Military

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Order to remove hijab at Fort Carson spurs controversy, but versions of story differ

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 12:14 PM

Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos believes that she was discriminated against when a superior officer at Fort Carson ordered her to remove her hijab. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos believes that she was discriminated against when a superior officer at Fort Carson ordered her to remove her hijab.
It was about 3 p.m. on March 6, and Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos’ unit was receiving training in suicide prevention at the chapel on Fort Carson.

Without warning, Valdovinos tells the Independent, Command Sergeant Major Kerstin Montoya grabbed her arm and said, “You come with me.”

Valdovinos followed her to the back of the chapel, where she says Montoya told her to remove “that.” The object at issue was Valdovinos’ hijab, a head scarf worn by Muslim women, for which she had obtained an accommodation letter last year.

Valdovinos did as she was told, but later contacted a member of the Pentagon’s chaplaincy, a colonel who’s Muslim. He told her she shouldn’t have obliged by removing the hijab, and referred her to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

With MRFF involved, run by the high-profile and vociferous Mikey Weinstein, the issue might not die soon, despite Fort Carson officials disputing Valdovinos’ account of what happened that day.

In a statement, the Mountain Post said Army leaders respect soldiers’ right to practice their faith without fear of prejudice or repercussion, but even obtaining an accommodation doesn’t mean they’re not subject to inspection for compliance with Army regulations that specify how a hijab should be worn. Fort Carson officials say that Valdovinos was clearly out of compliance on the day in question; that she wasn’t grabbed, but simply taken aside; and that she was in the presence of two female superiors when she removed the head covering.

Valdovinos denies she violated any regulation.

It wasn’t the first time Valdovinos felt uncomfortable in the Army due to her religion. After being raised in the Catholic Church, and four years after joining the Army out of high school, she converted to Islam.

In August 2017, she was promoted to sergeant and has served two tours in Afghanistan, returning most recently in fall 2018.

In April 2018, she applied for a religious accommodation, which required her to be interviewed extensively by two different chaplains, she says. On June 24, 2018, Col. David Zinn issued a letter that stated, “I approve the wear of a hijab in observance of her faith in the Muslim tradition ... a copy of this approved religious accommodation will be filed in the Army Military Human Resource Record system (AMHRR) and will remain in effect throughout SGT Valdovinos’ career.”

While in Afghanistan, however, a fellow soldier called her “a terrorist.”

“We were supposed to be a team, and it was hostile,” she says. “I was angry, but the girls around me [in my unit] helped me calm down.” Though she says she reported it, nothing came of her report and she felt it was ignored.

About a month ago, Valdovinos says, she objected to handling pork at her job in the dining facility, due to her religious requirements. Initially, her supervisor suggested she wear gloves to handle pork, but later transferred Valdovinos to a supply unit. Valdovinos didn’t file a complaint. Nor did she formally protest after she says others on post referred to her as “the girl with the hood.”

But she did file a complaint with the post’s equal opportunity office on March 7 following the hijab incident, she says. The incident startled Valdovinos. She says when she asked Montoya if she had authority to impose such an order, Montoya said, “I can,” and told her she wanted it removed so she could “see my hair.”

Valdovinos, who stands 4 feet, 11 inches, says she removed the garment partway, but Montoya told her to remove it completely, and she complied. Montoya then told her to “get out of here,” she says.

“I felt naked without it,” she tells the Indy. “It’s like asking you to take off your blouse. It felt like I was getting raped, in a sense.”

Fort Carson officials, however, tell a different version of the story via email. They say soldiers with special accommodations still must meet standards of appearance. The hijab must be worn close to the hair and jaw lines, not covering any part of the face, and the hair cannot be worn down.

“According to sources who were present,” Carson said, “Sgt. Valdovinos’ hair was visibly out of regulation. Her senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) [Montoya] and a battalion staff officer, both female, stepped outside with Sgt. Valdovinos so they could speak to her privately. At no time did the senior non-commissioned officer touch Sgt. Valdovinos.”

Another soldier who witnessed Valdovinos being summoned by Montoya tells the Indy that Valdovinos was grabbed by the upper arm. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal from superiors.

