Military

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Local troops deploy to southern border, small planning group to California fires

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 2:42 PM

Soldiers from the 541st Sapper Company board an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas Oct. 30, 2018, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. As directed by the Department of Defense through Army headquarters, the 541st Sapper Company are deploying Soldiers, equipment and resources to assist Department of Homeland Security along the southwest border. - U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY AIRMAN FIRST CLASS DANIEL A. HERNANDEZ
  • U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez
  • Soldiers from the 541st Sapper Company board an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas Oct. 30, 2018, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. As directed by the Department of Defense through Army headquarters, the 541st Sapper Company are deploying Soldiers, equipment and resources to assist Department of Homeland Security along the southwest border.

This blog has been updated to reflect the number of soldiers from Fort Carson who have deployed to the southern border.

Remember that "crisis" at the southern U.S. border with Mexico? The one that President Donald Trump called an invasion?

Turns out, about 100  300 Fort Carson soldiers have been deployed as part of Trump's dispatch of more than 5,000 troops ahead of the arrival of the so-called caravan of immigrants, who are walking through Central America and Mexico seeking asylum in the United States from poverty and violence.

The list of units deployed under Operation Faithful Patriot — which the Pentagon switched to "border support mission" last week to more accurately reflect the military's role, according to ABC news — includes only two companies from the Mountain Post. Fort Carson has declined to reveal information about soldiers being deployed for caravan duty, referring questions to the Defense Department.

Soldiers will provide assistance to Customs and Border Protection in the way of support, but it's not considered a military mission. And while thousands of military members will likely miss having Thanksgiving with their families due to the deployment, Trump seems to have lost interest in the situation.

U.S. Northern Command, based on Peterson Air Force Base, has released a complete list of all units deployed to the border, which can be found below.

In addition, about 20 people with NorthCom's JEC (Joint Enabling Capability) Team also have been deployed to the border, says NorthCom spokesperson John Cornelio.

In addition, Cornelio tells the Independent that a handful of NorthCom officials, part of the command's defense coordination element, made the trip to California to assess "if DoD help is required, what would be required" in battling or in the aftermath of the Camp and Woolsey fires that so far have claimed 50 lives with dozens still missing.

"We did send out that planning team," he says. "If DoD is called in to assist, we will know how best to do it."

So far, no active duty aircraft have been dispatched to California, says NorthCom spokesperson Michael Kucharek, though the National Guard has provided aircraft to run reconnaissance to identify hot spots.

Also, he notes, the 146th Airlift Wing, based in Oxnard, California, is flying the fire, but under state active duty status, not federal.

Here are the units deployed to the southern border:

Fort Bliss, Texas
• Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 93rd Military Police Battalion
• 24th Press Camp Headquarters, 1st Armored Division
• 47th Heavy Composite Truck Company
• 202nd Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion
• 212th Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion
• 591st Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion
• Contingency Contracting Teams
• Contracting Support Brigade Commander

Fort Bragg, North Carolina
• 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division
• 51st Medical Logistics Company
• 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne)
• 172nd Preventive Medicine Unit
• 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion
• 329th Movement Control Team
• 403rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company
• 602nd Area Support Medical Company
• Headquarters & Headquarters Command, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command
• Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade
• Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 503rd Military Police Battalion
• 248th Veterinary Service Support unit
• 690th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance)

Fort Campbell, Kentucky
• 74th Light Composite Transportation Company
• 372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
• 227th Quartermaster Composite Supply Company
• 632nd Movement Control Team
• 887th Engineer Support Company, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade

Fort Carson, Colorado
• Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
• Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

Fort Detrick, Maryland
• 6th Medical Logistics Management Center

Fort Hood, Texas
• 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps
• Headquarters, 62nd Engineer Battalion
• 937th Engineer Sapper Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
• 289th Quartermaster Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade
• 104th Engineer Company

Fort Knox, Kentucky
• Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade
• 15th Engineer Company (Horizontal), 19th Engineer Battalion
• 541st Engineer Sapper Company, 19th Engineer Battalion

Fort Meade, Maryland
• 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)

Fort Riley, Kansas
• Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
• 977th Military Police Company Combat Support
• 287th Military Police Company Combat Support
• 41st Engineer Company (Clearance), 4th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade

Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia
• 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Infantry Division
• 90th Human Resources Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade

Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina
• 1st Combat Camera Squadron

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
• Headquarters, 864th Engineer Battalion
• 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, I Corps
• 66th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion
• 547th Area Support Medical Company
• 104th Engineer Construction Company
• 557th Engineer Construction Company
• 570th Engineer Sapper Company
• 571st Engineer Sapper Company

U.S. Transportation Command
• U.S. Transportation Command, strategic airlift using C-17s and C-130s

Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
• Headquarters U.S. Army North
• 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Assessment Team
• Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 505th Military Intelligence Brigade

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
• Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, I Marine Expeditionary Force

Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia
• Joint Planning Support Element, Joint Enabling Capabilities Command

Peterson Air Force, Colorado
• Joint Enabling Capability Team and Aviation Planner from U.S. Northern Command
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Parents claim AFA cadet said slain Jews are "burning in hell forever"

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 3:55 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
The parents of an Air Force Academy freshman cadet are considering removing him from the school after upperclassmen told him, "The 11 Jews murdered would now be burning in hell forever because none of them had accepted Jesus as their savior prior to being shot and killed," according to the parents.

