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Joint Chiefs: Transgender policy won't change until Pentagon gets it in writing from Trump

The nation’s highest ranking military officer said in a letter Thursday to top military officials that there will not be changes to the military’s transgender policy until after President Donald Trump sends direction to the Pentagon.

>> Read more trending news

"I know there are questions about yesterday's announcement on the transgender policy by the president," Marine Gen. Joe Dunford wrote in the message, addressed to the chiefs of the services and senior enlisted leaders, according to Politico. "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president's direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

A photo of the letter was shared on Twitter Thursday by CNN reporter Barbara Starr.

Ellen DeGeneres fires back at Trump's tweet about transgender military ban

Ellen DeGeneres certainly doesn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s latest announcement about banning transgender individuals from joining the military.

>> Trump: Transgender people won't be allowed in the military

Following the news of the ban, the TV host shared a message with fans on Twitter to express her disagreement.

>> These 18 countries allow transgender people in their militaries

“We should be grateful to the people who wish to serve, not turn our backs on them. Banning transgender people is hurtful, baseless and wrong,” DeGeneres wrote.

>> See the tweet here

DeGeneres previously expressed her dismay when she used humor to address Trump’s refugee ban. In January, DeGeneres used her film “Finding Dory” to explain why she disagreed with the ban.

>> 69 years ago, Truman ordered 'right and just' desegregation of US armed forces

“I don’t get political, but I will say that I am against [the ban],” she said. “I am not going to talk about the travel ban. I am just going to talk about the very non-political, People’s Choice Award-winning film ‘Finding Dory.’”

>> Report: Transgender health care would cost fraction of what military spends on Viagra, similar drugs

“Dory arrives in America with her friends, Marlon and Nemo, and she arrives at the Marine Life Institute behind a large wall. And they all have to get over the wall. And you won’t believe it, but that wall has almost no effect in keeping them out,” she said. “The other animals help Dory. Animals that don’t even need her. Animals that have nothing in common with her. They help her even though they are completely different colors, because that’s what you do when you see someone in need. You help them.”

>> What is the difference between transgender and transsexual?

In November, when Trump was first elected president, DeGeneres shared an inspiring message with her viewers to help bring give hope to Americans who were despondent about the poll results.

>> Read more trending news

“You may have heard that there was a presidential election on Tuesday. The big winner was alcohol,” she said at the time. “Obviously, a lot of people were disappointed with the results. My job is to be hopeful and make everybody feel good, so I am going to keep doing that as long as I can.”

>> Texas mayor: Transgender and kicked out of military? Join our police force

She added: "If you are feeling a little anxious or scared, I am here to tell you that things can turn out OK."

69 years ago today, Truman ordered 'right and just' desegregation of US armed forces

Sixty-nine years ago on July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order abolishing racial discrimination in the United States armed forces.

>> Read more trending news

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin,” executive order 9981 stated.

While the issued order established the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, or the Fahy Committee, segregation in the military wouldn’t officially end for months.

>> Related: Trump: Transgender people won't be allowed in the military

The number of black Marines grew quickly, from 1,525 to 17,000 in May 1949.

Full integration, according to the Truman Library, didn’t happen until the Korean War in 1953, “when heavy casualties forced segregated units to merge for survival.”

>> Related: These 18 countries allow transgender people in their militaries

Before executive order 9981, blacks and other minorities serving in the military were segregated into separate units, often performing menial tasks.

Segregation within the armed services came to an official end in November 1954 with the deactivation of the 94th Engineer Battalion, the country’s last black military unit.

Read executive order 9981 below:

EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981

Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity In the Armed Forces.

WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:

NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

  1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.
  2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.
  3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the Armed Services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.
  4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.
  5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.
  6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive order.

Harry Truman

The White House July 26, 1948

 

Report: Transgender health care would cost fraction of what military spends on Viagra, similar drugs

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “tremendous medical costs” were partially behind his decision to bar transgender Americans from serving in the military. However, a report from The Washington Post showed that estimates for the cost of caring for transgender service members amount to just a fraction of what the military currently spends on erectile dysfunction drugs.

>> Read more trending news

The president did not provide any numbers to support his claim. However, the Post reported, a study commissioned by the Department of Defense and published last year by the Rand Corp. estimated that it would cost a maximum of $8.4 million per year to pay for transition-related care.