Asked about that, Carson provided a written statement from Cpt. Brooke Smith, who observed the entire incident. She said Montoya tapped Valdovinos on the shoulder, but didn’t grab her.
Smith’s story correlates with Carson officials’ written statement, which states that Montoya asked Valdovinos to remove the hijab “in order to verify whether or not her hair was within regulation” and “discovered that Sgt. Valdovinos’ hair was completely down, which is not allowed while in uniform.”

Montoya then told her to “put her hair back in regulation and to not let it happen again,” Carson’s statement said.

Carson also offered a statement by Zinn, who said, in part, “I will ensure our unit continues our tradition of placing a high value on the rights of our Soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.”

He also noted there is an inquiry into Valdovinos’ claim.

Valdovinos says that she is upset because for Muslim women, removing the hijab in public isn’t allowed — the Quran dictates that certain parts of a woman’s body, including her hair, are to be seen by her husband only.

MRFF founder Weinstein argues that since Valdovinos had secured a letter of accommodation from her commander, demanding she remove the hijab is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Army regulations. (Carson didn’t respond to this allegation when asked by the Indy.)

“This woman has been spiritually raped,” he says. “This rips asunder good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion.” It also serves up a “public relations bonanza for our Islamic extremist enemies” who wish to paint the war on terror as a war on Islam or a clash of world religions, he claims.

Weinstein commended Valdovinos for coming forward, noting she’s a woman of color — her father is Mexican and her mother, Navajo — and is Muslim. “It took a tremendous amount of courage for her to stand up for herself,” Weinstein says.

Valdovinos says she’s willing to take a lie-detector test in regards to the incident. And she claims that her hair was not out of compliance. “Of course when she made me take off my hijab my hair fell out of the bun it was in,” she says.

She also notes that her accommodation letter doesn’t contain specifications on how her hair is to be pinned.

Weinstein vows to file a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, as well as seek “just punishment of the Army perpetrators.”

Meanwhile, Valdovinos says she hopes those at her post will come to accept her more fully. “I just want them to understand, just because I’m Muslim, I’m not different. I’m still myself, and I’m still going to fulfill my duty.”
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Former Fountain resident testifies on PFASs in D.C.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 5:43 PM

Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett. - COURTESY OF MARK FAVORS
  • Courtesy of Mark Favors
  • Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett.
An Army veteran who grew up near Peterson Air Force Base was among those in attendance at a House subcommittee hearing March 6 on Capitol Hill. The subject: PFASs, a toxic group of chemicals found in household products and military firefighting foam, and their effects on health and the environment.

Lawmakers questioned representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense while holding up the stories of those — including former Fountain resident Mark Favors — who have been personally affected by the military's decades-long use of the chemicals. PFASs, which researchers have linked to low birth weights, liver and kidney cancer, and thyroid problems, leached into the drinking water supply in areas surrounding hundreds of military installations around the world.
"Mark Favors is a U.S. Army veteran who had 16 family members, 16 family members, diagnosed with cancer, all of whom lived next to the Peterson Air Force Base in Fountain, Colorado," Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment, said in his opening remarks. "Several of those family members are also veterans."
The Department of Defense has taken some actions to address PFASs, including implementing a new type of firefighting foam that it says is safer for public health and the environment. And on Feb. 14, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed its long-awaited PFAS action plan, announcing it would start the process for setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for two chemicals in the PFAS group, PFOA and PFOS.
But for many lawmakers and advocates, the steps outlined in the plan weren't enough to address the problem, and to hold the Department of Defense accountable for contamination of communities. (Read more on the plan here.)

And Congress is bringing on the pressure.

The same day as the subcommittee hearing, a group of senators signed a letter demanding copies of communications between the EPA, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Health and Human Services regarding the PFAS Action Plan and groundwater cleanup guidelines.

And Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) were among a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a bill on March 1 that would require the EPA to designate PFASs as hazardous substances, making polluters responsible for funding cleanup. (An identical bill was introduced in the House in January.)