The comment, which came during the noon meal on Oct. 29, referenced the Oct. 27 massacre of 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A Christian freshman cadet, we'll call him "C,"  talked to the Jewish cadet, who we'll call "J," about it later saying C, too, was outraged by the comments. J was particularly upset because he has living relatives who survived the Holocaust, J's parents told the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

C reported the incident to his parents, who suggested J contact MRFF, the Albuquerque-based nonprofit established by 1977 Academy grad Mikey Weinstein in 2004. Weinstein has long maintained that fundamentalist Christianity is the favored religion at the Academy, based on information passed on by more than 400 of MRFF's clients who work or study there.

J didn't report the incident through his chain of command or call MRFF. But J's parents did reach out to Weinstein on Oct. 30, Weinstein says.

Weinstein tells the Independent he tried to reach Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, who was said to be on leave and unavailable. Weinstein then contacted Col. Houston Cantwell, vice superintendent, who said he'd look into it and get back but he never did. Weinstein contacted several other Academy officials, but says no one responded.

The Indy sought a comment from Cantwell on Oct. 30. He wouldn't comment and referred the Indy to the Academy's Public Affairs Office, which issued a statement Nov. 1 saying the episode couldn't be substantiated and that the Academy "therefore [was] unable to provide a specific response." It went on to say there are "multiple avenues" available for staff and cadets to "bring forward concerns" but remain anonymous. The statement also said the Academy is committed to supporting the U.S. Constitution and supports "everyone's right to exercise his or her own religious beliefs, or to not subscribe to any religious beliefs."

"We welcome and celebrate the diversity of our cadet wing not only as an ethical issue, but because it is imperative to our mission. Intolerance divides us," the statement read in part.

Meantime, at 2:05 p.m. on Oct. 31, Silveria sent an email to Academy staff and cadets saying he was "outraged by the senseless loss of life and tragic impact to the families and loved ones of those lost." He also said the incident reminded him why he serves — "to support and defend the Constitution, guaranteeing all of us the freedom to exercise our own religion or no religion at all."

Silveria's statement also said:
We offer religious services and religious education through Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Earth-Centered programs. These programs support the individuals that freely come to them, but do not proselytize or try to convert. Our chaplains also provide spiritual care for members from every religious or ideological perspective, including Freethinkers, Hindu, Latter-day Saints, Sikh, and other faiths, connecting them with resources for spirituality.
Weinstein: Retribution deters cadets from filing official complaints. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Weinstein: Retribution deters cadets from filing official complaints.
J's parents wouldn't allow their names to be used, saying in an email written to Weinstein and provided to the Indy, "We fear serious repercussions against our son and our family if our names were ever to be known."

In that message, the parents expressed disbelief they've heard nothing from the Academy, although it's worth noting neither they nor their son have officially reported the incident. Rather, they relied on MRFF to raise the issue.

"Why won’t they do anything?" the parents wrote to Weinstein. "We are all shocked by all of this. Distraught and disappointed. Not sleeping. We are horrified by what our child had to go through. How can this have happened?"

Weinstein, who's Jewish, dismissed the Academy's contention it couldn't substantiate the incident. "We've heard that for 15 years," he says. As for reporting the incident through chain of command or complaining, Weinstein says, "Cadets who have tried to stand up have been faced with retribution for doing that."

Weinstein says the upperclassman's comment is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, because the freshmen cadets must attend the noon meal and have no standing to reply to such commentary in any form. He argues the "burn in hell" comment is not protected speech under a Supreme Court ruling in 1974 that concluded military members don't share the same free-speech rights as civilians, due to the compelling government interest to maximize good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion.

If the Christian cadets want to discuss the shooting in the context of their belief system, they have that right at the proper time, place and manner, which is not at a mandatory meal where others are subjected to their beliefs, Weinstein says.

Retired Brig. Gen. Martin France, who taught at the Academy for years and since his recent retirement has joined MRFF's advisory board says he wishes cadets felt more comfortable reporting incidents like this.

"What worries me the most is that despite the institutions and procedures and protocols that are available for cadets to lodge complaints about this sort of event, the troubling thing is that they didn't feel there was enough trust to do so," he says.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fort Carson announces Stryker force, addition of 200 soldiers

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 5:44 PM

Soldiers maneuver their M1126 Stryker combat vehicle to rapidly deploy team members on a live-fire range during Exercise Rising Thunder 18, at Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 7, 2018. - ARMY PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. FRANCES ARIELE TEJADA
  • Army photo by Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada
  • Soldiers maneuver their M1126 Stryker combat vehicle to rapidly deploy team members on a live-fire range during Exercise Rising Thunder 18, at Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 7, 2018.

Fort Carson will gain 200 soldiers with the conversion of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team starting in spring 2020.

