Military

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Air Force Academy seeks 220 double hotel rooms for cadets amid pandemic

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 5:31 PM

The Class of 2024 arrived at the Air Force Academy on June 25. Some have tested positive for the coronavirus. - CHRISTIAN MURDOCK
  • Christian Murdock
  • The Class of 2024 arrived at the Air Force Academy on June 25. Some have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Dealing with up to 100 cadets who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the Air Force Academy posted a solicitation for 220 hotel rooms to house healthy cadets while the campus dorms are used to spread out the sick into social distancing arrangements.

The officer training school has sought "220 double hotels room [sic] with a minimum of two (2) queen beds per room off base to house approximately 440 cadets for the 2020-2021 Academic Year."

The request for proposals (RFP) specifies the rooms would be rented from July 22, 2020, until July 21, 2021.

More from the solicitation:

In order to keep the cadets in close proximity to the base as well as close proximity to one another due to safety requirements and travel costs absorbed by the individual cadets, the goal is to have the 440 cadets reside in as few hotels as possible within a 10-mile vehicle commute radius of USAFA.

USAFA currently has a potential need to house some portion of the Cadet Wing off the installation in order to create swing space within the cadet dormitories. To support this requirement USAFA seeks to contract with multiple off base lodging facilities on a potential short and long-term basis. The contractor shall provide quality lodging and a secure facility that is within of [sic] 10-mile vehicle commute radius of USAFA (for safety and travel reasons) as measured from the USAFA Airfield.

The contractor shall furnish all resources (including, but not limited to, facilities, furniture, equipment, supplies and breakfast) and incidental services to provide lodging accommodations meeting normal commercial standards. Should the number of required rooms change during the period of performance, USAFA will be required to provide the contractor commercially standard notice for cancellation. 
Asked to comment, an Academy spokesperson declined, noting the pending RFP and contract.

However, the spokesperson says via email:
We are providing quarantine and ISO here at the Academy that necessitates creative thinking to housing cadets .... Also, as part of that creative thinking process, we would also like our local businesses to be a part of the creative solutions for the U.S. Air Force Academy. Our business community and community at large have always been very supportive of our institution and believe this is a chance to further solidify those relationships. This is not dissimilar to what the other Service Academies are doing.

Deadline to submit proposals was July 6. Read the solicitation here.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 update for May 26: Restaurants can open statewide tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 6:00 PM

Restaurants will need to disinfect their facilities frequently. - COURTESY BIOCLEAN COLORADO
  • Courtesy BioClean Colorado
  • Restaurants will need to disinfect their facilities frequently.

Through May 26, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 24,565 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease tied to the coronavirus.

Statewide, there have been 1,352 deaths among people with COVID-19 — including 1,114 deaths directly attributed to the disease — and 4,160 people hospitalized.

The county has seen 1,590 cases, 241 hospitalizations and at least 89 deaths, according to El Paso County Public Health.


While El Paso County obtained a variance allowing restaurants to reopen to the public May 23, areas of the state that didn't receive a similar go-ahead (and those who don't have stricter precautions in place) may open to the public starting May 27, Gov. Jared Polis reiterated at a news conference May 26.

Restaurants can open with 50 percent indoor capacity (or up to 50 people, whichever number is smaller), but can accommodate additional outdoor customers through patio seating or locally permitted use of other space outside their buildings. Breweries and bars can only open if they have food service on premises.

Summer day camps for children are also allowed to open June 1 with precautions in place. Campers must wear a mask whenever possible, and must congregate in groups of fewer than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.

"It was a month ago, April 26, where we ended the stay-at-home order for Colorado," Polis said. "And we knew going into that, that that was a bet on the people of Colorado, a bet on the people to make the right decisions. It was a risk."

Ski areas will be allowed to reopen — minus indoor dining and bars — which Polis called "wonderful news."

Arapahoe Basin in Summit County plans to reopen May 27, he said.


A new report from the Colorado School of Public Health shows that if people maintain around 65 percent social distancing (less than half of the close interactions they would have during pre-pandemic times), the state can prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases that would overwhelm hospitals.

Even if additional restrictions lift later in June, older adults will need to have less than half of the interactions they normally would, or hospitals could still become overwhelmed, the report found.

"We reached roughly 80 percent [social distancing] for the stay-at-home, so in coming down we have some leeway in terms of the margin between where we were and where we're going to get to 65 percent," Dr. Jonathan Samet of the University of Colorado School of Medicine said at a news conference announcing the report's findings.


The Colorado Department of Human Services received federal approval to provide benefits to about 363,000 children who are unable to receive meals at school, the department announced.

Through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, or P-EBT, children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals (and enrolled in a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program) can get extra food benefits, in addition to the grab-and-go meals that many schools have already been offering.

The P-EBT benefits amount to $5.70 per student per day of school closure, and families can expect them to be delivered starting around mid-June, DHS says in a statement.

For more information, visit colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs/colorado-food-assistance-and-covid-19.


