Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Postal Service honors WWII veterans in stamp dedication

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 2:14 PM

"I didn't think I did the heroics credited to me. I was just mad out of my mind when I charged up the hill. I thought I might die, but I was going to die trying. To be part of this stamp dedication is humbling. I share this honor with all the other brave men and women who sacrificed."  — George T. Sakato

As a second-generation Japanese-American serving his country in World War II, George T. Sakato and his unit set out to defend a hill from a German unit near Biffontaine, France in October, 1944. As shots rang out, Sakato's friend and comrade was shot and killed, his body going limp in Sakato's arms. Devastated and enraged, Sakato channeled his fury to single-handedly stage an assault on the Germans, killing 12 and capturing four. Inspired by his boldness, Sakato's unit followed his lead and captured 34 more prisoners. 

As a result of his gallantry, Sakato was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. 55 years later, the Denver resident and retired postal employee, received the Medal of Honor for his courageous service. 

In honor of the 16 million Americans who served their country during WWII, 464 of which who were awarded this honor, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the World War II Medal of Honor Forever stamps in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Sakato's face is pictured along with 11 other of the living recipients on the first side of the four-page design, with the center pages listing names of all recipients of this honor. 

“Our challenge as a nation is to never forget the sacrifices all of these individuals made on our behalf,” says Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a news release.  “We hope these new Medal of Honor Forever stamps will provide everyone with one more way to preserve our veterans’ stories for future generations. Let them serve as small reminders of the giant sacrifices made by the heroes of World War II.”

George Sakato from Medal of Honor Foundation on Vimeo.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Military sexual assaults on the rise

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

  • Shutterstock

Yesterday, the Pentagon released data showing that 3,553 complaints of sexual assault were made to the Department of Defense between October 2012 and June 2013 — a roughly 50 percent increase from that same time period a year before. And that number — which includes sexual assaults by civilians on service members, and vice versa — pales in comparison to separate numbers that come out of an annual survey of active-duty soldiers. The most recent of those surveys found that 26,000 people in the military were assaulted in 2011. It was 19,000 in 2010, reports the New York Times.

Suffice it to say that there's a whole lot of unwanted sodomy, rape and touching occurring among the uniformed. (Sexual harassment is tracked separately.) And, generally, it's an underreported act, so you know there's more. To that end, there are a few bills working their way through Congress with varying chances of seeing President Obama's pen — all championed by female Democrats — reports the Times.

The defense bill that is set to come to the Senate floor this month includes various changes to the military justice system. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is to offer an amendment that would take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command and give military prosecutors, rather than accusers’ commanders, the power to decide which cases to try. Pentagon leaders are strongly opposed to Ms. Gillibrand’s amendment.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, is pushing legislation that does not go as far. Supported by the Pentagon and Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the measure would strip commanders of their ability to overturn jury verdicts and mandate dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault. But it would keep control of court-martial proceedings within the chain of command.

Another measure offered this week by Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, would exempt victims of sexual assault from having to testify at what the military calls Article 32 pretrial hearings, which can include cross-examinations of victim that are so intense they frighten many victims from coming forward.

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Academy athletic trainer vows to proselytize on campus

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 3:02 PM

  • Weinstein
Love him or hate him, Mikey Weinstein has a point. For nearly a decade, he's been ranting about the pervasive fundamental Christian atmosphere at the Air Force Academy. He's pointed out many such instances, and now here's further proof.

After Weinstein went ballistic over the academy posting the honor oath at the Preparatory School, which concludes with "so help me God," he's gotten a lot of hate mail.

To counter, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded, posted a billboard on North Nevada Avenue asking why the academy feels compelled to make "so help me God" optional for cadets when President George Washington's oath of office didn't contain it?

That triggered this piece of hate mail from Allen Willoughby, head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director at the academy's prep school:

Finally a leader at USAFA that really lets you know how all of us at USAFA especially at USAFA Preparatory feel about you and your beliefs, can't wait 'til you are escorted off campus and I am sure the majority of staff/cadets (believers and nonbelievers) wish that could happen now. Stop pushing your beliefs on us. God will always be a part of the US Military even when you are gone to meet him face to face. You know you can do a lot for the homeless veterans out here but you could care less about them but when it comes to Christians you are willing to fight against us, well you will never win and so you know the war has already been won. I am on staff at USAFA and will talk about Jesus Christ my Lord and savior to everyone that I work with [emphasis added]. Do something productive with your life and Stop harassing the fine people at USAFA. I really pray for your soul.