The new brigade will be organized the same as the 1st SBCT, 4th ID, which is already stationed there, Carson said in a news release.

"Today the Department of the Army announced that the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division will convert to a Stryker Brigade and will remain at Fort Carson. We are very pleased with this decision. Fort Carson provides world class training opportunities for Strykers and having another Stryker Brigade Combat team will improve 4th Infantry Division's lethality," said Maj. Gen. Randy A. George, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Commander.

No doubt, the news gave local economic development boosters a reason to sigh in relief, considering the decision could have gone against Carson, costing the Mountain Post the loss of 4,200 soldiers.

From the release:
The Army's decision to convert the brigade at Fort Carson was based on strategic and operational considerations including its long-term readiness posture, presence of SBCT enablers, existing infrastructure and sustainment facilities.

Currently the 2IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. is deployed in support of Resolute Support and Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan and Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo, but unit leadership is already looking to the future.

"We will embrace this change with the same professionalism, discipline, and commitment to excellence that the War Horse Brigade has exhibited throughout its distinguished history of outstanding service to our great Nation," said Col. David Zinn, commander, 2nd IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. "Conversion to a Stryker Brigade brings increased mobility and lethality to the 4th Infantry Division and the U.S. Army." 
Rep. Doug Lamborn, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement six minutes before the Fort Carson release hit in-boxes, saying:
I am very excited about the conversion of Ft. Carson's existing Infantry Brigade Combat Team to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. This move helps solidify Ft. Carson's important role in our national defense. A Stryker Brigade is a full spectrum combat force that combines the lethality and survivability needed to succeed in a high-end fight with the rapid mobility required to immediately respond to threats anywhere in the world.
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Monday, August 20, 2018

Medal of Honor to be presented to son of Colorado Springs woman

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Chapman: Paid the ultimate price for his country. - COURTESY U.S. AIR FORCE
  • Courtesy U.S. Air Force
  • Chapman: Paid the ultimate price for his country.
Air Force Combat Controller Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman will be posthumously awarded the the nation’s most prestigious military decoration, the Medal of Honor, by President Trump on Aug.  22, 2018, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Chapman's mother, Terry, of Colorado Springs, plans to attend the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.

Here's a description of Chapman's actions from the Air Force:
According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.

During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.

During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.

Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”
Chapman is the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947, the Air Force says. He is the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War. 
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Friday, August 17, 2018

Air Force Academy dean of faculty announces retirement amid exodus of STEM professors

Posted By on Fri, Aug 17, 2018 at 2:26 PM

Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost - U.S. AIR FORCE
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost
The Air Force Academy's dean of faculty Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost announced today, Aug. 17, he will retire effective Aug. 1, 2019. The announcement comes amid the departure of at least six permanent party professors — an unprecedented exodus all in one year of permanent professors, all of whom are from STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] departments, sources tell the Independent.

The Academy usually has about 20 permanent professors who head academic departments. They are military members assigned to the Academy to “provide continuity to academic programs, to increase stability in institutional governance through membership in Academy boards and committees, and to embody the quality standards of airman-scholar-citizen,” according to an Air Force instruction.

Armacost's successor has not been named.

Armacost took over as dean following the departure in summer 2013 of Dana Born, who drew controversy for her alleged promotion of fundamental Christianity via sponsoring an ad in the base newspaper favoring that faith, which led her to tangle with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that fights for religious freedom in the military. She also was accused, but the allegation was never proven, of ordering a counter-insurgency against MRFF.

Also troubling, she was the focus of an Inspector General's investigation for allegedly misrepresenting faculty credentials to the academy's accreditation agency. That probe later concluded she was negligent.

But Armacost drew cheers from MRFF for his explanation of when it's appropriate for Academy personnel to talk about their faith.

The Indy caught wind that Armacost was leaving and asked the Academy about it on Aug. 14, saying our information was that he would retire in December.

Academy spokesperson Meade Warthen responded in an email, "You got some bad information. Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, who has been Dean since the summer of 2013, is not retiring in December."

When we asked again, asking if he would step down next spring, Warthen replied, "We will be notifying the media on this topic soon, but suffice it to say Brig. Gen. Armacost is not retiring at the end of this academic year, next May or June."

In any event, now we know. Here's Armacost's parting shot in a message to faculty:

Colleagues,

This summer marks the completion of my fifth year as your Dean. When first taking this position, I thought, “How long should I expect to serve in this role?” That’s a particularly tough question to answer, as it depends upon many factors. But I’ve long felt that six years (or so) would offer stability to the institution, while opening an opportunity for another leader to build upon the successes we’ve had.

Last week the AF Chief of Staff accepted my request to retire effective 1 August 2019. This follows conversations with Lt Gen Silveria that began a year ago. I appreciate the SUPT’s support for this decision and his tremendous leadership of this institution. Though we are awaiting final approval from the SECAF, I wanted each of you hear the news directly from me first in order to avoid speculation.

This will be an exciting transition. In the aftermath of massive budget cuts in 2013 and 2014, we have made steady strides on restoring our resourcing while advancing the state of our outstanding educational programs. The 11th Dean of the Faculty will be in a position to lift the institution and our cadets to even greater heights, building upon the hard work and success of the 750 members of the DF team. The search for a new Dean will begin soon.