At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Katie Hill, D-California, began her question for Dave Ross, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, by saying she had been born on an Air Force base where high concentrations of PFAS chemicals had been detected. She asked Ross whether he, like embattled former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, would call PFAS contamination a "national emergency."

"We do believe it is a major national issue for EPA and our federal partners to address," Ross said, citing the agency's successful effort to get manufacturers to voluntarily pull products containing PFOA and PFOS off the market.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, told the story of a woman who grew up in Warminster, Pennsylvania near the Naval Air Warfare Center.

"[Hope] Grosse was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 25 years old," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Ms. Grosse's father died of cancer at 52 years of age, and her sister suffered from ovarian cysts, lupus, fibromyalgia and abdominal aneurysms. She worries that she has unwittingly exposed her own children to [PFAS] chemicals as well... Mr. Ross, do you believe that the EPA should further regulate these chemicals?"

"Yes, and that’s what we’ve stated in our action plan," Ross replied. "We have a robust plan to regulate these chemicals across a wide variety of our programs."

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, asked whether the Department of Defense knew how many active service members, veterans and their families had had been exposed to the chemicals.

"Our health affairs staff is going to be conducting a health study and creating an inventory of those service members that have been exposed through drinking water or occupational exposure and work in coordination with the Veterans Administration to share that information," replied Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment.

The hearing was held the same day that Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, released an updated map with information on 106 military sites where drinking water or groundwater is contaminated with PFASs. (The Department of the Defense has said that there are 401 sites in the U.S. alone with known or suspected contamination.)

The group also released a report with several recommendations for Congress and President Donald Trump's administration.

While the problem of PFAS contamination has persisted for decades without major enforcement actions by the federal government, Congress's renewed interest could move the needle on the issue, says Melanie Benesh, Environmental Working Group's legislative attorney.
"I think Congress will continue to push the [EPA] and do everything that they’re doing now —introducing bills, holding oversight hearings — and I think the states have an important role to play," Benesh says. "State policy tends to move federal policy and tends to move marketplace actions... And then there’s a whole grassroots network of people who have been affected by these chemicals, particularly veterans and military families, and those voices really matter."

Peterson Air Force Base replaced the old firefighting foam in all of its emergency response vehicles in 2016, a spokesperson said. The new, supposedly safer formula is only used in emergencies, and not during training.

Water districts surrounding the base have changed water sources or filtration systems since evidence of contamination began to emerge in 2015.

But the spread of PFASs in drinking water left lasting effects that should have been addressed by the state, Favors argues.

"Despite having a budget surplus in 2018 of over $1.1 billion, the state of Colorado still has not
conducted a formal investigation on the scope of the PFAS contamination, conducted PFAS
blood level tests of our affected children, nor passed legally enforceable MCLs of PFAS in
drinking water," Favors, now a New York resident, wrote in his testimony to Congress.

Favors goes on to list the 10 blood relatives and in-laws he has lost to cancer, all of whom lived for years near Peterson Air Force Base.
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Fort Carson's privately managed housing isn't safe, residents say

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 4:09 PM

Balfour Beatty Communities manages family housing on Fort Carson and 54 other installations. - COURTESY OF FORT CARSON
  • Courtesy of Fort Carson
  • Balfour Beatty Communities manages family housing on Fort Carson and 54 other installations.

As horrors apparently common to privately managed military housing — such as mold, rodents and lead paint — move into the national spotlight, dozens of soldiers and their families who live on Fort Carson seized the opportunity to speak up.

At a town hall Feb. 21, where Garrison Commander Col. Brian Wortinger invited those who live on post to share their concerns, soldiers and their spouses expressed frustration with poor conditions and a maintenance team that took hours, days or weeks to respond to potential safety hazards.

"The biggest problem that my family faces in our house is mice. Mice everywhere. Mice all the time," one woman said, adding that she found evidence of the critters in her son's crib and baby food.

"What are you guys going to do to actually rid our homes of these pests? Because they’re disgusting and a huge safety hazard for our families," she finished to applause.

Fort Carson held the town hall the week after Army Secretary Mark Esper announced that he was "deeply troubled" by reports of "deficient conditions in some of our family housing" and had ordered the Department of the Army Inspector General to look into the problems.

