Entries in Military (78)


Sergeant Accused of Recording Female Cadets in Bathroom

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WEST POINT, N.Y.) -- A sergeant first class is accused of photographing and videotaping female cadets by planting hidden cameras in the bathroom and showers at West Point.

Sergeant Michael McClendon is under investigation by the Army after being accused of taking dozens of naked photos and videos of female cadets over a nearly five-year period. 

He has been removed from duty Thursday morning and was sent to Ft. Drum in upstate New York as the investigation continued.

McClendon lived and worked with cadets at West Point. In fact, his job description says he was there to coach and train them on leadership and responsibility.

“I think this behavior absolutely damages the reputation of West Point,” said Anu Bhagwati with the Service Women's Action Network. “I mean, West Point is considered the elite academy.”

“They're serious charges but they really scratch the surface of what's happening at West Point, what's happening in all the other academies,” Bhagwati continued.

A pentagon report released this spring estimated that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year alone.

Last month Lt. Col Jeffrey Krusinski, who was in charge of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention Program, was arrested and charged with fondling a woman in a suburban Washington, D.C. parking lot.



Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marine Commandant: Women Might Not Be Used for Some Combat Roles

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Pentagon's decision to allow women into combat roles could still exclude them from certain jobs, Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has told USA Today.

Amos says the Marines won't lower physical standards for certain specialties, insisting his branch of the service "can't make adjustments on what's required on the battlefield."

The general maintained that if only a small number of women qualify for certain jobs, then the Marines will keep those positions exclusive to men.

However, Amos believes "Those will be few and far between."  Currently, there are 30 combat roles in the Marines that aren't open to women in the service.

In reversing a ban last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said women should be eligible for all fields, including infantry, tanks, artillery and other combat arms, although the entire process could take years to complete.

Whatever fields remain closed to women will ultimately be up to whoever is the new defense secretary since Panetta is retiring soon.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


U.S. Marine Surprises Sons at College Football Game

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- When 10-year-old Noah Ricafrente and his 8-year-old brother, Elijah, got tickets to the Eastern Carolina University football game with the rest of their Pop Warner football team, it was a big deal.

When the two brothers from Cherry Point, N.C., got to go onto the field during halftime for a contest to try out their football skills, it was an even bigger deal.

When their father, Josh Ricafrente, a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, walked out onto the stadium’s football field, it was the surprise of their lives.  

Ricafrente, a 12-year service veteran, had been deployed in Afghanistan for the past five months, missing his sons’ entire football season playing for the local Craven Bearcats.  When he heard from his wife, Jenie, that his sons would be going to Eastern Carolina’s Nov. 3 game with their team, he got an idea.

“I was talking to my wife and said it’d be cool if I could surprise the kids at the ECU game,” Ricafrente told ABC News on Friday.

In a small-world connection, one of the boys’ Pop Warner coaches knew someone at the university and, just like that, Ricafrente’s dream turned into reality.

“My wife did all of the communicating until I got back, and then they just told me where I needed to be,” he said.  “I just thought it was going to be fun to do, but ECU made it reality.”

Noah, who was 9-months-old when his father deployed the first time, and Elijah, who wasn’t even born then, thought their dad would be returning home next month, in time for the holidays.

Instead, they watched their dad on the stadium’s big screen in a taped message right before the halftime contest began and then saw him ”live” just moments after.

“You can see Noah’s face," Ricafrente said, referring to the video of the moment that was posted on and has quickly gone viral.  “He was surprised, excited, overwhelmed.”

“Everybody started crying,” he said of the crowd in the stands. “Everybody screamed, and I heard in the background they were chanting USA, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Ricafrente said his sons were happy to have their dad back home, but none of them can believe the attention they’ve received since the surprise homecoming.

“Even at school people come up to them to say that they saw it and it was cool, and they’re glad their dad is back,” Ricafrente said. “I think it’s amazing.  That’s something they’ll never forget.”

Ricafrente said he has not yet received any indication that he’ll be deployed a third time but, as a Marine, he stands ready.

“We’re U.S. military so whenever we need to, we do what we do,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds: Notorious Alleged Con Man 'Bobby Thompson' Was Military Spy

Courtesy US Marshals(NEW YORK) -- Authorities revealed on Monday that they believe "Bobby Thompson," the man accused of using a fake veterans charity to swindle more than $100 million and to rub shoulders with top-level Republicans, is actually a former military intelligence officer named John Donald Cody.

Officials said Cody has been on an FBI watch list for 25 years after being accused of various frauds and was wanted for questioning related to an espionage investigation, as first reported by The Tampa Bay Times.

After apparently evading arrest for more than two decades, the man known as Thompson was charged in Ohio in 2010 on counts of identity theft, fraud and money laundering in connection with a bogus charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association that raised more than $100 million from unsuspecting donors around the country over seven years, as detailed in an ABC News investigation.

To help enhance the charity's credibility, Thompson allegedly used some of the money to make large campaign contributions to prominent politicians, most of them Republicans, including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Ohio Rep. John Boehner, now Speaker of the House.  He attended events with the political figures, and posed proudly for now infamous photos with them.