I’m honored to have spent nineteen years serving at the Academy in a variety of roles that support cadet education and development. Rest assured, you’ll have my complete focus until the day I leave.

With deep gratitude,

Andy Armacost

ANDREW P. ARMACOST, Brigadier General, USAF
Dean of the Faculty
Armacost could not be reached for comment.

Here's the Academy's news release:
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

VetFest welcomes veterans to Sky Sox Stadium for tournament, resources

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 5:26 PM

vetfest_flier_printable.jpg
At the Wounded Warrior Project's first-ever VetFest on Aug. 4, attendees can catch up on Veterans Affairs information, slide into new opportunities, and maybe even hit a career home run.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Sky Sox Stadium, veterans and their families will enjoy a softball tournament while taking part in a Veterans Affairs town hall and claims clinic, a career fair with more than 40 local employers, and a resource fair with up to 50 service organizations. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from vendors.

The event, also sponsored by the state and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is free for all attendees, including the general public.

"It’s a chance for veterans to go to one location, get information about the VA, register with the VA and link up with all of the resources that are available to them here in the local community," says Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 Commander Anthony Archer. "Plus the comradeship of veterans from all generations getting together."

And a dose of friendly competition: The Colorado Springs Fire Department, Wounded Warrior Project and Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center are among the organizations vying for victory in the all-day softball tournament.

Here's the full schedule from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox:

9 a.m. Doors Open

10 a.m. Softball Tournament, Job Fair, Town Hall Begins

12 p.m. Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Opens, Town Hall Ends

2 p.m. Job Fair Ends

4 p.m. Championship Game Begins, Claims Clinic / Mobile Clinic Ends

4:50 p.m. Trophy Presentation, Closing Remarks
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Independence Center honors veterans with disabilities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. - COURTESY MATT GETZE
  • Courtesy Matt Getze
  • Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

El Paso County has the fifth largest population of veterans with disabilities in the country, Mayor John Suthers said in a speech at the Independence Center's annual ADA Luncheon, Celebrating Veterans with Disabilities.

Out of 100,000 veterans in the county, 37,000 have disabilities, Suthers said. That amounts to more than Cook County, Illinois or New York City.

And that's partly why the community gathered July 26 to recognize the local organizations that do the most to serve those who serve us, on the 28th anniversary of the day President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Independence Center's 2018 award recipients:

Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition: This organization works to end veteran homelessness by providing transitional housing. The coalition's Crawford House in Colorado Springs is a temporary, structured environment for those overcoming addiction.

Achilles Pikes Peak: The team at our local chapter of Achilles International provides adaptive recreation opportunities for veterans with disabilities, including cycling, running, hiking, and more.

Military Artistic Healing Program at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center: "The ability for veterans to share their feelings is a vital part of the healing process," Suthers says. These art classes help them to do just that.

Team Rubicon: This organization helps veterans "find a sense of identity through service," Suthers says. Veterans who are part of the program help those affected by natural disasters, using their skills and experience from the military to respond to emergencies.

Home Front Cares: This program helps create a safety net for veterans by providing grants for rent, utilities, car repair and other forms of emergency assistance for those at risk of homelessness.

At the luncheon, the Independence Center also highlighted its Veteran in Charge program, which helps veterans who might otherwise be placed in a nursing home to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. That support includes a flexible monthly budget that allows veterans to choose the services they need, including assistive devices such as chair lifts, meal delivery, transportation and in-home care.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Trump calls for military to create space force

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 5:26 PM

An Atlas V rocket carrying a Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite for an Air Force mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Jan. 19. - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE
  • Photo courtesy of United Launch Alliance
  • An Atlas V rocket carrying a Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite for an Air Force mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Jan. 19.
President Donald Trump has approved creating a new branch of the military, a space force, and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn couldn't be happier.

Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, who's seeking his seventh term and faces opposition in the June 26 Republican primary, has been lobbying for a separate space force for some time and the idea gained steam in Congress.

Here's a good backgrounder on the idea of creating a new branch from The Atlantic Monthly.

That article says:
A new space corps would represent more of a bureaucratic reshuffling than a major expansion of the Space Command, which currently employs about 36,000 people and is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. It would not affect NASA or the government’s intelligence operations in space. The goal is to protect the military’s budget for space; speed up the development and deployment of new capabilities; and establish a new culture that encourages, and promotes, servicemen and women who specialize in space.
It's not entirely a given the new space force would be based at Peterson.

Lamborn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued this statement:
A separate service dedicated to space is the type of dramatic initiative that will enhance the U.S.'s ability to enhance our qualitative military edge in that domain. For too long, too little emphasis has been placed on space defense. This problem has been studied in depth since the 1980s, yet few reforms have been made and fewer still have taken hold. Space must be a priority in the Defense Department in order to keep our nation safe - our superiority in space directly affects our nation's military advantages, and our civilian way of life depends on those assets. I am greatly encouraged by the added focus the President is giving this vital domain.

