Military

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New NorthCom leader chosen

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 1:16 PM

Gortney: Chosen to lead NorthCom. - COURTESY U.S. NAVY
  • Courtesy U.S. Navy
  • Gortney: Chosen to lead NorthCom.
Defensenews.com reports that new leaders for three important commands have been chosen, including a replacement for Army Gen. Charles Jacoby at Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

According to the report, Navy Adm. Bill Gortneyhead of Fleet Forces Command, has been nominated to take charge of NorthCom and NORAD.

Gortney, if confirmed, would be the third Navy admiral appointed to head the command, the others being Adm. Timothy Keating, who took over in 2004 and oversaw the decision to move surveillance operations from the bunker base at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, a Top Gun pilot who was snatched away mid-assignment in 2011 to become vice chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.

We get that the military can't let well enough alone and rotates commanders in and out after three or so years. But the bad part about losing Jacoby is, the area loses a leader committed to the homeland security mission that brings the armed forces into play with civil authorities during our wildland fire season, as well as flooding hazards.

Local folks have spoken highly about Gen. Jacoby, so it's hard to think about breaking in a new guy.

 
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Carson ban still in place

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2014 at 8:52 AM

In today's edition, we report that two soldier advocates are suing several military members, including an Army lieutenant general, in efforts to get an order lifted that bars them from Fort Carson.

Robert Alvarez and Georg-Andreas Pogany have become well known for their crusade on behalf of soldiers who suffer from war-related injuries like PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Some of these soldiers are caught doing bad things like driving drunk or smoking pot, triggering a criminal charge that leads to their being discharged without benefits, including medical treatment.

Sure is strange that Carson would oust them after they were invited to the table by Trial Defense Services in 2012. In fact, TDS honored Pogany in 2009 with an award.
 
The post's then-garrison commander Col. David Grosso issued letters to Alvarez and Pogany in November 2012 saying they were disruptive to good order and discipline.

Despite repeated pleas for an investigation that would show that isn't true, the two have gotten nowhere and the order still stands.

It even prevented Pogany from attending a memorial service last fall for a fallen soldier. Grosso told Pogany the family didn't want him there, Pogany says, but the family gave a different story.

"I talked to the family and received an e-mail from the widow, and she says Grosso never asked her and she told nobody I couldn't be at the memorial service," Pogany says. "She was upset they would disrespect her husband in that way."

Moreover, Pogany has been honored repeatedly for his advocacy, including by three senators in 2006, one of whom now occupies the White House. The letter was addressed to then Carson commander Maj. Gen. Robert Mixon Jr., and then Command Sgt. Maj. Terrance McWilliams, who now serves as Vice President for Military and Veteran Affairs at El Pomar Foundation.

Here's that letter:

Obama.pdf
Although the barment letters don't say what led to the action, Alvarez and Pogany had been working with a soldier in late October to try to get his ouster reversed so he could get treatment for his PTSD. During his out-processing, Alvarez accompanied the soldier but said nothing to post officials during the process, he says. Pogany was in Denver that day, he says.

If you want to read more about that soldier's experience, and what the Army does to people who try to run interference for these warriors, check out this Aljazeera America story penned by Dave Philipps and published in January.

Philipps is the Gazette reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting last month for his series on this topic that ran last year, but it's odd that the local daily newspaper wasn't interested in publishing the story he wrote for Aljazeera and another one he wrote that ran in March. In that story, he takes post commander Gen.Joseph Anderson to task for his tactics in getting rid of soldiers.

All of which raises questions about why Grosso barred these two advocates from post and about whether Grosso acted alone (doubtful) or was ordered by Anderson to bar them from post (probably).

The biggest question of all is: Will we ever know the truth?


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Free tickets for AFA graduation, Thunderbirds

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM

The Air Force Academy's graduation will once again host a performance by the Thunderbirds. - AIR FORCE THUNDERBIRDS
  • Air Force Thunderbirds
  • The Air Force Academy's graduation will once again host a performance by the Thunderbirds.

If you've never attended the Air Force Academy's graduation, here's your chance — at no cost.

But you have to be one of the lucky 600 to snap up reserved-seat tickets for the May 28 event. After the graduates are declared second lieutenants, and as they toss their hats into the air, the Thunderbirds will zoom overhead, unlike last year when the aerial show was canceled due to sequestration.

If interested, here's where you can get tickets and how to prepare for this signature event, according to the academy's news release:
Tickets must be picked up in person at one of three locations:

• The Business Alliance offices at 102 S. Tejon Street, Suite 430, in Colorado Springs, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• The Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce offices, at 300 Colorado Highway 105 in Monument, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• The Air Force Academy’s Athletic Ticket Office, at the Cadet Field House, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A maximum of four tickets per person are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets must be picked up in person and cannot be held or mailed. Lost tickets cannot be replaced.

The Air Force Academy’s Graduation Ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m., on May 28 in Falcon Stadium and will include a commencement speech by the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.

Falcon Stadium gates open at 7 a.m. on graduation day and ticket holders are encouraged to arrive no later than 8:30 a.m. Traffic will be heavy entering the base and stringent security measures will be in effect.

Stadium security staff will check tickets, IDs, and hand-carried items and attendees will be scanned by airport-style metal detectors. No boxes, alcohol, weapons, firecrackers, backpacks, large handbags, coolers, thermoses, beverage containers of any sort or similar items will be allowed in the stadium. No sticks or poles (to include tripods) may be brought into the stadium, but small folding umbrellas may be carried. Food and drink are prohibited with the exception of clear, unopened water bottles and medically necessary items with a doctor’s order. Refreshments will be available from vendors throughout the stadium.

Cameras, video cameras and binoculars are permitted; however, please be prepared to remove camera lenses for security inspection at the stadium gates. Diaper bags will be allowed when a child is present; no strollers please.

Once the ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m., no one is allowed to leave the stadium until after the end of the Thunderbirds’ performance at about 1:00 p.m. To ensure compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, no one will be allowed in parked cars or driving or walking within the performance area.

The Air Force Academy graduation ceremony is conducted in an outdoor stadium and extensive walking and stair climbing may be necessary. Guests should be prepared for any kind of weather; there is no indoor seating for the ceremony. Medical staff will be available for individuals who may experience illness or other medical emergencies.

Handicapped and wheelchair seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis and is located at the top of Sections U2, U5, U9, U12, M2, M6, M10, M14, L3, L6, L7, L9, L10 and L-13. The entire top row of Sections L-2 through L-14 is reserved for handicapped guests. Note that there are no elevators in the stadium but handicapped seating may be accessed without requirement to walk stairs. Handicapped parking is available at the north side of the stadium in lot 5, accessible via the North Gate. Golf carts will be available to transport handicapped guests from the parking areas to the stadium.

