Thursday, November 5, 2015

MRFF sues the Air Force over records

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 3:59 PM

Enough is enough, says the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Today, the nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force and the Air Force Academy over failure to disclosure documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mikey Weinstein: Wants USAFA to cough up the records. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mikey Weinstein: Wants USAFA to cough up the records.
Specifically, in 2011 MRFF sought records of MRFF's founder, Mikey Weinstein, and his family members, including two sons who graduated from the academy as did their father, and his wife, as well as David Mullin, a longtime MRFF client and former professor of economics at the academy.

The records request came after sources told Weinstein the former dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. Dana Born, had ordered a COIN against MRFF and Weinstein, meaning counter insurgency. (Born is no longer at the academy.)

It's the latest volley in a long-standing acrimonious relationship between the academy and MRFF, which was founded because of the favoritism being shown fundamentalist Christian beliefs by faculty, staff and cadets. That favoritism is well documented in periodic "climate surveys" conducted by the academy. Former Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa acknowledged the problem and tried to tackle it before retiring in 2005. MRFF has seen some success since then, but continues to represent hundreds of "clients" at the academy and other bases in the area, not to mention thousands across the globe.

According to the lawsuit:
MRFF did not receive any response to the Request from USAFA within twenty (20) days
of its Request, as mandated by FOIA. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i).

MRFF did not receive any notice from USAFA of unusual circumstances requiring an
extension of the statutory deadline within twenty (20) days of its Request, as mandated by FOIA. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(b)(ii).

USAFA did not respond to MRFF’s August Request until March 2, 2012, approximately
seven months after the statutory deadline to respond.

On March 2, 2012, USAFA notified MRFF that it was working on the Request and would
produce responsive documents at the earliest possible date (“Notification”). The Notification is attached as Ex. 2 and is incorporated herein.

MRFF received a “first interim response” (“First Response”) from USAFA on May 17,
2012, which included 1,000 pages of documents responsive to only two of the eight categories included in MRFF’s Request.
Even the documents that were produced were "improperly redacted," the lawsuit alleges.

In February of this year, MRFF received another interim response, saying an additional 7,216 documents had been collected as possibly responsive, only 3,173 of which had been reviewed for release. But the documents were withheld, the academy said, because they contained "“personal information in other files that, if disclosed would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

That response went on to say the balance of the documents would be produced no later than June 30 and noted the MRFF request had been withdrawn.

Not true, the lawsuit states.

The academy later said it would produce more documents by Sept. 15, which it did not, the lawsuit says.

All that is a violation of FOIA and demonstrates "a pattern, practice, and/or policy to refuse to abide by the terms of FOIA and such a pattern, practice, and/or policy will cause continued injury to MRFF in connection with future FOIA requests," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the following relief:

1. An order directing USAFA to release all records requested in MRFF’s FOIA Request;
2. An injunction against USAFA from relying on Exemption 6, as well as any other
FOIA exemption not previously relied upon in its withholding of documents;
3. An order stating that USAFA’s actions violate the terms of FOIA;
4. A finding that USAFA’s actions are arbitrary and capricious; and
5. An order directing USAFA to pay all costs and attorney fees associated with the filing
of this litigation.
The case was filed in federal court in Albuquerque where MRFF is based.

Here's the lawsuit: 
Weinstein provided this statement:
My alma mater promotes and prides itself on instilling only the highest degree of honor, character, truth and integrity into the 4,000 cadets being educated at taxpayer expense to become officers in the United States Air Force. When the senior Air Force leaders at the Academy, starting with the Superintendent, Lt. General Michelle Johnson, who are charged with conducting that costly education, egregiously violate the basic rubrics of the very Federal law which exists to promote and provide open transparency into the sacred trust of their daily fiduciary dealings on behalf of the American people, it is a terribly tragic day indeed. When that violation of Federal law continues over many years, it becomes both scandalous and outrageous. What kind of hideous example is Lt. General Johnson and her staff providing to the Cadet Wing with such clearly illegal actions thwarting the intent and letter of the clear Federal law here?

Due to USAFA’s deliberate malfeasance transpiring over many years now, MRFF has been left with no other alternative but to force and compel USAFA to follow the law of the land in Federal Court.

And what has USAFA done here? The Academy is unlawfully refusing to release critical records on MRFF’s many clients, supporters and allies existing within its walls as well as any records on me and my own children who are recent graduates, as well as my wife. In this regard, let us not forget that the most recent prior Dean of the Faculty, Brigadier General Dana Born, made the waging of a counter-insurgency against MRFF a top written priority to one of her most senior Academy faculty subordinates. Further, one of MRFF’s most visible clients at USAFA, a former member of that same faculty, had his innocent service dog almost poisoned to death on the Academy’s premises. The Federal law requires the Academy to timely release all responsive documents on these and other germane matters to MRFF or, alternatively, to explain on the record the legal justification for not doing so. None of these legal requirements have been remotely satisfied.