Colorado Springs is the epicenter of national security space, and the Pike's Peak Region is ready to support this national effort to secure the final frontier for ours and future generations of Americans. I look forward to working with President Trump and our Air Force to make sure this is done right. I am encouraged to see he takes this issue seriously. Since the President's request will require Congressional action, I will be working closely with my colleagues on both Armed Services Committees to oversee this exciting initiative. 
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Air Force Academy shows improvement in wash-out rate

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 5:24 PM

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/MIKE KAPLAN
  • U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan
On May 23, 984 Air Force Academy cadets will become second lieutenants as the Thunderbirds zoom overhead.

Tucked into a statistical rundown of the Class of 2018 provided by the Academy is a figure that bodes well for the school. According to the Academy, only 18.4 percent, or 222, of those who entered the Academy four years ago with this class washed out. That's a significant improvement over years past.

The last time the Independent looked at this in late 2016, the wash-out rates were well over 20 percent.

You can revisit that report here.

Here are some fun facts about this year's graduating class provided by the Academy:
– 1,498 were offered appointments to the Academy

– 1,206 men and women were inducted into the Academy, including 14 international cadets

– There were 942 men (78.1 percent) and 264 women (21.9 percent) in the class

– There were 323 (26.8 percent) minorities

– There were 585 (48.5 percent) cadets who were potentially pilot qualified

– The average high school GPA for the Class of 2018 was 3.85

– The average SAT score was 633 verbal and 663 math

-The average ACT score was 30 English, 30 reading, 30 math and 30 science reasoning

Scheduled to Graduate:

Scheduled to graduate are 984 cadets, including 13 international cadets.

– 772 men (78 percent) and 212 women (22 percent)

– 273 minorities (28 percent) of the class. Seventy-seven cadets are African-American, 105 are Hispanic, 65 are Asian, 13 are Pacific Islanders and 13 are Native American, not including the international cadets.

– 711 cadets are not minorities

– The 13 international cadets are from Kazakhstan, Gaban, Malaysia, Moldovia, Pakistan, The Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates

– 142 graduates attended the Air Force Academy Preparatory School

– 45 graduates were previously enlisted Airmen

– The average cumulative GPA for the graduating class was 3.07

– The attrition rate is 209 cadets (18 percent)

– 54 graduates have brothers or sisters who have graduated from the Academy

– 58 graduates are second-generation graduates. Six cadets’ parents are both graduates of the Academy.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Senators challenge revisions to DoD report removing "climate change"

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 10:08 AM

MRPBPS
  • mrpbps
The Trump Administration has made a practice of trying to erase science, notably by downplaying, or ignoring altogether, the impact of climate change.

The latest turn on this strategy is a report in the Washington Post that the Department of Defense revised a January vulnerability assessment by removing references to climate change and findings regarding the risks from sea level rise.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and nearly two dozen fellow lawmakers have called on the administration to release the unpublished draft of the report and explain the omissions.

In a letter to the Pentagon, Bennet and others write:

These are substantive, not stylistic, changes—and it is not the way we expect DoD to conduct business. If DoD is not publishing data that it collects from our installations because they do not fit a particular political narrative, the department is failing to let the science inform its understanding of how changes in the environment may pose a risk to the ability to train our forces, the safety of our facilities and service members, and the long-term readiness of our military.

For all those doubters out there, the Pentagon has issued reports in the past highlighting how climate change impacts national security, such as this DoD statement from 2015, and this article from last fall
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Gov. Hickenlooper signs three bills sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Rep. Pete Lee - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Rep. Pete Lee
Editor's note: This story lhas been updated to correct the date on which Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bills.

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Colorado Springs on May 11 to sign three bills into law. They included an extension of a veterans’ career program, a bill to streamline community corrections transition placements, and penalties for retailers selling products with dextromethorphan (such as DayQuil) to children under 18.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, was the sponsor on all three bills. Another local legislator, Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, co-sponsored the veterans’ career program bill.

Here’s a rundown:

• HB18-1343: Veterans' Service-to-career Program
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Terri Carver, Kent Lambert, Nancy Todd


This bill continues a statewide program to help veterans, their spouses, and qualified dependents and caregivers find employment. It expands the program to include those actively serving in the military who are within six months of discharge.

• HB18-1251: Community Corrections Transition Placements
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Cole Wist, Daniel Kagan, Bob Gardner

The community corrections system in Colorado provides services to convicted adults who are “halfway in” or “halfway out” of prison. Community corrections, which includes housing and supervision, is either a “last chance” before being sent to prison, or a way for those leaving the criminal justice system to transition back into the community.

This bill requires the Colorado State Board of Parole to submit a list of offenders for community corrections transition placement referrals to the state Department of Corrections, who will choose whether or not to make a referral. Community corrections boards, which then decide whether to accept or reject an offender, must do so through a “structured, research-based decision-making process that combines professional judgment and actuarial risk and needs assessment tools,” according to the bill.

