For the sixth year running, a ban on funding to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is making its way into law.
In a news release, Not 1 More Acre!, an advocacy group fighting to keep the Army from claiming more land in southeast Colorado for maneuvers, announced the military construction budget that was marked up in the Military Construction Subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee today will continue the funding ban on "any action that relates to or promotes the expansion of the boundaries or size of the U.S. Army's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site."
Here's the entire news release from Jean Aguerre, president of Not 1 More Acre!
Keeping the funding ban in the law has been a top priority for N1MA! as it fights to protect fragile prairie lands being ravaged by the Pentagon's armored tanks, high-tech weapons systems and training at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. The funding ban was first passed by Congress in 2007 to stop a massive secretly planned military expansion across 6.9 million acres of fragile native grasslands. For technical reasons related to the U.S. Senate's failure to enable a permanent prohibition on expansion of the site, the funding ban must be renewed every year by expansion opponents and their Representatives in the House.
Aguerre announced the renewal of the funding ban for the sixth consecutive year as Not 1 More Acre! hurled its third challenge against the Army's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site environmental disclosures in just six weeks. The latest N1MA! rebuke was filed Wednesday (May 15, 2013) by the Denver-based Ewegen Law Firm in response to the "Programmatic Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan 2013 - 2017 for Fort Carson and the PiÃ±on Canyon Maneuver Site."
[Find that document here: 2013-2017-Integrated-natural-resource-management-plan-and-environmental-assessment.pdf]
N1MA's latest effort to parry the Army's expansion plans followed on the heels of objections filed on Tax Day, April 15 that exposed the Army's shadowy partial disclosure of illegal construction supporting expansion at PCMS. Just three weeks earlier, on March 21, N1MA! protested the Army's claim that ongoing and expanded operations at the remote Southern Great Plains maneuver site pose no significant environmental or economic impacts. N1Ma's reprimand called those findings a "bizarre greenwash of an ongoing assault on fragile prairie grasslands in an area that Fritz L. Knopf, an historical Great Plains ecologist, describes as the 'headwinds' of the 1930s Dust Bowl."
The N1MA! reproach filed Wednesday accused the Army of continuing to "piecemeal its plans for the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in an effort to sidestep basic requirements of the funding ban, the National Environmental Policy Act and a 2009 Federal District Court ruling that vacated the PCMS Transformation Record of Decision issued by the Army in its original efforts to expand the site."
Over the last nearly eight years the Army has issued a staggering 10,000 pages of alleged
NEPA documentation - all of which make the absurd claim that the Army's actions have no significant impact to the quality of the environment, economy and culture of the Southern Great Plains.
In one segmented document after the next, the Army's analysis methodology ignores science and even the sound principles of science that establish military damage to the shortgrass prairie are irreparable and irreversible. Even as military training expands - less than 5% of the PCMS is off limits to training - and intensifies, the Army and its tax-supported real estate partners encumbering land in the region to be managed for military needs employ environmental tactics that appear to trick 'neighbors' and the public into believing that impacts will be insignificant.
While admitting the "sheer amount of alphabet soup" generated by the Army's disclosures and the legal processes are confusing, Aguerre said the underlying theory of the law isn't complicated. The Sikes Act, passed in 1960, recognizes the importance and value of natural and
cultural resources to military lands. Accordingly, the Sikes Act requires the Department of Defense to develop and implement Integrated Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs/ICRMPs) for military installations across the United States.
"As a further example of this deceptive piecemealing, N1MA! asks where the Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan is and why it wasn't issued as part of the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan? And, why - except to mislead and confuse taxpayers - does the Army continue to ignore science that proves all the past, current and future military damage will devastate the entire region? The Army's 'make-believe NEPA' fails to comply either the spirit or letter of the law while perpetrating real-life catastrophic impacts to our security and health," Aguerre said.
The Army's latest mockery of environmental and economic impact analysis should be withdrawn because it fails to meet the basic requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. It also fails to heed the mandates of Congress as expressed in the funding ban - renewed for the sixth consecutive year on this very day. This Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan fails to make sense from a policy standpoint and it would both sanction and inflict massive and irreversible damage on America's last major intact grassland, a fragile ecosystem that elsewhere has not yet recovered from the devastation wrought by ill-considered federal government policies that led to plowing of these fragile grasslands in the 1920s in the bone-headed public campaign that "rain follows the plow." In fact, what followed the plow when the inevitable drought cycle reasserted itself was this nation's most catastrophic environmental collapse, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
The Army, its contractors and politicians, in defiance of the law, scientific knowledge and common sense, are effectively asking the public to believe that "rain will follow the tank!" and magically reseed and renew these tortured lands. Alas, the best science on this subject shows that the notion that invasive species can somehow revive devastated grasslands that required thousands of years of natural processes to reach their original productive state is a discredited policy as misguided and mischievous as the original "rain follows the plow" folly, Aguerre said.
But that doesn't mean the Army is giving up. It continues to try to win the hearts and minds of people in southern Colorado, including those of tender age.
Here's a shot of a Girl Scout being indoctrinated into the ways of war, sent to us from Doug Holdread of Trinidad:
And here's a report on how the Army is appealing to the young folk in Trinidad.
Update, 11:19 a.m., April 19: Fort Carson has issued a correction to its press release, saying that the Colorado Springs Fire Department was not involved with the base on this training.
I don't know why it's called a Bambi Bucket, but it could come in mighty handy when we get our next forest fire, as long as the Pentagon agrees to allow the buckets to be used in the firefight.
