That’s why the Air Force selected Col. April Vogel to take command at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa. Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, the Air Force’s top Air Mobility Commander, called Vogel a "born leader" who is meticulous and a visionary with a proven track record of operational excellence. Meet Col. Vogel who talked one-on-one with WUSF reporter Bobbie O'Brien for her series Off the Base.
Watch Out For Veterans' Charity Scams
After 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq – there are more veterans and more charities helping veterans - some 40,000 military and veteran related non-profits. Yet, not all of them are legitimate. For our series Off the Base, WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien gives us some consumer tips on how to assure your donations actually benefit veterans and active duty military.
Homeless Vets Camp Where No Shelters Available
The Department of Veterans Affairs has the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness by January 1. That means any homeless veteran wanting housing will get it within a month or less. The less-developed nature of Pasco County has created additional challenges when it comes to finding, counting and serving homeless veterans.
West Point General Now Commands Saint Leo
This week, Saint Leo University in northeastern Pasco County welcomed more than new college students to campus. The 126-year-old Benedictine bastion of learning has a new president after 18 years. Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Dr. William Lennox Jr. stepped up July 1, 2015 to become the ninth Saint Leo president.
Sacrifice Sculpted In Steel
Take the single word – sacrifice – and turn it into a three dimensional sculpture that represents veterans, military service members and first responders like police and firefighters. It’s a tall order. But a challenge that more than 50 Polk County high school art students took on for this year’s Platform Art competition A poem titled “Honor” inspired last year’s first place sculpture. This year, the winning artist, Cierra Grenier, 18, drew inspiration from the New Testament.
Off the Base: Calling All Florida Women Veterans
Florida has 160,000 women veterans living in the state, yet some of those women do not consider themselves a veteran and many more have never applied for veterans’ benefits. Matching women veterans with available benefits, resources and support is the goal of the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference July 30-31, 2015 at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
13 New Veteran-Related Laws In Florida
Florida’s new law that expands access for service animals used by people with disabilities has received the most attention of the 13 veteran-related laws passed this year.
Off the Base: Help Promised For WWII Veteran Exposed to Mustard Gas
This week - NPR revealed that 60,000 World War II veterans were exposed to mustard gas while training in the U.S. The NPR investigation found that the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to keep its promise to help any of the mustard gas veterans who had permanent injuries. Now, the VA is again pledging to ensure exposed veterans are getting the benefits they’ve earned. One such World War II veteran from the Tampa Bay area who was denied compensation tells his story for this week’s Off the Base. WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien reports.
Off the Base: A Tale of Two Guide Dogs
WUSF reporter Bobbie O'Brien brings us the story of two dogs serving their country’s veterans through the Southeastern Guide Dogs Paws for Patriots program. There’s the “old girl” Brittani who has eased into retirement and the youngster Zak just graduated from “boot camp” still filled with puppy exuberance.
Off the Base: Airman's Suicide Spurs The Run for Jamie
According to the Veterans Administration -- 22 veterans on average commit suicide every day. And that number only reflects those in the VA system. Those who have never used the VA -- along with active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard -- are not figured in. WUSF's "Bobbie O'Brien" reports on one such case -- a Tampa Air Force reservist who took her own life in February -- and the veteran Army Ranger -- a total stranger -- who is taking up the cause of "suicide awareness and prevention..."
A Fallen Member of an All-Female Team
Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.
Off the Base: Winning Appeals on Denied Veteran Benefits
There’s no shortage of stories about veterans who have had their disability benefit claims denied by the Veterans Administration, or their appeals paperwork lost. The VA claims process can be complex, time consuming and downright frustrating.But the Stetson Veterans Advocacy Clinic is offering help for veterans who have had their disability benefits claims denied that they earned while serving in the military.
Off the Base: The Top NCO for Florida's 53rd Brigade
The top Non-Commissioned Officers from the Florida Army National Guard this weekend are at Camp Blanding vying for the title of “Florida NCO of the year.” It is two days of physical competitions, weapons and skills contests, a six-mile “ruck” march and tests on Army regulations. Representing the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Pinellas Park, is Staff Sergeant Aidana Baez. She won NCO competitions at the company level and battalion level to earn the top brigade honor.
Off the Base: The Numbers Behind Veteran Suicide
There’s a grim statistic on veteran suicide that is repeated often: VA officials say an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day. But what is not widely known about that statistic is that a majority of veterans committing suicide are older, age 50 and over, and did not serve in combat. WUSF reporter Bobbie O’Brien talked with Dr. Larry Schonfeld, a professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida’s Florida Mental Health Institute, about the statistics behind veteran suicide and research into the issues.
Aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker on a Refueling Mission
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 and you need to fill up the tank in mid-air.
Off The Base: Saint Leo Takes on Transitioning Veterans
Despite the recent air campaign against the Islamic State militants – the U.S. military is downsizing. An estimated 1 million service members will leave the military in the next 3-5 years. Moving from military to civilian life has challenges whether looking for a job or heading back to school. It’s called transitioning. WUSF's new, Veterans Coming Home project highlights resources that help with that transition. Bobbie O'Brien reports on a new online course for veterans and their families with that process.
Off the Base: Veterans Secretary Wants VA Whistleblowers
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.
Off the Base: Finding Jobs for Vets with 'Urgent' Needs
Despite the improving economy, finding a job or establishing a career remains a challenge and will be especially so for the million or more military service members expected to transition to civilian life in the next few years. So, the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Services created the Veterans Employment Project, thanks to a grant from the JP Morgan & Chase Company, to prepare USF student veterans for the competitive civilian market.
Off the Base: Driving Risks After Deployment
Driving skillss that can save a soldier’s life when deployed can cause an accident and maybe death when the soldier returns home. A 2012 study, by the insurance company USAA, showed that deployed military members have a 13 percent higher risk of being in an accident after returning stateside.
Off the Base: Army Ranger Cory Remsburg Returns to Haley VA
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 in Afghanistan and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center. Follow along as visits with the therapists and doctors who brought him out of a coma that lasted more than three months.
Off the Base: Bay Pines VA Mental Health Summit
Veterans mental health experts at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System admit the VA "can't do everything alone." So, they are holding a mental health summit August 22, 2014, looking to community partners to help guide veterans to services both inside and outside the VA System. Local mental health agencies, private health care organizations and some hospitals are expected to attend the invitation-only event.
Off the Base: Reaching Women Vets Is A Challenge
A veterans group in Sarasota is planning to honor a group of female veterans, but it's having trouble getting them interested in attending. It's not an uncommon problem especially when it comes to outreach aimed at younger veterans. The free event, on August 30, 2014, is sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 in Sarasota. For our series Off the Base, WUSF's "Bobbie O'Brien" reports on the event and the challenge of connecting to younger veterans.
Off the Base: Teen Volunteers Spend Vacation at Haley VA
When teachers ask this fall, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” nearly four dozen Tampa teenagers will answer, “I spent it at the James A. Haley VA Hospital.” For more than a decade, Haley has been operating a summer Youth Volunteer program that gives teenagers insight into health care careers while at the same time helping veterans.
Off the Base: Disabled Veterans Find their Freedom on Horseback
It has been said that in riding a horse, we borrow freedom. This is especially true for riders at an Odessa farm that uses gentle giants to foster physical and emotional growth. WUSF intern Tessa Wiseman took a trip to the farm to meet the team of humans and horses behind the healing.
Off the Base: The STAR Room Treatment for Brain-Injured Veterans
The medical staff at James A. Haley VA Polytrauma Center was acknowledged in April for their “cutting edge” care that helped revive Army Ranger Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg from a severe brain injury. The therapies used by the medical staff are now part of the Sensory Technology Awareness Room, the STAR room, designed specifically for patients who are minimally conscious at the new Polytrauma Center in Tampa.
Off the Base: How to Observe Memorial Day
How to do you plan to observe Memorial Day - a day set aside to remember service members who have fallen in battle and others who are no longer living. Kurt Rotar, director of the Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell and Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, offers a few suggestions including visiting your nearest national cemetery to pay tribute.
Off the Base: A Freedom Ride for Wounded Warriors
There’s nothing quite like the freedom of the road and the adventure of discovering what’s around the next turn. That independence is what inspired two Air Force Academy buddies to plan a cross-country motorcycle ride next month. But the Project Road Warrior Ride is unique because most of the riders are military members from the Care Coalition, an organization that cares for wounded, ill and injured members of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
MacDill Airfest
Off The Base: Off the Base, is a multi-media project designed to build a bridge and give the civilian community a better understanding of military life for service members and their families. Of special interest are military families dealing with multiple deployments to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those deployments weigh equally heavy on the family at home as the service member in harm’s way. There are stories of success and stress that need to be told. We’ll hear from families preparing for deployment, currently living through a deployment and about the adjustments after a service member returns home.

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