HB18-1307: Limit Access To Products With Dextromethorphan
Sponsors: Jonathan Singer, Pete Lee, Bob Gardner, John Cooke


This bill makes it illegal for a seller, retailer or vendor to sell products containing dextromethorphan — a drug found in such over-the-counter cough suppressants as DayQuil and Robitussin — to children under 18. For the first offense, the seller will receive a written warning; future offenses mean a fine of up to $200.

Dextromethorphan can cause fatal liver injury and cardiovascular problems if consumed in high doses. It has been used as a recreational drug, particularly among teenagers, for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects at high doses.
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

NORAD celebrates its 60th — a look inside "America's Fortress"

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 6:27 PM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
NORAD celebrates its 60th this year, and all military parties involved at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station allowed the media "behind the blast doors" for a rare, limited tour on Thursday, May 10.

When I say all parties involved, I mean it quickly gets confusing to say who's toiling inside the mountain, between the U.S. forces on site, Canadian allies, and other unnamed groups (for security reasons). The 721st Mission Support Group is technically who hosted us at the alternate strategic command center; remember that in 2008 Peterson Air Force Base took on the primary command center, as it offers much more space for some 1,200 or so daily workers.

Still, the legacy and lore of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is what continues to captivate people, many of whom are fond of the facility's role in the 1983 film WarGames.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM stand as the sole binational command center in the world (NORAD being composed of both U.S. and Canadian staff; USNORTHCOM being just U.S. military).

"It's the most secure facility in the world, we like to say," says Steve Rose, 721st Mission Support Group Deputy Director, our tour guide.

Built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear blast, it's located 2,000 feet deep in Cheyenne Mountain, under solid granite — through a tunnel that's 3/10's of a mile long before it winds its way to 23-ton blast doors. Inside, a connected complex of 15 buildings (none touching the granite) sit on springs to absorb earthquake-like shockwaves, and the buildings are encased in navy-grade steel — "the gold standard for EMP (electromagnetic pulse) criteria."

The government opted to locate the base in Colorado Springs because of its distance inland from the coast, where in theory Soviet subs could be lurking nearby and strike coastal cities with little time for reaction. Here, the doors could be closed within 45 seconds while a missile travelled overland. Fun fact: Rose says originally the military wanted to place the facility under Blodgett Peak, near the Air Force Academy, but its rock was too soft compared to the solid granite. (This base is located just above Fort Carson, instead.)

Royal Canadian Air Force Colonel Travis Morehen, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center Director, explains the multifold role of the facility, which you can also read about in the below fact sheet, as everything from monitoring aircraft over North America to assisting in fighting wildfires and responding to other natural disasters, to detecting missile threats and responding defensively to them. Oh, and don't forget the annual Christmas time tracking of Santa.  "It's impressive when you walk through that tunnel," says Morehen. "It's amazing what we do here."

Or at Peterson. Just the evening prior to our tour, Morehen describes a busy shift — a phone cradled to each ear usually, with a third in the hand of an assistant nearby — during which a flight had to be diverted because an unruly passenger, and, of course, because missiles fired during the current conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria.

"Most Americans are surprised at how involved Canada is in defending the U.S.," he says, describing the command center as "the brain of the human nervous system." Basically, it collects data from international sensor sites and passes it to the command staff for the decisions on what to do in response.

Related to the flight traffic alone, Morehen says a few flights must be intercepted weekly (not physically, but hailed for contact), tending to accidentally stray into restricted air space. Usually, that's around President Trump. The first time as POTUS that Trump visited Mar-a-Lago, a regular haunt to the expense of taxpayers, Morehen recalls something like six to 10 flights having to be hailed and turned around. (Back on 9/11, the call to ground all planes stemmed from NORAD.)

Morehen also wished to clear up confusion around this mountain complex being abandoned or underutilized. Just because it's redundant (not a bad thing for security), it's not idle. It's used during maintenance closures at Peterson, as well as monthly for four or so days to use the systems and familiarize new crew members; and quarterly for 10 to 14 days, for exercises, he says. It's also set in motion annually for training around a "WWIII scenario," during which staff even sleeps on site, as if sealed in for the real thing.

There's much more to NORAD than the media's granted access to this go around, including  underground reservoirs that stand ready in case of need. (Otherwise they're on the city's grid regularly.) We're told there's "triple redundancy" in virtually everything on site, from tech systems to fuel sources.

You can read more about the place on this fact sheet as well:
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Carson Midway Fire out, County, Manitou announce fire bans

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 12:43 PM

The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month. - J. ADRIAN STANELY
  • J. Adrian Stanely
  • The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month.

A fire on Fort Carson Army Base merged with a second fire over the weekend of March 17-18, burning around 3,300 acres; destroying three homes and several outbuildings; and leading to the evacuation of around 250 homes. The Carson Midway Fire was out, with the exception some burning trash and tire fires, on March 19.

The fire should not be confused with the Orchard Canyon Fire, which started on Fort Carson on March 8 and burned some 1,800 acres before being fully contained days later.

The Army has been criticized for holding training, that may or may not include live fire, on days with extreme fire danger due to dryness and high winds. (Some are even collecting signatures to encourage the base to stop the practice.) Both recent fires ignited on dry, windy days.