Polis took a brief moment of silence during his May 26 news conference (the day after Memorial Day) to honor the military service members who've given their lives for the country.

"We learned that we lost another veteran last night at the Veteran Community Living Center at Fitzsimmons [in Aurora], bringing their death toll from coronavirus to 15," Polis noted.

Veterans face unique economic and health-related challenges during the pandemic. According to an April report from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, approximately 14 percent of employed veterans nationwide work in the five industries most likely to witness immediate layoffs due to COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 pandemic creates at least three conditions (emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation, and unplanned job or wage loss) that could culminate in a 'perfect storm,' threatening the mental health of many veterans," the report summary notes.


Having trouble accessing unemployment benefits? You might find it useful to attend a virtual town hall on unemployment insurance, hosted by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) on May 29.

Participants can register online for an English town hall at 9:15 a.m., or the Spanish town hall at 11:30 a.m. After registering, you'll receive more information on how to join online or via phone.

CDLE will address out-of-state wages, tips for claim filing, returning to work and eligibility, backdating and accessing online self-services.

The department has also posted a fact sheet online with more information on workers' rights during the pandemic.
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Friday, May 15, 2020

Springs' Peterson Air Force Base lands provisional HQ for U.S. Space Force

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 4:30 PM

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In a race to comment on the announcement today that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs will be the provisional headquarters for the newly formed U.S. Space Force for the next six years, elected officials lauded the choice and expressed hope that the decision will be made permanent soon.

From Governor Jared Polis: “This is great news for our state and I will continue urging the President and the Air Force to make Colorado the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Colorado is home to a proud military community, a critical aerospace industry, an educated workforce, and prestigious research institutions so we are the natural and best home for U.S. Space Command.”

A final decision will come in January 2021.

Mayor John Suthers said in a statement that without question, "Colorado Springs is the most appropriate location for Space Command.

"This is a city with a long and proud military history, an incredible amount of infrastructure and a wealth of experience and talent in regard to the military in space," he said.

State Senator Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, issued a statement saying no other installation is better equipped to host Space Command, and State Senator Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, called the decision "the right call" and "a natural fit here for Colorado Springs.”

State Reps. Tony Exum, Sr. and Marc Snyder, both Democrats from the Pikes Peak Region, issued statements as well.

“Colorado Springs has always attracted talented men and women from around the country looking to serve their country,” Exum, of Colorado Springs, said. “It just makes sense that the fine servicemen and women in the U.S. Space Command will call the Springs home too."

Said Snyder of Manitou Springs, "I hope and expect that the Space Command will set down roots in Colorado and continue its operations from our state for years to come.”

Local officials have previously told local media that Space Command would bring potential for 1,000 new jobs and up to $1 billion in military construction.
 
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Military base COVID-19 numbers under wraps, reported by Pentagon by branch

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 2:34 PM

Military installations, like Fort Carson, no longer report COVID-19 cases to the public. Rather, it's aggregated by service branch. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Military installations, like Fort Carson, no longer report COVID-19 cases to the public. Rather, it's aggregated by service branch.
While nursing homes, jails, hospitals and other agencies routinely disclose how many COVID-19 cases have erupted within their walls and populations, the military stopped doing that on a base-by-base basis beginning March 30.

That means that El Paso County citizens can't know the virus count at Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Schriever Air Force Base.

Before the directive, the Academy disclosed a couple of on-base cases before the blackout was imposed. Fort Carson disclosed it had eight, and Peterson reported in a release that an active duty service member and a dependent, who are unrelated, had tested positive.

But all that has gone dark after the Pentagon's directive the keeps that information from citizens who live near the bases and might interact with base personnel.

"As we confront this growing crisis, and out of a concern for operational security with regard to readiness, we will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands," the directive states.

MilitaryTimes.com reported the same day the directive was issued that cases among the ranks had doubled over a weekend.

The directive says base commanders are supposed to share COVID-19 case information with "local community health officials," but the citizens themselves can't know.

San Antonio's mayor took issue with that recently.

We asked El Paso County Public Health about the black-out and got this email response from spokesperson Michelle Hewitt:
Although military bases are located in El Paso County, they have their own dedicated public health personnel within the military to respond to cases, conduct investigations and provide guidance. Because of this, cases are reported to their assigned division for them to follow up as needed without the oversight of El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH). However, EPCPH often works with the military to identify cases, provide guidance and recommendations as needed. Military bases are expected to work within the Colorado Electronic Disease Reporting System (CEDRS) to ensure appropriate sharing of information and classifications of cases, however, they have a specific military system as well which DoD has determined as the appropriate method to report aggregate data.
She later said the military falls under federal jurisdiction and the county has no authority to report their data. "El Paso County Public Health maintains close collaboration with all military bases and coordinates with military partners on individual case investigations to determine if there is any risk of disease transmission to civilians in the El Paso County area," she wrote.

Of course, none of the numbers have been shared with the public locally.