In the event of severe, life-threatening weather or security response to a high-threat world situation, the ceremony could be moved into Clune Arena at the Cadet Field House. Because Clune has limited seating capacity, guests of graduating cadets will be restricted to three per cadet and public ticket holders will not be able to attend. For this reason, we make every attempt to hold the graduation ceremony outdoors in Falcon Stadium, even in less than ideal weather conditions.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Military writer wins national award

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Branum: Took the top DoD communications award. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • Branum: Took the top DoD communications award.
It's not the Pulitzer, but Don Branum at the Air Force Academy still has a lot to be proud of as the recipient of the Defense Department's 2013 Civilian Communicatory of the Year award.

"I was out of the office the day the awards were announced, so the first I heard of it was when Lt. Col. Brus Vidal (Academy Public Affairs office director) called to congratulate me," Branum said in a news release. "My reaction, in a word, was 'wow.' Even more than a week later, I'm still not entirely sure what to think."

More from the release:

The award is part of the Thomas Jefferson Awards Program, recognizing Defense Department journalists worldwide for outstanding achievement in promoting the goals of the DOD's Internal Information Program, a program responsible for, among other things, telling the Air Force story to a global audience.

"Essentially, Don just won the highest honor any Defense Department journalist may receive, the DOD equivalent of the civilian Pulitzer Prize," said David Cannon, the Academy's communication director. "This award tells us what we already know — that Don is an extremely talented writer, not only able to tell the Academy story, but to tell it in a way that shows the impact across the DOD and across our Air Force."

Thomas Jefferson Award officials consider a writer's "range, continuity and quality of the stories" when determining award recipients, said Robert Hood, the Defense Information School's Competitions Coordinator at Fort Meade, Md. Fort Meade is home to DINFOS, where are all DOD public affairs specialists — Airmen and civilians — are trained.

In 2013, Branum covered a variety of topics for the Academy, but perhaps none were as important and wide-ranging as his coverage on sexual assault, the effects of force shaping, religious diversity and a wealth of other issues that didn't just affect the Academy, but influenced the DOD at large, not to mention public perception of the Air Force's only academy. 

Branum, 39, joined the Air Force in 1999 as a computer programmer but retrained into Public Affairs in 2004.

Then-Staff Sgt. Don Branum graduated from DINFOS that same year as a distinguished graduate. Since then, he's received numerous Air Force and command-level Public Affairs awards as an Airman and as a civilian, including Air Force Civilian Print Journalist of the Year, third place, 2013; Air Force Space Command Print Journalist of the Year, 2007; and Air Force Space Command Best News Article, 2007.

He left the Air Force in 2011 but remains in Public Affairs. 

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Protect our protectors, group says

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 4:24 PM

The Mountain Post could come under budgetary fire.
  • The Mountain Post could come under budgetary fire.
The military protects the nation, without a doubt.

But now, more than half the nation's states are actively working to protect the military. (More accurately put, the goal is to protect the military's economic impact on those states.)

In Oklahoma, a Strategic Military Planning Commission has been set up and given $920,000 to make sure that military cuts don't come calling in that state.

In Utah, a similar organization called the Utah Defense Alliance has a $500,000 annual budget to do much the same thing.

New York allocated $1.5 million for its state-wide effort to run interference against military cuts.

At least 20 states have hired outside representation to try to head off cuts, and 15 more have allocated funds for such efforts.

But Colorado lags behind all that. "Currently, there is no one who is focused full time on developing and organizing Colorado efforts," says a report that will be presented to City Council on Monday.

The report notes that the military is the second largest employer in Colorado, that El Paso and Teller counties' defense presence contribute $11 billion, or 45 percent of the local economy, and that a Base Realignment and Closure round is expected in 2017 and perhaps another in 2019.

That report will come from the Colorado National Defense Support Council, a group of 24 people who want to, according to its mission statement:

protect, preserve, and expand Colorado military installations, organizations, and associated industry/businesses by informing the state of Colorado, and Colorado and US Government officials on the value of the military in Colorado; to both Colorado and the Nation; in support of service members, veterans, and their families; and to create favorable conditions for the Colorado military and civilian communities at large.
To do that will take money, and this group wants Council to pony up $100,000 to help fund a $266,000 budget that would hire two people, with one in Washington, D.C., to coordinate efforts to protect the military.

Here's the presentation to be given on Monday:

CNDSC_Brief_to_Colorado_Springs_City_Council---12_May_2014.pdf

It notes the following cuts could lie ahead, including a brand new Combat Aviation Brigade that just arrived at Fort Carson:
-Army is considering force structure cuts as low as 420K; others suggesting 380K
-This will mean the closing of division headquarters and the associated force structure
-4ID at Fort Carson, CO (FCCO) is in jeopardy if this happens
-In comments from the Army Assistant Secretary of the Army for BRAC, he stated that Fort Carson is safe at the current 490,000 troop level, at 450,000 it is reasonably secure, but at or below 420,000 the Combat Aviation Brigade could be in real danger and we could lose the division flag.
-USA, USAF & USN looking at Active vs Reserve Component levels/roles
-Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will shape thinking on force structure levels

Most of the Support Council's members are from Colorado Springs, including Mayor Steve Bach, former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg, Matt Carpenter and Bill Hybl of El Pomar Foundation, Regional Business Alliance official Andy Merritt, contractor Chuck Murphy, and developer Doug Quimby.

Those outside of Colorado Springs include Gov. John Hickenlooper, Aurora Chamber president Kevin Hougen, La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter, Puebloan Marvin Stein, and Denver Chamber executive Tom Clark.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Close PCMS, says Not 1 More Acre!

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 duck for cover from flying stones as an AH-64 Apache helicopter, like those that will train at the PCMS,  lands near Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan on Oct. 12, 2004. - STAFF SGT. RUSTY BAKER, U.S. MARINE CORPS
  • Staff Sgt. Rusty Baker, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 duck for cover from flying stones as an AH-64 Apache helicopter, like those that will train at the PCMS, lands near Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan on Oct. 12, 2004.

The Army's desire to use heavier arms fire training and drones at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is drawing opposition, judging from comments made during a public meeting in Trinidad on Tuesday.

Not 1 More Acre! spokeswoman Jean Aguirre urged the Army to simply close PCMS, saying the 235,000-acre short-grass prairie can't survive heavier use, according to the Pueblo Chieftain's story about the meeting.

“You can’t train soldiers in a Dust Bowl,” Aguerre said, drawing applause, the Chieftain reported.