Thus, MRFF is now at war with the Air Force Academy in Federal Court to force it to stop its scurrilous illegal actions and to follow the law.
We've asked the academy to comment on the lawsuit and will update if and when we hear back.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What's wrong with this picture?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 1:32 PM

This t-shirt was being sold at the BX at Fort Carson until yesterday. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • This t-shirt was being sold at the BX at Fort Carson until yesterday.

Is this sentiment Islamophobic enough for you?

Believe it or not, this t-shirt was available in the PX on Fort Carson until late yesterday or early today.

Only after Mikey Weinstein with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation got involved was it removed from a store. The photo was taken on Monday. Maybe this t-shirt was made by the same folks who champion Ben Carson for president. (Carson has taken heat for saying a muslim shouldn't be allowed to serve as president of the United States.) Carson and his supporters apparently think there should be a religious litmus test for those who hold public office, a direct contradiction of the U.S. Constitution.

In any event, MRFF, with more than 200 clients at Fort Carson, jumped on the issue and had to go up the chain of command to some human resources department before the PX would require it's removal, Weinstein says.

Weinstein, who's asking the Army Inspector General to investigate, issued this statement:
On behalf of its almost 43,000 armed forces active duty and veteran clients, which includes approximately 13.5% of all Muslim-Americans serving in the United States military, and its 224 clients stationed at Fort Carson, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) expresses unmitigated outrage that the Army leadership at Fort Carson permitted the selling of that virulently Islamophobic and disgusting T-Shirt at its official Post Exchange store. The juxtaposition of that shocking image and text message on that T-Shirt epitomizes the wretched plight of prejudice and bigotry which innocent Muslim-Americans all too often suffer whileso honorably serving in today’s service branches.

MRFF has provided substantial testimony to the United States Congress specifically on this sad matter on more than one occasion.
The fact that this matter happened at Fort Carson, a major military installation which has had so many of its soldiers killed and grievously wounded in the War on Terror, only miserably magnifies the malfeasance of permitting that “Shirt of Shame” to be sold at its Post Exchange.

MRFF demands that the Army Inspector General’s Office in Washington D.C. initiate an immediate and aggressive investigation of this sordid event and that all Fort Carson personnel who either directly or indirectly allowed this travesty to happen be appropriately and visibly punished.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

VA cemetery meeting is tonight

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 1:42 PM

VA has announced another step in the process of bringing a VA cemetery to southern Colorado, like the cemetery pictured here in Denver. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • VA has announced another step in the process of bringing a VA cemetery to southern Colorado, like the cemetery pictured here in Denver.
This is a last-minute notice, but be advised that the Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) about the planned VA cemetery in El Paso County.

(We just got notification of the meeting in today's regular mail.)

The meeting will be held at the Retired Enlisted Association, 834 Emory Circle.

The VA seeks input from the public for the draft Site-Specific Environmental Assessment for the cemetery "to evaluate the potential environmental consequences of construction and operation of the proposed new VA national cemetery in the Southern Colorado area."

We previously wrote about plans for the cemetery here and here.
After the environmental assessment is completed, it will be available for a 30-day public comment period, the VA says.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fort Carson update on chopper, PCMS

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 2:59 PM

The Army has been using the Pinon Canon Maneuver Site quite a bit this summer, and now will hold a prescribed burn there, Fort Carson announced today.
Fort Carson is staying busy cleaning up after a helicopter crash, training at the PCMS and conducting prescribed burns. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Fort Carson is staying busy cleaning up after a helicopter crash, training at the PCMS and conducting prescribed burns.
Before we get to that, here's an update on the Sept. 2 crash of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Douglas County on U.S. Forest Service land. The crash injured four soldiers with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, post officials say.

Their names haven't been released. Two soldiers were treated and released from a hospital on the same day as the crash. A third was released on Sept. 4, and a third remained hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries as of last week, the post reports.

Carson removed the aircraft on Sept. 15, as Forest Service officials observed to assure recovery efforts followed federal standards. "The aircraft was moved to Butts Army Airfield on Fort Carson where the Army Combat Readiness Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama, continues the investigation into the cause of the Sept. 2 accident," the post tells us.

Use of PCMS:
In late May, about 3,000 soldiers and 1,100 Army vehicles with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team started conducting drills at the 235,000-acre short grass prairie that comprises Pinon Canon Maneuver Site. The drills lasted several weeks.

That training and others from Aug. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30 of this year occupied the PCMS for 269 days, or 63 percent of the time. The training involved the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations forces.