Herbert Rubenstein, of Brooklyn, New York, who's representing a former cadet in a case against the Academy, tells the Indy via email:
Communities have a right to know how many people are infected with Covid-19 in their area. In this time of crisis, transparency is important so that people do not open up their locales for business without knowing the full extent of COVID-19 in their geographic area. The virus does not stop due to the walls of the base, the facility, or military school like our Academies.

Here are the latest numbers we could find:
screen_shot_2020-04-16_at_11.51.41_am.png

For the Navy:
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The Army says as of April 16 there were 1,636 confirmed cases. Of those, 717 were military members, 437 civilians, 171 contractors and 311 dependents. The Army did not provide to the Indy how many have been hospitalized and how many have recovered or died.

Here's the report for April 16 for all branches:
screen_shot_2020-04-16_at_1.49.37_pm.png
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Friday, April 10, 2020

Disenrolled Air Force Academy cadet's lawsuit tossed, vows to appeal

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 1:24 PM

Adam DeRito in 2017 near the Air Force Academy. - CRAIG LEMLEY
  • Craig Lemley
  • Adam DeRito in 2017 near the Air Force Academy.

Former Air Force Academy cadet Adam DeRito lost his case recently when the U.S. District Court in Colorado sided with the Academy on his claims that he was railroaded out of the school. DeRito was disenrolled by Academy leaders after a psychological diagnoses was assigned to him without his knowledge by a clinician he had never seen.

DeRito's case was one of several highlighted in the Indy's 2017 report about how the Academy used psychological diagnoses to push cadets who had reported being sexually assaulted out of the school. DeRito was among those cadets.

Assaulted at a party off campus, DeRito reported the incident and later was labeled with a mental disorder he didn't find out about until he later applied to the Army National Guard.

He filed suit, accusing the Academy of manipulating his medical records without his knowledge to accommodate its desire to shove him out the door just before graduation.

Now, his attorney, Herbert Rubenstein of Brooklyn, New York, tells the Indy the case has national implications, notably in the recent removal of Capt. Brett Crozier from command on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, as well as the Academy's decision to keep senior cadets on base amid the coronavirus, during which two cadets died by suicide.

He also says his client will appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rubenstein says the federal court ruling dismissed every argument raised by DeRito, including that he was kicked out of the Academy based in part on a bogus psychological diagnosis, falsification of his medical records by entering that diagnosis on his record in 2011, a year after he was disenrolled, and the unfair or even illegal garnished his wages for $260,000 the Academy charged him for his education after it disenrolled him in 2010.

"They [judges] said there are no procedures to cover any of this," Rubenstein says, adding that because the court ruled there were no procedures, the Academy can't be held accountable for violating procedures that didn't exist.

"If we lose our case this way, then Captain Crozier, even though he may have been taken off the command of the Theodore Roosevelt for a bogus reason, has no right to go to court," he said. "The 1,000 seniors who are presumably still at the Academy [graduation is set for April 18], can't go to court."

If they tried to file suit, the court would rule, "That's a military decision, and we courts don't have any guidance in that," Rubenstein said. "They basically said the Constitution stops at the door of the Academy, or the flight deck of the Theodore Roosevelt. So if that's the case, we have an unaccountable military, unaccountable to the Constitution, unaccountable to the court system. That's the implication of this decision."

Rubenstein says via email, "If the military does not have an internal rule governing it’s conduct then the courts will not intervene and apply the constitution to internally unregulated behavior. Bottom line is that if a government agency wants to act they should not have any rules in place - thus the court will not be able to review the conduct to ensure it is constitutional both procedurally and substantively. "

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
Crozier was relieved of his command of the ship in early April after sending a memo pleading to have onboard personnel who had been infected with COVID-19 removed from the ship and treated.

As for the Academy's seniors, Rubenstein called dormitories a vector for the coronavirus, and asserted that the cadets and their families might want to bring a legal action against the Academy for requiring them to stay, while the lower three classes were sent home in March.

"The military did something against one of their own," Rubenstein says, speaking of the DeRito case. "Adam is no different than Captain Crozier. He's no different than those seniors who are being forced by the Air Force Academy to stay in Colorado Springs."

DeRito is still waiting for the results of his application to the Boards for Correction of Military Records, and now he'll appeal the federal court ruling.

Meantime, DeRito, who was told he wouldn't graduate hours before graduation in 2010 and was disenrolled in June that year, has since earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree, serves with the Army National Guard and works full time as an industrial wastewater specialist.

"His life would be improved if justice were served in this case, but he's weathering through it," Rubenstein says, speaking for his client.