To be prepared, the Army and Colorado Springs Fire Department are working together to understand how the buckets work and how to best deploy them in tandem with city resources.
Here's a news release from Fort Carson:
- Fort Carson
- A Bambi Bucket could prove invaluable during a fire.
The 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and Colorado Springs Fire Department will conduct Bambi Bucket training at noon Thursday near Butts Army Airfield.
A Bambi Bucket is a specialized water carrier designed for aerial firefighting. The bucket, which can hold approximately 2,000 gallons of water, is suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter. When the helicopter is in position over a fire, the crew releases a valve on the bottom of the bucket, dropping the water and helping extinguish the fire.
This is the first training exercise that 2-4 GSAB and CSFD have conducted together for Bambi Bucket training missions.
The 4th Infantry Division, CSFD and 4th CAB are working together on the Bambi Bucket mission in preparation to better serve firefighting needs in the Pikes Peak area.
Just bear in mind that, as Carson spokesperson Meghan Williams notes in a statement:
Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division can only deploy military resources (to include Bambi Buckets) to support firefighting when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the Secretary of Defense. At that point, Fort Carson and the 4th Inf. Div.’s support would be coordinated through U.S. Northern Command. NIFC can only request DoD support after all other local, state and federal resources have been exhausted.
Despite a rollback in federal spending that's having an impact on military operations, the Air Force Academy is moving ahead with its new character and leadership building, which some day might rival the Cadet Chapel for icon status at the academy.
Here's the release on the new construction:
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo., - Construction crews have removed hundreds of tons of dirt and debris as they prepare the site for the ultra-modern, $40 million complex where the Air Force Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development will be housed starting in late 2014.
The project is an FY 11 appropriation and is not impacted by the sequester.
Character and leadership development is a crucial, all-encompassing part of a cadet's experience at the United States Air Force Academy. The Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) ensures that character development, education and scholarship are major focus of Academy life.
From basic training to graduation, cadets can expect to see character development programs in every aspect of their lives, with the ultimate goal of imbuing them with the inner desire to put integrity first, place service before self, and strive for excellence in all they do.
The Air Force Academy's CCLD has served as a focal point of the Academy's commitment to developing leaders of character since its creation in 1993. Its mission is to advance the understanding, practice and integration of character and leadership development in preparation for service to the nation.
Of the $40 million being spent on the project, $27.5 million comes from the FY 11 military construction budget, and $12.5 million from donors. The architect for the building is Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the firm that originally planned the Academy campus and designed the buildings, including the Cadet Chapel. The CCLD building is being built in the heart of a National Historic
Landmark District, therefore the Academy has proactively included the historic preservation community in the design.
"The CCLD building is an iconic architectural concept that symbolically state our commitment to character and leadership development," said Duane Boyle, Deputy Director, Directorate of Installations of the Air Force Academy.
"Polaris has long been a navigation tool used to guide the traveler. Likewise, it symbolically relates to one's own ethical and moral journey through life. The steel and glass tower aligns with Polaris sending a powerful message to all that leadership and character development are paramount in all that we do," he said.
"The transparency of the architecture is indicative of the serious nature of its function: the free exchange of thoughts, opinions, and knowledge in an open environment," he continued. . "Our new Center places the Academy at the pinnacle of character and leadership development nationally and will spark the interest of all who believe that our nation's future is based on thoughtful, careful, and meaningful decisions of our leadership, both military and civilian."
In today's edition, we report on the long-awaited study of the Air Force Academy's faculty mix.
We initially reported that the study was under way here. As you can see, the study was supposed to be done in 2011, then 2012 and finally, it's out.
That prompted former academy instructor David Mullin, who has contended some military faculty assigned at the academy don't have the proper background to teach the subjects they're assigned, to issue this statement:
Brig. Gen. Dana Born [dean of faculty] promised to the Air Force Academy faculty that the Rand Study Report would be released to them in September 2011. Then in November 2011 the Pentagon promised that the report would be released in January 2012. In my opinion, the 1 1/2 year delay in releasing the report was an effort by Air Force Academy Leadership and members of the Air Staff to cover up the problems of deficient faculty credentials and exorbitant, unsustainable expenditures until Lt. Gen. Michael Gould and Brig. Gen. Born were scheduled for retirement. The Department of Defense should conduct a major investigation of alleged fraud, waste, and abuse in running the Air Force Academy.
Meantime, academy officials provided comments in writing in response to the Independent's questions, as follows:
1. What does the study tell the academy about the academy's past contention that all was well with its faculty split?
RAND accomplished a thorough examination into the contributions of both our civilian and military faculty. Their findings confirmed that each type of instructor brings with them their own individual and collective strengths. It also confirmed that the combination of both military and civilian instructors generates an optimally prepared 2nd Lieutenant for the United States Air Force.
2. What, if anything, will change and when as a result of this study? Or does the academy maintain that the study is wrong and the academy has been right all along?
The RAND report does not recommend a single course of action but provides a superb analysis of the relative merits of civilian and military faculty. This provides Air Force leadership with analyses and measures by which to inform future decision making on this issue. The study verified that the
"optimal" mix of faculty is certainly in the objective balance of merits that Air Force leadership wishes to apply to their future officers at USAFA and must also certainly be subject to practical fiscal and personnel
constraints. Additionally, future actions and adjustment of the current faculty mix will certainly take into account current budgetary and personnel pressures throughout DoD.
3. What is the next step now that the study is finished? Will it simply be shelved? Discussed by leadership and then shelved? Who will be in charge of making any changes?