The PCMS hosted multiple units from Sept. 8 to 30, and the Army recently announced that more units will train on the southeast Colorado acreage from Oct. 18 to 31.

From a news release:
Increased dust and noise levels from the training can be expected during this time period, due to live fire training and heavy vehicle traffic throughout the training area. Field training includes day and night live-fire exercises incorporating small arms weapons.

The purpose of the training is to prepare Soldiers and other military members for any possible mission should the unit be called to support any contingency around the globe. During the exercise, crews will engage simulated targets using different scenarios to build team cohesion and ensure they are proficient in their skills.

Fort Carson is committed to balancing our training mission with protecting and preserving PCMS' natural environment and historical properties. Environmental personnel are involved in all levels of planning for military training, construction and other activities that could affect the PCMS environment.
Prescribed burns:

Fort Carson announced today it will conduct prescribed burns in the installation training areas and at PCMS from Oct. 10 through December. More from a release:
The installation prescribed burn program is critical in reducing potential for wildland fires and will only be conducted depending on weather conditions. The prescribed burns will cover approximately 7,000 acres on Fort Carson and 11,000 acres at PCMS. The burns are conducted to facilitate military training with 21 areas which are carefully planned and executed to reduce heavy vegetation in training areas that could provide potential fuel to a wildland fire.

The prescribed burns are conducted in accordance with permits issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in coordination with El Paso and Las Animas counties. The installation also works with state and local air quality authorities on smoke management. Each burn is conducted with a focus on safety and the potential impact for off-site effects of smoke on public health and visibility. By combining favorable weather conditions with a variety of fire management techniques, Fort Carson officials work to keep smoke impact to a minimum.

Fort Carson continues to be supportive and understanding to the concerns of the surrounding community regarding air quality and the threat of wildland fires. The prescribed burn program continues the installation’s dedication to the preservation of the environment and wildland fire risk management in Colorado.

Concerned community members are encouraged to direct complaints to Fort Carson at (719) 526-9849. We take every complaint very seriously and strive to address concerns in a timely and thoughtful manner.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Living with the military

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 5:31 PM

A planning process for growth near three area military bases will look at development impacts on everything from water supply to wildfire risk to "electromagnetic spectrum." The cost? Nearly $1 million, with most of that money coming from the Pentagon, according to a regional planning agency news release.

Fort Carson is among three installations included in a study of how the city and county can develop without disrupting the military — and vice versa. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Fort Carson is among three installations included in a study of how the city and county can develop without disrupting the military — and vice versa.
The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments said today it's landed an $800,000 grant from the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment to manage a two-year land-use study involving local and state governments, as well as the three military installations. Another $100,000 will come from the council's 16 member governments.

The bases included in the study, which will be completed by three planners hired for the project, are the Air Force Academy, Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base, the release states.

The goal is to produce a strategic plan "to preserve military readiness and defense capabilities while supporting community economic development and jointly beneficial adjacent land uses."

In other words, the plan will guide development so that it is "compatible" with military training, testing, and operational missions, while finding ways to reduce the military's impact on adjacent land.

“Our community has a history of working cooperatively with our military neighbors,” Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder, who serves as the PPACG board chair, says in the release. “This study will enhance existing relationships and identify additional ways to improve our region’s economy and natural environment through military operations.”

According to the release, the study will cover:
Regional water supply
Regional stormwater management
Compatible alternative-energy development
Wildfire risk
Development near airfield operations
Regional airspace use
Competition for electromagnetic spectrum
GIS data
Formal policies and procedures for military participation and cross-jurisdictional coordination      in community development review and planning processes
An implementation strategy with specific actions and monitoring responsibilities identified by        year

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Service before self

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Cadet 1st Class Broam Hart helps move logs in order to prevent flooding after the Waldo Canyon fire in June, 2013. Hart is one of thousands of cadets who participate in a variety of volunteer work locally while at the academy. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • Cadet 1st Class Broam Hart helps move logs in order to prevent flooding after the Waldo Canyon fire in June, 2013. Hart is one of thousands of cadets who participate in a variety of volunteer work locally while at the academy.

The Air Force motto is integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do.

So to address the second part of that adage, about 3,500 Air Force Academy cadets will fan out over the region on Friday to perform volunteer work for 48 organizations along the Front Range, the academy said in a news release.