According to the report, the funds amount to “a 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase” in health care costs.

The American Medical Association said in a statement that there is “no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service.”

“AMA policy also supports public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by the patient's physician,” According to the Rand study on the impact of transgender individuals in the military, the financial cost is a rounding error in the defense budget and should not be used as an excuse to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country. We should be honoring their service - not trying to end it.”

>> Related: Trump: Transgender people won't be allowed in the military

The Rand Corp. estimate amounts to about one-tenth of the amount the military spends each year on erectile dysfunction prescriptions, the Post reported.

A 2015 analysis of Defense Health Agency data by the Military Times showed the Department of Defense spent $84.24 million in 2014 on prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs.

In the period between 2011 and 2014, the newspaper reported, the military spent $294 million on erectile dysfunction prescriptions, “the equivalent of nearly four U.S. Air Force F-35 Join Strike Fighters.”

>> Related: What is the difference between transgender and transsexual?

A separate study on the costs of transgender health care, published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimated that about 12,800 transgender troops were serving in the military and eligible for health care. The cost to provide transition-related care would amount to about $5.6 million annually, or 22 cents per member per month, according to the study.

Aaron Belkin, the study’s author and director of the Palm Center research institute, wrote that, “Though my utilization and cost estimates are quite close to actual data provided by an allied military force, it seems clear that under any plausible estimation method, the cost amounts to little more than a rounding error in the military's $47.8 billion annual health care budget.”

>> Related: These 18 countries allow transgender people in their militaries

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday afternoon that the decision to bar transgender people from service was a “military decision” made in the face of what the president saw as policy that “erodes military readiness and military cohesion.”

It was not immediately clear whether the ban would include people who are currently transgender and serving in the military. Sanders said the White House and Defense Department would work together to determine how to implement Trump’s plan.

These 18 countries allow transgender people in their militaries

In a series of tweets Wednesday, President Donald Trump said transgender people will be barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity.”

» RELATED: Trump: Transgender people won't be allowed in the military 

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he wrote.

In 2015, the National Center for Transgender Equality estimated 15,000 trans people served in the U.S. military.

>> Read more trending news

The Pentagon ended the ban on transgender people in the military last year, placing the United States in the company of at least 18 other countries that allow trans people to serve in their militaries, according to a 2014 report from the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

» RELATED: QUIZ: How well do you know transgender Americans? 

Researchers behind the “LGBT Military Personnel: a Strategic Vision for Inclusion” report analyzed policies regarding LGBT inclusion in more than 100 countries and ranked them based on four principles: admission, tolerance, exclusion and persecution — each determined by a total of 19 different indicators, including transgender personnel.

Here are 18 countries that allow trans military personnel, according to the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies report:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Bolivia
  5. Canada
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Israel
  13. Netherlands
  14. New Zealand
  15. Norway
  16. Spain
  17. Sweden
  18. United Kingdom

» RELATED: Trump breaks tradition, doesn't recognize LGBT Pride Month

But even in those countries that researchers found inclusive to trans military members, several have set specific policies regarding trans personnel.

For example, in the United Kingdom, trans individuals should have finished transitioning before they serve.

It’s similar in Belgium, where policies state a person must undergo surgery and sterilization for the military to recognize their identified gender.

Australia’s Air Force, on the other hand, offers assistance in transitioning.

Read the full report from the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

First woman enlists to become a Navy SEAL

A woman will be training with other potential candidates as she tries to become te first female Navy SEAL, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

The midshipman and another woman have enlisted and hope to join the Navy’s special operations teams. The Navy declined to identify the candidates, citing security considerations, NPR reported.

The latter candidate was in boot camp for the Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, also known as SWCC. Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service about the two candidates in June.

Women had been prohibited from serving in combat roles until January 2016, CNN reported. 

Eight SEAL and seven SWCC classes have graduated since March 2016. All of those candidates were males, CNN reported.

There are approximately 1,000 SEAL candidates who begin training each year,  Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, told CNN. He said that usually only between 200 to 250 candidates complete their training.