From the ruling:
The Court has determined that plaintiff’s due process claims are not justiciable and, accordingly, these claims cannot be the independent basis of jurisdiction required by the Declaratory Judgment Act.... As a result, plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

We've asked the Academy for a comment on the lawsuit's dismissal, as well as provide an update on number of cadets and other personnel at the Academy testing positive for COVID-19— one cadet and one employee had tested positive as of late March. We will update if and when we hear back.
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Monday, March 30, 2020

NORAD/NorthCom personnel shift to Cheyenne Mountain bunker due to virus spread

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 2:40 PM

Airman 1st Class Derrick Warfield manually locks a 25-ton blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during an operational readiness inspection in 2006. - U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY 1ST LT. JEFF CREPEAU
  • U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jeff Crepeau
  • Airman 1st Class Derrick Warfield manually locks a 25-ton blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during an operational readiness inspection in 2006.
An undisclosed portion of the NORAD/NorthCom contingent at Peterson Air Force Base has moved to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station as the COVID-19 virus spreads.

The granite bunker south of Colorado Springs was specifically built, opening in 1967, for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a bi-national force with Canada that guards the North American continent. The command linked up with U.S. Northern Command after it was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Inside the mountain, the entrance is guarded by two 25-ton blast doors designed to protect against a nuclear explosion. Now, officials hope the doors protect troops from a tiny but deadly microbe that's creeping across the planet.

According to theDrive.com, Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, NORAD/NorthCom commander, held a Facebook Live town hall on March 24 during which he announced some personnel would move from Peterson to the mountain to isolate from the virus.

COURTESY NORAD
  • Courtesy NORAD
"To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well," O'Shaughnessy said.

"Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland. It's certainly not optimal, but it's absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation".

We reached out to NORAD to ask whether O'Shaughnessy himself has relocated into the mountain, how long the tours will last, how many personnel have been relocated and whether they've been tested for the virus before entering to guard against infecting others.

We'll update if and when we hear back.

Meantime, check this link for a complete listing of how NORAD/NorthCom is assisting in the coronavirus response.

NORAD/NorthCom moved out of the mountain for the most part in 2006 to Peterson, leaving skeleton crews to keep the command center on "warm standby." But in 2015, key functions were restored inside the mountain.
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UPDATE: Two senior cadets reportedly die by suicide in a four-day span

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 8:14 AM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
UPDATE: This just in from the Academy:

We are deeply saddened to confirm that a US Air Force Academy cadet was found dead in the cadet area Saturday afternoon. This follows another cadet death Thursday morning. Both were Cadets First-Class.

“These tragedies have caused incredible shock and pain throughout our USAFA family,” said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Air Force Academy Superintendent. “Right now we are all focused on taking care of the cadet's families and each other—our cadets, our faculty, our staff— as we grieve this loss. We ask for everyone’s patience and respect for the families’ privacy at this time.”

Academy leaders, the chaplain's office and mental health professionals are providing support and grief counseling to cadets, faculty and staff.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths are currently under investigation, but neither was COVID-19-related and foul play is not suspected in either case. 
Read Gen. Silveria's message from March 30:

——————-ORIGINAL POST 8:14 A.M. MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020————————-
Two senior cadets at the Air Force Academy reportedly completed suicide in the last several days, according to sources and social media.

The Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, based at Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, will speak to the senior class on Monday, March 30, according to sources. Goldfein is reportedly flying in from Washington, D.C.

The senior class, called firsties, is the only group of cadets left on the campus north of Colorado Springs after the Academy released and sent home the lower classes about two weeks ago as a measure to combat COVID-19. No information about the cadets' deaths or identities has been released officially. But according to stripes.com:

The first death occurred Thursday and was not related to the coronavirus, the Academy said in a statement. No details have been made public about the second death, and neither cadet has been identified.

Both of the deceased were male cadets who would have graduated and would have been commissioned as second lieutenants in May.

Because both deaths “happened behind closed doors,” academy officials “want cadets with the doors open more,” said one of the sources with knowledge of the situation.

Most of the nearly 4,000 cadets at the academy were dismissed more than two weeks ago and are studying remotely until the end of the academic year. The unprecedented move was taken to allow seniors, who remain on campus, to be housed in individual rooms, where they also take online classes, to allow them to follow social-distancing guidelines, which are considered key in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the strict measures, two senior cadets have tested positive for the virus, the academy said Friday. Both are in isolation and are being watched closely. Two civilian employees and an active-duty service member also have been confirmed to have the virus, which, in some cases, causes severe lung illness.

The academy is working to identify anyone who has been in close contact with cadets and staff who have the virus, and has closed several facilities for deep cleaning and disinfection, officials said. 
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria wrote a letter on Facebook on March 27 to the "USAFA community" discussing the first death, which took place on March 26, but there doesn't appear to be a follow up mentioning the second death, which reportedly occurred on March 29, according to sources who couldn't be named because they aren't officially part of the Academy's public communications team.

One source says the seniors remaining at the academy have been threatened with punishment for violating social distancing directives. It's unclear what, if any, counseling and guidance were provided to the cadets in how to cope with isolation.

It's also unclear if Gens. Goldfein and Raymond will order an investigation of the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them.