That announcement came the same day witnesses at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing horrified lawmakers with stories of mold, pests, lead paint and resulting health problems. Their stories aren't unique: Survey results released Feb. 13 by the Military Family Advisory Network showed that out of nearly 17,000 respondents, more than half reported a "negative" or "very negative" experience living on military installations.

"Military families are living in dangerous situations with reports of the existence of black
mold, lead paint, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of
vermin, insects, and other animals (e.g., bats, skunks, and squirrels) in their homes," the report said. "Families report illnesses with life-long implications caused by poor housing conditions."

The problems are widespread: Survey participants lived in 46 states, in housing managed by 35 different companies. But about half of respondents lived in housing managed by two companies: Lincoln Military Housing and Balfour Beatty Communities, the latter of which counts Fort Carson among the 55 military installations it serves.

At the town hall, representatives of Balfour Beatty were apologetic but offered little variation in their responses to resident complaints, mostly repeating that issues with maintenance and safety shouldn't have occurred, and that the company was changing its procedures to prevent them from recurring. They asked those who raised concerns to speak with them personally after the town hall, and had maintenance teams on hand to address major safety issues that night.

"I agree, sir," said Christy McGrath, Balfour Beatty's community manager, after one man told her it had taken far too long for someone to repair his heater after it stopped working at 3 a.m. one winter night. He wrapped his young children in blankets while waiting for maintenance, which didn't arrive until around noon the next day.

Winter heating outages are classified as "emergencies," McGrath said, and should be addressed within the hour.

"We are putting things in place and bringing in additional resources to make sure that we meet your customer service need in the time frames that we have pushed," she said. "We’re here tonight to hear from you, hear where our blind spots are."

The company plans to hire a residential satisfaction specialist, said Project Director Steve McIntire, and will begin issuing email surveys and following up on work orders to get residents' feedback on services.

The town hall was also streamed on Facebook Live, where it drew hundreds of angry comments.

Col. Wortinger said this meeting would be the first of several addressing immediate problems, and that the garrison would hold them regularly afterwards. Assessment teams will visit neighborhoods in March, he said, to check on potential hazards like asbestos and peeling paint.

Wortinger said that at the request of senior leadership, he would be "personally tracking" health- and safety-related work orders, and asked residents to reach out to him if their issues weren't being solved by Balfour Beatty.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Space Force: A good thing or a farce?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 11:50 AM

Don't expect a large influx of money to pour into Peterson Air Force Base after President Trump signed an executive order on Feb. 19 creating the Space Force under the auspices of the Air Force.

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While Peterson Air Force Base hosts Air Force Space Command, an expert in space and military issues says the most obvious impact of the order will be adding a four-star general to oversee the Space Force and, possibly, the creation of new uniforms and insignia.

"I just don’t know how this helps," former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe tells the Independent by phone. "The only thing I’ve been able to land on is it’s a terrific solution, but what is it we’re trying to fix? I don't know what this is going to accomplish."

But others disagree, saying the Space Force might spawn more research and development spending. As reported by Bloomberg Business Week, a Department of Defense report to Congress last  year outlined plans to build a force to defend U.S. interests in space by creating aggressive offensive capabilities. These systems would "degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate adversary capabilities,” according to the report.

From Bloomberg's report:
A Space Force could mean bigger research and development budgets. Some in Congress have called for weapons that could destroy ballistic missiles from space. On a more workaday level, the Space Force would likely take over the job, now performed elsewhere in the Air Force, of tracking the world’s active satellites to make sure they don’t collide with one another or with space debris and to notify owners to reposition their satellites if there’s a possibility of impact.
O'Keefe, who headed NASA from 2001 to 2004 and previous served as Secretary of the Navy, is skeptical a Space Force is necessary.
Sean O'Keefe, former Navy Secretary and head of NASA, is skeptical of whether creating a Space Force will have much effect on national defense. - COURTESY SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy Syracuse University
  • Sean O'Keefe, former Navy Secretary and head of NASA, is skeptical of whether creating a Space Force will have much effect on national defense.
"This directive or organizational construct, I don’t know if it helps or hurts or does much of anything other than creating another four-star or another debate in the Pentagon that likes to debate belt buckle sizes," he says. "This has created an interesting organizational realignment at the Pentagon that will consume all the air in the room where they debate where the deck chairs go."