The RAND report has been and will continue to be the subject of discussion with USAFA's various oversight bodies. Discussions and policy development has begun with Air Force manpower decision-makers since this past fall and will continue into the mid-term as we consider the costs and benefits of
adopting various different courses of action. That development will certainly be affected by current and future fiscal and personnel pressures.
Here's the study, if you care to wade through it:
Mikey Weinstein isn't just staging a protest, he's getting his message out in a big way.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has posted a billboard on Garden of the Gods Road (about a half mile east of Interstate 25) in response to homophobic and misogynistic links on an Air Force website.
This is an image of the billboard:
Weinstein says he hopes the billboard, and a protest planned for this Friday, will have a widespread effect.
"The time for the haters at the Air Force Academy to stop their hating and remember their oath to the Constitution has come," he said.
——- ORIGINAL POST, FRIDAY, 10:56 A.M. ——-
Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and his supporters will stage the protest at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 8 on the corner of Academy Boulevard and Voyager Parkway.
We've written extensively about the issue here.
MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION TO HOLD PROTEST RALLY VS. U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY’S HOMOPHOBIA & SEXISM
Servicemember Civil Rights Organization Blasts U.S. Air Force Academy
for Circulating Offensive Anti-Gay and Sexist Material
Protest to be held Friday, March 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM on the corner of Academy Blvd and Voyager Parkway, COLORADO SPRINGS.
(COLORADO SPRINGS, CO) On Friday, March 8, 2013, Colorado Springs will be the scene of a protest rally led by celebrated civil rights activist and church and state separation advocate Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF; www.mrff.org).
MRFF is a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominated civil rights foundation that represents over 32,000 active duty servicemembers and armed forces veteran clients, 96% of whom are Christians. According to MRFF, “The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) is promoting a reprehensible, homophobic, and sexist religious website to its entire faculty, staff, and cadet wing. Even after [MRFF exposed] this noxious act, USAFA leadership have steadfastly refused to remove the link from their website!”
The website in question is "Judaism 101," or www.jewfaq.org, which bills itself as an "online encyclopedia of Judaism." While the website contains information about various Jewish holidays, content on the site also indicates virulently homophobic and misogynistic prejudices presented as mainstream “traditional” Judaism. MRFF sprang into action after being contacted by numerous USAFA cadets, faculty members, and staff, including 21 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) personnel who reached out to MRFF after links to the site were circulated in a "Notice to Airmen" (NOTAM) of Religious Accommodations.
According to Weinstein, “an equivalent move would be to link the descriptions of Christian holidays… to the website of Pastor Fred Phelps’ utterly despicable Westboro Baptist Church! The material… includes suggestions that homosexual males should be put to death as per the Torah. Additionally, it includes a speciously hideous comparison of the originating cause of homosexuality to that of kleptomania. This disgrace is an open slap in the face to all lesbian, gay, and bisexual USAFA cadets, faculty, and staff. Additionally, the website contains the absurd and perverse notion that males who masturbate should have their hands chopped off.”
Additionally, the website states that women’s social status under Judaism is that they are “separate but equal,” a statement that typically stipulates the polar opposite of any modern, democratic conception of “equality.”
This incident isn’t the first time that Weinstein has blasted the religious and social climate at USAFA. Weinstein asserts that today’s military has been transformed into a stomping ground for evangelical, fundamentalist Christians who have created an intolerable, unconstitutional climate of religious oppression for fellow members. These conditions, which have included (but are not limited to) mandatory “Spiritual Fitness Tests” and coerced attendance of Christian prayer ceremonies and Christian rock concerts, have resulted in spiritual torment for religious minorities as well as those who are not considered the “right kind of Christian.” In many cases, servicemembers have been subject to physical harm and brutal incidents of hazing as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity, professed faith, or lack thereof.
MRFF claims that supernatural theological concepts and a “Clash of Civilizations,” “us vs. them” apocalyptic ideology have fatally tainted military doctrine and warped good order, discipline, and servicemember morale. Weinstein notes that fundamentalist "Crusader" Christian fanaticism mirrors the militant jihadist extremism of those whom the U.S. military is fighting in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. MRFF advocacy has given broad international media exposure to many egregious, unconstitutional violations including “Jesus Rifles,” the nickname given to the widely deployed government-contracted riflescopes engraved with Bible verses which were used in Afghanistan and Iraq. MRFF also exposed the ‘Jesus Loves Nukes’ formal indoctrination; a grotesque mandatory USAF training program for Air Force Nuclear Missile Launch Officers that used a perverse brand of “Christian Just War” theory and New Testament biblical citations, including the Book of Revelations, to establish a theological justification for the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations.
MIKEY WEINSTEIN BIOGRAPHY
In addition to being the president of MRFF, Mikey Weinstein is an attorney, businessman, and former Air Force Officer. Mikey is a 1977 Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He is the proud parent of two sons and one daughter. His oldest son and daughter-in-law are 2004 USAFA Graduates, Mikey’s youngest son graduated from the Academy in the Class of 2007, and his son-in-law is a 2010 graduate from USAFA as well. Seven total members of Mikey’s family have attended the Academy. Weinstein also has the hard-fought distinction of having been a former White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan and General Counsel to two-time Presidential candidate and Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. In November 2011, Americans United for Separation of Church and State honored him as their first-ever “Person of the Year.” Mikey Weinstein Named to List of 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense.
The protest flyer and image:
In a historic move, President Obama has nominated Maj. Gen. Michelle Johnson to become superintendent of the Air Force Academy. If approved, she would become the first female to lead the academy and would get her third star as a lieutenant general.
