When the Wounded Warrior Project was hit in January with multiple accusations in the news media of lavish spending on travel, conferences and public relations, and a toxic corporate culture, Fred Kane, one of its major fund-raisers, was stunned by the organization’s response.
He watched a young former Army captain who had lost an arm and a leg in Afghanistan offer CBS News awkwardly recited defenses of the group, the nation’s largest and fastest-growing charity for veterans.
“Why was that poor guy placed in front of a CBS News crew?” Mr. Kane, who has raised more than $325,000 for the organization, asked in an email sent in February to dozens of high-level donors. “Where was Steve Nardizzi and why didn’t he face the reporter?” Mr. Kane asked, naming the outspoken chief executive who had been accused of much of the excess.
Mr. Kane said the leader’s failure to take responsibility “shows a total lack of regard for the mission, the alumni, the employees, proud supporter organizations and the thousands of other individual and corporate donors.” He canceled his own contributions and encouraged others to do the same.
That moment in February was part of the building pressure by donors, veterans and supporters of the organization that culminated Thursday night in the abrupt firing of Mr. Nardizzi and his second in command, Al Giordano, who together earned nearly $1 million per year. By the time the board met Thursday to dismiss the two men, contributions were down and it had in hand an internal investigation that convinced it that the top leadership had to go.
Great story from the New York Times here on the stunning rise and now-uncertain future of the Wounded Warrior Project. Although there have been rumblings about WWP for years, once the big-time donors started pulling donations, the outcome was all but certain. Has there ever been a more apt use for the famous quote from Eric Hoffer?
I do not begrudge paying a competent executive an adequate compensation package for competent performance, but this got out of control. Wounded Warrior Project, originally begun as a home business by wounded Marine John Melia in 2003, quickly became a juggernaut in the fundraising world. With millions and millions of dollars pouring in, it grew beyond Melia’s capacity to manage it, which led to him bringing on lawyer Steven Nardizzi, and his longtime friend, Al Giordano, to manage the beast that Melia had created.
And for a while, it worked. According to the Times, the WWP really took off after Nardizzi’s hiring. Money started pouring in. Since 2009, the charity has raised over a billion dollars. A BILLION DOLLARS. That’s serious cheddar. But, it takes money to make money, and Nardizzi had begun spending it just as fast as it was coming in. Lavish parties and corporate events began raising eyebrows. And all of this may not have triggered anything, but it sounds like Nardizzi, who had never served in the military, started letting it go to his head:
In January both The New York Times and CBS News reported that the Wounded Warrior Project, which raised more than $372 million in 2015, had spent millions on travel, dinners, entertainment and lavish staff meetings, like one at the five-star Broadmoor hotel in Colorado, where Mr. Nardizzi made his entrance by rappelling from a tower.
COME ON, GUY. Why couldn’t you just live with being the CEO of one of the biggest military charities of the world? You don’t have to pretend like you’re goddamn Jason Bourne or anything. But, appearances like that, along with huge parties, led to more scrutiny. According to the charity-rating site Charity Navigator, about 40 percent of donations taken in by WWP went to overhead. Now, I wouldn’t think that was that bad if you raised only 10 grand. But when you’re raising 372 million in one year (I DO MATH HERE), that means you’re spending 149 million dollars on overhead. That is an absurd number.
Even now, I still have mixed feelings about it. Because, in the end, it isn’t just WWP that will suffer from the scandal as donations dry up and formerly eager contributors stop answering the phone. As the story points out, WWP funneled a lot of money to other, smaller veteran charities, many of whom are entirely dependent on their largesse. Charities like my friends at Team Rubicon (filled with former PJs) and countless others do great work. Really, there are no winners here.
So now, the WWP is rudderless, and John Melia is in talks to retake the helm and steer the ship back to calmer waters. There’s four nautical metaphors in one sentence. That’s the kind of top-notch writing you get here. BEAT THAT, Duffel Blog.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keifer Huhman‘s fellow servicemembers stood in a sunlit chapel Friday and answered “present,” one by one, as their names were called.
Then a sergeant called out Huhman’s name, three times, slowly. But no one expected an answer.
The Air Force held a memorial service Friday for Huhman, who went missing Feb. 7 and was formally declared dead by military officials this week. His family, including Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Huhman, attended the service at the base where the airman had been stationed when he disappeared.
Also in the chapel were some of the firefighters and other first responders who searched for Huhman. His pickup truck was found the day he disappeared, parked on the shoulder of the Del. 1 William V. Roth Jr. Bridge. Apart from that, officials have no sign to explain his whereabouts.