Meanwhile, on March 16, El Paso County announced Stage I fire restrictions, meaning those in the unincorporated county must abide by restrictions on open fires and outdoor smoking. The use or sale of fireworks is forbidden under the ban.

El Paso County is under Stage I Fire Restrictions for all unincorporated areas of El Paso County

Due to the continued dry conditions and the National Weather Service forecast for continued dry and warmer than normal conditions, resulting in very high to extreme fire danger ratings, Deputy Fire Warden John Padgett has ordered Stage I Fire Restrictions for all of the unincorporated areas of El Paso County. The Stage I Fire Restrictions shall go into effect immediately and the following are prohibited:

1. Open burning, excepting fires and campfires within permanently constructed fire grates in developed
campgrounds and picnic grounds; charcoal grills and wood burning stoves at private residences in areas
cleared of all flammable materials.
2. The sale or use of fireworks.
3. Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped
in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

The Stage I Restrictions shall remain in effect until such time the restrictions are modified pursuant to El Paso County Ordinance #15-001.

Manitou Springs also instituted fire restrictions which include limitations on outdoor fires and an outdoor smoking ban:

Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council,

Effective immediately, and in an effort to remain consistent with regional partners, I am ordering the following Fire Restrictions for the City of Manitou Springs:

1. Open Burning Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any outside fire, including camp fires and warming fires.

This current ban excludes fires in permanently constructed fire rings within the city’s RV and Camping Parks; and charcoal grills, and wood burning fire places, (chiminia) or fire pits with proper fitting screen covers and with a minimum of 15’ separation from structures or other combustible material at private residences. None of these exclusions permit a total fuel area greater than 3 feet in diameter, and all must have a flame height of less than 2 feet.

2. Outdoor Smoking Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any tobacco product or similar material in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes outdoors. This excludes smoking in enclosed buildings or structures, and along Manitou Avenue. Discarding of a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco products is strictly prohibited.

These restrictions do not apply to gas-fueled grills used out-of-doors, or to fires within liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves. Additionally, compliant fireplaces and wood-burning stoves within private residences are not included in the ban.

If weather patterns change the local outlook significantly one way or the other, Fire Restrictions will be adjusted accordingly.


Respectfully Submitted,

John K. Forsett, Fire Chief, City of Manitou Springs

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Air Force Academy Endowment chief wears religion on his necktie

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 2:31 PM

Gould in a Christian fish symbol necktie. - CHECKPOINTS
  • Checkpoints
  • Gould in a Christian fish symbol necktie.
Neckties can say a lot about a person. President Trump favors the long red variety, whatever that means, and the colorful graphic designs of Rush Limbaugh's line of neckties spoke of success and trendiness in the 1980s and 1990s.

For retired Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, a necktie proclaims his religious beliefs.

At least, that was the choice he made for a photo used in the Association of Graduates' Checkpoints publication in December in an article in which he was introduced as the new CEO of the AOG's sister organization, Air Force Academy Endowment. (He was hired in August.)

Gould, a 1976 Academy grad who served as superintendent there from 2009 to 2013, chose a red tie covered with fish symbols, which represent "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," according to several sources, including Christianity Today.

One Academy staffer called Gould's choice of the tie as an "in-your-face" proclamation of Christian faith by a person who, presumably, will be expected to solicit funds to support Academy cadets of all faiths.

The staffer, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retribution, alerted the MRFF's CEO Mikey Weinstein to the necktie and the message it sends via email, which said, in part:
I know that the MRFF had long battles with Mike [Gould] during his tenure as Supt [sic] considering his previous history as an avowed evangelical Christian, ties to a local megachurch, and his wife’s many public statements at Academy events declaring their faith and the necessity of all in the Air Force to have similar views. Many claimed that you were on a Witch Hunt, discriminating against Christians as you (in their view) picked at the edges of AFI 1-1 [Air Force instruction requiring no show of favoritism to a specific religion] to point out inequities and religious bias throughout the military. Gould declared his innocence and dedication to treating all equally—while he was in uniform—and fought all comers that claimed that bias existed in his office or at the Academy. As it turns out, though, you were right all along.

Eventually, the truth comes out. With this carefully chosen tie—and one doesn’t make a choice like that lightly if they have the experience of the Lt Gen—he’s declared his faith and his allegiance over and well above the organization he’s now probably paid over $200K per year to lead. In so doing, he’s also not-so-subtly sent the message that he always thought USAFA was a bastion of Christendom and that he intends to extend that identity to the graduate community and the philanthropic organization he leads to support the Academy’s mission.
Reached by phone, Gould says, "I don't have anything to say to you about that. No comment."

But Weinstein, the bane of the Academy for more than a decade due to its perceived favoritism of fundamentalist Christianity, had plenty to say.

This is the symbol that peppered Gould's necktie. - VICTOR FITZPATRICK
  • Victor Fitzpatrick
  • This is the symbol that peppered Gould's necktie.
He reports he started to get phone calls, text messages and emails from more than two dozen clients at the Academy, including cadets and faculty who were offended by Gould's necktie choice.