Here's the details:
Worksites for cadets will range in location from Peyton to Florissant, and from Monument to Widefield. Start times vary depending on the distance the work location is from the Air Force Academy, with cadets arriving at most El Paso County sites by 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for other locations. Work will continue until 4 p.m., or until the work at each site is completed, unless otherwise noted.
Organizations the cadets will be working for include:
* American Red Cross, Southeastern Colorado Chapter, for its one-day Home Fire Campaign event, sending teams of cadets and other volunteers door-to-door to test, repair and install fire alarms at homes in El Paso, Douglas, Chaffee, Teller, Pueblo and Otero counties.
* Black Forest Together, helping with fire recovery and mitigation work at several homes within the area affected by the Black Forest wildfire.
* Coalition for the Upper South Platte, thinning overgrown trees and brush near Woodland Park to be used as firewood for the needy, as well as trail maintenance at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for both events.
* City of Manitou Springs, removing debris from Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon to aid the city's continuing flood recovery and mitigation efforts.
* City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department, building a hiking trail at Ute Valley Park; clearing and maintaining Promonitory Point Open Space, and working at two other sites.
* National Dog Mill Rescue kennels in Peyton to clean, prep the kennel play yards for artificial turn, make blankets for adopted dogs, as well as socializing and walking some severely traumatized dogs.
* The Salvation Army in downtown Colorado Springs, cleaning and painting its Winter Warming Shelter, performing upkeep on its mobile canteen that provides meals to the homeless, and performing labor and setup for a senior citizens lunch.
Other organizations the cadets will work with include: Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Venetucci Farm, The Marian House, Rocky Mountain Veterans Village Foundation, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Partnership for Child Development, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Flying W Ranch, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, Al Kali Shriners Mule Team, and several elementary and middle schools across the region.

This cadet volunteer work is organized by the Air Force Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development center, via its Cadet Service Leadership program, which connects community organizations with cadet volunteers. Cadets performed more than 30,000 hours of community service during the 2013-2014 academic year. Academy cadets have averaged more than 30,000 hours of community service work each academic year, for the past decade.
Organizations that wish to request cadet volunteers for future community service efforts can request cadet volunteers online at: 

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DATE CHANGE: County wants your input on AFA trail closures

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 12:14 PM


Here's the rest of the information from the county:

Community Meeting on Use of New Santa Fe Regional Trail Has Been Rescheduled to October 5

Interested Trail Users Encouraged to Attend

El Paso County, CO, September 23, 2015 – The community meeting on the New Santa Fe Regional Trail which was originally scheduled for September 28, 2015 has been moved to October 5, 2015.

El Paso County Parks is hosting the meeting to discuss public use of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy. Interested residents are encouraged to attend the meeting on Monday, October 5, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Academy International Elementary School, 8550 Charity Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

El Paso County has had an easement for the seven mile section of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy since 1989. The trail section has been closed to general public use since May, 2015 due to an increased threat assessment by the US Northern Command.

El Paso County and the Air Force Academy have been in discussions regarding public access to the trail and an update on those talks will be provided. The public is encouraged to attend and provide input on the future use of the trail.

For further information, please contact County Parks at 520-7529.

——- ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 15, 1:32 P.M. ——-


If you enjoy long bike rides or hikes along the Santa Fe/Pikes Peak Greenway Trail, than you've likely encountered the on-again-off-again trail closures at the Air Force Academy.

Apparently due to security concerns, the AFA closes the trail frequently, ticking off trail users. Well, it looks like the county may want to do something about that. There's a public meeting coming up on September 28 in which El Paso County Parks will take input from citizens on the closures. (We assume screaming and cussing are discouraged.)

The county has had an easement on the AFA section of the trail since 1989, so it's possible that they may be able to keep the trail open. Or at least keep it open more often.

Here are the details:

Community Invited to Meeting on Use of New Santa Fe Trail Through U.S. Air Force Academy

Public May Provide Input on Future Trail Use

El Paso County, CO, September 14, 2015 – El Paso County Parks will host a community meeting to discuss the public use of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through Air Force Academy property.

The meeting will be Monday, September 28, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Offices, 4255 Sinton Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80907.

El Paso County has had an easement for the seven mile section of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy since 1989. The trail section has been closed for general public use by the Air Force Academy since May, 2015 due to security concerns.

El Paso County and USAFA have been in discussions regarding public access to the trail and an update on those talks will be provided. The public is encouraged to attend and provide input on the future use of the trail.

For further information, please contact County Parks at 520-7529.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

UPDATE: Weinstein makes new demand of the Air Force Academy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 4:42 PM

UPDATE: The Air Force Academy spokesman says the school will not comment on Weinstein's demand.

———————ORIGINAL POST 4:42 PM WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015 ———————————————————-

Mikey Weinstein, the crusader against religious bias in the armed forces, will ask the Air Force Academy to remove the words "in the year of our Lord" from diplomas for the class of 2016, which graduates in May, he tells the Independent.