As you can imagine, this sent Weinstein into orbit. He tells us in an interview, "This is the best example of how wretched the climate is there, the brazen boldness of Christian supremacy. It's an absolute disgrace. We want an apology to me, my family and the foundation, and we want him disciplined."

He then fired off an e-mail message to Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, saying, "he feels absolutely NO worries or even the slightest nuances of concern about making such heinous, astonishingly bigoted statements of fundamentalist Christian supremacy ... at USAFA so very publicly??"

Meantime, we asked the academy to comment on Willoughby's message and to tell us what, if any, action would be taken against him, given that the academy claims to require its staff, faculty and cadets to be trained in religious respect. Not so long ago, proselytizing was banned from the academy.

The academy issued a statement and later said, "No action is being taken against the individual."

The academy's statement:

Regarding the e-mail sent by Mr. Allen Willoughby to the MRFF, we can confirm that Mr. Willoughby is a trainer at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, and yes, he did send an e-mail to the MRFF in his personal capacity [all emphasis added] and not as a representative of the Air Force's Academy or the Prep School.

Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the 
Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team. Air Force Academy Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual's free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.

All Academy Airmen, especially commanders, supervisors and those who are in 
daily contact with cadets or cadet candidates, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force and the Air Force's Academy.

The Air Force's Academy remains committed to protecting individuals' right 
to practice any religion they choose, or no religion, provided their practices do not violate policy or law, or impede mission accomplishment, military readiness, unit cohesion, standards or discipline.

It's also important to point out that USAFA has a robust, structured Religious Respect Training Program that helps cadets, cadet candidates, faculty and staff understand how the First Amendment applies to them at USAFA with an expectation that all are educated on religious respect and, in turn, are practitioners of respect.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

UPDATE: George Washington didn't say it

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 9:55 AM

UPDATE: Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal sent this comment in response to the billboard:

First, the Cadet Honor Oath remains unchanged. However, in the spirit enabling all to be true to their beliefs, the Air Force's Academy made the final clause optional - cadets can choose to say that final clause or not.

Second, it seems the MRFF is confusing the facts and also does not understand the difference between 1) the commissioning Oath of Office, 2) the Cadet Honor Code, and 3) the Cadet Honor Oath, which remains unchanged.

Finally, and most importantly, I refer you to the MRFF's mission statement and the apparent disagreement of its fundamentals with the final clause in the Cadet Honor Oath as optional, thereby allowing all to be true to their beliefs, whatever those beliefs are.

To help define the differences in the Cadet Honor Code and Cadet Honor Oath, I refer you to our story about the Cadet Honor Code and Honor Oath - you might want to pass it along to them since they seem to be unclear on the facts and, specifically, that the Cadet Honor Oath was not changed — we simply made the final clause optional, which is directly in line with the MRFF's mission statement to ensure "that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom."

Here is the link and the story:


A new billboard in town already is stirring angst over the U.S. Air Force Academy's use of "so help me God" as part of its honor oath.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation posted a billboard at North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road saying President George Washington's oath of office didn't contain those words, so why should the academy's oath?

We reported on this a couple weeks ago, but the subject is still getting attention. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 academy grad, says his group already has received a dozen hate calls about the billboard.

The billboard stands facing east so that motorists westbound on Austin Bluffs Parkway, which becomes Garden of Gods Road, get a full view of it.

MRFF has posted this billboard message on North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • MRFF has posted this billboard message on North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road.

We've asked the academy if it cares to comment and will update if and when we hear back.

Here's a letter the MRFF sent to the academy.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

UPDATE: AFA honor code: "So help me God"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

On Monday, the Independent broke the story that the honor oath posted at the Air Force Academy's preparatory school includes the phrase "so help me God," and has since 1984. This morning, the academy announced the phrase will be considered optional.

But Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wants to know what the academy means by that. Will the honor oath contain those words in the handbook cadets are given? Will the sign containing those words be put up again after it was removed last week?

"What does that mean? Are they taking the four words out?" Weinstein says. "If the words are still there, if our clients are willing to come forward, we'll sue the academy in federal court aggressively and as soon as we can."

If the academy retains the "so help me God" wording, those cadets who choose not to say it, Weinstein says, "will stick out like a tarantula on a wedding cake."

The academy's news release:
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - After reviewing the Cadet Honor Oath, and
in the spirit of determining a way ahead that enables all to be true to
their beliefs, the Air Force's Academy has decided to make the final clause

"Here at the Academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and
that respect includes the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen
to freely practice and exercise their religious preference - or not," said
Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, Academy Superintendent. "So, in the spirit of
respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the Honor Oath with 'So help
me God.'

"At the Air Force Academy, we produce Lieutenants for our Air Force and
leaders for our Nation, so our focus here continues to be on developing
leaders of character" General Johnson said. "This all begins by living
honorably. The Honor Code and Honor Oath reinforce this fundamental value."

——— ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, OCT. 21, 3:25 P.M. ————-

Despite an Air Force investigation in years past and continuing efforts to set up religious sensitivity training at the Air Force Academy, it appears the officer school north of Colorado Springs continues to couch its mission in terms of a divine being.

Last week, in response to a request for photos of its preparatory school, the academy sent the Independent 13 images featuring quotes from famous people, such as George Washington, President Ronald Reagan, Gen. George Patton and German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Generally they revolved around the concept of building character.

One of those photos featured most of a poster of the academy's famous honor code, with a second sentence we'd never seen before:

  • Courtesy Air Force Academy

To be clear, that's: "Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably so help me God."

So we sent the photo to Mikey Weinstein, the 1977 academy grad who's been fighting for religious neutrality in the military since 2004 through his nonprofit, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The foundation got its start with efforts aimed at the academy, where Weinstein alleges fundamental Christianity is given priority, based on cadets' and staff's complaints to him that those espousing such a belief system receive favorable treatment.

After receiving the photo late Friday afternoon, Weinstein immediately contacted the academy about it. Ironically, he had met with Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson on Thursday morning and told her of several instances in the last month or so that he says demonstrate a lack of understanding about the separation of church and state.

First, he says, an academy grad and active-duty officer wrote on a classroom board the "only formula needed to get through this course," which was "1 cross, plus 3 nails equals 4-given."

Second, a female master sergeant recently told seniors that when they're commissioned as officers, they must end the oath with, "So help me God." Weinstein says a staff judge advocate advised the academy this was wrong, and the message was revoked.

When Weinstein contacted Johnson's vice superintendent on Friday about the prep-school poster, he says, Johnson herself got back to him 68 minutes later. She wrote via e-mail: 

Thanks for taking the time to talk with my Vice about this matter. This Honor Oath is one of the new things since my graduation, evidently in about 1984. Col Miller was able to bring together the Prep School and other entities on base to put together a way ahead. We’ve already directed the Honor Review Committee to fix this next week when they meet. The Prep School poster has been taken down.
We tried to find out more about what Johnson meant by "a way ahead," and by the word "fix," but she wasn't available. However, the academy did release this statement:

We are assessing the situation and have many mission elements, to include Prep School leadership, the Honor Review Committee and other entities on base, working to put together a way ahead that is respectful to all perspectives.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Colorado Springs canine is a military hero

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Contract Working Dog Carlos, Explosive Detection Dog.
  • Contract Working Dog Carlos, Explosive Detection Dog.
Today, a local military veteran was honored as a hero by the American Humane Association: Carlos, a nine-year-old Labrador retired from detecting explosives with the U.S. Army's 3rd and 4th Infantry divisions in Baghdad, as well as later with Special Forces in Kandahar

"As Carlos aged, he was transferred to work with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council," reads his biography. "Sadly, upon retirement, Carlos was the victim of neglect. To this day, Carlos still carries ligature mark scars on his back legs from hobble-style restraints. Fortunately, for this hero dog, Carlos was eventually adopted by the Ridpath family and received a 'Freedom Flight' back home."