O'Keefe, who now serves as a professor at Syracuse University, said placing the Space Force within the Air Force is better than creating an entirely separate branch of the military. The latter move would have required standing up the bureaucracy, including a Space Force secretary, that accompanies any military branch. "In the end, the question I find interesting is that any time you create those types of structures, they become organisms that will work very hard to protect their own portfolio and strengthen their capacity of having some kind of influence," he says. "I don’t know if that particularly helps in this case."

Of more interest, O'Keefe says, is the Pentagon's intent, also announced Feb. 19, to create U.S. Space Command as a combatant command, like Pacific Command, European Command or Central Command.

"That does speak to operational focus and attention," he says. "That’s something that does put the operational commanders in a position where they will have the capacity to reach into the full array of Department of Defense assets for the deployment of capabilities, whether Army, Navy or Space Force of the Air Force.

Created in 1985 but de-emphasized after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which gave birth to U.S. Northern Command (based at Peterson AFB), U.S. Space Command essentially merged with U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska.

No announcement has been made where U.S. Space Command would be based.

But as for the Space Force, O'Keefe says it's the nation's shot across the bow, so to speak, to countries who have flexed their muscle, such as North Korea and China. But the rising threat of those who would wreak havoc in space isn't necessarily addressed simply by naming a a new division of an existing military branch, he says.

But it does send a signal to adversaries, James Carafano, a military and national security expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says in an essay. "It's time for America to think big again," he writes.

From Carafano's August 2018 commentary:
No one doubts that Americans civilians as well as military personnel are heavily dependent on what we have in space. Assets "up there" do everything from make the internet work to detect the flight path of ballistic missiles. Our space-based assets inform our weather forecasts and help guide us to our destinations with GPS.

Just as there is no doubt about our reliance on the things we've put in space, so there is no doubt that these valuable assets are vulnerable to everything from cyber attacks to satellites being shot down by hostile powers. And no serious analyst questions the growing capability of Russia and China to wage war in space.

For Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee's Readiness Subcommittee, a new Space Force sends a message that Trump takes national security seriously.

"President Trump's recognition that space is a war-fighting domain sends a clear message to our adversaries," Lamborn said in a statement. "The Pikes Peak region is already the epicenter of space defense and is prepared to support the president's efforts."

But the idea of taking the military fight into orbit troubles some citizens, among them Bill Sulzman, a peace activist in Colorado Springs.

"The Air Force and the Colorado Air Force complex will be pleased by this development," Sulzman tells the Indy via email. "They did not want a totally separate free standing Space Force. Local Air Force bases will continue to grow robustly. Cha ching! The next big battle will be to see if Cyber War gets a separate branch or if the Air Force gets to keep cyber under their wings going forward. Big money there, too."

Trump's move to create a Space Force must be approved by Congress.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Chick-fil-A executive's planned speech at AFA draws criticism

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 10:20 AM

The Falcon football team kneels in the end zone to pray in a past season, a show of religion opposed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • The Falcon football team kneels in the end zone to pray in a past season, a show of religion opposed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
UPDATE: Two organizations, the National Organization for Women and the California Council of Churches, are urging Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria to "disinvite" Rodney Bullard from the Academy's Character and Leadership Symposium.

The letters:
We've asked the Academy for a comment and will update if and when we hear back.

—————-ORIGINAL POST 10:20 A.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13, 2019————————-

A speaker at the Air Force Academy's Character and Leadership Development Symposium on Feb. 21-22 has drawn the attention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Rodney Bullard, vice president of Chick-fil-A's vice president of corporate social responsibility, is an Academy grad, but the MRFF says Chick-fil-A has a record of funding anti-LGBT groups.

Chick-fil-A has been working on changing its image, as we report in the Feb. 13 issue.