"This is one of the most blatant things we’ve seen," Weinstein says. "That tie stood out like a tarantula on a wedding cake."

"On his maiden voyage to say hello as CEO of the endowment, he carefully chose that photograph to be sure he was following the great commission to go and make Christians of all nations," he says. "If Gould feels he has to proselytize like this while supporting the Academy's values about inclusion, he needs to put in an application to Focus on the Family. Wearing that tie is very much like sticking a middle finger to diversity, the First Amendment and the Academy's core values. It’s hypocrisy writ large. It’s hurtful, it’s wrong and it colors everything he did at the academy."

Weinstein reports that AOG president and CEO Marty Marcolongo, a 1988 Academy grad, told him it was a misstep that slipped through and that the magazine would carry an apology in an upcoming issue.

But that couldn't be verified. Marcolongo didn't respond to emails and a phone call from the Independent. 

Weinstein gave Gould the nickname "lord of lies" after Gould failed to make it clear that religious affiliation doesn't make or break a cadet, staffer or faculty member.

In 2010, Gould refused to release the cadet climate survey saying the religious climate had improved. But the Indy obtained a copy on its own and reported:
The survey, obtained by the Independent in August, shows that 41 percent of non-Christian cadets responding to the survey said they were subjected to unwanted religious proselytizing. For Christian cadets, it was 14 percent. Also, 42 percent of non-Christian cadets said they were drawn into unwanted religious discussions, compared to 21 percent of Christians.
Current Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria drew headlines for a speech to cadets about racism in October when he said, in part, "If you can't treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Defense Department targets Air Force Academy's use of mental diagnoses to oust cadets who report sexual assault

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 12:05 PM

The Inspector General's Office at the Pentagon will delve into allegations the Academy labeled cadets who report sexual assault with mental diagnosis to oust them from the Air Force Academy. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • The Inspector General's Office at the Pentagon will delve into allegations the Academy labeled cadets who report sexual assault with mental diagnosis to oust them from the Air Force Academy.

The Department of Defense Inspector General's Office will look into the Air Force Academy's use of mental health diagnoses to oust cadets who report they've been sexually assaulted from the military school, as reported in detail by the Independent last summer (Cover, "The blame game," July 19, 2017).  A companion piece explored how the Academy tracks, or doesn't track, sexual assault reports.

From that story:
... current and former cadets who say they were victims of sexual assault claim the Academy uses mental health counselors — the very people assigned to help them — to add diagnoses to their record in a way that could damage their prospects permanently. Once victims are labeled with a serious mental illness, they can be expelled and even forced to reimburse the Academy for their education.
The inquiry stems from requests by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

One of the cadets featured in the Indy's report, Adam DeRito, was ousted just hours before he graduated. From the Indy story:
Adam DeRito was a mere three hours from graduation in 2010 when the Academy yanked him from the Cadet Wing while his family was present, he says. After a month in limbo, then-Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould told DeRito he was being disenrolled. "They tried to say I was a bad cadet," DeRito says.

It wasn't until years later that he accidentally discovered that the Academy, a year after he was disenrolled, had labeled him as mentally ill. He's since earned two degrees, served with the Colorado Army National Guard, and landed a lucrative job in the oil and gas industry.

On June 20, 2011, [DeRito's Academy] record shows a "records review" led to the mental diagnosis entries, which labeled him with "impulse control disorder" and "personality disorder NOS [not otherwise specified]"...

Both diagnoses are attributed as being entered by Kristin Henley Price at Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson. DeRito says he's never met that person and has never seen a care provider at Carson. Carson spokesperson Daneta Johnson says via email that Henley Price "is not an Evans employee but an active duty Air Force doctor who at the time was stationed at the Academy clinic. We are not sure why it listed Evans as the clinic. Since she is not Army or an Evans employee, you will need to go to Air Force for your information."

DeRito tells the Indy via email he's been working with Gillibrand about his case. He's also been in touch with the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. His office refused to confirm that to the Indy, saying constituent matters are confidential.

In its March 1 edition, the Gazette and author Tom Roeder seem to take credit for the pending investigation, writing: "The latest investigation comes after congressional scrutiny hit the school following revelations about the sexual assault office first reported in The Gazette last fall."

However, the daily newspaper hasn't reported about the Academy's alleged use of mental diagnoses, following sexual assaults, to provide the foundation for expulsion of cadets. The Indy broke that story in July. 

A person familiar with Academy issues who asked not to be named for fear of retribution confirmed the DOD IG investigation "is directly tied to what the Independent published."

Here's the announcement made by the DOD IG's office on Feb. 27:
The evaluation objective is to determine whether the USAFA, USAFA SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] Office, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) respond to, support, and provide victim care to cadet victims of sexual assault as required by DoD, Air Force, USAFA, and AFOSI policies and procedures. Aspects of the evaluation will include:

• the USAFA SAPR Office’s support of USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault;
• the AFOSI’s responses to and investigations of sexual assaults of USAFA cadets;
• USAFA mental health support and services (to include mental health separations) provided to USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault and,
• USAFA leadership’s support of USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault. 

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