The story of his adoption by the Colorado Springs family is also sweet (of course).

"I received an email from Courtney about a retired Labrador in Kabul, who had been waiting to be adopted," reads the account. "He had been passed over by adopters who preferred the Shepherd breeds. We weren't concerned about breed — our commitment was simply to provide a good home to a retired warrior who had served our country. We saw Carlos's picture, and we were hooked."

The pup is dealing with a lot more than the neglect wounds, unfortunately.

"Carlos has faced each medical issue like the warrior he is," the Ridpath family writes. "He has survived 3 major surgeries — cancer, removal of his spleen (baseball sized tumor within the spleen) and laryngeal paralysis — as well as 4 ultrasounds and pneumonia. ...

"Although our time with him has been fraught with illness, we do not for one minute regret welcoming him into our home and our hearts."

See the 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards on the Hallmark Channel at 6 p.m. MST on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

VA Cemetery land purchase a done deal

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM

The new VA cemetery to be built in southern Colorado might look a lot like the Fort Logan National Cemetery in southwest Denver. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The new VA cemetery to be built in southern Colorado might look a lot like the Fort Logan National Cemetery in southwest Denver.

Finally. It looks like after more than a decade of scouting for the perfect eternal resting place for those who have served this country, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced "it has executed a sales agreement to purchase land for a National Veterans Cemetery in Southern Colorado," the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., says in a press release.

That's good news, but we still don't know where it will be.

This effort dates back to the Rep. Joel Hefley's days when he represented the 5th Congressional District of Colorado, which includes Colorado Springs from 1987 to 2007.

At one time, property southeast of Fountain was chosen, but there were problems with water supply. Then the VA said "no," and looked at property off Highway 94. Then there was a Bradley Road parcel that came under consideration.

Bennet's news release says the VA next will "engage in the final steps to complete a formal property acquisition." We've asked his office when we can expect to find out the location chosen and will report back when we hear something.

The release:

"This welcome and long overdue news represents a significant step toward finally building a cemetery veterans in southern Colorado can call their own," Bennet said. “We're grateful to our troops, our veterans and our military families for everything they've done on behalf of our country. It's time we delivered on this promise."

The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country, estimated at more than 100,000. This new cemetery will help ease demand for space at existing facilities while significantly reducing the cost and distance of travel for families of fallen soldiers. The new cemetery will also enable veterans who reside in Southern Colorado to be buried near the communities they call home.

Bennet led efforts in Washington to bring the cemetery to Southern Colorado. In March 2009, he introduced a bill with Senator Mark Udall to create a cemetery in El Paso County. The following year, he and then-Representative John Salazar met with Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to discuss the issue and shortly thereafter, the President’s FY2011 budget included language for establishing such a cemetery. In 2012, Bennet convened a meeting of the Southern Colorado Veterans Cemetery Committee to receive feedback on potential site locations. 

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government shutdown kills Air Force-Navy game

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 12:02 PM

  • Courtesy Air Force Academy

Football fans who follow the Falcons will have one less game to watch this weekend, and maybe beyond that. The Air Force Academy announced in a news release the team has been sidelined by the stalemate over the budget. 

The release:

At this time, travel for all intercollegiate athletics is cancelled - this includes the Air Force-Navy game on Saturday, 5 Oct.

The Air Force Academy Falcons will attempt to play all home intercollegiate athletic contests but those may be cancelled, as well. Academy officials are working with Mountain West Conference officials, those teams the Falcons were scheduled to play and officials at The Department of the Air Force to make up as many games as possible.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

AFA quarterback sidelined, termed 'not in good standing'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 3:35 PM

  • Courtesy Air Force Academy

For an undisclosed reason, the Air Force Academy has yanked sophomore Jaleel Awini from good standing, meaning the football team's current starting quarterback appears to be done for the season.

Awini has actually been subbing for starting quarterback Kale Pearson, who suffered a knee injury about a month ago.