Here's the rest of the press release:
Currently serving as NATO's deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence, Gen. Michelle Johnson is a 1981 distinguished graduate from the Academy where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Operations Research. She was the first female cadet wing commander and the first female Rhodes Scholar from the Academy.
Johnson played varsity basketball all four years while she attended the Academy: she is the second all-time leading scorer in Air Force women's basketball with 1,706 points. She was twice named an Academic All-American and was inducted into the Academic All-American Hall of Fame in 2007, making her the first woman from the Academy and one of only six graduates with that distinction. In addition, she was named the Academy's most outstanding scholar-athlete in 1991.
Johnson is a command pilot with more than 3,600 flight hours in C-141 Starlifters, KC-10 Extenders, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-5 Galaxy aircraft and KC-135 Stratotankers.
She served at the Air Force Academy as an assistant professor of political science, instructor pilot and associate air officer commanding from July 1989 to May 1992. Her assignments also include commander of the 97th Operations Group at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., and commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan. From November 2005 to March of 2007, Johnson served as the Air Force's Director of Public Affairs on the Secretary of the Air Force's staff.
Johnson's joint assignments include the Air Force aide to the president from 1992-1994, deputy director for information and cyberspace policy at the Joint Staff in Washington and director of strategy, policy, programs and logistics for U.S. Transportation Command at Scott AFB, Ill., in addition to her current assignment.
Her awards and decorations include two Defense Superior Service Medals, two Legion of Merit medals, two Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, an Aerial Achievement Medal, an Air Force Commendation Medal and an Air Force Achievement Medal.
She attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1981-1983, earning a Master of Arts degree in politics and economics. She also holds a master's degree in national security strategy from the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington. She was a Syracuse University national security management fellow, a member of Harvard University's senior executive fellows program and a fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Seminar XXI for foreign politics, international relations and the national interest.
No date is set for Johnson to assume duties as the Air Force Academy Superintendent.
Who's not sad to hear that the Air Force has cancelled all aviation support to public events for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
We're so choked up, we can't type any further, and leave you to read the press release just in:
WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Air Force braces for potential sequester, leadership has cancelled all aviation support to public events for at least the remainder of the fiscal year and is standing down the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team to save flying hours to support readiness needs.
Effective today, active-duty, Reserve and Guard units will cease all aviation support to the public. This includes the cancellation of support to all air shows, tradeshows, flyovers (including funerals and military graduations), orientation flights, heritage flights, F-22 demonstration flights and open houses, unless the event includes only local static assets.
Additionally, the Air Force will cancel the Thunderbirds’ entire 2013 season beginning April 1.
The Thunderbirds and Heritage Flight crews will complete their certification procedures for safely flying aerial demonstrations in case the budget allows resumption of scheduled events in 2013, but and the Air Force will cease participation in Heritage flights following certification.
The Air Force will reduce flying hours by as much as 18 percent — approximately 203,000 hours — and impacts will be felt across the service and directly affect operational and training missions.
“While we will protect flying operations in Afghanistan and other contingency areas, nuclear deterrence and initial flight training, roughly two-thirds of our active-duty combat Air Force units will curtail home station training,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.
Since all aerial support to public and military events is flown at no additional cost to the taxpayer using allotted training hours, the Air Force had no choice but to cancel support to these events.
“Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission and communicating and connecting with the public is more important today than ever before. However, faced with deep budget cuts, we have no choice but to stop public aviation support,” said Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, director of Air Force Public Affairs. “The Air Force will reevaluate the program at the end of the fiscal year and look for ways to curtail the program without having to cancel aviation support altogether.”
The Air Force will continue to seek additional ways to remain engaged with the American public.
Fort Carson has issued a statement following the Pentagon's announcement yesterday that 800,000 civilian employees working for the military face furloughs due to budget cuts, as the Washington Post reported.
About 3,000 workers at Carson could be affected but will be given a month's notice of any furlough.
Here's the release:
Fort Carson, Colo. — In light of the announcements today regarding near-term funding cuts, Fort Carson is conducting prudent planning measures to provide our Soldiers and Family members the highest quality services.
We place a high priority on Soldier and Family resiliency and all programs and services that protect health, safety and property.
The Department of Defense issued notices to legislators on Capitol Hill and to national unions this morning that DoD civilians may face a furlough of up to 22 days beginning in late April. It is important to note that this is a measure of last resort and the details of a potential furlough are still being worked.
The command here deeply appreciates the hard work our civilian workforce carries out daily to keep our country strong and secure. We are confident that our stellar civilian workforce will continue to provide the best services possible within the constraints a furlough presents.
Fort Carson employs approximately 3,000 DoD civilians who could potentially be subject to unpaid furloughs. If affected, each civilian will be provided at least 30 days notice before a furlough is executed. If furloughs are enacted, we are committed to ensuring the furloughs are carried out in a consistent and appropriate manner.
In line with Department of the Army guidance, Fort Carson has already been enacting ways to reduce facility sustainment costs while still prioritizing life, health and safety. In late January, Fort Carson informed the facility sustainment contractor of a possible 50% cut in funding. A civilian hiring freeze has been in effect and we have curtailed non-mission essential temporary duties, professional training and travel.
Fort Carson remains committed to practicing good stewardship with our funding.
Nearly a week after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's Mikey Weinstein called out the AFA for offensive links on a Web site, the AFA has not corrected the problem — and others within the school are joining Weinstein in calling for immediate action.
"MRFF is now making a specific demand to [Lt. Gen.] Mike Gould, the superintendent, to take down the link," Weinstein says, calling the offending site "pernicious, homophobic, and clearly misogynistic."
