Entries in Soldiers (32)


Female Servicewomen Sue Pentagon over Combat Policy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Pentagon on behalf of four women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan but feel stifled "by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

Specifically, the servicewomen argue that the Defense Department's combat exclusion policy prevents them from achieving the same leadership roles as men.

In one instance, according to the ACLU, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, was shot down while rescuing three injured soldiers in Afghanistan and was forced to exchange fire with the enemy.

Although Hegar was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, she maintains she was kept from seeking other responsibilities due to the Pentagon's policy against women in ground combat.

Meanwhile, two of the plaintiffs led Marine Corps "female engagement teams" in Afghanistan and the fourth plaintiff, while in the Army, was sent on similar missions, accompanying combat troops in Afghanistan.

However, the ACLU says because the missions were temporary duties, they were not officially recognized by their services.

According to the ACLU, women make up 14 percent of the armed forces, with 1.4 million now actively serving.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Army Battalion Commander Killed in Fort Bragg Shooting

AbleStock/Thinkstock(FORT BRAGG, N.C.) -- A U.S. Army battalion commander was killed by a fellow soldier on Thursday in a shooting incident at Fort Bragg, N.C.  The alleged gunman then shot himself and is in custody; a third soldier was slightly injured in the shooting.

An Army statement said the shooting victim belonged to the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.  A battalion is a subordinate command within a brigade and is commanded by a lieutenant colonel.  The battalion involved in today’s shooting has not been identified.

A Defense official told ABC News that the shooting occurred Thursday afternoon as the battalion was gathered for a safety briefing in advance of the upcoming July 4 weekend.

The safety briefings are usually held by commanders to reinforce good patterns of behavior during holiday periods.

The official says that at some point during the safety briefing an enlisted soldier broke out of formation and pulled a handgun to shoot the battalion commander.  Another soldier was slightly injured during the shooting.  The gunman then shot himself.  He was taken into custody and is listed as being in serious condition.

This official says it is unclear if the handgun the enlisted soldier used in the shooting was a personal weapon or military issue.  Army bases usually keep firearms under lock and key at armories unless units are scheduled to use weapons at firing ranges.

The official said the incident occurred two blocks from the Corps’ headquarters.  An Army statement said, “Fort Bragg law enforcement and emergency responders secured the scene within minutes at the corner of Letterman and Armistead Streets.”

At a press briefing late Thursday evening Col. Kevin Arata, a spokesman for the XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, said, “This is a tragedy for our community.  We don’t yet know the reasons for the shooting, but are working with the unit and the affected families to help them through this difficult period.”  He added, "Our prayers are with those who have been affected by this terrible incident."

Special Agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command are investigating the shooting.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Visits Wounded Troops

Larry Marano/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- Following Thursday morning’s health care victory in the Supreme Court, President Obama spent the afternoon visiting wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The president awarded one Purple Heart and met with 52 wounded service members during his nearly three hour long visit, including 39 soldiers, nine marines, two sailors, an airman and a member of the Romanian Armed Forces, according to the White House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Military Suicides Up to Nearly One Per Day

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After leveling off the past two years, suicides among active duty service members are up in 2012, averaging to about one per day, according to new figures from the Pentagon.

ABC News has confirmed that through the first 155 days of this year, 154 troops have taken their lives, marking the fastest pace of suicides since the war in Afghanistan began.  That number is far greater in comparison to the same time period in 2010 and 2011, when 123 and 130 suicides, respectively, were reported.

The latest figure is also higher than the 136.2 suicides the Pentagon had projected through June 3, 2012, based on previous statistics.

Broken down by each branch of the Armed Forces, the Army had 80 suicides, the Air Force had 32, the Navy had 24 and the Marines -- the only branch that was on pace with the Pentagon's projection -- had 18.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Soldiers More Apt to Get into Car Accidents at Home After Deployments

Creatas/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) -- Overseas duty appears to affect the driving behavior of returning military personnel, making these motorists more careless on the roads, according to a survey by a major insurer of the armed forces and their families.

The USAA survey reveals that war veterans have gotten into 13 percent more accidents at which they’re at fault during their first six months back home compared to the six months prior to their deployment.

By and large, U.S. Army and Marine members who learned to drive aggressively in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were more prone to drive similarly once they returned to the states, experiencing higher accidents rates of 23 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

In contrast, the traffic accident rates of Navy members only rose three percent while accidents went up two percent for Air Force vets.

USAA also discovered that higher accident rates were directly related to a higher number of deployments.  Service members with three or more overseas tours were involved in 36 percent more accidents.  That number shrunk to 27 percent for two deployments and fell to 12 percent when a soldier was deployed only once.

Meanwhile, soldiers 22-years-old or younger were more prone to get into car accidents than those 29 or older.  Also, the higher the rank of the soldier, the lower the incidence of mishaps on the road.