As usual, the academy wouldn't give any of the particulars, instead issuing a terse news release:

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force Academy Cadet 3rd Class (C3C) Jaleel Awini is no longer a cadet in good standing and is not allowed to represent the Academy in any outside activities, effective immediately.
Cadets must meet Academy standards — honor, physical fitness, academics and military aptitude in order to be a cadet in good standing. Holding each cadet to these high standards promotes good order and discipline throughout the institution.
Due to the Privacy Act of 1974, no Personally Identifiable Information can be disclosed. 

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Things that go boom

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM

The Sourdough Ranch in Teller County is zoned for agriculture, not explosives. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Sourdough Ranch in Teller County is zoned for agriculture, not explosives.

Back in June 2012, we told you about a local defense contracting firm, NEK Advanced Securities Group, that caused quite a disturbance in Teller County. ("Collateral damage," June 6, 2012.) For three weeks that spring, neighbors told us, explosions shook the area, scaring away elk, deer and birds. From the story:

"In March, north of Woodland Park on 480 acres known as Sourdough Valley Ranch, NEK was conducting military-style training using explosives that neighbors say rattled the windows and shook the foundations of the dozens of homes and businesses in the vicinity.

"By all accounts, NEK did stop soon after that March 26 letter. But neighbors also involved the state Department of Labor and Employment's Division of Oil and Public Safety. Regulators there found NEK had violated its explosives permit, in that it kept no records of its blasts."

So when the company's successor, Macalan Group Inc., made news this week by agreeing to pay more than $2 million to settle allegations it submitted false claims under a defense contract, it got our attention.

As far as we know, the company stopped setting off charges in Teller County last year, so that issue was resolved.

According to a news release on the U.S. Attorney's Office's investigation, "The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability." Hence, there's no indication whether the company can or cannot continue to contract with the government.

Here's the release:

DENVER – The Macalan Group, Inc., formerly known as NEK Advanced Securities Inc. (NEK), a security contractor headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has agreed to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims in connection with a contract with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), U.S. Attorney John Walsh announced on behalf of the Justice Department and its investigative partners.

NEK’s contract with JIEDDO required it to develop and deploy teams of specialized personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan to combat improvised explosive devices. The government alleged that NEK submitted false invoices for payment in connection with this contract that claimed excessive or unallowable costs. To resolve these allegations, NEK has paid the United States $2.08 million, and will also relinquish an outstanding invoice for $744,969, and turn over numerous weapons and accessories acquired under the contract.

“No government contract is more important than one that supports the security efforts of our nation overseas,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “When a contractor fails to bill by the contract rules set up to protect American taxpayers, our office will diligently and aggressively seek to recover any losses, as this case demonstrates.”

“This settlement demonstrates our commitment to pursue contractors who fail to accurately bill the government,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “The Justice Department will continue to ensure that those who do business with the government do so honestly and fairly and uphold the integrity of our public contracting process.”

“We are very pleased with today’s settlement with over two million dollars back to the U.S. Government,” said Frank Robey, Director of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Our special agents have worked tirelessly on this case, along with our partners in Federal law enforcement and the Department of Justice, and will continue to do so as we continue to scrutinize and monitor contracts affecting the U.S. Army.”

“The settlement in this investigation is the result of a highly successful joint effort by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and our law enforcement partners from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command and the Department of Justice, to include support provided by the Defense Contract Audit Agency,” said Janice M. Flores, Special Agent in Charge of the DCIS Southwest Field Office. “This settlement highlights the Federal Government's continuing resolve to recover losses to the American taxpayer when a contractor has claimed money to which it was not entitled. The United States must be able to count upon Government contractors to seek payment only for services performed or material provided, in conformance with their contractual obligations.”

The United States Attorney’s Office is grateful for the hard work of the investigative partners that produced today’s result, including the Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch; the Army Criminal Investigation Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Contract Audit Agency; and, the Contract Integrity Center, Office of General Counsel, Defense Contract Management Agency.

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Chris Larson and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Benjamin Wei handled this matter on behalf of the United States.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

AFA officers' actions "misguided and inappropriate"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Cadets march on the terrazzo. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Cadets march on the terrazzo.