Weinstein says if his demands are not met by 5:30 p.m. Thursday, his organization will take action. He refused to explain what that meant, but in the past, MRFF has advertised its causes on billboards.
Weinstein says he is pursuing the issue on behalf of 22 AFA staff members, faculty and cadets who are offended by the links. One of those clients is now announcing his opposition publicly. (A bold move, given that of the MRFF's 397 Air Force Academy clients, he is only the second to go public.)
Steven Samuels, Professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership and a 20-year employee, has written a letter to Weinstein for publication.
It is as follows:
Dear Mr. Weinstein
I am writing you after trying to solve this issue at the lowest level twice, only to be ignored and rebuffed. When MRFF first brought up the troublesome link for the Fast of Esther (http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm), I was glad the issue had been pointed out. I know Rabbi Narrowe and believed it was not his intention to misrepresent the positions of the Jewish community or hurt the LGBQ community. I have taken Jewish cadets to West Point and worked with Spectrum [an LGBQ and allies group at the AFA] cadets to create safe environments for all, and I saw the rabbi as an ally. The rabbi even visited a Spectrum meeting recently to convey his openness to supporting every cadet.
Imagine my surprise then, when I heard of this link. The site is in no way reflects mainstream Judaism, which is a shame since there are so many mainstream and even secular (e.g., About.com, Wikipedia, etc.) that could have been used. I was truly horrified that someone at USAFA who wanted to know about Judaism would use this site, and embarrassed that they might think I shared those views. While you have already addressed the tragic (and completely unscientific) statements equating homosexuality to kleptomania, there are other pages that are equally offensive. For example, while we constantly battle sexism, this site suggests that, “women are for the most part seen as separate but equal” (http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm). We know how well that worked out in this country, and none but the most Orthodox Jewish communities follow this idea.
After contacting the rabbi directly by email, and having a brief phone conversation, I let him know that such a link would almost certainly cost him credibility (and thus approachability) from the cadets at Spectrum. Additionally, I felt very hurt knowing the severe problems with this website. While he said he didn’t agree, he did say he understood what I was saying. And I assumed the link would be changed immediately.
To quote the above, “imagine my surprise” when the link was still not changed! I honestly could not believe it; such a small thing that hurt so many people that could be so easily fixed. This was Leadership 101 with regard to taking care of your troops, not to mention the mission of the chaplaincy. So I immediately called the rabbi back and made it explicitly clear that if the link was not removed within 24 hours, I would escalate the issue. I also took it to my boss who said he would call the rabbi’s boss in the chaplaincy. I said the rabbi is already talking to him.
I actually gave him well over 24 hours and have still not heard back; they did not even contact me to let me know they had considered the issue. At this point, I do not have faith (literally) that the chaplaincy has any intention of taking care of the people they supposedly serve. This is too easy a fix and they have known about it for too long for me to assume anything but the worst of intentions. While this is very sad for me, it is much worse for the cadets in my care who have to face the repercussions: LGBQ cadets who are being told they are kleptomaniacs, women who are being told they can be separated but still be equal, and Jewish cadets who have to explain that this radical form of Judaism is not how they celebrate their faith.
Anything you can do to help end this micro-aggression against me and my students would be very much appreciated. After 20 years at USAFA, this is honestly the most frustrated I have ever been. Worse things have happened in the name of religion, but never when there was so easy a fix to be had.
Steven Samuels, PhD
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership
Weinstein says he has also received several supportive e-mails regarding the policy. Weinstein released the following edited e-mails:
To: Mr. M. Weinstein and the Staff of the MRFF
Fm: C/XX XXXXX X. XXXXXX (all other ID info withheld0
Sub. USAFA Chaplain Website
Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF, I am one of the MRFF's clients regarding the current situation with the USAFA Chaplain's website's disparagement of LGB human beings. I am a cadet in the Class of 20XX and am in Cadet Squadron XX. I do not have much time as I have to get to class. But I wanted to thank you and MRFF for standing up for those of us who are LGB here at USAFA. I am gay, female and Jewish. I am not "out" either as a gay person or a member of the Jewish faith. Because if I was, life here would be much harder than it already is. It would be brutal. That's messed up but that's the way it is. My future in the Air Force would be clouded forever. No matter that DADT is now officially gone.That website used by the USAFA chaplains to "explain" Judaism is so terrible, speaking again as a gay person and a Jew. I may have a choice about being Jewish but I have no choice about my sexuality. I was born "that way" and am not ashamed. Saying that I am like a "kleptomaniac" because I am gay is so low that it does not deserve a reply by caring people. Thak you and the MRFF for taking up this fight.
C/XX XXXXXX X. XXXXXX (all other ID info. withheld)
Dear Mr. Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
We are the very concerned parents of one of the Air Force Academy cadets you are representing in the current matter of the anti-gay "jewfaq.com" website reference currently being used by the Air Force Academy's Chaplains Dept. to apparently "explain" the totality of the Jewish faith on line. Our son (or daughter) happens to be gay. He (or she) is not "out" at the Academy for fear of the consequences that would occur if this fact was made known. This is his (or her) decison and we respect that. We are Jewish and belong to a conservative synagogue in (city and state withheld). Our rabbinical staff does not believe that "being gay" is a sin or unnatural. We have told them of this matter and they are as shocked at what the Academy has done as we are. Our child was Bar (or Bat) Mitvahed there and confirmed as well. Our child is a person of great integrity and dignity. And he (or she) does not deserve to have his (or her) sexuality compared to that of a "kleptomaniac". We do not understand why the Academy's Chaplains are refusing to replace that debasing website with one of the many which do not exhibit bigotry towards anyone else? Our child is under enough stress as is our whole family over this incident. We love our child and want to eliminate the source of this official Academy-sanctioned shame. Can you please tell us what you and MRFF can do to help us? It's clear that the Academy will do nothing in this regard. Our home phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please call after 5 pm ( time zone withheld).