The Army isn't seeking to expand PCMS, as it has in the past. This time, it wants to intensify use of the property in southeast Colorado. As the Chieftain describes, the Army is studying the impact of drone aircraft, helicopter gunnery, drop zones for paratroopers, electronic jamming and demolition training.

Not 1 More Acre! issued a statement of its position prior to the meeting:
The Department of Defense has spent more than a decade implementing plans to expand the PCMS through additional training, intensified use, expanded operations and land acquisition. Every internal military planning document obtained by Not 1 More Acre! has insisted that the PCMS in its current size can neither meet mission requirements nor sustain the environment to meet multi-force training requirements.

By contrast, the Army's recent public statements have all reversed those positions and indicate that use of the existing Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is able to satisfy all mission and environmental requirements without causing any significant impacts.

These later conclusions were presented without supporting data, are completely at odds with the Army's previous positions, and are false.

The Department of Defense and Department of the Army cannot meet its maneuver training requirements at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site without causing irreversible degradation and total destruction to PCMS and the region (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas), which is located on fragile shortgrass prairie at the headwinds of the 1930's Dust Bowl.

In fact, Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is not capable of sustaining any military training. Instead, military impacts on shortgrass perpetuate another national environmental disaster that has the potential to wipe out the Southern Great Plains only eighty years after government policy led to the Dust Bowl.

DOD's environmental analysis of impacts to Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site by the new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) is typical. DOD found there would be no significant impact from operating and maneuvering the $3.9 billion integrated electronic weapons system on the last native shortgrass prairie in all the American Great Plains kept by generational ranchers.

The Heavy CAB includes two attack reconnaissance battalions, an assault helicopter battalion, a general support aviation battalion, and an aviation support battalion.

The attack reconnaissance battalions consist of 48 AH-64 Apache helicopters. The AH-64 is armed with a 30-millimeter chain gun, and it can carry up to 16 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 76 rockets (in pods of 19 rockets each).

The AH-64D can employ radar-guided Longbow Hellfire missiles and Longbow fire control radar ("FCR"). A single FCR-equipped Longbow Apache is reportedly able to control Longbow Hellfire missiles carried by AH-64D aircraft that are not equipped with radar sensors.

Apache Longbow Block III helicopter pilots have controlled the payload and flight path of a Gary Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (drone) while both aircraft were airborne.

The new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade assault battalion consists of approximately 30 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, which are the Army's second-largest helicopter at more than 20,000 pounds Maximum Take Off Gross Weight ("MTOGW").

The general support battalion consists of 12 CH-47 Chinook helicopters (the largest aircraft in the Army's aviation fleet at 50,000 lbs MTOGW) and five specialized Blackhawk helicopters.

Army says there will be no significant impacts from the 113 helicopters assigned to the Heavy CAB to operate somewhere between an average of 4,960 and 7,652 hours at PCMS. That's not all. According to Army documents, the CAB's Full Spectrum Operations Training Strategy will schedule 8,539 aviation hours at PCMS. Nearly one-half of all flying hours are expected to be flown by the AH-64 Apache attack aircraft.

The Heavy CAB is equipped with at least twelve of the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones. The Gray Eagle is an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with a more powerful engine and larger payload. Each Gray Eagle weighs about 3,600 pounds and can carry up to four Hellfire missiles.

Add 600 - 700 electronically integrated manned and unmanned ground vehicles to the Combat Aviation Brigade DOD determined has no significant impact on the environment and rural economies at the headwinds of the Dust Bowl.

Fort Carson is only one of many DOD users of Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and the CAB is only one of many complex weapons systems DOD is operating there. The new EIS will pile on more.

The environmental analysis and public disclosure strategy designed by DOD, its contractors and politicians is crafted to trick the public into believing that impacts will be insignificant and wear opponents down with relentless and endless public comment opportunities that consume unreasonable amounts of time and money.

But if we don't speak out, the only guarantee is that for a second time in a hundred years we the people will allow our government to bury the Southern Great Plains in dust.

DOD and its contractors must be stopped at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado. It will take each one of us to grow the campaign to stop the them. We can.

Represent a challenge to everything that is wrong with politics and governance in this country today. Tell the Pentagon to stop.

People across southeastern Colorado will speak out at the meetings. Join us.

Tell DOD what you think by clicking the link:
usarmy.carson.imcom-central.list.dpw-ed-nepal@mail.mil.
Bill Sulzman of Colorado Springs also questioned the plan in comments drawn from this prepared statement he provided to us:
I believe real consideration should be given to a liquidation process for the PCMS. There really needs to be a going out of business sale. Correct the original mistake once and for all. That would take a lot of planning with many having a say in how it is carried out.
Here are some of the reasons why:

It is obvious after 30 years of operation that this terrain is not suitable for the kind of training being conducted here.

The Army as a whole is shrinking in size, up to a 130,000 decline in numbers. Fort Carson itself will lose a complete Brigade Combat Team as part of the drawdown. Why then is there a proposal for new facilities and new training requirements at PCMS?

Army Aviation as a whole is being scaled back also, roughly in proportion to the Army wide cutbacks. Why are the demands for more airspace being pushed as the program overall is getting smaller? In addition to the new demands in the PCMS area, Fort Carson plans to greatly expand its use of airspace in the Canon City area.

The Air Force also wanted a bigger training space in the area for its plans despite overall cutbacks. Thankfully that seems to have been stopped. It is time to protect our common resource of airspace from this huge military demand for even heavier use.

It will be an uphill battle. The political forces, both democrat and republican can't get enough federal military handouts. The giant military contractor firms have enormous influence on military expansion policies.

We have to be able to counter the business as usual atmosphere that drives these policies. Closing PCMS would be a good start.
The point of the meeting in Trinidad, as well as another in La Junta, was to define the scope of the environmental study that will determine what, if any, the changes in training will have on the training grounds. Sulzman says Carson officials said a draft report will be completed within three months after which more public meetings will be held. A record of decision is expected within about six months.

Meantime, Fort Carson issued a news release last week about the new Combat Aviation Brigade, which has triggered the need to change the use of the PCMS.
FORT CARSON, Colo. – The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, is scheduled to activate its remaining four battalions during a ceremony Thursday [May 1] at 1 p.m. on Founder’s Field.

4th CAB will become a fully activated brigade after the activation of 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment; 3rd Attack Helicopter Battalion, 4th Avn. Reg.; 4th ARB, 4th Avn. Reg.; and 404th Aviation Support Battalion.

The CAB headquarters activated July 2, 2013, and 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th CAB, activated April 3, 2013.

Currently, the CAB has more than 1,880 Soldiers and is projected to have more than 2,500 Soldiers by the end of 2014. It also has approximately 87 aircraft (CH-47 Chinooks, AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawks) and is expected to have more than 130 by October.