The Indy has reached out to the Academy and will update when we hear back.
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Monday, January 13, 2020

Space Force leaders will swear oath on a Bible

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 3:09 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
Commanders of the nation's newest branch of the military, the U.S. Space Force, will swear to God when taking their oath, which a watchdog agency says violates the U.S. Constitution.

According to Military.com, religious leaders at the Washington National Cathedral blessed the Bible for use by the Space Force in swearing in leaders, though it's not clear whether all personnel will swear by the Bible when taking the oath as service members.

The new military branch was created by redesignating Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs as the U.S. Space Force.

Using a Bible in this way runs contrary to Air Force Instruction 1-1, which states that military leaders "must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief."

The act of designating the Bible as the official tool for swearing ceremonies naturally incensed Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who issued this scathing statement in response:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemns, in as full-throated a manner as is humanly possible, the shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism which occurred at yesterday’s ‘blessing’, at the Washington National Cathedral, of a sectarian Christian bible which will apparently 'be used to swear in all commanders of America’s newest military branch (ie. The United States Space Force)." MRFF noted with additional disgust and disdain the willing and all-too visible participation of a senior USAF officer, in formal uniform, during the travesty of this sectarian ceremony which tragically validates the villainy of unadulterated Christian privilege at DoD and its subordinate military branches. For the record, military commanders are NOT ever “sworn in” to their positions let alone with the usage of a Christian bible or other book of faith. And especially not in 2020!!
Mikey Weinstein - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • Mikey Weinstein
MRFF is currently receiving a multitude of new complaints from outraged DoD military and even civilian DoD personnel, as well as veterans, regarding this unmitigated, unconstitutional horror. MRFF will be lodging a formal complaint to Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense. Further, MRFF will be assiduously assisting its clients to also expeditiously make formal Inspector General (IG) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints to the DoD chain of command hierarchy to stop this train-wreck disaster in its stinking tracks from ever even leaving the station.

If MRFF’s fervent attempts to exhaust all DoD administrative remedies to eliminate this fundamentalist Christian tyranny and oppression fail, MRFF will plan to stop this matter in Federal court in Northern Virginia. The utilization of a Christian bible to ’swear in’ commanders of the new Space Force or any other DoD branch at ANY level is completely violative of the bedrock Separation of Church and State mandate of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also violates Clause 3, Article 6’s total prohibition of No Religious Test for any Federal Gov’t position. Additionally such blatantly scurrilous activity violates a slew of critical DoD directives, instructions and regulations.
We asked Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, who's been an ardent supporter of the Space Force concept, stood up recently by President Trump, for a comment on the controversy emerging from using the Bible in military swearing ceremonies.

Crickets.

If we hear back, we'll update.
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day marks 101st year after World War I ended

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 12:03 PM

This area at the city's Evergreen Cemetery is reserved for veterans whose service dates to World War I. The morning of Veterans Day, a retired Air Force member visited every grave to pay his respects to each one of the fallen. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This area at the city's Evergreen Cemetery is reserved for veterans whose service dates to World War I. The morning of Veterans Day, a retired Air Force member visited every grave to pay his respects to each one of the fallen.
Military service is engrained in the American experience, spanning generations. Since World War I, hardly a generation has passed without the nation being involved in war and calling upon its citizens to defend freedom and liberty.

An honored gravesite at Memorial Gardens cemetery in Colorado Springs.
  • An honored gravesite at Memorial Gardens cemetery in Colorado Springs.
In my family, my dad's brother, my Uncle John, served in North Africa and Italy during World War II. He saw a lot of action and was awarded two Purple Hearts. Yet, his letters home didn't mention the bullets flying and the bodies falling. Rather, he talked about what movie had been brought in for the soldiers to watch and the food.

This Veterans Day is a special one, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the first Veterans Day, or Armistice Day, as it was known originally, to mark the end of World War I. The war ended in 1918, and the first Veterans Day was held the following year, with a moment of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

For the people of Colorado Springs, home to five military installations, Veterans Day has a special meaning, and many restaurants and other businesses are saying thanks by giving discounts to vets.

If you want to check out some history of Armistice Day, go here.

According to history.com, here's how the holiday was converted to Veterans Day:
In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The holiday's complete history is here.
Another view of the Evergreen Cemetery veterans burial plot.
  • Another view of the Evergreen Cemetery veterans burial plot.
 
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Firefighters have "unacceptably" high levels of PFAS in blood, new report says

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 1:26 PM

A state law banning PFAS-based foam doesn't apply to the military. - U.S. AIR FORCE/EDDIE GREEN
  • U.S. AIR FORCE/EDDIE GREEN
  • A state law banning PFAS-based foam doesn't apply to the military.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a group of toxic chemicals found in firefighting foam, have polluted water supplies near 206 military installations where the foam was used, according to a map created by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and researchers at Northeastern University.

Last year, a study showed that people who lived near one such site, Peterson Air Force Base, had abnormally high levels of PFAS — often called "forever chemicals" — in their blood years after water districts changed sources or filtration methods to make their water safe to drink.