(USAF Academy cadet's parent's indentifiers all withheld)
——- UPDATE, THURSDAY, FEB. 14, 1:05 P.M. ——-
Air Force Academy Spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan says he's not sure how or why the offensive links were included on the Air Force website.
But he says he imagines it was simply an oversight.
“I know that nobody does things maliciously here,” he said.
Bryan added that the AFA has made strides in recent years to be more inclusive.
Gen. Mark Welsh also took the time to respond to Weinstein's e-mail, writing:
From: "Welsh, Mark A III Gen MIL USAF AF/CC"
Subject: RE: EXTERNAL: MRFF Demand Letter (Feb. 13, 2013) to USAF Chief of Staff
Date: February 13, 2013 9:03:33 PM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein
Cc: "Harding, Richard C Lt Gen MIL USAF AF/JA"
, "Gould, Mike C Lt Gen USAF USAFA USAFA/CC"
Thank you Mr Weinstein. I appreciate you making me aware of this. I will
ask USAFA leadership to look into this. My JAG will get back to you when we
have more information. r/mark
——- UPDATE, WEDNESDAY, 6:53 P.M. ——-
The founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who has stirred many a controversy over the years, is now attacking the Air Force for links on a website. The Air Force site gives information about religious holidays, but for the Jewish religion it connects to a Web site that is fiercely homophobic.
The Air Force has yet to respond to calls from the Indy seeking a response.
Weinstein's letter is as follows:
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
General Mark A. Welsh III
Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670
Transmitted via email and UPS Overnight Delivery
Re: [USAFA] HCX NOTAMs Religious Accommodation For the Period: February 2013
Dear General Welsh,
It is with profound bewilderment, shock, and no small amount of disgust that I write this letter to bring to your immediate attention a recent "Notice to Airmen" (NOTAM) of Religious Accommodations that was circulated by the Chaplainʼs office of your alma mater and mine, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). Contained within the February, 2013 Religious Accommodations NOTAM are links to a virulently anti-gay website known as “Judaism 101,” or www.jewfaq.org. This reprehensible act represents either a regrettable gross error in judgment and scrutiny or a wretchedly intentional offense only further establishing the already universally known fact that the religious climate at USAFA remains hostile, unwelcoming, and adverse. On behalf of 21 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) USAFA cadets, faculty members, and staff who comprise its clients for this current matter, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: www.MilitaryReligiousFreedom.org) firmly protests this foul act and demands immediate remedial action and swift punishment for all of those responsible. The NOTAM in question is meant to inform cadets and faculty of the major religious holidays occurring in a given month, and what these holidays signify. Each holiday description is accompanied by a link to a non-governmental website. Every Jewish holiday contains a link to “Judaism 101.” To quote the USAFA NOTAM (http://www.usafa.edu/hc/NOTAMs%20Feb%202013%20fpd.pdf):
Fast of Esther (Taʼanit Esther) — (21 February 2013, Thursday): Jewish:
Taʼanit Esther commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.
a. Website: http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm
b. POC: Ch, Maj Joshua Narrowe
At a glance, this website that bills itself as an “online encyclopedia of Judaism” appears to be a no-frills resource offering basic information on the Jewish faith. While the website contains information about various Jewish holidays, a cursory perusal of the websiteʼs contents indicates the perniciously hateful predilections and prejudices of its bigoted and virulently homophobic author.
Worse yet, the website isnʼt even owned or managed by a remotely recognized Jewish organization or authority on theological matters of the faith, but by a mere private citizen who appears to be wholly and officially unaccredited in such definitive matters. On his “About the Author” page (http://www.jewfaq.org/author.htm), Mr. Tracey Rich states clearly that he does “not claim to be a rabbi or an expert on Judaism; I'm just a traditional, observant Jew who has put in a lot of research.” In other words, the “encyclopediaʼs” scribe is an admitted hobbyist and dilettante on the matter. This travesty would in itself be innocuous enough if not for the mocked-up authoritative presentation of utterly hate-filled material on his ostensibly “encyclopedic” website.
Taken as a whole, this outrage is in essence no different from USAFA linking a Ramadan description to the website of an extremist Muslim, self-appointed “expert” on Islam. Indeed, an equivalent move would be to link the descriptions of Christian holidays, from a Baptist denominational perspective, to the website of Pastor Fred Phelpsʼ utterly despicable Westboro Baptist Church! The material on Richʼs website includes suggestions that homosexual males should be put to death as per the Torah. Additionally, it includes a speciously hideous comparison of the originating cause of homosexuality to that of kleptomania. This disgrace is an open slap in the face to all lesbian, gay, and bisexual USAFA cadets, faculty, and staff. Additionally, the website contains the absurd and perverse notion that males who masturbate should have their hands chopped off. Quoting just a portion of Mr. Richʼs barbaric explanation of sexuality in regards to the Jewish faith:
Sexual relations between men are clearly forbidden by the Torah. (Lev. 18:22). Such acts are condemned in the strongest possible terms, as abhorrent. The only other sexual sin that is described in such strong terms is the sin of remarrying a woman you had divorced after she had been married to another man. (See Deut. 24:4). The sin of sexual relations between men is punishable by death (Lev. 20:13), as are the sins of adultery and incest….I have seen some modern Orthodox sources suggest that if homosexuality is truly something hardwired in the brain, as most gay activists suggest, then a man who acts upon that desire is not morally responsible for his actions, but I am not sure how wide-spread that opinion is. In any case, it is not quite as liberal a position as some would have you believe: essentially, it is equivalent to saying that a kleptomaniac would not be held morally responsible for stealing.