In a letter to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, MRFF demands the school withdraw its invitation to Bullard and calls the decision to invite Bullard "another wretched example, in a long line of such despicable instances, of fundamentalist Christian-based homophobic oppression by USAFA."

Rodney Bullard, former U.S. Attorney who worked at NASA. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • Rodney Bullard, former U.S. Attorney who worked at NASA.
The MRFF likened the invitation to asking "Harvey Weinstein to speak at a USAFA forum on women’s civil rights." Weinstein is a Hollywood producer facing charges of sexual assault.

MRFF also notes the Academy has invited other speakers in the past which MRFF deemed inappropriate, thus leading MRFF to accuse the school of "pushing a sectarian, fundamentalist Christian, religious extremist agenda."

MRFF represents 12 LGBT clients among the Academy's cadet wing, staff and faculty, the letter says.

We asked the Academy to respond to MRFF's protest of Bullard's appearance but didn't hear back before the Independent's press time. But we did hear after that, so are posting the response from an Academy spokesperson in full:
We selected speakers whose stories will highlight this year's theme of
Leadership, Teamwork, and Organizational Management. Each speaker will focus on the value, successes, and challenges at the personal,
interpersonal, team, and/or organizational levels. Their wide-ranging
backgrounds, diversity of thought, and comprehensive leadership experiences will enable their listeners to appreciate the many opportunities life offers in fashioning pathways to success. That each speaker has an individual viewpoint on different aspects of our culture enhances the NCLS mission to present a rich variety of outlooks and perspectives to our audiences, which we feel is in keeping with the tenets of a liberal education.

NCLS participants are free to choose which presentations they attend, and we're confident that each speaker's presentation will prove invaluable to our cadets to aid in their character development and in honing their leadership skills in their pursuit as Air Force officers. 
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Thursday, January 31, 2019

UPDATE: Air Force Academy sees drop in sexual assault reports

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 5:04 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
UPDATE:
Just in from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria:
We are fully engaged in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault at the Academy. Harm to any one of us is unacceptable, and we will not rest until every cadet at the Academy is in an environment where they can focus solely on their professional and personal development as exceptional leaders of character in the U.S. Air Force.

As leaders, we remain committed to tackling this issue head-on. We've already taken numerous steps in the past year including changes to our alcohol policy, implementation of a 'Safe to Report' policy encouraging cadets to come forward without fear of punishment for minor misconduct, and progress on implementation of an anonymous reporting option to eliminate perceived reporting barriers. We have worked diligently to create new programs and adjust existing ones in order to better serve our cadets.

With support of the Secretary of the Air Force, we will aggressively work to further the national dialogue on sexual assault and harassment prevention. In April she, other service secretaries, civilian college and university leaders, DoD and academy leadership, subject matter experts and members of Congress will hold a summit to discuss the scourge of sexual harassment and assault facing colleges and universities. We are excited to attend this summit as we focus on best practices and continue to work toward a culture that will not tolerate harm to one another, where survivors are empowered to come forward, and where anyone violating our values is held accountable.

————————ORIGINAL POST 5:04 P.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 31——————————-

The Air Force Academy's number of sexual assault reports received in academic year 2017-18 declined, while reports at the other two service academies climbed.

That's one finding of the Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Violence and Harassment at the Military Service Academies, released on Jan. 31.

According to the report:
• The Military Academy saw an increase in reports of sexual assault, receiving 56 reports, up from 50 reports last year.
• The Naval Academy received 32 reports, up from 29 the previous year.
• The Air Force Academy received 29 reports, a decline from 33 last year.

But the estimated rate of sexual harassment at the Air Force Academy remained statistically unchanged at 46 percent for female cadets (47 percent in 2016), and 13 percent of male cadets (11 percent in 2016), DoD reported.

However, the Defense Department report says fewer cadets and midshipmen made harassment complaints this year than last year. In total, only seven informal complaints and no formal complaints were made at all three academies, down from 16 informal complaints the prior year. The Air Force Academy received one.