On a more serious note, we have a very sad story out of Delaware. Keifer Huhman was last seen in mid-February, and has vanished without a trace. Huhman’s father, Kenneth, is a highly decorated combat controller who is obviously going through a lot of pain right now. We here at the SOFREP News Roundup are thinking of the Huhman family today.
There has been a fundraising page set up for the family during this difficult time. If the spirit moves you to do so, please consider dropping by and making a donation. It’s always difficult to keep going with the Roundup after tough stories like these, but keep going we will. RIP SRA Huhman.
WASHINGTON — The Army misled Congress and taxpayers when it said it had killed in 2014 a program that embedded social scientists with combat units, according to a congressman, a Defense official and Army documents.
Last year, the Army said it had terminated the controversial battlefield anthropology program, known as the Human Terrain System, which had been plagued by documented time sheet fraud, racism and sexual harassment. It is not clear why the Army said the program was dead, according to a Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the program.
Not only is the Human Terrain System alive, the official said, but the Army could expand it if more money becomes available.
Longtime readers of the Roundup will recall that we have extensively documented this coat-hanger abortion as it played out. Not only was the program rife with fraud, waste and abuse, it was riddled with cultural problems and sexual harassment. Contractors were getting paid 280,000 bucks a year for work that was never done. Women were getting harassed and groped at a rate that would shock even a Berkeley Law School dean. There were constant clashes between the military and the academic anthropologists who were placed into the field. In other words, it was stupid as shit.
Remarkably, the Army claimed it had realized the error of its ways in promoting this farce, and had said repeatedly that they had done away with the program. But, living up to the old saying that it is easier to raise the dead than kill off a government program (I may have just made that up), this zombified corpse keeps throwing the lid off the casket and wandering the halls of the Pentagon. One of our favorite congressmen, Duncan Hunter, is thankfully on the case. Kill it with fire.
#UFC196 prediction: mcgregor will destroy Diaz.
— BK (@BKactual) March 5, 2016
Yeah, yeah, I should have known better. Nate Diaz is a formidable striker, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. And with McGregor going up two weight classes, it was a tall order. Kudos to Diaz, though; as big a NorCal prick that he is, he had the fight of his life.
I was slightly amused by his post-fight interviews. Diaz kept talking about how the UFC has never given him any backing, leading to him wandering about in the shadows of the UFC for the past decade. Um, Nate? You know why? It’s because, ever since you were on the Ultimate Fighter season five way back in 2007, you’ve been an unrepentant prick who picks fights, walks out of interviews, brawls in the ring after the fight is over, and talks like your cheeks are stuffed full of cotton balls. THAT IS WHY.
Still, there’s something damn likable about an athlete who gives zero fucks about playing nice in this day and age. We are so used to the polished athlete grinning on camera trying to get that sweet endorsement dough to pay for all of their nose clams, we act surprised when one refuses to play along. And…he’s a Cali boy, after all. I’m a fan.
Police in Hermosa Beach, California, are searching for a missing Air Force veteran, Michael David Vanzandt, who disappeared while out with friends last Saturday night.
Vanzandt, 36, is a former security forces airman who now works at Edwards Air Force Base. He was last seen leaving Hermosa Beach’s waterfront Pier Plaza area Saturday, March 5, with an unidentified group of people, his brother, Tyler Vanzandt, told Air Force Times.
Vanzandt was last seen on a city security camera heading east, away from the waterfront, around 11:30 pm accompanied by an unidentified group.
“We’re trying to locate those people who might have been with him,” Tyler Vanzandt said. “No one’s come forward to say something. That’s the biggest help we could get if one of those people would come forward. It would let us get some idea of what he was doing.”…
Vanzandt is a father of three, his brother said. He is also a swimmer and scuba diver, according to ABC 7. Tyler Vanzandt reportedly told ABC that his brother is “somebody that does like to take swims at night, you know, after he’s been drinking.” and enjoys swimming at night, particularly when he is intoxicated. No one, however, has reported seeing Vanzandt go into the water.
Don’t swim in the ocean at night. Even I, a steely eyed combat diver, would be damn cautious jumping into the ocean at night without fins. And definitely not after I’d sucked down a few Heinekens. Hopefully Vanzandt turns up safe, but this doesn’t sound good.
This is mental illness. I almost didn’t post this one because this guy is obviously insane, but it’s already up on YouTube, so what the hell. On the other hand, he knows what a NOC is, so he’s done some research. So maybe he’s not insane after all?
Washington Township police officers helped track down a Navy officer who went “AWOL” and made threats on social media, police said.
