Military

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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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Military property yields lots of game for hunters

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 4:25 PM

Bears are but one species hunted at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. - PHOTOS FROM WWW.FORTCARSON.ISPORTSMAN.NET
  • Photos from www.fortcarson.isportsman.net
  • Bears are but one species hunted at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Hunting anyone?

The Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), 236,000 acres in southeast Colorado used by the Army for exercises, is also quite the haven for hunters.

This is common knowledge to everyone except Independent reporters like me, apparently. I was astonished by all the big game being taken from the property, including bears, deer, big horn sheep and mountain lions.

The PCMS will be closed to hunting throughout the summer, however, because the property will be used for a rigorous training schedule that won't allow hunting times.
screen_shot_2017-06-05_at_4.44.26_pm.png
We checked in with Fort Carson, which has a hand in management of hunting there, and learned the following:

• Anyone who hunts at PCMS has to comply with Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations, including getting a hunting license for whatever species they're hunting.

• The Army limits hunters to age 12 and older and hunting education is required, in addition to range safety briefings.

screen_shot_2017-06-05_at_4.45.16_pm.png

• The only species that can't be hunted are prairie dogs and swift foxes, which have some level of protection by federal law. All hunting is confined to what's in season under state regulations.

• To find out more about the cost and other regulations on PCMS, go here.

For photos of the types of game taken from the site, check this out.
screen_shot_2017-06-05_at_4.43.56_pm.png

Fort Carson sent this information via email:
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) does not have any major hunting seasons that occur during the summer months on PCMS. The hunting seasons are determined by CPW, not Fort Carson.

Currently, there is not a sufficient amount of interest from recreationalists to justify the extra staff hours and money that would be required to remain open during the summer (outside of the main hunting seasons).
The Air Force Academy, too, allows certain recreational activities on base. Here's some additional information from the Academy's public affairs office:
Non-DoD guests may enter the North Gate 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and in addition to visiting such as the Cadet Chapel, Honor Court, etc., may hike our trails (including the Santa Fe Trail), bike, and jog in the Visitors Corridor in the north side of the base. They may also hike the on the Falcon Trail, but only that portion in the Visitors Corridor. More information about trails can be found on the Natural Resources website below.

Unescorted non-DoD visitors cannot go into restricted areas, such as the Cadet Wing, Base Housing and the Community Center, Base Exchange, or the Commissary.

In order to participate in most Academy recreational activities, visitors must meet the authorized patron category e.g. authorized DoD military/civilian employee, etc., card holders (retiree, DOD civilian, active duty, etc.) ...

Some of the Natural Resources Management Programs, such as hunting, may be available to non-DoD guests. A complete list of Natural Resources activities and who is eligible to participate in them can be found at https://usafa.isportsman.net/

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Transgender Air Force Academy cadet in holding pattern after graduation

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 5:27 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
A transgender Air Force Academy cadet who graduated on May 24 is being denied a commission because the military's policy on transgender service members doesn't address accessions.

Here's the New York Times' story about that cadet and also one who graduated this spring from the Military Academy at West Point:
WASHINGTON — Not long after the Pentagon lifted its ban on transgender troops last year, a West Point cadet named Riley Dosh came out as a transgender woman. She figured she would transition while serving in the Army, as other transgender soldiers have done.

“As cadets we’re told not to hide,” Ms. Dosh said. “So I felt it would be dishonest to continue hiding.”

But coming out of hiding has carried a price. Ms. Dosh, 22, is one of two transgender cadets — the other is at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs — caught in a kind of military limbo. After four years of training to become officers, they are being denied their commissions because of a loophole in Pentagon policy that its chief author says he did not foresee.

At issue are rules governing “accessions” — the military’s term for accepting new recruits or officer candidates.
So we checked in with the Academy to find out its stance on the issue. Turns out, as Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage explains via email, the Academy is "strongly recommending" the cadet pursue Air Force civil service as an option.