Navy sailor found hiding on ship after week-long disappearance could face discharge

A sailor whose disappearance from a U.S. Navy vessel last month launched a days-long search amid fears he had fallen overboard could face discharge after he was found hiding in the ship’s engine room, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Peter Mims, 23, appeared to have vanished June 8 from the USS Shiloh as the vessel was 180 miles east of Okinawa, Japan.

He was found one week later, hiding in one of the ship’s engine rooms, Navy Times reported.

Mims admitted last week during an admiral’s mast that his disappearance was “intentional, and that he took steps to try to avoid being found by the other Shiloh sailors who were actively trying to locate him,” during an admiral’s mast, Lt. Paul Newell, spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet, told Navy Times.

He was charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including abandoning watch and dereliction of duty, Stars and Stripes reported.

Navy officials declined to discuss Mims’ possible punishment for the violations, although Navy Times reported that he could face discharge.

>> Related: Navy sailor presumed overboard found hiding on ship: report

“We are not disclosing any of the punitive actions taken against him,” Newell told Navy Times. "However, I can say that Mims is facing possible further administrative action."

Citing the Manual for Courts-Martial, Stars and Stripes reported that Mims could face a maximum of a “bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for six months.”

Mims’ disappearance triggered a multinational search.

The U.S. Navy, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japanese Coast Guard spent more than 50 hours combing 5,500 square miles of the Philippine Sea in search of Mims. The search was suspended on June 11, although crewmembers on the Shiloh continued to look for the missing sailor.

Mims is from Putnam County, Florida, and was assigned to the Shiloh in 2014

Soldier who saluted stranger's funeral procession in viral photo responds to unexpected attention

A photo of Tennessee National Guard Col. Jack Usrey standing beside his car in the pouring rain to salute a funeral procession is going viral.

>> Watch the news report here

But Usrey doesn’t think anything of it. He says that’s how he was raised, telling WTVF: “Maybe I can make them feel better. ... I’m just an average soldier, but I was raised that way. We always stopped; my mom and dad taught me to do that.”

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Usrey works at the Tennessee National Guard headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. The photo was captured in Vine Grove, Kentucky, near Fort Knox; it was taken by Instagram user Erin Hester earlier this month and promptly went viral.

>> See the photo here

“I was so completely touched by this today,” she wrote. “I feel pretty confident there isn’t a military rule that soldiers have to do this. This made my heart happy to see the amount of respect that this gentleman showed a family that he doesn’t even know.”

>> Read more trending news

She tagged the photo #values and #respect.

Usrey is one of many in his family to have served, reports WSMV. His father and brother served in the Navy, with his brother advancing to the rank of lieutenant colonel. One of Usrey’s sons serves in the Navy now, and another is a student at The Citadel.

Possible military device discovered on newly formed NC island

A U.S. Navy crew was headed Friday afternoon to a newly formed island off the coast of North Carolina to determine if an object found there is a military device.

>> Read more trending news

The sandbar, known as Shelly Island, formed off Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks as little more than a bump in early April.

>> Related: New island forms off North Carolina coast

The object found on Shelly Island is heavily encrusted with marine growth, according to WTVD.

The Dare County Emergency Management blocked access to the island on Friday, while a military bomb disposal team investigated the object.

Vermont man among those killed in military plane crash, family says

One of the 16 killed in a military plane crash is from Vermont, according to family members

WCAX-TV reports that Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson graduated from Colchester High School in 1989 and later joined the Marines. 

>> 5 things to know about the deadly military plane crash

He was aboard the U.S. military plane that crashed into a field in rural Mississippi on Monday, killing at least 16 people aboard and spreading debris for miles, officials said.

>> 16 dead in Marine Corps KC-130 crash in Mississippi

His family told WCAX-TV that he leaves behind his wife, along with his brother, mother and father. 

Johnson said he had the best job in the Marine Corps because he got to see the world from the air, his family said. 

Seven of the U.S. troops killed in the Mississippi plane crash were special operations forces based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Six were Marines and one was a sailor.

The Marine Corps refueling and cargo plane went down in a soybean field on Monday and killed 16 military members in all. The Marines said Tuesday that the air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and headed to California.

>> Read more trending news

One of the plane's stops was in North Carolina, presumably to pick up the seven commandos. The plane was scheduled to drop them and their equipment off for training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and fly on to a naval air field at El Centro, California. The seven commandos were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.

Officials have not released the names of those killed. The crash is under investigation.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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