The Washington Township Police Department received a request from the Naval Criminal Investigation Services for help locating Christian Bergstrom, 24, of Norfolk, Va., who was absent without leave, Lt. Douglas Compton said.
NCIS had an active warrant for the arrest of Bergstrom and told Washington Township Police that Bergstrom was currently believed to be at a private residence in the borough of Califon, which is patrolled by Washington Township police, Compton said.
NCIS said Bergstrom should be considered armed and dangerous, and the arrest warrant was a result of threats he posted on social media, Compton said.
Further investigation revealed a loaded handgun in Bergstrom’s vehicle several feet away from where he was arrested, Compton said.
Bergstrom was later turned over to NCIS agents who then transported him to a Navy Absentee Collection Center.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) workers are so inept and inefficient the Navy refused to let sailors be treated for serious conditions at a jointly operated military-VA hospital, defeating the purpose of the merged facility.
A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said after multiple unexplained deaths of sailors in the intensive care unit (ICU), “In light of this occurrence and the lack of resolution on previously identified ICU concerns, the deputy director determined that all Department of Defense (DOD) beneficiaries requiring ICU services would be diverted to other providers within the Tricare network until exclusion criteria (medical conditions for which patients should not be admitted to the FHCC’s ICU) could be better defined.”
The Daily Caller deserves a Pulitzer for their in-depth reporting of the dumpster fire that is Veterans Affairs. If you haven’t gotten a chance, get over there and check out their ongoing series of investigative work into the VA.
This latest example probably sounded good on paper: By merging the military and the VA hospitals, the VA would get an example of military culture and work ethic that would transform the can’t-ever-be-fired slugs at the VA hospital into motivated, determined workers with a sense of mission. I would have perhaps thought the same thing. Alas, it seemed the exact opposite happened. The VA actually had a bad influence on the military, if you can believe it.
But the GAO report suggests an initiative intended to improve VA by injecting positive elements of the military culture has instead come closer to dragging down the uniformed personnel with VA’s self-serving culture of bureaucratic apathy.
Most of the important medical units like the ICU were staffed primarily with VA employees thanks to the union condition that protected their jobs even though the purpose of the merger was to reduce overhead.
Military medics tried to introduce new, more disciplined ways of doing things, but union workers quickly found workarounds to maintain the status quo. Whereas military staffers were rotated every two years, VA workers essentially have their jobs for life, and when Navy men proposed innovations, VA workers would merely stonewall until the Navy people were transferred out, the GAO said.
There’s no hope.
The court martial trial for a gay U.S. Air Force lieutenant who faces sexual assault charges is scheduled to take place in August.
The Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the U.S. Air Force on its website said that Joshua Seefried’s trial will begin in Fort Meade, Md., on Aug. 22. It is expected to last roughly a week.
Seefried has been charged with wrongful and abusive sexual conduct and sodomy. The charges stem from allegations that Seefried performed sexual acts on a gay U.S. Marine in a New York hotel room in 2012 while he was intoxicated and unable to give consent.
HOLY SHIT. That is unbelievably disgusting and foul. This is why I despise the term “sexual assault.” It doesn’t adequately describe the foul acts that take place, either overstating the horror or understating it. What do I mean by that? I mean that if you accidentally brush a woman’s breast in a bar, that can be called “sexual assault.” Or, if you sodomize a man while he’s passed out, that is also called “sexual assault.” Pretty deep freaking gulf between the two, if you ask me. Let’s be more descriptive.
And another thing. This took place in 2012. Why in the HELL does it take FOUR FREAKING YEARS for this case to go to trial? I knew the civilian court system was bad, but I was operating under an illusion (apparently) that the military court system worked in a more efficient manner. Obviously, I was mistaken.
Also, how come this didn’t make the news? Isn’t sexual assault a huge story now on college campuses? Doesn’t every sexual assault story result in nationwide news coverage, especially when it is an indictment of entire institutions, like universities, fraternities, and the military? Why did this get zero play?
Seefried in 2010 founded OutServe, a group for LGBT servicemembers that played a significant role in the repeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A copy of the accuser’s resume the Washington Blade obtained says he advised the White House on repealing the law that then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.
Ah. There’s your answer. It all goes back to my theory of criminal politics: If your politics are “correct,” then the media will fervently work to bury all mention of the crime. Also see: Clinton, Hillary.
A Chester police officer is accused of exposing himself to women in custody. He’s now facing charges, as fellow officers look for more possible victims.