The CAB played a pivotal role in the 2013 Black Forest fires and Boulder floods. They flew more than 913 missions, dropped more than 700,000 gallons of water during the Black Forest fires, and contributed to the largest airlift evacuation since Hurricane Katrina during the Boulder floods. They also volunteered more than 560 hours outside of military operations to help with the recovery of the communities during both of the unfortunate disasters.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

New review ordered for AF instruction on religion

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 1:21 PM

afachapelphotojpeg.jpg

Such a brouhaha erupted over a cadet writing a Bible verse on his dorm whiteboard that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has asked Air Force chaplains and lawyers to conduct a special review of the relevant Air Force Instruction. 

After an Air Force Academy cadet removed a Bible verse from his dorm whiteboard in mid-March out of religious sensitivity for others, a group of organizations accused the academy of actions that "chill speech at the Academy, harm morale, and create unnecessary confusion for cadets."

Academy officials say the cadet chose to remove the message, but the fundamentalist Christian American Family Association and 20 other organizations sent the academy a letter on March 31, saying the cadet was inappropriately pressured.

“Once the Academy allowed the cadets the opportunity to express themselves on their white boards, it became unacceptable to censor that speech based on its specific content or general subject matter as enunciated,” the letter states. It also alleged the cadet was pressured “solely due to its religious and Christian content,” which violates the First Amendment's freedom of expression clause.

The whiteboard issue went viral after someone reported it to Mikey Weinstein with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Weinstein called the March 31 letter “utter idiocy.”

A Defense Department Instruction bars military personnel from sharing their religion with others over whom they have authority. The Air Force Instruction does the same. The cadet at issue roomed with a cadet leader, academy officials have said, which could have given the impression that the cadet leader looked more favorably on those who shared his religious beliefs.

But the instruction now will under go further study, apparently.

The academy issued a statement on Monday saying that the 21 groups have raised questions about whether the instruction is more restrictive than the U.S. Constitution.

In defense of how the academy handled the issue, the academy said its actions were taken to ensure "a command climate of respect for all."

The academy's statement also noted:

Clearly, there are larger national issues at play which both CSAF [Chief of Staff of the Air Force] and SECAF [Secretary of the Air Force] recognize. In her recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Secretary of the Air Force noted that AFI1-1 makes good sense and provides a balanced approach.

However, in practice we are finding that there are gray areas. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force will gather together senior Chaplains from across the Air Force, including USAFA, along with attorneys from the General Counsel's office to review this policy in light of recent changes in the law from FY 13 & 14 NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] and the new DOD Instruction published earlier this year. The goal of that review is to clarify where the 'rubber meets the road' and ensure dignity and respect for all.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Carson wants more intense use of PCMS

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM

PCMS is home to many species of wildlife. - RUSS DEFUSCO
  • Russ Defusco
  • PCMS is home to many species of wildlife.

The Army announced that it intends to intensify its use of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site about 150 miles southeast of Fort Carson

The 235,000-acre training ground will be used for exercises involving emerging tactics, including drones, although the Army states in the announcement that it has no plans to use live fire rounds.

All of this means the Army has launched an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the environmental and other impacts on PCMS under the National Environmental Protection Act.

In today's announcement, the Army states: "The proposed action could have significant impacts to airspace, soil erosion, wildfire management, cultural resources, and water resources. Mitigation measures will be identified for adverse impacts."

To justify the heightened use of the site, the Army states this in the notice, filed today:

PCMS supports readiness training for units up to Brigade-size stationed at Fort Carson and for visiting Reserve and National Guard units. Training must fully integrate ground and air resources and reflect the modern battlefield environment for which Soldiers are preparing. The PCMS must accommodate training for current and emerging tactics and new equipment; provide training infrastructure, land and airspace within PCMS necessary to support training requirements; and support assigned and visiting units.

Advances in equipment and weapons systems, to include their incorporation into tactical units, dictate changes in how the Army trains, alterations to ranges (including range airspace) for maneuver training and doctrinal changes to accommodate mission-essential training prior to global deployments. PCMS must support training that incorporates these technological and doctrinal changes.

The proposed action would accommodate additional training tasks and equipment to enable training of current and future Fort Carson units. Additional tasks and equipment include unmanned aerial and ground systems, jamming systems, laser target sightings, non-explosive mortars up to 120 mm, and non-explosive aerial gunnery. Unmanned aerial systems would be reconnaissance systems, with no live-fire capability. 

The notice states that the "proposed action" does not require expansion of PCMS and "no additional land will be sought or acquired as a result of this action."

So while the Army essentially has given up on expanding the maneuver site after years of trying, now it wants to use it for more and varied types of training.

Two public meetings will be held in Trinidad and La Junta, but dates and times haven't been announced.

As we reported last June, Fort Carson soldiers caused a lot of damage during maneuvers in February 2013, so much so that the post sought and received an extra allocation of $1.3 million to repair ruts and other damage caused after a heavy snow blanketed the maneuver site during training. We're waiting to hear from Carson about whether that damage has been repaired and will report back when we hear.

Send comments to:
Fort Carson NEPA Program Manager
Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division
1626 Evans Street, Building 1219
Fort Carson, CO 80913-4362

Or call (719) 526-4666.

Comments may also be submitted via email to: usarmy.carson.imcom-central.list.dpw-ed-nepa@mail.mil.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Academy CI program was "fair, consistent," Air Force says

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 3:34 PM

The academy's honor code: Did cadet CI violate it? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The academy's honor code: Did cadet CI violate it?

The Air Force Academy's disenrollment process was fair, consistent and timely, according to a panel that reviewed the procedure following questions surrounding the Office of Special Investigations' use of confidential informants.

The issue was triggered by stories in the Gazette about the CI program that quoted cadets saying they helped the academy build cases against other cadets and then got booted for the favor.

In a news release, the academy said:






The Air Force Academy’s disenrollment review assessed the Academy’s previous and current cadet disenrollment processes. The panel determined the processes provided fairness, consistency, timeliness, due process and transparency for both cadets and USAFA; identified weaknesses or potential enhancements in both programs; determined the current program improved upon previous programs; and provided recommendations, included in the IG report. The new instructions implemented in 2013 sought to mirror the cadet disenrollment procedures with the administrative discharge for Air Force personnel; by doing so, streamlining the process that was often encumbered by numerous procedural steps and an arguably excessive due process.
Read the full release here:
043_Academy_s_Disenrollment_Process.pdf

In addition, the Air Force Academy Inspector General looked into the CI program and reached the same conclusion. Here's the report:
USAFA_Disenrollment_Process_Report_-_Final_14_Feb_14_NonFOIAR.pdf

Here's a report from the Air Force Inspector General:
Redacted_ROI_into_AFOSI_use_of_CIs_at_USAFA_26_Feb_2014_SAF-IG_Redacted.pdf
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Friday, March 14, 2014

AFA superintendent talks religion

Posted By on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 5:32 PM

This is one of nine religious messages that appeared on cadet whiteboards at the Air Force Academy after the story broke about the first message on Tuesday. - COURTESY MIKEY WEINSTEIN
  • Courtesy Mikey Weinstein
  • This is one of nine religious messages that appeared on cadet whiteboards at the Air Force Academy after the story broke about the first message on Tuesday.