Recent research now suggests PFAS also present a danger to firefighters.

According to a new scientific review by IPEN, a global nonprofit network of public interest groups, firefighters who've used PFAS-based foam have "unacceptably elevated blood levels" of two PFAS chemicals, perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)  and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

Frighteningly, it's not just veteran firefighters who have elevated blood levels of PFOS and PFHxS.

"Elevated blood levels are found not just in longserving personnel who may have been exposed to legacy PFOS-containing [aqueous film forming foams, or AFFFs], but also in much younger firefighters and recruits who have never used or been trained with these foams," the report says. That could be equipment and training areas contaminated long ago by the "forever chemicals."

Most research showing PFAS has contributed to negative health effects in humans has focused on perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA (linked to cancer) and PFOS (linked to thyroid hormone effects).

Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a lifetime health advisory, or LHA, for PFOA and PFOS only, and has taken preliminary steps toward setting a legally enforceable maximum contaminant level, or MCL, for these two chemicals.

But the PFAS group contains hundreds of toxic chemicals. For many of these chemicals, little research has been done into the health effects they pose and their environmental pervasiveness.

IPEN's review goes so far as to say that PFHxS, a newer chemical found in PFAS-based firefighting foam, "is more bio-accumulative and hazardous in humans than PFOS.”

Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines found last year that El Paso County residents who lived near Peterson Air Force Base for at least three years before 2015 (and were therefore exposed to contamination from firefighting foam discharges) had blood levels of PFHxS 10 times higher than the general U.S. population. They showed levels of PFOS that were twice as high as normal.

IPEN's report explains that when manufacturing company 3M phased out use of PFOS-based products, including firefighting foam and ScotchGard fabric and leather treatments, the PFAS chemicals perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) and PFHxS replaced legacy PFOS in products such as stain repellents, surfactants and firefighting foams.

The “Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018,” signed into law last year by President Donald Trump, "establishes and maintains a voluntary registry of firefighters to collect data on cancer incidence," the report notes. This registry could potentially aid research into the health effects of long-term PFAS exposure.

“Our firefighters and first responders are already asked to put themselves in harm’s way virtually every day,” Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist David Andrews said in response to the IPEN review. “Forcing them to use firefighting foams containing dangerous chemicals when there are alternatives that work puts their long-term health at unacceptable risk.”

Both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act — a bill to fund the military through 2020 — end the use of PFAS-based foams by 2023, an EWG statement notes. Manufacturers have developed some types of foams that don't contain PFAS that would presumably replace these foams.

But the military has so far resisted to switching to such "non-fluorinated" foam formulas. While the Department of Defense has completely phased out its original foam formula and replaced it with a new, supposedly safer formula using different PFAS. The Air Force's website explains that, so far, no non-fluorinated foam formula meets "performance criteria necessary to safeguard our Airmen from real time fire emergency responses."

PFAS-containing foams "are the most effective foams currently available to fight flammable liquid fires in military, industrial, aviation and municipal arenas," it continues. Chemical manufacturers also argue that the newer versions shouldn't be banned outright.

While Colorado lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year banning all PFAS-based foams (as have lawmakers in a few other states), the state bans don't apply to the U.S. military or the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires the foam's use at airports.
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Pentagon Inspector General: AFA cadets weren't ousted for reporting sexual assault

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 1:20 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
Air Force Academy officials didn't retaliate against cadets who were victims of sexual assault by dis-enrolling them from the academy for reporting them, according to the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office (DODIG).

The DODIG released a report of its investigation on Oct. 2, disputing what several cadets and former cadets told the Independent in mid-2017. That is, the cadets said when they reported they'd been sexually assaulted, Academy officials labeled them with a mental disorder and hastened to shove them out the door, and even make them pay for their Academy education.

While the DODIG dismissed that allegation as untrue, it found the Academy failed to report many sexual assaults to Congress through channels as required, which in effect vindicates former sexual assault response coordinator Teresa Beasley who, along with several others, were ousted in 2017 and blamed for upheaval in the Academy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office.

The DODIG's finding:
Furthermore, we determined that 11 cadet-victim reports of sexual assaults that were made to the USAFA Family Advocacy Program (FAP) were not reported to Congress as required by Public Law 109-364. In addition, we identified 24 reports of sexual assaults from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2017, that were not reported to Congress, although we could not determine, because of insufficient documentation by the Air Force Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database Program Administrator, whether they were required to be reported.
Beasley told the Indy in 2017 that in the summer of 2015 she discovered dozens of sexual assault reports had been removed from the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database (DSAID) for the 2014-15 school year by officials at the Air Force. DSAID is the basis for reports sent to Congress annually about assaults at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; and USAFA.

Beasley now says the DODIG report proves she was right.

"Basically it confirms that 35 sexual assault reports were removed from the data base; that I did do my job taking care of victims, that I retired/was not fired, and much more," she says in an email.