Cody was arrested in May in connection with the charity scam, but refused to reveal his true identity, signing any papers with the letter "X."

Thompson led authorities on a cross-country manhunt that a U.S. Marshal called "one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date."

But even after he was caught, the man proved to be a challenge for officials.  When taken to court days after his arrest, the man then-known as Thompson dared prosecutors to discover his identity.

When a judge asked him if he had the educational background to represent himself in court, he refused to answer.

"With all due respect to the court, the question you asked is an identity question," he said.  "The state has alleged identity theft as part of their complaint.  I believe, your honor, that the state has the burden of proof as to that."

It is a tale ripped from Hollywood.  U.S. Marshals who finally caught him believe he modeled his life after the famous imposter from the blockbuster Catch Me If You Can.  A copy of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie was among the few personal possessions he kept at a Portland, Ore., boarding house.

Though he lacks the suave demeanor and dashing looks of DiCaprio's character, no one involved in his capture would sell short his gifts as an alleged con man.  As the head of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, he oversaw a sophisticated charity operation with chapters in 41 states and was so confident in his ability to give the Navy Vets organization the appearance of a genuine charity, he hired Helen Mac Murray, a former prosecutor of charity fraud in the Ohio Attorney General's Office, to represent the group.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Four-Legged Robot Could Help Military Handle Rough Terrain

DARPA(WASHINGTON) -- A robotic pack mule being developed for the Pentagon by Boston Dynamics could give U.S. troops a leg up in terrain too rough even for military vehicles.

The mechanized four-legged robot, capable of carrying all the gear soldiers and Marines might need in combat, still faces two years of on-the-ground testing, but it appears to be the high-tech equivalent of the pack mule that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been looking for.

“A legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands,” DARPA said in a release about the project.

“Most of the earth is inaccessible to vehicles, wheeled or track,” said Marc Raibert, the president of Boston Dynamics, “but the animal kingdom can go anywhere with legs. So the idea is to go anywhere animals can go.”

Raibert’s company has been working for the last few years on DARPA’s goal and has had success with its biologically inspired robots.


Two years ago the company came up with an initial robot design known as “Big Dog,” which became an Internet video favorite a few years ago.

That 250-pound robot, whose initial design was eight years in the making, could be seen balancing its way through parking lots and hills while carrying a 100-pound load.  Most surprising was how the robot was able to maintain its balance even when pushed aside by a tester.

Based on that success, DARPA and the Marine Corps awarded Boston Dynamics a $32 million contract to come up with a bigger and more agile robot capable of carrying a heavier load than the original.

The new robot, called the Legged Support System, or LS3, weighs in at 800 pounds and is capable of carrying 400 pounds of cargo for 20 miles.

Two completed prototypes have much quieter engines than the earlier design, new gaits and improved sensory perception.  That’s because Raibert says it’s not just about replicating an animal’s legs, but its smarts, too.

The LS3 has a camera sensor system that provides the “eyes” it needs to make smart decisions about where it should go on a wild terrain.  “Ears” for the LS3 are also on the way, so the robot can to respond to simple commands.

The robotic pack mules will now undergo two more years of field testing with the military that will be topped off with a Marine Corps Advanced Warfighting Experiment where the LS3 will be embedded with a Marine squad for an operational exercise.

“We’ve refined the LS3 platform and have begun field testing against requirements of the Marine Corps,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager. “The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal.”

Rainert said he is confident that the robotic pack mules might one day be used by combat troops.

He also doesn’t think it’s a big stretch to imagine robots becoming man’s best friend of the future.

“Look at how attached people are to their cell phones,” Raibert said.  “People can easily get attached to technology and I don’t see why they can’t get attached to this.”

It’s not the only biologically inspired robot design from Raibert’s company that has caught the public’s fancy.

Last week the company released video of its “cheetah” robot, which like its namesake is designed for speed.

During recent testing it reached a top speed of 28 mph -- not exactly up to pace with a real cheetah, but faster than Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s fastest speed at 27.8 mph.

Quite an accomplishment given that most robots can only reach top speeds of 10 mph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Funeral Protesters Vow to Defy New Law

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its noisy protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, vowed Tuesday to defy a new bill signed by President Obama that would require that they be kept at least 300 feet from a soldier’s funeral.

Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law on Monday.

Among the 50 provisions in the legislation that range from benefits for military personnel to healthcare and education is a clause that restricts protesters from gathering within 300 feet of a military funeral two hours before or two hours after a funeral service has taken place.

“We have a moral sacred duty to our men and women in uniform,” Obama said before signing the bill. “The graves of our veterans are hallowed grounds.”

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., tweeted their reaction Tuesday, suggesting they will still protest.

“Pass your laws, @barackobama but your soldiers = still dying. Like @usmarinecorps Gunnery Sgt Dan Price. #PicketFuneral,” wrote one member

Another church member expressed his anger over the new law. “They speak for whole nation. #FagsDoomNations MT@MaxineMagazine: Congress Gives Middle Finger To God via @instinctmag” one Westboro member tweeted.

Church member Steve Drain, 47, told ABC News, “It wont affect what we do at all. We are still going to be out there at soldiers funerals warning people that America is doomed.”