Jewish law clearly prohibits male masturbation...Jewish law takes a very broad view of the acts prohibited by this passage, and forbids any act of ha-sh'cha'tat zerah (destruction of the seed), that is, ejaculation outside of the vagina. In fact, the prohibition is so strict that one passage in the Talmud states, "in the case of a man, the hand that reaches below the navel should be chopped off." (Niddah 13a)
- Judaism 101: Kosher Sex (http://www.jewfaq.org/sex.htm)
General Welsh, I hope you are as thunderstruck as I am about this debacle of debasement. This webpage ironically notes a specific warning that its viewers should “please exercise appropriate discretion,” something the USAFA chaplainʼs office completely and miserably failed to do when it circulated links to this vile website. Considering the shockingly hateful nature of this "USAFA-approved" website's material, and the fact that Mr. Rich openly admits that he's not a Rabbi or any other type of accredited or recognized expert on Judaism, one must seriously question why an allegedly esteemed academic institution such as the United States Air Force Academy chose to use this heinous website as a definitive and comprehensive, universal reference for that particular faith? This perversity is like the 13th stroke of a crazy clock that casts grave doubt not only upon that 13th hour but also every hour that preceded it. Indeed, the inclusion of the jewfaq.org links calls into very serious question the dubious professionalism and/or intentions of the NOTAM compilers, as well as the "wisdom" of the Chaplainʼs office, recently honored as USAFA's "Team of the Quarter" (Q4, 2012) for its heavily criticized, exclusionary 2012 "Religious Tolerance and Diversity Conference." This disingenuous and transparent propaganda event abjectly refused to invite non-theists, despite having invited them just two years prior — the only other time such a "religious diversity" conference has been held at USAFA. But it hardly stops there. This very same quantum of suspicion and mistrust is also directed at the administrators and commanders at USAFA, and the entire USAF chain of command leading up to your very own office, General Welsh, at the Pentagon. Given the substantial “unconstitutional train wreck” history of the oppressive religious climate at USAFA and the gross indecency of the nefarious published content on the website, MRFF fervently and immediately demands that links to the website no longer be used forthwith as educational reference points for matters of the Jewish faith. Furthermore, MRFF demands that those parties responsible for this ignominious disaster face swift and decisive corrective measures of punishment for their world-class malfeasance or misfeasance.
There is a saying, General Welsh: "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is completely indistinguishable from malice."
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Michael B. Donley, Secretary, United States Air Force
Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding, Judge Advocate General (TJAG), United States Air Force
Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, Superintendent, United States Air Force Academy
Maj. Gen. Howard Stendahl, Chief of Chaplain, United States Air Force
Edith A. Disler, Lt. Col. (USAF) Ret., MRFF Director for LGBT Affairs
In a report out this morning, USA Today breaks down the potential impact of sequestration, or a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, state-by state. Colorado certainly sees a big threat, with more than 4,800 Army-related jobs affected (either furloughed or lost) and another 6,000-plus civilian Air Force jobs furloughed.
In a small bit of consolation, though, those numbers are markedly lower than some of those bandied about during the first sequester scare, of a couple months ago.
The cuts are scheduled to be enacted March 1, unless Congress can find a way to avert them.
To see how Colorado’s Army situation stacks up to that of other states, you can scroll through the budget-cut breakdown on the left of the map at the top of the page. More detailed Army information, as well as Air Force numbers, follow after the USA Today story itself.
Former staff sergeant at Fort Carson Clinton Romesha is, as of yesterday, one of the few living recipients of the Medal of Honor. He's also the father of a pretty cute kid named Colin. And as kids are wont to do, Colin got pretty bored waiting for the ceremony in the White House's East Room to start, so he started looking around, apparently like he'd been doing the whole day.
"Colin is not as shy as Clinton," President Barack Obama joked during his remarks. "He was in the Oval Office and he was racing around pretty good; and sampled a number of the apples, before he found the one that was just right."
A new art display at the Colorado Springs Airport to be dedicated today will serve as a reminder that Colorado Springs is home to the state's top man-made tourist attraction — the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.
But the artwork goes way beyond the chapel to highlight the components of the academy that form its core pillars: academics, athletics, military, leadership, character and airmanship.
A ribbon-cutting will be staged today at 3:30 p.m. Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Springs Mayor Steve Bach will deliver remarks.
The concept and final design were created during 2012 through joint efforts of academy leadership and airport staff. The design is part of an ongoing program to improve the terminal.
If you're somebody, you've probably been invited to the "ribbon-shooting" ceremony at 11 a.m., Wednesday to mark the opening of the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex.
The ceremony is invitation only, but the range, a project by Fort Carson and El Paso County, will be open from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
The range idea emerged after the U.S. Forest Service shut down the Rampart Shooting Range in July 2009 after an Aurora man was killed in a shooting accident.
Here's Carson's news release:
The shooting complex, which is the largest outdoor shooting range in the State of Colorado,
is a joint project between Fort Carson, El Paso County, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the National Forest Service and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. It will be open to the general public with minimal daily rates of $10 per person.