David Mullin, former Academy economics professor who's conducted in-depth research of sexual assaults at the Academy, says via email that problems with USAFA's failure to report all sexual assaults through proper channels has made its sexual assault data "unreliable and very significantly understated."

"There were several lapses in the internal control of sexual assault reports at USAFA. Some original reporting forms have allegedly been destroyed without proper authorization," he writes. "Contrary to Department of Defense regulations, modifications to the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database have allegedly underreported sexual assaults at USAFA. Consequently the Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies for Academic Program Year 2017-2018 retroactively lowered sexual assault reports for several prior years."
Adam DeRito in 2017 when he stopped at the Academy's overlook point. - CRAIG LEMLEY
  • Craig Lemley
  • Adam DeRito in 2017 when he stopped at the Academy's overlook point.
Former cadet Adam DeRito, who was ousted from the academy on the eve of his graduation after reporting he was sexually assaulted, later discovered his Academy medical records contained multiple mental disorders listed by a doctor he'd never seen, at a base he'd never been to, leading his attorney to accuse the Academy of "aggressive falsification of medical records." DeRito has since filed a lawsuit.

Asked about the DODIG's report, DeRito sent us this statement:
The most recent report issued by the Department of Defense Inspector General is a slap in the face to all victims of sexual assault at the United States Air Force Academy, especially to myself, in the current on-going Federal lawsuit of DeRito vs. USAFA. The report is disingenuous in its scope, and conveniently leaves out the facts of actual retaliation. In recent communication with the Air Force Records Review Panel, even they made a recommendation that my medical records from the Air Force Academy need to be changed. This proves that retaliation occurred. The evidence shows that Capt. Kristen Henley Price [who inserted mental diagnoses in his files] falsified my medical records as a Cadet, and as a victim of sexual assault, during my tenure as a Cadet and undercover informant for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. In the eyes of the American judicial system, this is a felony. Likewise, this report needs to be rescinded, corrected, and the entirety of the facts must be reported. Likewise, Capt Kristen Henley Price, Lt Gen Michael Gould [former Academy superintendent], and all officers involved with these previous cases, as well as my own case, must be held accountable. This report does not provide justice to the victims of sexual assault and retaliation from the USAF Academy, and the Department of Defense Inspector General must take these cases seriously to improve the readiness, effectiveness, and integrity of our leadership within the U.S. military.
We've asked the Academy for a comment and will update if we hear something.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

BLM seeks public comment on helicopter training over federal lands

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 12:06 PM

Fort Carson nears the end of the permitting process to use federal lands for helicopter training. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Fort Carson nears the end of the permitting process to use federal lands for helicopter training.
A proposal to fly helicopters for Army training over wildlands managed by the federal  government, landing periodically, has been deemed to have "no significant impact" on 43 sites in Teller, Fremont and Park counties, the Bureau of Land Management has determined.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) is available for public comment here.

Fort Carson plans to conduct High Altitude Mountain Environment Training (HAMET) on the property under a plan of development (POD). "The use of public land in Fremont, Park, and Teller Counties is considered necessary by Fort Carson to ensure the HAMET program exposes pilots to a wide variety of situations and challenges," the assessment states.

The Mountain Post proposes using landing zones that vary in elevation from 6,288 to 10,646 feet for 6,200 landings a year both night and day, seven days a week for 10 years.

Says military watchdog Bill Sulzman of Colorado Springs via email, "They keep pushing the envelope. By calling it temporary they disguise the precedent of establishing expanded boundaries for Fort Carson operations. They will come back to this over and over again. This is not a one off."

Carson has promised not to disturb wildlife, apparently. The EA states, "Since there is mitigation in all of the alternatives that states helicopters will not land if humans, wildlife, or livestock are
present on the landing zone, no issues have arisen in regards to environmental justice populations."

Send comments via the BLM's ePlanning site here, or mail to HAMET Public Comment, 3028 E. Main St., Cañon City, CO 81212, by Sept. 11.

HAMET has proven controversial in the past. The Independent has written about here, and here also. A public meeting about HAMET conducted in 2014 drew a crowed.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

NORAD: Melting Arctic increases enemy threat potential

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

NORAD's base at Cheyenne Mountain. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • NORAD's base at Cheyenne Mountain.

America and Canada may be threatened by cruise missile attacks due to the Russian Navy deploying warships on Arctic sea lanes, NORAD and Northern Command commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said, according to the The Maritime Executive.

O’Shaughnessy’s remarks came in a July 23 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He commands the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and NorthCom, based at Peterson Air Force Base.

As Arctic ice recedes, maritime actors will find new avenues of approach to North America, he said.

Navigating the Arctic requires specialized training and equipment, and Russia is designing difficult-to-defeat hypersonic cruise missiles for its fleets, The Executive reported. “When I look at the cruise missile threat,” O’Shaughnessy said, “I see that as one of the biggest threats we face.”