Responding to a firestorm of commentary stemming from a Bible scripture written on a cadet whiteboard this week, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson called a news conference suddenly this afternoon to talk about religious respect.

The briefing follows a week of headlines including from ABC News, Fox News and other news outlets.

The story broke first here on the Independent's website on Tuesday, and since has gone viral across the country, prompting a letter from Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, to Johnson:
Dear Lieutenant General Johnson,

I am deeply concerned and outraged by recent news reports indicating that an Air Force Cadet was forced to remove a Bible verse from the whiteboard posted outside his room. I was further troubled to learn that the apparent reason the Cadet in question had to remove this verse was due to the fact that he is in a position of leadership. This suggests that a Cadet in a leadership role may have less religious freedom than Cadets in the rank and file.

Religious liberty is a foundational component of America’s greatness, and was rightfully promised by the Constitution to all our nation’s citizens, including those who dedicate their lives to our nation’s defense. This truth should apply throughout all ranks, and those who pursue leadership positions should not be forced to sacrifice their religious freedom in order to lead.

Religious freedom and religious tolerance go hand in hand. Censoring Bible verses or any religious text for that matter, from personal or even common areas at the Air Force Academy suggests an apparent anti-religion bias rather than a rational approach that supports tolerance of all faiths. We are asking future officers to perhaps give even their very lives to protect and defend the Constitution and yet denying them rights from that same Constitution.

While initial reporting has indicated that the Cadet in question is facing no punishment, aside from being forced to remove the Bible verse, I would appreciate a full accounting of this incident. It may be that the officer who censored the Cadet should be the one who should be punished. I would also like an explanation of the apparent distinction drawn between those in leadership and other Cadet’s regarding religious freedom. I would also appreciate an explanation of the apparent influence the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has at the Air Force Academy in legal and media issues relating to decisions on Cadets’ religious practices over the past 5 years. The MRFF is an organization that seems to detest religious expression of any faith, and has become so outlandish in its claims that it should simply be ignored.

The brave men and women serving to protect the Constitutional rights of all Americans should not have their own Constitutional rights stifled as they carry out that task. I urge you to reconsider your decision to censor this Cadet’s religious beliefs, and to set the record straight on where the Air Force stands with regard to the religious liberty of all Cadets.  
"Our local matters become national issues on the national stage," Johnson told reporters, with several senior staff assembled around a conference table.

She says she had spoken to Air Force leaders at the Pentagon this week about the whiteboard incident but gotten no corrective direction from them, but rather only support.

Commandant Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel outlined what happened. On Monday, a second-degree cadet (junior) placed a Bible scripture on the white board outside his room that he shares with a cadet in a leadership position. Another cadet saw the verse and reported it to her military trainer, saying it caused the cadet to feel uncomfortable. The military trainer and Air Office Commanding spoke to the cadet who posted the verse and explained that because he rooms with a cadet leader, other cadets could mistakenly think the cadet leader wrote the verse and interpret that as undue influence.

Air Force Regulation 1-1 states that service members cannot express their religious views to subordinates on duty, because it could be seen as a requirement that subordinates share those views in order to win favor with the leaders.

After the discussion, Lengyel said, "the cadet took down the white board and put it in his room."

"The cadets had recently had religious respect training which may have made this a fresh item on people's minds," Lengyel said.

He said there will be no punishment for the incident. "I don't think we saw this as a misconduct case. We saw this as keeping a balance in the Air Force position and the First Amendment rights of freedom of expression," he said.

Johnson also noted the academy is trying to balance the instruction's mandate with First Amendment freedom of expression while instilling a culture of commitment and climate of respect. She said she has spoken to the cadet wing and her staff about being respectful of others, including their religious beliefs.

"There are natural tensions built into the Constitution, and we live these every day," she said.

Asked how she feels about people at the academy being more willing to report such incidents to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation rather than through chain of command, Johnson said, "We're trying to have people use the system so we can better understand what the problems are. It's hard to take on things if you don't know what they are."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

UPDATE: Bible verse gets Mikey going, again

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 1:43 PM

This message was apparently posted in an Academy building. - COURTESY MIKEY WEINSTEIN
  • Courtesy Mikey Weinstein
  • This message was apparently posted in an Academy building.
UPDATE: Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson issued the following statement about the Bible verses issue:

I’m pleased with the way our cadets raised and discussed a recent concern in an atmosphere of respect and communication, and wanted to share it with you.

A religious scripture was displayed outside a dormitory room belonging to a cadet who held a leadership position in the squadron. Another cadet prompted a discussion of appropriateness, according to policies that leaders will avoid actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to subordinates. The scripture was below the cadet’s name on a white board and could cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality. With the mentorship of the active duty commanding officer as part of the discussion, the cadet squadron commander raised this potential perception and the cadet voluntarily elected to erase the scripture.

The Air Force’s Academy is a training institution, teaching cadets how to appropriately raise concerns, understand perceptions and balance personal freedom with effective leadership. Cadets will continue navigate through questions like this, where judgment is an important aspect of leadership on active duty. This is the ideal environment to explore those leadership issues with open and transparent conversations. I'm proud to see the cadets having subsequent conversations about how to enjoy religious freedoms regarded to all cadets while practicing caring leadership that inspires all subordinates.

———WED., MARCH 12, 2014, 1:43 P.M.——————————-
After the Bible verse became the topic of a FOX News editorial yesterday following our blog posting, nine other religious messages were written onto whiteboards outside cadets' rooms at the academy.

Mikey Weinstein said the new messages showed a lack of religious respect at the academy was "spiraling out of control," with cadets posting the messages in protest of the academy's request the original message be removed. 

But the academy didn't actually request the original message be removed, as it turns out. Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal says the issue was pushed down the chain of command to Air Officers Commanding and the cadets themselves. The cadet who posted the Galatians message took it down, realizing it could have been misinterpreted by other cadets. The cadet in question is in a leadership role, and Air Force Regulation 1.1 bars those in leadership positions from forcing their religious beliefs on those down the chain.

