Military

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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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Air Force Academy concludes racism investigation

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 4:24 PM

The Academy's preparatory school was where the racism comments were found. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • The Academy's preparatory school was where the racism comments were found.
Racist remarks found on several Air Force Academy Preparatory School cadet candidate' doors in September were put there by a candidate, who targeted himself as well, the Academy said in a news release.

That candidate, who wasn't identified by the Academy, is not longer at the prep school.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria drew national media attention for his remarks to the cadet wing and prep school regarding the school's intolerance of racism.

Here's the news release:
Air Force Academy officials have completed the investigation into the writing of racist remarks on the doors of five African American Air Force Academy Preparatory School cadet candidates and the individual found responsible is no longer at the Preparatory School.

We can confirm that one of the cadet candidates who was allegedly targeted by racist remarks written outside of their dorm room was actually responsible for the act. The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation.

We acknowledge that there may be additional information already in the public space, but we will refrain from discussing further details surrounding the investigation due to Privacy Act requirements.

Racism has no place at the Academy, in any shape or form. We will continue to create a climate of dignity and respect for all, encourage ideas that do so, and hold those who fail to uphold these standards accountable.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mikey Weinstein and three MRFF accomplishments

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 10:01 AM

Mikey Weinstein is still fighting to keep religious favoritism out of the military. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mikey Weinstein is still fighting to keep religious favoritism out of the military.
Mikey Weinstein has been a busy guy over the past 13 years. Read our interview with the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to learn why.

Here are just a few of the accomplishments of MRFF over the years:

November 2010 – Getting the religious climate survey released. After MRFF’s pressure on the Air Force Academy, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Gould released the data behind the bi-annual Academy Climate Survey. The survey revealed that 41% of non-Christian cadets and 19% of all cadets were subjected to unwanted proselytizing.

December 2014 – USAFA withdrew its Christian-biased holiday policy. On December 1, 2014, the Academy published a document titled, “Religious Accommodations NOTAM” (NOTAM is a common military acronym that stands for Notice to Airmen) on their public website.

January 2017 – Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit win.  The case dated to Weinstein's 2011 FOIA request to the Academy for records pertaining to himself, MRFF and his family. After four years of delays, MRFF sued to compel disclosure. The Academy settle the case by promising to provide the records sought and paying MRFF's $25,000 in attorney fees.
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Monday, September 18, 2017

UPDATE: MRFF calls out chaplain who says not all religions need constitutional protection

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 10:01 AM

Weinstein: Still battling Christian control of the military. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Weinstein: Still battling Christian control of the military.
UPDATE:

According to Stars and Stripes, the Air Force is standing behind Capt. Sonny Hernandez who says anyone serving in the military who doesn't adhere to Christianity is serving Satan.

—ORIGINAL POST 10:01 a.m. MONDAY, SEPT. 18, 2017—-

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has complained for years that fundamental Christianity has taken over the military in violation of the Constitution.

Now, Newsweek reports, and other major news cites are following suit, that a chaplain who says Christians "serve Satan" if they support troops' right to practice other faiths.

Here's the first part of the Newsweek story:
A U.S. Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members' right to practice other faiths.

In an article posted on BarbWire.com three days ago, Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, criticized Christian service members who rely on the Constitution “and not Christ.”

He wrote: “Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home—which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.”

Hernandez continued: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

MRFF, Newsweek reports, has asked the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office to investigate Hernandez, noting "many complaints" about his commentary over the last several years.

In a statement, MRFF said Hernandez "blatantly and indisputably advocates the subordinating of the U.S. Constitution to his personal Christian ideology and violated his Oath of Office as a commissioned officer, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387’s criminal prohibitions against counseling or urging insubordination, disloyalty, or ‘refusal of duty’ to other military members."

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

James Mattis puts stay on transgender military ban, pending study

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 10:53 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
In this weeks’ Queer & There, we heard from a transgender veteran who spoke out in opposition to President Trump’s ban on transgender people entering or serving in the U.S. Military.

Tuesday night, after the Independent went to press, news broke that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had put a “freeze” on the ban, pending a six-month study and input from a panel of experts. The exact makeup of that panel is as yet uncertain, though one might hope transgender military personnel may be involved in the process.