Those aren't numbers the military should boast about, says Protect Our Defenders, a human rights organization focused on ending sexual assault in the military. In a news release, the organization said:
The Pentagon report shows a continued failure to address the crisis of sexual assault and harassment. Sexual assault reports skyrocketed 47% since the last report was last released in 2017. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 12.2% of women, or 507 victims, reported sexual assault, and from 2017-2018, that number rose to 15.8%, or 747 victims. The rate of sexual assault has doubled since over the last four years. This year’s report also shows that over 50% of the women attending the academies were sexual harassed in the academic year.
Excessive drinking has long been associated with sexual assault, so the survey delved into that topic and found:

• Military Academy: 17 percent of female cadets and 35 percent of male cadets reported alcohol use consistent with heavy drinking (5 or more drinks). Also, 31 percent of men and 25 percent of women acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember what happened the night before due to drinking.

• Naval Academy: 18 percent of women and 38 percent of men indicated use consistent with heavy drinking, and 28 percent women and 30 percent men acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember what happened the night before due to drinking.

• Air Force Academy: About 10 percent of female cadets and 22 percent of male cadets reported use consistent with heavy drinking, while 21 percent of female cadets and 23 percent male cadets acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember the prior night’s events due to drinking.

We've asked for a comment from the Air Force Academy, which has had its share of sexual assault problems, and will update when we hear back.

Read the entire report at the link provided above at the start of this blog.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Colorado Springs businesses supporting unpaid federal workers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 1:34 PM

Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families.

As of Jan. 23, the longest-ever federal government shutdown was in its 33rd day — and though Senate Republicans and Democrats scheduled votes for Jan. 24 on two competing bills to refund the government, there was no clear resolution in sight for hundreds of thousands of federal employees who've been furloughed or are working without pay.


Several local businesses have stepped up to offer deals and giveaways for those affected by the shutdown. Here's a list (and if there's a business you don't see here, feel free to email faith@csindy.com with additional suggestions):

• Poor Richard's Restaurant, located at 324.5 N. Tejon St., has been offering free meals to ID-holding federal employees and their families since Jan. 3 — and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Pizza Baked Spaghetti. - COURTESY OF FAZOLI'S
  • Courtesy of Fazoli's
  • Pizza Baked Spaghetti.

• Fazoli's is offering free meals of Pizza Baked Spaghetti with regular drink purchase throughout the shutdown. Limit one meal per ID-holding guest per day. Colorado Springs locations:

Cheyenne Mountain
1790 E. Cheyenne Mt. Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Austin Bluffs
3607 Austin Bluffs Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80918

• McDivitt Law Firm is giving away $40 King Soopers gift cards through 5 p.m. Jan. 23. Present a valid federal ID card at one of the following locations:

Downtown Colorado Springs
19 E. Cimarron Street
Colorado Springs, 80903

Aurora
14261 E. 4th Avenue, Suite 300
Aurora, 80011

Pueblo
409 North Grand Avenue, Suite D
Pueblo, 81003

• YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is suspending monthly dues for member families and offering free day passes to nonmember families affected by the shutdown. Just present a federal ID at one of the YMCA's 18 local facilities.

• PB&T Bank is offering $3,000 unsecured loans at 6 percent APR with approved credit for families affected by the shutdown. Customers don't have to have a PB&T bank account, and there are no extra fees. Contact Mary Mangino at 719-585-2302 or mmangino@pbant.bank to apply.

• Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is offering free tickets to the short film, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There, to federal employees and their immediate family members through February. The show runs every 20 minutes at the center's Geo-Trekker theater, located at 1805 N. 30th St.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Fountain, Security, Widefield residents have higher-than-normal blood levels of toxic PFASs, study finds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 10:03 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Residents south of Colorado Springs whose drinking water supply was contaminated with toxic PFASs have high levels of the chemicals in their blood, according to initial results from a study from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines.

Researchers collected 220 blood samples from people who lived in the Fountain, Security and Widefield communities for at least three years before August 2015. While drinking water in those water systems is now being treated for PFASs, used in Air Force firefighting chemicals, some residents were exposed to the toxic compounds for years before government agencies recognized their potential dangers.