Says Vidal:
We didn’t take them (religious messages) down. When this was identified through the chain of command, they had a discussion, and the discussion went to cadets about what the best way forward would be. The decision to take it down was this cadet who lived in this room who was in a leadership position. Because of that, they determined it was the perception of some that if I’m going to speak to that cadet, the entry fee, if you will, to get into the office is to abide by that statement. It would have been better not to have been in a publicly placed area. If you’re in a leadership position you can’t have something that would potentially imply if you have a certain belief, you can’t come see me. Their office is also their home. They have to do cadet leadership business in the same place they live.

Vidal went on to "put it in context" by noting there are 4,000 cadets who share 2,000 whiteboards throughout the dorms, so nine messages do not a revolution make.

"They’re going to push those things down to the AOC and cadets in leadership positions to make those calls," he says, but adds, "This is still an evolving thing."

Vidal didn't know whether the additional nine messages had been removed or would need to be, because all nine might not appear outside the rooms of cadets in leadership positions.

Here are two of the nine messages posted overnight:

COURTESY MIKEY WEINSTEIN
  • Courtesy Mikey Weinstein
COURTESY MIKEY WEINSTEIN
  • Courtesy Mikey Weinstein




———ORIGINAL POST TUES., MARCH 11, 2:09 P.M.————

About a month ago, a top leader at the Air Force Academy gave a resounding endorsement to Air Force Regulation 1-1, which we reported on here. Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost essentially reminded faculty and staff that the Air Force regulation bars the endorsement of one religion over another and proselytizing among the ranks.

Perhaps he should deliver the same lecture to cadets, in light of a message one cadet scrawled on a board outside his room.

To the academy's credit, when several people at the academy reported the Bible verse to Military Religious Freedom Foundation director Mikey Weinstein, and he in turn contacted the academy, the verse was removed. The officer with whom Weinstein dealt called it a "teachable moment."

But Weinstein is baffled as to why someone at the academy didn't report the verse directly to leadership. He suggests that lack of reporting demonstrates that not all is well at the academy, which has been under fire for years for favoring fundamentalist Christianity.
 
"How many walked by and looked at this?" Weinstein asks. He adds that 33 people at the academy — 29 cadets and 4 faculty and staff — reported it to MRFF but didn't feel comfortable reporting it to leadership.

That underscores Weinstein's contention that the climate at the academy remains hostile to anyone who doesn't buy in to the fundamentalist point of view.

The Bible verse was up for two hours and nine minutes, he says, before it was removed after his call.

He blames Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson for not driving the point home and backing up the regulation with punishment for violators.

Asked to address the issue, Maj. Brus Vidal, academy spokesman, says this via e-mail:
We don't see misconduct here but the division between your personal room and the hallway is a gray area. The whiteboards are for both official and personal use, but when a concern was raised we addressed it and the comment was taken down. We also don't know who posted the message.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

UPDATE: Amen, and pass the smelling salts at USAFA

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Mikey: Pleasantly aghast.
  • Mikey: Pleasantly aghast.
UPDATE: Air Force Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal wants to make the following clarifications:

In reading last night's blog about the Dean's address to faculty, I would like to point out a couple of items that are not completely accurate based on what he said (knowing you heard about this from those who were in attendance and also from the MRFF):

First, the discussion was about religion in general, not Christianity. Second, General Armacost never said one should never announce their faith in class because there may be cases where it might be appropriate for academic dialogue; his discussion was specific to the "first day of class." scenario.


—————-ORIGINAL POST WED., FEB. 4, 2014, 3:21 P.M.—————-
If Mikey Weinstein was the fainting type — and he's not — you'd have to pick him up off the floor about now.

For the last couple of hours, the 1977 Air Force Academy grad and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from more than 100 cadets, faculty and staff heralding a speech made this morning by the new dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost.

Armacost reminded folks of Air Force Instruction 1-1 that prohibits proselytizing in the ranks. He emphasized that instructors and others are never to announce their Christian faith to cadets, according to someone who was there whose account is below.

The academy has taken a lot of guff over the years for its alleged favoritism toward fundamental Christianity. (For example, ex football coach Fisher DeBerry's team hung a banner in the locker room that said, "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." )

And Weinstein has dished a lot of that guff. But now, Weinstein is stunned. "You're talking to a thunderstruck Mikey," he told us. "This has never happened before. Is this the end of the war? The beginning of peace and love? Is there a new sheriff in town? I'm doing something I haven't done in 10 years. I'm saluting my alma mater. Our clients are joyous."

There is a new sheriff in town. Her name is Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, and you can read her views on a number of topics in tomorrow's Independent.

For now, here's an e-mail Weinstein received that recaps Armacost's speech.
Dear Mikey,

Today I witnessed what I can only describe as the USAFA's February Miracle—or Hell Freezing Over, given the snowfall and plunging temps we're seeing. Today, BG Andy Armacost, Dean of the Faculty, during an address to the entire Faculty, addressed religious discrimination within the military in certainly the most direct, clear, and concise terms I've heard by any senior leader since the publication of AFI1-1. Frankly, I'm still in (pleasant) shock and think that you'll hear from others, too, once the shock starts to wear off. Here's how it all transpired...

The entire faculty was in our largest lecture hall, F-1, during a twice per semester "Dean's Call." After presenting awards and other typical duties, he began to discuss the recently released result of the unit climate survey within the faculty. After going over several positives, he said that he wanted to address specifically some of the negatives cited in the responses and written comments. The third topic on his list was religious discrimination. He said that 3.4% (or something like that) cited religious discrimination as something that negatively affected the climate on the faculty. He then added that written comments on the subject represented both sides of the issue, with some writing that it "wasn't easy being Jewish" on the faculty, or that they didn't feel comfortable identifying themselves as non-christian. Others thought that their rights to express their christian faith openly were being chilled by recent directives. He discussed those point for a few seconds and then described a question that was posed to him during new instructor training (during early Jan or last summer, I don't know when). Apparently, an instructor asked if he/she was allowed, during their self-introduction to their cadets on the first day of class, to cite their christian faith as an important aspect of their lives.

Gen Armacost said that we all had an obligation to get to know our cadets and our colleagues and to establish relationships that strengthen our institution BUT, and he said this quite clearly, the instructor should NOT announce their religious belief in class, to people he/she did not know, to people she/he had just met, to people over whom the instructor had a power relationship because no cadet or subordinate should ever have even the slightest concern that his/her religious (or other) personal belief could be a basis for judging them in the classroom—and he added race, sexual orientation, and gender to this, too. I almost gasped in delight.