“We will do it in a lawful fashion. We will stand 301 feet away. There is prime preaching real estate at 301 feet” he declares.  "My voice can carry a lot farther than 300 feet. That is only the size of a football field,” he said.

The church is known for its extreme ideological standings, especially those relating to homosexuality.

The church links the deaths of service members to America’s acceptance of gays and has a webpage full of press releases highlighting the picketing schedule of military service member funerals.

The legislation appears to contradict a 2011 Supreme Court ruling which established that the First Amendment protects members of the Westboro Baptist Church in holding their provocative, anti-gay protests during military funeral services.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Military Base Same-Sex Wedding Held in NJ

Courtesy of Jeff Sheng(WRIGHTSTOWN, N.J.) -- Two men became the first same-sex couple to marry on a military base when they held their wedding ceremony last month at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and his partner, Will Behrens, married June 23 on the base where Umali, an active member of the Air Force, had been stationed.  It was a decision that would have been unthinkable just nine months ago, before the law requiring them to keep their relationship a secret was repealed.

“We asked [about holding the ceremony on the base], and they were very open about it, but [said], ‘No one has ever asked us this question before,’” Umali said in a Facebook chat hosted by Slate.  “We did not get any push back from the base or leadership.  All they asked was that we be patient because this was the very first one.”

Both men say this positive reaction is the same sort of response they have gotten since going public with their relationship to Umali’s peers in the military.  After Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed last September, Umali decided to open up about his relationship with Behrens.

At a farewell luncheon hosted for him on his military base before he left for a special assignment, Umali came out in a very public way.  In a speech in front of 40 fellow airmen, he thanked his partner and fiancé.  His fellow airmen responded with a standing ovation, according to Slate.

About 150 friends and family attended the ceremony, which was officiated by Evangelical Lutheran Church Navy Chaplain Kay Reeb.

Not everybody has been so accepting of their relationship, however.  Both men grew up in strict religious families.  Behrens’ parents don’t approve of his homosexuality, and Umali’s parents in the Philippines are still struggling with his homosexuality.

Both Behrens and Umali were previously married to women, and both have two children, all of whom were at the wedding.

“One thing that we know and want to show our kids is to be true to yourself and love everyone no matter what,” Umali said.  “This is a victory for us because our kids still love us and we love each other and that is what they see.”

The family of six all went to Disneyland after the ceremony.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Debris Found on Alaskan Glacier from 1952 Plane Crash?

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- Military officials think debris they found on an Alaskan glacier is actually the remains of a military plane that went down 60 years ago, killing all 52 people onboard.

It will take at least six years to be sure because officials need to process DNA samples from relatives and compare them to the victims' remains, according to reports.

The Alaska National Guard discovered the wreckage on June 10, and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command was called in to assess the site and recover material from it, according to a press release from JPAC, which specializes in recovering missing soldiers from past conflicts and returning them home.

The team found life support equipment and possible human bones, according to the release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gay Military Members Honored in First-Ever Pentagon Ceremony

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time ever, the Defense Department held a ceremony honoring homosexual and transgender service members in honor of Gay Pride Month at the Pentagon.

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta each sent a taped video message for the standing-room only event.

“Before the repeal of Don’t ask Don’t Tell you faithfully served  your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself,” said Panetta. “And now after repeal you can be proud of serving your country and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that required gay men and women members of the military to hide their sexual orientation, was repealed more than a year ago. The Defense Department did an extensive study before the appeal was implemented to try and gauge the potential impacts of the law’s repeal on morale.

Tuesday’s program featured a panel discussion with a small group of gay servicemen and women who said that they were surprised most of their colleagues haven’t treated them any differently in the last year.  The biggest change, the panel said, has been how they feel about themselves now that they no longer have to choose between serving their country and being themselves.

“The president hosted a reception at his house, you know the white one,” Marine Captain Matthew Phelps said jokingly before reflecting on what that invitation meant. "And I thought, 'how amazing is it over the course of a year that I could go from being fired for being who I am to having champagne with the commander-in-chief.'”

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top attorney who was one of the officials in charge of conducting the DADT survey, said that many service members, particularly of the younger generation, didn’t understand the controversy with homosexuality in the military in the first place.

Johnson said one soldier told him, “We have a gay guy, he’s big, he’s mean and he kills lots of bad guys. We don’t care that he’s gay.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta on Military Suicides: 'We Can Do More, We Must Do More'

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- More active duty troops die from suicide than from combat, and the Pentagon chief is frustrated that efforts to prevent suicides are not succeeding.  And despite the Pentagon's efforts so far, suicides are going up among active duty troops – 25 percent higher just this spring.

Speaking at a conference on suicide prevention for service members, veterans and their families, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday called the uptick in suicides the "most frustrating challenge" of his position.

“We can do more, we must do more, and together we will do more to prevent suicides,” Panetta said, adding that “there are no easy answers here. There are no quick fixes. There are no simple solutions.”

The defense secretary said changes must start at the top. “Leaders throughout the department must make it understood that seeking help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the military now has 9,000 mental health professionals -- a one-third increase -- in hospitals, clinics, and even war zones.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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