Because, he says, "We all know whose lord that is; it's a special seal of approval."
Weinstein: Wants the USAFA diploma changed. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Weinstein: Wants the USAFA diploma changed.
The request comes not from Weinstein himself, but rather from a small group at the academy calling themselves The Spartacus Group, which pretends to be fundamentalist Christian to find a more hassle-free pathway through the academy, where favoritism of Christians is well-documented over the past dozen years.

Weinstein sat down with the Indy on Wednesday at the, well, we're not going to tell you, because the 1977 academy grad lives in a world of high security due to a constant stream of threats of violence against him and his family. His wife, Bonnie, wrote a book about all that. He's had the windows of his house in New Mexico shot out twice, slaughtered animals left on his door step, swastikas painted on his house, and death threats too numerous to count over the years. He's been called everything, to include a liberal, commie, satan-loving, atheist, gay activist. For the record, he's Jewish and prays in Hebrew three times a day, he says.

He stopped in Colorado Springs on his way to a family event somewhere else in Colorado, and we'll leave it at that.

Weinstein, 11 years after establishing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, reports his organization now has 42,345 clients, 402 of them at the Air Force Academy. Most are Christians.
Spartacus, he says, contacted him to request he make the case on the diploma issue. This issue arose at Trinity University of San Antonio, Texas, a Presbyterian school, in 2010 when Muslim students petitioned to have it removed. We're checking on how the request was resolved and will update when we learn more.

Anyway, Weinstein says this group of cadets realizes that "in the year of our Lord" is a traditional phrase, but then, so was "Bring Me Men" over the terrazzo until the Air Force made the academy replace those words in 2004 amid the sexual assault scandal with the Air Force motto: "Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence In All We Do."

We've asked the academy for a comment on Weinstein's request, which has yet to be submitted, and will update if and when we hear something.

Meantime, Weinstein says the academy continues to be a cauldron of religious influence, with "para-churches" still active through the academy's SPIRE program (Special Programs in Religious Education). These include Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry, the Navigators and the Officers of Christian Fellowship, he says.

He also says it wasn't long ago that an academy staffer wrote 1+3=4 on the classroom board, explaining to cadets that one savior, plus three nails equals forgiveness. Another staffer put a big red heart on a classroom board this past Valentine's Day with the words, "Jesus Loves You," he says.

"There's a deafening silence from Michelle Johnson," Weinstein says, referring to the lieutenant general who currently serves as superintendent.

Although Johnson, he says, claims to have made a commitment to diversity and mandates training in religious sensitivity, then why does the diploma still carry this phrase, which some see as offensive or not reflective of their belief system?

Because, he continues, the academy is a hotbed of "fundamentalist Christian fascism and totalitarian oppression and tyranny."

"Fish in an aquarium never see the water," he says.

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy, on the other hand, has been responsive to MRFF's concerns, Weinstein reports, despite Caslen himself being an evangelical Christian. "He realizes there's a time, place and manner to follow the 'great commission,'" he says, referring to the New Testament directive to go and make disciples of all nations.

"We haven't had a single issue, because he understands this," Weinstein says.

Before dashing off to return dozens of phone calls and emails, Weinstein's parting shot is a quote of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, who said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

He adds, "As long as I breathe, my goal is to be the demander to the commander."

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Carson graduates Rangers, including a woman

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:49 AM

Women everywhere should cheer the fact that on Friday a female Fort Carson soldier joined three others from the Mountain Post in the graduation from U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Carson says in a news release.

Haver: Achieving excellence in a man's world. - COURTESY FORT CARSON
  • Courtesy Fort Carson
  • Haver: Achieving excellence in a man's world.
First Lt. Shaye Haver, a helicopter pilot, made the grade through the grueling training from which no females have graduated until now. Capt. Kristen Griest also graduated. Both are West Point grads. Griest was the distinguished honor graduate in a pre-Ranger School course run by her unit, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, last December, the Washington Post reports. 

FORT CARSON, Colo. - Four Fort Carson Soldiers, to include one of the first female Soldiers, graduated the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Friday.

First Lt. Shaye L. Haver, an AH-64 Apache pilot, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and another female officer were the first women to graduate from Ranger School out of 400 soldiers, including 20 women that were selected for Ranger School April 19. It was the first Ranger class in Army history to include female candidates.

Haver is a 2012 West Point Academy graduate from Texas and a platoon leader of Company D, 1st ARB. She has been in the Army for more than three years.

"We are extremely proud of Lt. Haver's distinguished accomplishment as one of the first female Ranger School graduates." said Col. Lori Robinson, commander, 4th CAB. "Her dedication and determination in completing the course served as a tremendous example for all Soldiers and leaders in 4th CAB, 4th Inf. Div., and the Army. The skills she has learned
will enhance her capabilities as an Army Aviator and tactical Leader in the Army."