But the ship hasn't yet sailed on what might happen, because the Pentagon's policy on transgender people's accessions is under review. Here's the entire response from Herritage:
On June 30, 2016, Department of Defense policy changed to allow currently serving Airmen who have identified as transgender individuals to serve; this only covers Airmen currently in service, and not new accessions. Currently, there is an Air Force Academy cadet who has identified as a transgender individual. The cadet has graduated. But, per the current DoD transgender policy, the cadet cannot commission into the Air Force. However, we are strongly recommending this individual for Air Force civil service as an option for continued service after the Academy. The more than 140,000 Air Force civilians who serve along aside our uniformed Airmen everyday are essential to our mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

The DoD transgender accessions policy is currently under review and the Air Force Academy is actively involved in providing input. A significant contributing factor to this effort has been the Academy's multidisciplinary Transgender Working Group, which has been working with Headquarters Air Force to assist in policy determination specific to the Air Force Academy. The Academy is currently conducting the USAF directed training on the current policy and stands ready to execute higher headquarters instructions.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Drones are coming to Fort Carson

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 4:34 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
In this week's edition of the Independent, we reported that Fort Carson will soon be home to a Gray Eagle drone unit.

We'd asked the post to comment on the new addition, but didn't hear back prior to our press time. But Wednesday, the public affairs office sent this comment confirming the drones are on their way:
The Chief of Staff of the Army signed an executive order in 2013, directing each Army Division be fielded a Gray Eagle company. The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, will activate a Gray Eagle company in mid-June at Fort Carson in compliance with the executive order. The company will provide the division commanding general with dedicated Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) assets. 

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Newsweek: Religious preference undermines national security

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 2:32 PM

Weinstein: featured in Newsweek. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • Weinstein: featured in Newsweek.
The issue of fundamentalist Christianity infiltrating the U.S. military is examined in Newsweek.com this week, featuring the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

From the report:
Donald Trump’s election has led to such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a “national security threat,” according to information shared exclusively with Newsweek by an organization that represents and advocates for secular and minority religious views in the military.

The number of complaints from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other service branches to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has doubled in number since November 2016, according to lawyer Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, a former Air Force officer who founded the organization.
We've written many stories about Weinstein's battle against Christianity as the preferred religion in the military, such as this one and this one and this one.

More recently, the Independent has reported on steps President Trump is taking that some say reflect his preference for Christianity and his efforts to impose Christianity as the national religion, which would violate the U.S. Constitution.

In the Newsweek article, Weinstein is quoted as saying these measures are undermining the nation's security. A position paper by James Parco, former Air Force Academy professor who also taught at Colorado College, explores that premise.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jay B. Silveria nominated for Air Force Academy superintendent position

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 5:42 PM

Maj. Gen. Jay B. Silveria - COURTESY AIR FORCE
  • Courtesy Air Force
  • Maj. Gen. Jay B. Silveria
President Trump has nominated Maj. Gen. Jay B. Silveria to take over as superintendent of the Air Force Academy, the Academy announced in a news release Wednesday.

A 1985 Academy grad, Silveria is a command pilot with more than 3,900 flight hours in a variety of aircraft, including the F-35A and F-15C/E.

He's currently serving as deputy commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and deputy commander, Combined Air Force Component, U.S. Central Command, Southwest Asia.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will replace Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, who recently was named a finalist for the position of chancellor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs but was not chosen for the post.

Here's the release:
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced May 17 that President Donald Trump has nominated Maj. Gen. Jay B. Silveria for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general, and for assignment as superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy.

Silveria, a 1985 Academy graduate, most recently served as deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and deputy commander of the Combined Air Force Air Component, U.S. Central Command, Southwest Asia.

He will direct the Academy’s undergraduate academic program, cadet military and athletic training and character development, leading to a bachelor’s of science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant.

The general has nearly 4,000 hours of flight-time. He’s flown combat sorties over the Balkans and Iraq and served as vice commander at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Silveria is a command pilot who has flown T-37 and T-38 trainer aircraft, the F-15 Eagle, the HH-60 helicopter and F-35 Lightning.

He will take over command from Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson who has commanded the Academy for four years and is slated to retire later this year.

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