While Mattis’ decision to delay implementation of the ban was lauded by those who oppose it, the Washington Post pointed out in a Wednesday report that, in reality, Mattis was just following orders. The text of the White House directive clearly states that implementation must occur by February of 2018. Moreover, it reads:

As part of the implementation plan, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military. Until the Secretary has made that determination, no action may be taken against such individuals under the policy set forth in section 1(b) of this memorandum.

And while an extensive study on this matter (conducted by the RAND Corporation) has already determined that the effect of transgender service members on military readiness and budget would be negligible, it seems the upcoming six months of study and deliberation will yield final results.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

NorthCom already deployed search teams to Hurricane Harvey, standing ready

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 12:13 PM

First responders from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacán practice bringing a drowning victim to shore using a rescue sled donated by U.S. Northern Command in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, March 22, 2017. As part of USNORTHCOM's humanitarian assistance mission, members of the U.S. Public Health Service provided water search and rescue training to Mexican first responders. - U.S. AIR FORCE 1ST LT. LAUREN HILL
  • U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Lauren Hill
  • First responders from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacán practice bringing a drowning victim to shore using a rescue sled donated by U.S. Northern Command in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, March 22, 2017. As part of USNORTHCOM's humanitarian assistance mission, members of the U.S. Public Health Service provided water search and rescue training to Mexican first responders.

Northern Command, based on Peterson Air Force Base, has already deployed resources to Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey and could send more.

Capt. Chase McFarland reports that a search and rescue "package" and a defense coordinating officer were sent over the weekend to the Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth. The SAR package includes two planners, several helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft, along with two rescue teams. The defense coordinating officer and his support staff will provided the "DoD knowledge set."

"They’re there to support the dual status commander, the commander who synchronizes efforts between active duty and Guard units," McFarland says, adding that all those resources came "from all over."

In addition, he adds, "We provided Randolph [Air Force Base in Texas] as an installation support base. What that does, is FEMA, the Defense Logistics Agency, all these people bringing in meals, water, gas, generators, it allows them to come into that location and then can be forward-distributed into those areas [of need]."

While NorthCom stands at the ready, McFarland says that county and state resources must be depleted before military resources are deployed on a wider level.

"We haven’t had a mission tasking yet," he says. "They’re responding very well. It’s only when they need to fill up with gas they’ll call us."

Even before the hurricane made landfall, McFarland says, "We were already doing prudent planning, saying what could we send. Texas has a very robust guard unit and response unit. If FEMA or the state is asking for federal help, if we have that capability to send it, we would definitely be there to help."

And that is likely to unfold, because NorthCom became a key component of the formula for response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to this account by NorthCom itself.

NorthCom was stood up Oct. 1, 2002, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. In addition to protecting America's homeland, NorthCom also performs a civil support mission that includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.

In another development, the Colorado Springs Fire Department tweeted: "8 Firefighters from CSFD Heavy Rescue Program, members of CO Task Force 1 Urban Search & Rescue are in Houston TX helping those in need."

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Friday, August 25, 2017

White House working on guidelines for banning transgender service members from the military

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 1:18 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
After President Donald Trump tweeted about a blanket ban on transgender service members last month, the future of transgender folks currently serving in the military, and those hoping to serve, was up in the air. Originally, the tweets suggested that all transgender people might be banned from service, but a recent memo gives Secretary of Defense James Mattis discretion when it comes to those currently serving.

However, should Mattis decide that current transgender service members are not “capable” of fulfilling their service (i.e. being deployed), then it seems he could extend the ban as per Trump’s original intent.

Of course, transgender service members have been deploying faithfully and openly since President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members last year, and serving closeted much longer than that. But in spite of a lack of evidence, the White House and the Pentagon seem to be of the opinion that the presence of transgender troops could be “disruptive.” Which basically means that cisgender troops might be uncomfortable with their presence.

The White House’s guidelines are currently pending legal review, but will most likely include instructions to cease admitting transgender people into the military, and cease paying for transition-related medical treatment.