"On behalf of the entire 1-4 ARB, 4th CAB, and the Ironhorse Division, we congratulate Lt. Haver on graduating Ranger school and helping to pave the way for our female service members as a result of this magnificent milestone," said Lt. Col. Stephen Gilbertson, commander, 1st ARB. "Lt. Haver demonstrated outstanding dedication, perseverance, and physical toughness through this arduous process. We are extremely proud of her accomplishment, her ability to break barriers, and we look forward to her returning to our team and resuming her platoon leader position in the near future."

Other Fort Carson graduates were Staff Sgt. Michael C. Calderon, who was the William O. Darby Distinguished Honor Graduate which is awarded to the Ranger that shows the best tactical and administrative leadership performance, has the most positive spot reports and has demonstrated being a cut above the rest. The recipient must also pass all graded leadership positions, peer reports, and may not recycle. The award is named in the honor of Brig. Gen. William O. Darby, who organized the 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942 with handpicked volunteers leading the way onto the beaches of North Africa. Calderon is a Menifee, California, native and is assigned as an infantryman to 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div. He has been in the Army for more than five years.

Sgt. 1st Class Cyril L. Komanecky II is a native of Dekalb, Illinois, and has been in the Army for more than 11 years. He is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., as an infantryman. Spc. Logan A. Williams is a native of Leesburg, Virginia, and has been in the Army for more than 2 years. He is assigned to 2nd IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. as infantrymen.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Haggman's medical license suspended in Washington State

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 9:02 AM


My story
 on Dr. John Henry Hagmann details accusations against him for mistreatment of military members that shocked the conscience. Some of the alleged abuse took place in Colorado.

At the time I wrote the story, Hagmann's medical license had been revoked in Virginia. After the Independent's deadline, The Seattle Times reported that Hagmann's medical license was also suspended in Washington

According to the Times report, "The Washington suspension is based on a June decision by the Virginia Board of Medicine to revoke Hagmann’s license in that state."
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Army redefines the word slow

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Back in September 2013, almost two years ago, we requested information through the Freedom of Information Act regarding who has been banned from Fort Carson dating back to 2008.
Alvarez, left, and Pogany are still fighting the Army with a federal lawsuit. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Alvarez, left, and Pogany are still fighting the Army with a federal lawsuit.
This request stemmed from a story about two vets who were banned from Carson after helping soldiers gain the proper treatment for service-related medical needs at a time when the Army was ousting troops using infractions that might have been related to their medical problems stemming from combat. For example, a soldier might get a DUI that stems from his inability to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

A thorough examination of this phenomenon by reporter Dave Philipps in 2013 resulted in his winning a Pulitzer Prize.

In May 2014 we reported on a lawsuit filed by soldier advocates Robert Alvarez and Georg-Andreas Pogany, who were banned from Fort Carson in what they allege was blowback for their advocacy. They had filed a lawsuit against five officers charging that the ban violates their constitutional rights to free speech, due process and access to courts. That lawsuit is pending.

We wanted to find out what other people had been banned and for what reason; hence, the FOIA request.

While the government found 614 records responsive to the request, none is being released. Here's the Army's letter of denial.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Carson takes part in NORAD drill

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 11:03 AM

The scene at the NORAD entrance in Cheyenne Mountain on July 15. - U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN TIFFANY DENAULT
  • U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
  • The scene at the NORAD entrance in Cheyenne Mountain on July 15.

Something is afoot with the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

What makes us think so? First, the government approved a $700 million contract with Raytheon recently to provide communications inside Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, where NORAD and NorthCom have "warm standby" operations after moving headquarters about eight or nine years ago to Peterson Air Force Base.
(In the news release below, the official status of the mountain bunker is called an Alternate Command Center.)

Now, we learn that Fort Carson and Peterson forces participated in an exercise last week with the Cheyenne Mountain station. Maybe this has been going on for awhile, but it's the first we've heard of such a drill.

This release comes from the 21st Space Wing's public affairs section: 
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, respond to an exercise at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station with Strykers and Humvees July 15.

Existing support agreements ensure support between 21st Space Wing assets and Fort Carson during real world situations. The blocking force exercise tested the ability of Fort Carson and CMAFS to execute a joint mission, manage resources, stewardship of manpower and equipment readiness.

Owned and operated by the 21st SW on Peterson Air Force Base, CMAFS is designated as the Alternate Command Center, the primary being at North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command also located on Peterson AFB.

"The exercise demonstrates our joint commitment to protect the strategic missions of national significance in continuous operations at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station," said Col. Gary Cornn, 721st Mission Support Group and installation commander. "This is an important exercise showing the capability of Fort Carson's response if there is an increased threat."