In another instance of questionable behavior, six Air Force Academy officials have been disciplined due to how they handled an alleged "flash" incident at the Preparatory School.

The academy wouldn't disclose how the officials were disciplined, but issued this news release:

Three officers and three non-commissioned officers received administrative disciplinary action today for a human relations incident that occurred at the Preparatory School involving cadet-candidates during basic training on July 31, 2013.
The incident involved mishandling of supervisory responsibility but did not involve sexual assaults, sexual harassment or use or possession of illegal substances.
The incident occurred after an individual identified as a dark-skinned male cadet-candidate allegedly "flashed" a group of cadet-candidates from another squadron. Reacting to this alleged incident after hearing about it, the group of officers and NCOs brought together a group of male cadet-candidates and separated them by race in an attempt to discover the identity of the alleged perpetrator. In doing so, the officers and NCOs in question used other inappropriate disciplinary tactics to try to identify the alleged perpetrator.
"The officers and NCOs grossly misjudged the entire situation. They reacted before properly collecting facts and failed to consult the chain of command," said Col. Kabrena Rodda, Preparatory School Commander. "Their collective actions were misguided and inappropriate."
The investigation into the incident is complete, and no further action is anticipated at this time. The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits disclosure of further information but the ill-advised actions of the six individuals are in direct opposition to Air Force core values.
"The Air Force's Academy stands for respect and dignity for every individual and we take all incidents that happen to our people incredibly seriously," said Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, Academy Superintendent. "This was a case of immature judgment and knee-jerk reactions that were not in keeping with our core values."

It's clear the academy has no intention of revealing who was at fault and what type of punishment they received. Administrative discipline, according to this website, "is not punitive in character; instead, it is meant to be corrective and rehabilitative. Administrative actions include measures ranging from counseling or a reprimand to involuntary separation." 

The academy has held several courts-martial over the last year dealing with alleged crimes by staff and cadets. It dealt with a major cheating scandal and a crazy incident in which 27 cadets were injured in a "first snow" ritual, both in 2012.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Carson soldier gets Medal of Honor

Posted By on Mon, Aug 26, 2013 at 2:20 PM

A Fort Carson soldier was honored by President Barack Obama today with the Medal of Honor, the highest award for a military member.

Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter was awarded the medal for heroic acts in Afghanistan. Here's the narrative provided by the Army:

SSgt. Ty Michael Carter - U.S. ARMY
  • U.S. Army
  • SSgt. Ty Michael Carter
On Oct. 3, 2009, many Soldiers distinguished themselves when more than 400 Anti-Afghan forces, or AAF, attempted to overrun Combat Outpost, or COP, Keating, a company-sized outpost in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. On that day, of the 53 members of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, who defended the position, eight Soldiers were killed, and more than 25 were injured.

Of these men, one Soldier’s gallantry stood out. Without regard to his own safety, Spc. Ty Michael Carter proved himself time and time again. He resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a battle buddy, killed enemy troops, and valiantly risked his own life to save a fellow Soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire. He did all this while under heavy small arms and indirect fire that lasted more than six hours.

Carter’s actions of risking his life above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in combat against the enemies of the United States, were heroic, and he would be a most deserving recipient of the Medal of Honor for his fearless and decisive actions that day.

Continue reading »

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Humanist weddings barred from Naval Academy chapel

Posted By on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM


When a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy asked to use the cadet chapel for a humanist wedding, the academy said, "No way," according to the American Humanist Association.

In fact, the Naval Academy went on to say the chapel is only to be used for Christian ceremonies, the association said in a news release. 

So that made us wonder: What's the policy at the Air Force Academy? The answer isn't clear, because the AFA hasn't received such a request, Maj. Brus Vidal, director of public affairs, says via e-mail.

He went on to say: "There is a policy for chapel use, and all services or events held at the Cadet Chapel must be religious in nature and be conducted by a clergyperson or led by a lay-leader approved by the Cadet Wing Chaplain or designee."