For the estimated 2,450 active-duty transgender military members, this could mean remaining closeted and without medical care that, in many cases, is vital to a transgender person’s mental health.

Once the guidelines are finalized by Trump administration lawyers and officially handed off, the Pentagon will have six months to implement the restrictions.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

USAFA story about sexual assault hits news wires

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 1:37 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
Vice.com is one of several high traffic websites that has picked up the Independent's cover story, "The Blame Game," published on July 19, which chronicled complaints from Air Force Academy cadets that they were assigned a mental disorder after reporting being sexually assaulted. Then, they say, the Academy cited their mental health records in efforts to remove them from the school.

John Q. Public's website featured the story in its top slot on Monday, July 24, and RT America also ran the story on July 20.

As we reported last week, some members of Congress are interested in seeing additional investigation about the use of mental diagnoses regarding those who report sexual assault at the Academy.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

UPDATE: Air Force Academy sexual assault report draws little interest from Congress members

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:56 PM

The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo.
UPDATE:
Rep. Jared Polis has weighed in on the issues at the Air Force Academy described in stories published July 19 by the Independent.

He didn't reach us sooner, because he was on his way home to Colorado and was out of contact.

But here's what he says: “The accusations described by the Colorado Independent are disturbing. We can all agree that victims need and deserve a safe way to report their assault, free from penalty. I urge the Academy to fully investigate these accusations.”

Polis also notes he regularly sends a staffer to the Board of Visitors meetings when he's unable to attend himself.

———ORIGINAL POST 12:56 P.M. THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2017————————

On Wednesday, July 19, the Independent published several stories about the Air Force Academy's treatment of cadets who report they've been sexually assaulted. ("The blame game," Cover story.)

Several cadets told us they were assigned a mental diagnosis of which they initially weren't aware that could have far reaching impact on their lives and futures.

From the story:
Now, 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....

How far-reaching such tactics are is unclear, but an Academy sexual assault response coordinator, speaking publicly about the inner workings of the Academy's methods for the first time, says it's common practice for alleged victims to be unfairly tagged with mental disorders and pushed out.
We asked Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Reps. Jared Polis and Doug Lamborn to comment on the stories, but some didn't even acknowledge our phone calls and emails on the subject.

The only one who responded, Bennet, isn't even a current member of the Academy's Board of Visitors, while the others are currently serving.

Through a spokesperson, Bennet said simply, "We urge the leadership at the USAFA to complete their investigation and take steps to ensure that cadets and academy personnel feel confident in reporting instances of sexual assault.”

Lamborn's spokesman said: "The Congressman will not be weighing-in at this time."

The other two said nothing.

It's worth noting that Lamborn has been the most faithful attendee at BOV meetings. According to minutes of nine meetings held between January 2014 and April 2017 made available by the Academy, Lamborn missed only two. Polis, who's running for the Democratic nomination in the Colorado governor's race, missed five of those meetings, and Gardner has attended two of four meetings since joining the board in 2016.

If we hear from any of the others, we'll circle back with an update.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Can Air Force Academy cadets become parents while enrolled? Apparently so.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 10, 2017 at 12:26 PM

The Air Force Academy's rules may not be evenly applied. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Air Force Academy's rules may not be evenly applied.

The U.S. Air Force Academy's policy on cadets becoming parents while attending is clear. It's stated on the Academy's website under eligibility rules:
You must have no dependents. Furthermore, if admitted to the Academy, you may not acquire any dependents while a cadet.

This means your marital status must be single, and you must have no children. Dependents include a spouse by marriage, having a birth child, step child, or adopted child whether or not you provide support to said dependent.

If a marriage or paternity/maternity were to occur while a cadet but not be known to Air Force authorities until after graduation, you may be subject to disciplinary or administrative action as an officer.
But now we learn that Cadet Mike Sutton, a senior, is the happy expectant father of a child to be born in December to Amanda Williams, the daughter of former Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Stephen Williams, a 1989 Academy graduate. Stephen Williams left for a new assignment at Pearl Harbor in March after serving as commandant since July 2014, according to his official Air Force biography.