(Wondering why we are now referring to the chemicals as PFASs, though we referred to them as PFCs in other stories? Read this from the Environmental Protection Agency.)

Little is known about the health effects of PFASs in humans. However, studies on laboratory animals have shown that high concentrations of certain chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, immunological effects and tumors, according to the EPA. The most consistent finding among human studies is increased cholesterol, with more limited findings related to cancer, thyroid hormone effects, infant birth weights and adverse effects on the immune system.


The initial results of the study revealed that study participants had blood levels of one toxic compound, PFHxS, that were about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were higher than those for residents in other communities that were highly exposed to PFASs.

Study participants had about twice as much PFOS, another chemical in the PFASs group, as the general population. Previous studies have linked this chemical to thyroid hormone effects in humans.


For study participants, levels of the chemical PFOA — which human studies have linked to cancer — were 40 to 70 percent higher than U.S. levels.

To understand what residents may have been exposed to before water suppliers changed sources or added treatment systems in 2015, researchers also measured PFASs in the untreated wells that communities used prior to that. Total PFASs in the untreated wells ranged from 18 to 2300 ppt.

The Environmental Protection Agency's current acceptable standard for drinking water is 70 ppt, though a June study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicated safe levels could be as low as 12 ppt.

Researchers plan to present more results in the first half of 2019, and will begin recruiting more participants for blood sampling in April.

The full presentation from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines is available on the study website and embedded below.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Canada lacks resources to fully cover NORAD obligations, auditor finds

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 2:52 PM

A CF-18 flying over Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. - DOD PHOTO BY MASTER SGT. JOHN GORDINIER
  • DoD Photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier
  • A CF-18 flying over Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada.

Canada doesn't have enough pilots or aircraft to cover obligations under NATO and North American Aerospace Defense Command, the bi-national command located at Peterson Air Force Base, according to a report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Flightglobal.com and other news agencies report.

The problem stems from an aging fleet of aircraft, pilots leaving the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at a swifter clip than they can be replaced and a shortage of aircraft technicians. RCAF Capt. Cameron Hillier, spokesperson at NORAD, tells the Independent that while aware of the report, the command is confident there is no gap in coverage of the North American continent.

"We can pull assets from both countries," Hiller says. "NORAD is in a position to pull assets from both countries to address the threat. It's a matter of where the assets are and timely response. The RCAF and U.S. Air Force are meeting those needs."

According to the auditor's report, the RCAF has only 64 percent of the trained CF-18 pilots it needs to meet its commitments and that pilots are leaving faster than new ones can be trained, Flightglobal.com reports.

“According to National Defence, between April 2016 and March 2018, the Royal Canadian Air Force lost 40 trained fighter pilots and produced only 30 new ones. Since then, an additional 17 fighter pilots left or stated their intention to leave,” says the Auditor General.

Also from the Auditor General's report:
Since 2014, departures of experienced CF-18 technicians have reduced the overall expertise of the fighter force, which has negatively affected fleet maintenance. Because of these departures, from 2014 until 2018, the average maintenance hours needed for every hour that a CF-18 flew increased from 21 to 24. In addition, as the fleet ages, it will become more difficult and take longer for technicians to maintain the CF-18s.
The report also notes in the 2017-18 fiscal year, 28 percent of pilots flew fewer than the required 140 hours, partly due to the shortage of personnel to maintain the aircraft.
Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team perform a flyover during the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony on Peterson Air Force Base on May 12. The ceremony and static display of various NORAD aircraft was the culmination of a three-day event, which included a media tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the dedication of a cairn outside the commands’ headquarters building memorializing the Canadians who have passed away while serving NORAD, and a fly over in missing-man formation performed by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team. - DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PHOTO BY JHOMIL BANSIL
  • Defense Department Photo By Jhomil Bansil
  • Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team perform a flyover during the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony on Peterson Air Force Base on May 12. The ceremony and static display of various NORAD aircraft was the culmination of a three-day event, which included a media tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the dedication of a cairn outside the commands’ headquarters building memorializing the Canadians who have passed away while serving NORAD, and a fly over in missing-man formation performed by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team.
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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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