The 400-acre site is located on Fort Carson land near Interstate 25 just off mile marker 132. The entrance is just outside Fort Carson’s Gate 20 security perimeter. Shooters using the range will not have to enter the installation nor register their weapons with Fort Carson to utilize the range.
This marks the completion of the first of a three-phase construction plan. The complex currently consists of seven shooting ranges with approximately 120 covered shooting positions. Three ranges are designated for rifles with distances from 300 to 500 yards. There are also four designated pistol ranges and one multi-position range prioritized for law enforcement and public safety training purposes.
A small archery range will also be on site with plans to expand it as funding becomes available and a five-stand trap range is expected to be available in the spring for shotgun enthusiasts.
The second phase of the project will include the construction of five skeet & trap ranges and a club house. The club house will include a retail store, class rooms and offices. Completion of the project will occur during the third phase with the addition of a restaurant.
One 1,250-yard-long shooting range will be for the exclusive use of law enforcement, Monday through Friday, and open to the public on weekends.
The range complex will be staffed by Department of Defense Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation civilian personnel. Although on-duty Soldiers will not train on this range, the complex will be open to off-duty military personnel shooting their personal firearms, DoD civilians, retired military and all civilians.
Profits from the range will be used to fund the Fort Carson FMWR program, which supports Soldiers and their Families.
El Paso County has established a nonprofit organization called the Soldier’s Friend Foundation to raise funds for the next two phases of the complex. A web site under construction will allow for donations to help fund the two additional phases of the project.
How better to remind the world of the seasonal message of "peace on earth" than to sponsor a Santa tracker using one of our most crucial national defense agencies, right?
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, a bi-national command with Canada, to protect North American airspace from intruders, once again is putting forth the warm fuzzy persona to provide recon of Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve flight.
As reported year after year, the tradition began in 1955 when a Gazette Telegraph ad contained a wrong phone number for kids to call Santa. The number turned out to be that of the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, now NORAD, then based at Ent Air Force Base where the Olympic Training Center now sits. A kindly NORAD official played along, and the rest is history.
NORAD now is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, with a warm standby unit inside Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.
So without further ado, here's this year's news release:
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The North American Aerospace Defense Command is prepared to track Santa's yuletide journey! The NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, is going live today at 7 p.m. EST. It features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world, and more. The website is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.
Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are also available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play, so parents and children can countdown the days until Santa's launch on their smart phones and tablets! Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Santa followers just need to type @noradsanta into each search engine to get started.
Starting at 12 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4:00 a.m. MST (6:00 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to email@example.com. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations.
NORAD Tracks Santa is truly a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere. This is due, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous program contributors. New to this year's program are Bing, HP, iLink-Systems, Kids.gov, Microsoft’s Windows Azure, BeMerry! Santa, and SiriusXM. Returning collaborators include the 21st Space Wing, Acuity Scheduling, Air Canada, American Forces Network, Analytical Graphics Inc., Avaya, Citadel Mall, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, CradlePoint, Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS), Federal Aviation Administration, First Choice Awards & Gifts, Globelink Foreign Language Center, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Meshbox, National Tree Lighting Ceremony, Naturally Santa’s Inc., Newseum, OnStar, PCI Broadband, Pentagon Channel, RadiantBlue, Space Foundation, TurboSquid, twtelecom, UGroup Media, Verizon, and VisionBox. Santa’s Countdown Calendar and the Santa Cam videos will feature music by military bands, including the Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Air Force Academy Band, Air Force Band of Liberty, Air Force Band of the Golden West, Air Force Band of the West, Air Force Band, Air Force Heartland of America Band, U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Band, Air Force Band of Mid-America, and the West Point Band. Santa trackers can also purchase official NORAD Tracks Santa licensed goods by visiting the “Official Licensed Products” link on the site.
UPDATE: We received the following message from Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer:
Reference the arson case on the USAFA...our office received a call from USAFA authorities yesterday at 4:19 p.m. regarding an arson investigation. Once our deputy arrived on scene they learned members of Air Force OSI had conducted the arson investigation and had spoken with and identified the suspect. Once our deputy gathered sufficient information, we took the female suspect into custody and transported her to CJC where she was booked on 4 counts of Arson. The suspect was a contract employee on the Academy and was not a cadet or military member. Bond is currently $25K. Booking photo attached.
——-ORIGINAL POST: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 12:41 P.M.———
For the second time in two weeks, two small fires broke out at the Air Force Academy, in Sijan Hall, an academy dormitory, on Tuesday. Two small fires also were reported at Sijan Hall last Friday.
No one has been injured in either fire, and damage estimates are not available, although an academy spokesman said the fires did no structural damage. The earlier fire was investigated by the Office of Special Investigations with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officers.
Cadets were safely evacuated in both cases.
"Academy authorities believe they have apprehended the individual responsible for the recent fires in Sijan Hall," the academy said in a news release. "These actions are not being attributed to a USAFA cadet or permanent party member."
An academy official speaking on background said an employee for an "off base contractor" was apprehended and turned over to civilian authorities, but the official didn't say what civilian authorities. A person was booked into the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center, Lt. Jeff Kramer reports, but the person's name hasn't been released.
Meantime, the academy was supposed to conduct base-wide exercises today and Thursday, but those have been canceled due to the fires.
The reasoning, the academy official said, is that when exercises are undertaken, no unplanned events should interfere, and some of the exercise activities were to occur in the area of Sijan Hall.
The academy notes in a news release that the Cadet Chapel, Chapel Wall and Chapel Trail leading from the Visitor Center will remain open and that the public is welcome and encouraged to visit the Air Force Academy, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. The Visitor Center, Gift Shop and Cadet Chapel are open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.