Investigators say Chester Police Officer Roosevelt Turner preyed on female detainees, coercing three women to show their private parts and exposing himself to one victim.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan says, “He would manipulate to an area where there wasn’t a camera and then have the woman expose themselves to him.”
Whelan says the crimes began in April. Then in August a victim came forward just hours after Turner allegedly exposed himself and pulled out a condom.
I’m always baffled at stories of sexual crimes that involve “exposing one’s self.” It’s such a bizarre sexual fetish to me. What kind of pleasure does one get by pulling out the shaft and waving it at people? Does the perpetrator then go home and get, uh, pleasure out of recalling the shocked look on the victim’s face, or what? What a world.
Chicago is having a bloody year.
Already since January, more than 100 people have been murdered in the city — double the number of homicides in Chicago during the first two months last year. The number of shooting incidents is also up by 120 percent compared to the first nine weeks of 2015.
The spike in violent crime comes at a time when the police in Chicago are under increased scrutiny for misconduct.
It started with the release of a video last fall that showed a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times, resulting in a Justice Department civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s patterns and practices. Then there were other incidents of police shootings, brutality and misconduct, followed by allegations of officers covering for one another and higher ups failing to hold officers accountable.
This is my shocked face. Police have literally MILLIONS of interactions with the public every day. But every time the extremely rare event happens where a policeman does something wrong, it’s not just an indictment on that particular police officer, but all police, everywhere. And then people act shocked when the police decide, “The hell with it, I’ll just stay in the car.”
Let’s always remember, especially, that the amount of times where a police officer just panicked and lost his mind is even infinitesimally tinier. Many, many times, it’s not just the police officer who contributed to the disaster, it’s the person he’s stopping as well. Michael Brown started punching a cop in the face. Freddy Grey was carrying illegal weapons and selling heroin to mothers and children. Laquan McDonald was walking down the middle of a busy street with a knife after slashing police car tires. I’m tired of the media acting like these cops are just rolling up on choir boys comparing bible verses and smoking them with two to the chest with no reason.
Are there some of those? Yes. I have said from day one, and will continue to say, that the Tamir Rice case was absolutely unforgivable and reflected the use of terrible tactics. So it does happen. However, the great majority of questionable police shootings, in my opinion, happen because of escalation, both by the victim and the cop. And then you wonder why police are reluctant to involve themselves?
“Well, morale is poor, to describe it in one word,” says Dean Angelo Sr., president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police. “It’s probably the lowest I’ve seen in my career.”
There is a feeling among police officers, Angelo says, “that no one wants to be on that next video.”
Police in Chicago made 30 percent fewer arrests in the early part of this year compared to last year. Street stops are down more than 80 percent so far this year.
There you go. You can either stop a known gangster and throw him up against the wall to see if he’s carrying an illegal firearm, knowing that a crowd will gather, start calling you names and screaming at you, or you can just say “fuck it” and drive right on by, drinking your coffee. Seems pretty simple to me. Especially when members of the community being most victimized are hostile and uncooperative. Good luck, Chicago. Nothing will change as long as the citizenry don’t want to crack the whip on the gangbangers.
If it was my neighborhood, and white guys were selling heroin on the street corners, I would want the cops to come by every goddamn day and beat their heads in until they got the message and pushed off. But it seems that inner city communities don’t care for that. Well, enjoy your murders, then.
Oh, but they’ll get worked up about a Trump Rally. (HUGE EYE ROLL.)
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The naked woman who climbed on a big rig and stopped traffic on US-290 Monday will not face charges.
Deputies say the 25-year-old woman will be moved from a hospital to the Harris County Psychiatric Center.
They believe a mental breakdown led her to strip off her clothes and dance on the top of the truck during a two-hour standoff with police and firefighters.
Views from Air 11 showed the woman twerking and gyrating for passing vehicles.
Pearly Ward saw the whole thing unfold and called 911.
“That’s the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ll be 68 in two days,” Ward said Monday.
God bless those firefighters. You couldn’t pay me enough to have to wrestle with that beast up there. But…no charges? That’s bullshit.
And can we talk about Pearly Ward? First of all, that’s like the most Texas name ever. If I were writing an Old West novel, and I named the sheriff “Pearly Ward,” SOFREP editor extraordinaire Nate would tell me that it sounds too cartoonish. (Editor’s note: He’s right. I would.) Pearly Ward!
Pearly, if that’s the most “horrific” thing you’ve ever seen, you need to get out more, bub. I mean, it’s pretty terrible. Gross. Nauseating. Penis-softening. But “horrific?” Get with the times, Pearly. Follow me @BKactual.