Amanda Williams herself announced this on Instagram, our emphasis added:
Mike and I are proud to announce that there will be 10 little fingers and 10 little toes being added to our family of 5. Yes, it's true there is a little baby growing inside my belly due to make its appearance in December. While this baby was not planned that does not mean it is anything less than a beautiful miracle. We couldn't be more excited and blessed with this little gift from God. We do, however, need to make something clear early on. We are being proactive and meeting all necessary legal requirements to ensure Mike remains a cadet at the Academy which is why it has taken us so long to finally come public with this exciting news. But this is a time to celebrate a beautiful baby who we are so excited to meet in December! Thank you all in advance for your love and support. If you wish to help in any way please don't hesitate to reach out to us, I know Mike and I will really need it as we face this brand new unexpected adventure. ❤❤ #baby #pregnant #blessed #family #boy #girl #surprise #couple #love #engaged #goals #romantic #happy
She also posted a message saying they had rented a new place with more room and "we move in" on August 12. For the record, cadets are required to live on the base. There's no mention of Sutton leaving the Academy.

We asked the Academy about this, including whether the eligibility rules regarding having a child while a cadet were still in place, considering this development. Here's the response from Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage about "how paternity/maternity issues are handled at USAFA":

Female:

When a female cadet presents as pregnant counseling is available. The medical, command, and legal functions provide tailored support for each pregnant on an individual, case by case, basis. Prenatal care initiated.
A pregnant cadet has multiple options including (offered and/or listed in no particular order):
- Resignation
- Apply for administrative turnback (to allow the cadet to have the baby, relinquish parental rights and return to complete cadet tenure) — legal proof of parental relinquishment required prior to return to USAFA

Male:

Paternity issues are also worked on a case-by-case basis. When indications of paternity of are present, a Letter of Notification (LON) for Disenrollment due to Disqualification proceedings are initiated to determine, if by a preponderance of the evidence, the cadet has a dependent. The USAFA/JA Cadet Disenrollment office informs cadet on options, which include:
- Resignation
- Apply for administrative turnback (to relinquish parental rights and return to complete cadet tenure)-legal proof of parental relinquishment required prior to return to USAFA

Otherwise, he declined to comment "on an individual's private life."

We consulted with sources familiar with the situation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. They say that apparently the rules are imposed unequally, as male cadets are allowed to stay if they've fathered a child, as long as their names don't appear on a birth certificate and they're not legally considered the father. Women can't remain at the Academy and must take a leave of absence, the sources say.

All of which raises the question of whether the Academy's handling of this issue conforms with the Academy's Honor Code, which prohibits lying, cheating or stealing or tolerating those who do.
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

MRFF files supplemental complaint against critics of AFA commandant

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 4:36 PM

Goodwin: Criticized for being gay. - AIR FORCE PHOTO
  • Air Force photo
  • Goodwin: Criticized for being gay.
Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, Commandant of Cadets at the Air Force Academy, is at the center of a supplemental complaint filed with the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office.

The complaint was filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation due to what it calls "illegal attacks" on her by two lower ranking Air Force officers over her sexual orientation. Goodwin is gay.

Those two are Lt. Col. Jonathan Dowty, who called Goodwin a liar, and Chaplain Sonny Hernandez.

Here's a notice of the complaint:
On Friday, June 30th, MRFF filed a Supplemental Complaint with the DoD/IG’s Office. This Complaint addressed the continuing disrespectful, homophobic, and illegal attacks on Brigadier General Kristin Goodwin, the Commandant of Cadets at the US Air Force Academy, by the combined actions of two subordinate Air Force officers over Brig Gen Goodwin’s sexual orientation.

MRFF’s Supplemental Complaint also addresses the continuing violations by Chaplain (Captain) Sonny L. Hernandez, USAFR, by using pictures of himself in his AF uniform and using his official rank, title, and position within the AF Reserves as part of his efforts to bolster his credibility on his purportedly “civilian” blog-postings – here, specifically, a rant entitled, “Christian Soldier Says Army Forced Him To Go To Transgender Training.” That “training” was an all-Army, mandated training for all Soldiers to learn about the DoD’s changing transgender policies. It had nothing to do with anyone’s personal religious beliefs, contrary to the article’s premise.