The 4th ID, 1SBCT responded to provide a physical blocking force on key avenues of approach to CMAFS. In the event of a real world situation, the vehicles and personnel from Fort Carson would also be used for extra firepower, medical support, engineering and logistical support.

Strykers are eight-wheeled combat vehicles that are road legal and able to deploy immediately on and off road. The vehicles are capable of executing an array of missions and scenarios; more so than any other vehicle in the Department of Defense, said Maj. Kevin Boyd, 4th ID, 1SBCT public affairs officer. The Strykers give the 4th ID unique capabilities other Fort Carson units do not have.

"Working together in this joint security exercise was valuable for us as we worked the 759th Military Police Battalion from Fort Carson to open a closed gate to facilitate our movement up the mountain, and with the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station security forces to conduct link-up and support their security posture," said Boyd. "For our Soldiers it is important to know our neighbors and how we can conduct mutual aid for them to understand exactly what is needed and where to respond in a time of crisis cuts down our response time and enables us to bring the proper equipment."

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

UPDATE: Only 365 troops cut from Fort Carson

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 10:52 AM

A helicopter is on display at an entrance to Fort Carson. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A helicopter is on display at an entrance to Fort Carson.
UPDATE:  Mayor John Suthers has issued a statement regarding the cuts at Fort Carson

"The Pentagon’s announcement this morning regarding minimal troop reductions at Ft. Carson is good news for Colorado Springs and is an indication of the importance of Ft. Carson in the overall defense mission. It also reflects positively on the case Colorado Springs has made on behalf of Ft. Carson," he says in the statement.

"However, we have to remain vigilant as there will likely be another round of proposed reductions next year and we must continue to make the case for maintaining troops levels here in the future."

Here's the outline of cuts and gains by Fort Carson in the force reduction maneuver of the Department of Defense.

———————————————ORIGINAL POST 10:52 a.m. WED., JULY 9, 2015———————————————————

There might not be dancing in the streets, but you can be assured some are celebrating an announcement on military force reduction that will result in Fort Carson losing only 365 troops.

It's almost too good to be true, considering the cut could have eliminated up to 16,000 troops, or about two-thirds of those stationed at the Mountain Post.
Andy Merritt, with the Regional Business Alliance, says those cuts come in small units, and some of those will be offset by gains in others.

"We are very happy," he says in an interview. He adds the cut might not be the smallest across the country, with some bases losing 200 soldiers, but it could be the smallest percentage loss.

Considering some bases are losing entire brigade combat teams of 2,000 to 3,000 troops, "We've come out very, very well," Merritt says. "It's a strong statement of the value of Fort Carson and the support this community gives."

Merritt estimated the economic impact of the loss of 365 soldiers at about $25 million. "So it's not a large number," he says. "Obviously, every job counts. But it's over a two-year period. Our economy has the ability to absorb this."

Merritt says he hasn't seen any job loss numbers for civilian positions but thinks Carson will fare well on that as well.

Sen. Michael Bennet issued this release this morning in reaction to the cutback announcement:
We don’t want any cuts to Fort Carson. However, in light of the scope of today’s announcement, it is clear the Pentagon recognizes the strategic importance of Fort Carson and its missions, the critical role troops stationed there serve in protecting our national security, and all that Colorado offers our service members and their families. We commend the state and local communities for working together during this process to successfully emphasize those points to the Department of Defense.

Our office will continue to support efforts in Colorado Springs and throughout the state to further enhance the vital relationship between Colorado and our armed services. We will also continue to fight to replace the sequester, which is bad policy that could make these reductions worse and result in indiscriminate cuts to the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government.

As reductions are made, the Pentagon should provide service members with any resources needed for transition. Colorado’s communities stand ready to provide support for service members and their families.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

USAFA chief lauded by DAR

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 4:35 PM

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson received an award from the DAR President General Lynn Young. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson received an award from the DAR President General Lynn Young.
Who was Molly Corbin? She manned her husband's cannon when he was killed in the Battle of Fort Washington in 1775.

So to be honored with an award named for such a hero is worth noting.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, received the Margaret Cochran Corbin Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution last weekend in Washington, D.C.

More from an academy release:

General Johnson was the keynote speaker and one of several individuals honored by the DAR for their contributions to the nation's defense during DAR's National Defense Night as part of its 124th Continental Congress.

The Corbin Award honors the memory of Revolutionary War heroine Molly Corbin, who stepped up to man her husband's cannon when he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Fort Washington in 1775. She became the
first woman pensioner of the United States military in 1779.

The award pays tribute to women in all branches of the military for distinguished military service. General Johnson is the first woman to lead a Department of Defense service academy. She has also held numerous command and operational assignments since graduating from the Academy in 1981.