So we apparently won't find out the real answer until the question is raised at the AFA by a humanist. Humanists, by the way, adhere to a philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

Here's the full release from the association:

U.S. Naval Academy administrators have denied a request from a recent graduate to hold his planned humanist wedding in the academy's chapel, declaring that the chapel is only to be used for Christian ceremonies.

The American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter yesterday to United States Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller and Senior Chaplain Commander Michael Gore asking the decision be reversed and confirm that it is not the policy of the Naval Academy "to forbid non Christians from using the Chapel for their wedding ceremonies."

"This discriminatory policy is unconstitutional," the letter states. "The Naval Academy cannot deny use of its publicly owned facilities on the basis of the religious views of those wishing to do so."

"Weddings performed by humanist celebrants are legal everywhere in the country, as are weddings performed by many other non-Christian officiants," said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Coordinator Bill Burgess. "There is no valid reason the U.S. Naval Academy's chapel can't be used by all of them."

In case you're wondering, the Air Force Academy's policy restricts the use of the chapel for weddings to the following:

Graduates of the USAFA, the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy, active duty personnel currently assigned to the USAFA and active duty Air Force personnel stationed in the local area to include Buckley Air Force Base, codependents of active duty personnel currently assigned to the USAFA who hold a valid military dependent ID card on the day of the wedding, Purple Heart recipients and Silver Star recipients and above, [and] ID card holding dependents of service members killed in action

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sen. Udall seeks info on firefighting

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting
  • Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has been an ardent supporter of forest health and wildland firefighting, and he continues to probe for more information to enhance how fires are managed.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Udall wrote a letter Monday to Northern Command leader Gen. Charles Jacoby and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asking for a retrospective for the Black Forest Fire.

Udall, along with Colorado's other Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, instigated a major study following the Waldo Canyon Fire that investigates the ecological, social and operational issues involved in fighting that blaze, which claimed 347 homes in Colorado Springs last year.

In his latest effort, Udall thanks Jacoby and Tidwell for their participation in the Black Forest Fire and what further lessons might be learned. He also asked them to explain procedural changes that made the rapid response possible.

From a news release:

Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer and repurpose excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires. He also led the fight to ensure the U.S. Forest Service was able to cut through red tape and secure seven next-generation air tankers. One of the next-generation air tankers Udall fought to acquire helped fight the Black Forest Fire.

Udall also pushed to pass a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate's 2014 budget to allocate $100 million more for wildland firefighting and he successfully secured federal funds to repair drinking-water supplies damaged by 2012's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

Here's his letter to Jacoby and Tidwell:

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fort Carson faces personnel cuts

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Fort Carson, Doug Lamborn
  • Fort Carson

Fort Carson likely will see a reduction in troops of roughly 800 soldiers under an end-strength reduction announced by the Army today.

The cuts could have been worse, however. Although Carson will lose a brigade, shuffling of soldiers into other units will largely offset the loss, media outlets reported.

Rep. Doug Lamborn
, R-Colorado Springs, issued a statement bemoaning the cut but also noting that the new Combat Aviation Brigade is untouched by the cuts. It's bringing some 2,700 soldiers and more than 100 aircraft here.

Lamborn's statement:

"I am very disappointed that Fort Carson is one of ten bases around the country that will lose a brigade combat team by the year 2017. However the blow is considerably softened by the fact that all but 750 of those soldiers will remain at Fort Carson and be reassigned to other missions. Including other restructuring changes, the Army anticipates Fort Carson will actually increase in size by 1,800 active duty Army personnel.

“Ft. Carson is the finest Army post in the country and has access to unique mountain training ranges that enable our soldiers to be fully prepared to fight at altitude. Downsizing at Ft. Carson simply does not make sense.

“It is important to note these cuts are part of Army-wide restructuring, impacting bases in Europe and throughout the United States.

“The good news is that Ft. Carson has other missions that the Army continues to grow such as aviation and special forces. Next week the 4thCombat Aviation Brigade will officially be activated. The 4th CAB will bring dozens of helicopters and thousands of soldiers to Ft. Carson and this year alone is injecting over $260 million in construction into our local economy. The 10th Special Forces Group is also at Ft. Carson and continues to serve our country quietly but heroically.”

Read the Army's announcement here:

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