He then said that everyone had a personal right to practice their personal religion so long as it did not affect their job or mission and that he respected everyone's personal beliefs. He said that in the holiday's he greats his friends that he knows are christian by saying 'Merry Christmas,' he says 'Happy Hannukah' to his jewish friends, and 'Eid Mubarrak' to his muslim friends. To the friends he knows are atheist, he says 'Have a good break.' To everyone else whom he doesn't know so well, he say 'Happy Holidays' or something non-sectarian.

THEN, he actually read from AFI1-1 verbatim including the lines about not proselytizing and the importance of the Air Force not showing favoritism or endorsement for one belief system over another. I was almost giddy at this point. FINALLY, someone with the guts to publicly say what's been documented, signed, and published (if not read aloud) by Air Force leadership. Clear guidance that it's NOT okay within the military hierarchy to bring your religion (or declare your lack thereof) in the classroom or the department office. Clearly, this is in response to the near constant pressure exerted by the MRFF over the last few years with the myriad violations of AFI1-1 we've seen at the Academy—before and even after it was published. Clearly, he was separating himself from his predecessor who went so far (according to reports) as tasking one of her senior leaders to conduct a counter-insurgency analysis within the faculty of MRFF supporters, and (earlier in her career) even put her name on a public advertisement in the base paper (with her rank included) declaring the "real" meaning of Christmas and inviting all to the christian faith.

He also announced the formation of a new Ombuds program on the faculty that will help resolve issues like this (among others) without using the chain of command or endangering the careers of faculty members and cadets—a great step towards building trust.

This was a watershed day for our Faculty, in my humble opinion. We can thank the MRFF and all of the hundreds of MRFF clients (cadets and faculty) at USAFA that have played a role in this day coming, as we thank Gen Armacost for his brave words. I'm sure he knows that the knives will be coming out for him soon, too. In the meantime, though, I hope this "bug" he's caught turns into a full-fledged virus of courage and we can hear similar words of support for all airmen from our other senior leaders.
Sincerely,
A Senior USAFA Faculty Member

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stryker unit coming, veterans cemetery, too

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Here's an armored vehicle. See the difference? - U.S. ARMY
  • U.S. Army
  • Here's an armored vehicle. See the difference?
Here's a couple of major new developments on the military front here. First, to become more agile and environmentally friendly, the Army has announced it will convert an armored unit to a Stryker force. "Being a wheeled vehicle, they will have less environmental impact," Fort Carson spokeswoman Daneta Johnson says.

Second, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it had sealed the deal on 374 acres of land in El Paso County, known as Rolling Hills, for a veterans cemetery. That acreage lies south and east of Colorado Springs. 

Beyond Johnson's terse comment, Fort Carson responded to a reporter's questions by issuing a statement that supplements a news release issued this afternoon. And while the change will reduce the number of soldiers at Carson, Johnson says the Army isn't ready to issue actual numbers.

Here's the initial news release followed by the supplemental statement:
Stryker vehicles are wheeled instead of tracked and won't cause as much dust and environmental damage, the Army says. - U.S. ARMY
  • U.S. Army
  • Stryker vehicles are wheeled instead of tracked and won't cause as much dust and environmental damage, the Army says.
The United States Army announced today that it will convert the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division here to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

The conversion, scheduled to begin in March 2014, is being made to achieve a needed operational mix of brigade combat teams within the Army, and will take an estimated 10 months to complete.

The Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, G-3/5/7, issued a Record of Decision, based on a review of the 2008 Environmental Impact Statement that had considered several installations, including Fort Carson, for the permanent stationing of a Stryker brigade combat team. The 2008 Environmental Impact Statement assessed the effects of converting an Infantry brigade combat team to a Stryker brigade combat team; however, the Army is now converting an armored brigade combat team. Because of this change, the Army determined that the 2008 Environmental Impact Statement adequately evaluated the potential environmental effects associated with the conversion and that no supplementation of the Environmental Impact Statement is required.

Replacing Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles with lighter Stryker wheeled combat vehicles reduces heavy vehicle maneuver and fuel consumption, and is expected to reduce dust and air pollution at Fort Carson. Additionally, the net number of Soldiers training at Fort Carson will be fewer than anticipated because the action coincides with the inactivation of another brigade combat team as part of the Army-wide reductions, announced in June 2013.

The decision to convert the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to a Stryker BCT does not require additional construction at Fort Carson or expansion of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. The Stryker brigade combat team maneuver training requirements will be accommodated within the existing boundaries of Pinon Canyon.

The Record of Decision can be obtained online at:
http://www.aec.army.mil/Services/Support/NEPA/Documents.aspx.
Fort Carson is honored to receive Stryker combat vehicles and transition the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. By converting an Armored Brigade to a Stryker Brigade, the 4th Infantry Division increases the operational capability and flexibility, while continuing to further Fort Carson’s net zero environmental goals of reducing pollution and fuel consumption. As Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division change to accommodate the Army’s reduction in forces, we will remain a well-trained, efficient fighting force.
Bill Sulzman, who has opposed continual buildup of the military, says via e-mail, "Musical chairs. It is curious how they just dust off a 6 year old EIS and say it still fits. EIS's are mostly a joke anyway but it is still a cut and paste job. Still losing a full brigade a year from now."

Just as we were wrapping up the Fort Carson announcement, we received this release announcing the land has been secured for a Veterans Cemetery here, which we've written about before here and here.
U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), strong advocates for Colorado's veterans and their families, welcomed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' announcement today that it has secured land in El Paso County to build a new national veterans cemetery for southern Colorado. The announcement follows years of work by the lawmakers to bring a new veterans cemetery to the region. The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country and Pueblo, also known as the Home of Heroes, is home to four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Despite this, the nearest veteran cemeteries are located more than 70 miles away, greatly inconveniencing local families.

"Southern Colorado's veterans have earned our respect through a lifetime of service to our country," Udall said. "Our veterans and their families deserve better than to travel hours from home just to pay tribute to their loved ones. That's why I have fought for years to create a final resting place that is worthy of their sacrifice. It's long past time this cemetery was built so we can honor the veterans across southern Colorado who gave so much for our freedom."

"As a region with a rich military history and a large and active veteran population, Southern Colorado is an ideal location for a final resting place for our nation's heroes," Bennet said. "We've been working closely with the VA, veterans and their families to establish a new national cemetery in Southern Colorado. It's exciting that we can move forward on this long overdue project."

"As the son of a World War II veteran, I know the importance of dignity and respect for our nation's heroes," Lamborn said. "That is why the very first bill I introduced in Congress was to bring a Veterans Cemetery to El Paso County. It is tremendously exciting to see the hard work and help of so many members of our community pay off after all these years. I want to especially thank our Pikes Peak National Cemetery Committee for their years of dedication and advocacy on this project. The tens of thousands of veterans here in the Fifth Congressional District will now have a special place of remembrance close to heart and home."