"It is a tremendous honor to receive the Corbin Award from the Daughters of the American revolution," said General Johnson. "Molly Corbin was one of our country's first warrior heroes, and the DAR has helped preserve her memory and valor with this award. I seek to uphold the honored legacy of American heroes like Molly Corbin."

National Defense Night also included awards to several other individuals, including retired Col. Lee Ellis, a former POW and author who spoke at the Academy's 2013 National Character and Leadership Symposium; Diane Carlson Evans, president of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation; and J.R. Martinez, actor, author, motivational speaker, spokesperson and former U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq in 2003.

The DAR is an active and vibrant women's service organization focused on promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism. DAR's Continental Congress is a time-honored tradition held in the nation's capital as its annual national membership meeting, and drew 3,500 attendees this year.

The DAR has been a supporter of the Air Force Academy for many years, and sponsors annual academic awards to the top cadets majoring in History and Mechanical Engineering.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Homeland defense mission scrubbed

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 11:29 AM

Soldiers' well-being is the focus of a local foundation that used to zero in on national security and defense issues. - MARK LEWIS
  • Mark Lewis
  • Soldiers' well-being is the focus of a local foundation that used to zero in on national security and defense issues.
Three years after terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, locals saw an opportunity. With financial backing from the El Pomar Foundation, the National Homeland Defense Foundation was created in 2004, based in Colorado Springs.

The foundation was envisioned as a professional and trade organization for national security specialists and issues, and it hosted an annual National Symposium on Homeland Security and Defense staged at The Broadmoor.

Well, forget all that. Now, the group has repurposed itself into a completely different outfit called Peak Military Care Network, which will provide services in support of soldiers and airmen and veterans. Those include advocacy, behavioral health, crisis intervention, workforce readiness and employment, reintegration, substance abuse, domestic violence, education and so on.

This means it will abandon the homeland security aspect, says Rebecca Tonn with Blakely + Co., which issued a news release as follows, on behalf of the newly named organization:
Established in 2004, the National Homeland Defense Foundation was formed as a non-partisan, nonprofit forum for the United States’ response to the presence of terrorist threats.

Since its inception, NHDF has provided a public forum for the discussion and presentation of various homeland defense and security issues and solutions. The Foundation also hosted the annual National Symposium on Homeland Security and Defense for United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) for nearly a decade, as well as supported educational events, including the National Security Innovation Competition and Thought Leadership Conference.

In 2012, NHDF expanded its services and changed its mission to include a broader scope of work and provide support for defenders of the homeland – military veterans and first responders.

As part of that new mission, NHDF reached an agreement with Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments to establish and operate Peak Military Care Network, which provides services to and partners with other agencies to meet the holistic care needs of military members, veterans and families in the Pikes Peak region.

Since then, supporting Peak Military Care Network activities has become the focal point of the organization. To reflect that transition, NHDF’s Board of Directors decided to change NHDF’s name to Peak Military Care Network (PMCN).

“NHDF has contributed greatly to Homeland Security matters over the last decade, with lasting impacts to the nation,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, former President of NHDF and Chair of the PMCN Board of Directors.

“The NHDF/PMCN Board sees addressing the needs of our military, veteran and first-responder community as a critical focus moving forward. By changing our name to the Peak Military Care Network, we will be able to concentrate our identity and efforts on the collaborative and coordinating work of PMCN in order to serve our homeland defenders and their families.”

At least one in four residents of the Pikes Peak region is a former or current member of the military, making the area home to one of the highest concentrations of service members in the nation.

PMCN connects the needs of the community’s military service members, veterans and their families to the highest-quality resources by providing a central source for information, navigation and integrated services.

In turn, PMCN’s partner agencies are committed to understanding military and veteran culture and the unique challenges faced by service members, veterans and their families, working together to meet the needs of individuals and families to provide support for the military and veteran community.

About Peak Military Care Network
Peak Military Care Network supports collaboration among community, military and veteran service providers to assist those providers and service members, veterans, and their families in identifying resources and streamlining access to services to meet their needs. Connecting individuals and families to information and the highest quality resources, PMCN facilitates seamless transitions between service providers by providing a central source for information, navigation, and integrated services.

PMCN and its partner agencies offer a broad range of information and assistance to support the whole individual and family, including advocacy, behavioral health, child welfare and family support, crisis intervention, education, employment and workforce readiness, medical and physical health, social services, and transition and reintegration.

In addition, PMCN provides training and information-sharing opportunities to partner agencies to ensure community-based agencies understand the unique needs of the military and veteran community and are aware of available resources (including military and VA services) to keep individuals and families out of crisis and improve health and well-being.

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