MRFF is not publicly releasing a copy of this Supplemental Complaint because it, and Chaplain (Capt) Hernandez’s blog-post, refer to two named U.S. Army Officers, whose identities are protected by the federal Privacy Act, and other personnel considerations. Those officers’ actions were clearly within their respective lines-of-duty and were, in MRFF’s opinion, not a proper subject for Chaplain Hernandez’s personal attacks upon them – something that MRFF specifically asked the DoD/IG to address – in the context of yet further disrespect to his “superior commissioned officer.”

Finally, MRFF asked the DoD/IG to address the combined efforts of Chaplain (Capt) Hernandez and Lt Col Jonathan Dowty, USAF, that blatantly misrepresented the nature of MRFF’s original complaints in this matter, i.e., their illegal attacks on Brig Gen Goodwin’s sexual orientation and what, in MRFF’s opinion, amounted to literary fraud. MRFF believes that those actions amounted to deceit of the public and thus, not a character trait of any officer and gentleman under Article 133, UCMJ.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Air Force Academy conducts internal investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 3:48 PM

The Air Force Academy chapel. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Air Force Academy chapel.
The Air Force Academy has reportedly placed all personnel in its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office on paid leave pending an investigation.

Here's a statement released by the Academy's Public Affairs office:
When USAFA leadership learned that there were issues in the USAFA SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] office, a command-directed investigation was initiated. That investigation lasted over a month and involved dozens of interviews. At this time, due to the fact that review of the investigation and related processes are still ongoing, as well as privacy concerns of those involved, we cannot discuss details or findings of the investigation. We can say that attorneys and leadership at USAFA have reviewed the report of investigation and are taking appropriate actions.

In addition, as a result of the investigation, some members of the SAPR staff are no longer performing SAPR duties. Taking care of victims is our top priority and we are ensuring we have the right personnel and protocols in place to provide the best care possible. We are confident that there has been no degradation in victim care and support.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is just one part of the Academy's multi-pronged approach to taking care of victims and combating sexual assault. Sexual assault prevention and victim care are too important to have a single point of failure. We have a comprehensive safety net of helping agencies for victim care that includes medical care, counseling, chaplains, peer support, law enforcement and a special victims' counsel - a legal expert who is with them every step of the way. Leaders up and down the chain of command emphasize prevention through education and a healthy culture and climate.
The Academy has long struggled with dealing with sexual assaults, notably in the 2003 time frame when dozens of victims accused the Academy of punishing them for reporting while letting their attackers graduate.

A slew of changes were put in places at that time, including campus rules and a stepped up training program for sexual assault.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mike Pence plans spin through military bases in El Paso County

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23. - GINO SANTA MARIA/ SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Gino Santa Maria/ Shutterstock
  • Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23.
In tandem with his visit to Focus on the Family on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence will avail himself of several military base visits as well.

According to a news advisory from Peterson Air Force Base, after Pence's appearance at Focus, to mark its 40th anniversary, the nation's second in command will drop in at Schriever Air Force Base, located east of Colorado Springs.

Schriever is home to the 50th Space Wing, among other units, described by the Air Force as being responsible "for the operation and support of 175 Department of Defense satellites and installation support to 16 major tenant units with a workforce of more than 7,700 personnel."
The 50 SW provides integrated combat effects from space, ensures command and control of satellite weapons systems, and conducts expeditionary operations to enable sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests.

The wing operates and supports satellite programs including the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications System, Wideband Global SATCOM, Milstar, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Space Based Space Surveillance, Operationally Responsive Space-1, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and the worldwide Air Force Satellite Control Network supporting 175 satellites.

The wing operates satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote tracking stations and other command and control facilities around the world. Through these facilities, wing personnel monitor satellites during launch, put satellites in their proper orbits following launch, operate the satellites while they are in orbit, ensure effective and efficient satellites operations and properly dispose of the satellites at their end of life.
At Schriever, Pence will be briefed on the highly classified facility, have lunch with service members and give remarks.

After that, Pence will head for the Cheyenne Mountain Complex located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The mountain contains a backup station for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.

Pence will end his visit with a "Gardner Victory Event," details of which were not provided.

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