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it has acquired the land, water and mineral rights for a new veterans cemetery in southern Colorado. The new cemetery will be located on 374 acres of land in El Paso County at a site known as Rolling Hills.

Udall, Bennet and Lamborn have worked for years to bring a national veterans cemetery to southern Colorado, including successfully authorizing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to acquire land to build the cemetery. The lawmakers have worked closely with southern Colorado veterans and community leaders to make sure the new cemetery would meet the needs of veterans and their families. For years, Udall, Bennet and Lamborn have partnered with the Southern Colorado Veterans Cemetery Committee to build support for the cemetery and advocate for local veterans.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

AFA parachute team claims 33 medals

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Aside from several issues that  have arisen at the Air Force Academy in recent monthsthere's a lot of good news coming from the officer training school as well. Such as the performance of the Wings of Blue parachute team, and the parachuting program as a whole.
This academy Falcon is for demonstrations, not competition. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • This academy Falcon is for demonstrations, not competition.

So while academy officials cope with a confidential information program reported by the Gazette, and figure out if the academy's Preparatory School is worth the trouble ("A prep to protect," Nov. 13, 2013), among other things, it's turned out some master parachutists, apparently.

As the academy reports in a news release:

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo., - The Air Force Academy's Wings of Blue parachute team won 33 medals at the National Collegiate Parachute Competition in Lake Wells, Fla., recently.

Wings of Blue skydivers took home nine gold, 16 silver and eight bronze medals at the competition, held from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2.

The Wings of Blue received the highest point total, making it the collegiate champion, the 34th time in the past 45 years the Academy has
garnered this honor.

Cadet 1st Class Joseph M. Euhus, Cadet Squadron 6, won the collegiate tournament's "Outstanding Competitor" Award. He won a gold medal in sport accuracy (masters class). This makes the second year in a row a member of the Wings of Blue was chosen as the tournament's finest.

Euhus was part of the skydivers' record setting four-way Eufouria team that won gold in the open or highest division. Other members of the Eufouria team included Cadets 1st Class David Moore, Aaron Sporrer and Derek Dymenek.

The Wings of Blue is operated by the 98th Flying Training Squadron, which comprises 75 cadets and approximately 37 staff members. The team performs annually to an estimated combined audience 12 million people.

Just recently, on Dec. 28, the team jumped in the Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., with 75 thousand stadium onlookers and millions of television fans watching the demonstration.

The Wings of Blue are scheduled to perform 23 nation-wide demonstrations in Fiscal Year 2014.

The 98th FTS also operates the Air Force's most prolific parachute program, executing 20,000 jumps and 3,500 UV-18B flight hours each year. The program allows more than 800 cadets per year the opportunity to earn their basic parachutist badge.  

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

UPDATE: Fort Carson will lose a unit in 2015

Posted By on Tue, Dec 31, 2013 at 11:35 AM

The Mountain Post will lose a brigade combat team in 2015.
  • The Mountain Post will lose a brigade combat team in 2015.
UPDATE:
From the Mayor’s Office:

Yes, it was definitely on the radar of City and County when the Army was going through the decision making process. The Community, met w/the leadership at Ft Carson, to include Major General Paul LaCamera, and provided significant input to him, which he forwarded to the Department of the Army. This was a decision that was directed at the entire Army, not just Ft Carson.

The reduction in force (aka RIF) is not news. It has been a subject of great discussion for many months given the drawdown in Iraq and the goal to vacate Afghanistan. As one of the Army's largest divisions, FCCO has been vulnerable to a RIF ever since the subject surfaced. FCCO was fortunate to have been granted a CAB prior to the RIF so it went forward anyway.

What to do? The community has given the Army lots of input and they have weighed it I'm sure –however, they have to do what they have to do. We need to continue to focus on protecting FCCO from further cuts by staying connected to the Department of the Army, keeping our congressional delegation focused on Colorado installations and the DoD, and assuring local commanders that our community (writ large State of CO) is supportive of their needs. To that end we need to be sure the Colorado National Defense Support Council (or some iteration of it) gets the funding and focus it needs from the Governor and the State so we deliver the message.

-——————————-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, DEC. 31, 11:35 a.m.————————-

Army Times recently reported the Army's plan to eliminate 10 brigade combat teams, five in 2014 and five in 2015, and  Fort Carson made the second list.

Slated for "inactivation" is the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is a change from the Army's earlier announcement in June that the 3rd BCT would fall victim to the "sweeping reorganization" described by Army Times.

"The reorganization, one of the most comprehensive organizational changes the Army has undertaken since World War II, is linked with an ongoing effort to cut the Army’s end strength by 80,000 soldiers," the publication reported.
 
The other units on the chopping block:
2014:
■4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas
■3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
■4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
■4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
■4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

2015:
■3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas
■3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
■4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
■2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
■2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. (The Army previously announced it would inactivate the division’s 3rd BCT, but the brigades were switched to adjust for deployment cycles, officials said.)

Asked about the impact of the scale back, Carson issued this statement:

The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is one of 10 active component brigade combat teams identified in an Army plan to be inactivated by FY15. At this time, we cannot speculate about the number of Soldiers who will be affected by 2BCT's inactivation. In June, Department of Army announced that 3rd Armored BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson would inactivate, but now will inactivate 2nd Armored BCT, 4th Infantry Division. This change was necessary to adjust for deployment cycles. The decision to inactivate a brigade will not affect Fort Carson or the 4th Infantry Division's readiness to protect our nation and defend our freedom. Fort Carson remains a well-trained, adaptable fighting force with multiple well-trained, operational units.
Since so much of the local economy revolves around the military, we asked El Paso County Board of County Commissioners Chair Dennis Hisey for his thoughts:

"While it is true they are deactivating the one BCT they are shifting a battalion to the remaining BCT’s," he writes in an e-mail. "The net loss will be about 700. However, Fort Carson is slated to have a small net gain over the next few years due to other units coming to Fort Carson like the Combat Aviation Brigade."

Although unsuccessful at staving off the cutback, Hisey says local business leaders coordinated with the city and county to deliver "responses" to the Pentagon and congressional offices.

Springs City Council President Keith King says this might not be the only cutback that lies ahead.

"I think we will start seeing some of this as the nation pulls out the Afghanistan," he tells us via e-mail. "I would hope that the drawdown will not be significant and be less soldiers than what you are indicating will leave. I would hope that the RBA [Regional Business Alliance] has been aggressively trying to prevent this from happening. I would also hope the Mayor has been involved with the military. Council's job priority is very important in our strategic plan. I will ask our latest employee, George Culpepper to investigate the move and see if there is anything we can do. 

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