National Geographic reported in May, “[T]he Arctic is now warming faster than any place on earth, and its protective barrier of sea ice — which once kept commercial and military ambition in check — is melting away.”
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Public comment period opens for U.S. Space Command alternatives

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 12:41 PM

Airmen from the 131st Logistics Readiness Squadron, a Missouri Air National Guard unit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, watch a C-17 Globemaster III from Travis AFB, California, be loaded with cargo June 6, 2019 on Peterson AFB, Colorado. The C-17 came to pick up hydraulic repair kits from Rocky Mountain Hydraulics, a U.S. Navy vessel repair contractor. - U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ANDREW J. BERTAIN
  • U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Bertain
  • Airmen from the 131st Logistics Readiness Squadron, a Missouri Air National Guard unit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, watch a C-17 Globemaster III from Travis AFB, California, be loaded with cargo June 6, 2019 on Peterson AFB, Colorado. The C-17 came to pick up hydraulic repair kits from Rocky Mountain Hydraulics, a U.S. Navy vessel repair contractor.

Three Colorado bases competing for U.S. Space Command have space for new facilities, according to an environmental assessment offered for comment on July 24.

Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, both in El Paso County, and Buckley Air Force Base in the Denver area, are among those under consideration for command.

The other bases contending for the command include Vandenberg Air Force Base in California or Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

Here are findings from the assessment:

Peterson AFB:
For interim quarters, the EA says Peterson offers undeveloped land in the base's command complex for modular buildings, along with leased off-base office space. Parking space would be made available on adjacent vacant land leased from Colorado Springs Airport.

The permanent alternative cites existing facilities with parking provided in two garages that would be built on existing paved parking lots.

Schriever AFB:
For interim quarters, the EA notes undeveloped prairies that could be the site for modular buildings, coupled with off-base leased space.

Permanent facilities could be construction on the base or near it.

Buckley AFB:
Interim facilities would consist of modular buildings, while permanent quarters could be built on vacant land on the base's northeast side or vacant structures associated with a former skeet range, an on-base thrift store or other available space.

The Defense Department is searching for space for 1,870 personnel "in a typical headquarters setting" of 498,000 square feet of office/administrative space, and 502,000 square feet for vehicle parking, totaling 1 million square feet, or approximately 23 acres.

The EA concluded that "no significant impact" would result at any of the candidate installations or site alternatives in the areas of transportation; hazardous materials and waste; air quality; biological resources; cultural resources; geology and paleontological resources, and water resources.

A 30-day public comment period opened July 24. Click on the link above to view the EA. Printed copies are available at Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., and Sand Creek Branch Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd.

Email comments, which must be contained in the body of the email and not in attachments, can be sent to russell.perry.1@us.af.mil.

Or mail comments to Russell Perry, HQ AFSPC/A4C, 150 Vanderberg St. Suite 1105, Peterson AFB, Colorado, 80914-4230.

Deadline is Aug. 23.
  
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Polis and local officials: Build more roads for military bases

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 4:41 PM

Fort Carson's access via public roads is a priority for state and local officials, as are other roads serving military installations. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Fort Carson's access via public roads is a priority for state and local officials, as are other roads serving military installations.
Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new transportation plan on July 17 that would pump $128 million dollars into highways and bridges in the Colorado Springs area to support military installations.

At a meeting at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Polis said the state has applied for a $25 million BUILD grant (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) to help fund four projects identified in El Paso County. The state and "local partners"  have committed to fund the balance, the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a release.

The four projects:

• State Highway 94: Safety improvements on Highway 94 east of the city and construction of a westbound passing lane about a mile long starting five miles east of the U.S. 24 junction. ($7.5 million) Schriever Air Force Base is reached via Highway 94.

• South Academy Boulevard:
Widening approximately 1 mile of South Academy between Interstate 25 and Bradley Road from two to three lanes to ease congestion. ($23 million)

• I-25: Safety and infrastructure improvements between the South Academy and Santa Fe Avenue (U.S. 85 — Fountain) interchanges, about 7.5 miles, including median barriers, inside and outside shoulders widened to 12 feet, replacement of two bridges crossing South Academy, rehabilitation of six additional bridges and installation of "intelligent transportation system components." ($84.2 million)

• Charter Oak Ranch Road: Improvements to the Santa Fe Avenue intersection and reconstruction of Charter Oak Ranch Road between Santa Fe Avenue and Fort Carson’s Gate 19. ($12.6 million).

“The vitality of the Pikes Peak Region is key to the state’s continued success,” Polis said in a news release. “With military personnel we host and support, along with 100,000 veterans living in El Paso County, it’s imperative that we hear their perspective and, more importantly, that we take real steps, such as applying for the BUILD Grant, to help ensure that our military installations can be safely and predictably accessed, even with the challenges of our growing population.”

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said in the release: “Our national highway system, since its inception, was envisioned as a network intended to support national defense, and in that spirit, it is especially important that we continue to prioritize access to Colorado's military installations."

It wasn't outlined where the rest of the money will come from beyond the BUILD grant, if the state lands it.
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