USAA made its findings based on 158,000 members covering 171,000 deployments from February 2007 until February 2010.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Briefed on Photos of Soldiers Posing with Dead Suicide Bombers

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama was briefed on photos published Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times depicting U.S. military personnel posing with the dismembered bodies of suicide bombers.

Carney, speaking with reporters on Air Force One Wednesday, said he did not ask the president if he’d actually seen the images but he noted that “the conduct depicted in those photographs is reprehensible.”

“It does not in any way represent the standards, the high standards of the U.S. military,” Carney said. “And the president certainly shares in the defense secretary’s opinion that this needs to be investigated, and it will be investigated, and that those responsible will be held accountable.”

Carney also added White House Officials were “very disappointed” about the decision to publish the photos. The Pentagon “obviously urged the newspaper not to publish these photos,” Carney said.  He added that editors at the paper were told by military officials that publishing the photos would put U.S. military and civilians in Afghanistan in danger.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Suspended Secret Service Members Partied at Colombian Brothel

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- The Secret Service personnel relieved of duty for alleged misconduct in Colombia were partying at a Cartagena brothel called the Pley Club, ABC News has learned.

The men were drinking heavily during their night out and enlisted the services of the club’s prostitutes, according to a bouncer at the club and a police source.

Prostitution is legal in Colombia and the women who work at the Pley Club, located in the Bosque neighborhood of Cartagena, live on the site of the club.

The club, located on a dusty street in the industrial Bosque neighborhood, has a rough exterior but boasts plush “pley rooms,” according to its website.

The Secret Service personnel were in Cartagena on assignment preparing for President Obama’s visit for the Summit of the Americas last weekend.  After allegations surfaced that some may have had women or prostitutes in their rooms, 11 members were sent back to the United States.

The scandal widened to include members of the military team that was in Cartagena assisting the Secret Service advance team.  Sources told ABC News military officials now suspect 10 or more soldiers may have solicited sex from prostitutes.

“If violations are determined to have been the case, then these individuals will be held accountable,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday he is embarrassed by the conduct of the military service members and that “we let the boss down,” referring to Obama, the commander in chief of the military.

The accused had arrived a week before the president to prepare security for his visit.  By Wednesday, officials at the Hotel Caribe were irritated with the agents’ alleged heavy drinking and loud partying.  Local women were coming back to the hotel with agents, sources said.

The alleged behavior might have remained secret if it were not for an angry prostitute, who government sources said refused to leave their room after a dispute with at least one of the Secret Service personnel over the bill.

“There was a dispute the next morning when one of the women did not leave the room,” Rep. Peter King said.  “Police came and she refused to leave until she was paid for her services.”

The Secret Service personnel were ordered back to Washington.  They have been suspended pending the investigation, and their security clearances have been revoked.

Sources say the Secret Service will be giving lie detector tests to agents who were present the night the prostitutes were allegedly in the agents’ hotel rooms, and asking the hotel for its security tapes to see if it can determine exactly who was involved.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Service Members in Custody After Explosives Found in Truck

Thinkstock/Getty Images(REDONDO BEACH, Calif.) -- Two active duty members of the military were taken into custody in Redondo Beach, Calif., Thursday evening for having multiple "flash bang" explosives in the back of their pick-up truck, according to officials.

The vehicle was found in the parking lot of South Bay Galleria, a local shopping center.

Redondo Beach Police Captain Jeff Hink told ABC News Radio the military tipped authorities to these men and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's bomb squad was then called in to check out the suspicious devices.

"They're explosive in nature," Hink said, describing the devices.  "But they are like practice distraction devices that the military uses.  There were 10 of them in the car."

"Just like a large firecracker it could certainly hurt you if it went off and you were standing -- holding it or standing right near it," he explained.

The posed danger forced evacuations of nearby stores.

"A couple hundred people were evacuated from a nearby Target store.  There was a Living Spaces furniture store and a Nordstrom Rack that were adjacent to this particular parking lot in Redondo Beach," Hink said.

He said the police department is working with representatives from the military to investigate the matter.  It is unclear why the two men, who have not been identified, were at the shopping center or what their intent was.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fallen Soldier's Dad Burns NJ Flag to Protest Whitney Houston Tribute

Hemera/Thinkstock(WYOMING, Mich.) -- A Michigan man whose son died in Iraq burned the state flag of New Jersey after the Garden State flew its flags at half-staff in memory of Whitney Houston last week.

"They're watering down the term of what a true hero is these days," John Burri told ABC News. "I thought it was offensive to every family's fallen soldier out there, and it cheapens the meaning of lowering the flag."

The 60-year-old's decision to torch the New Jersey flag on his Wyoming, Mich., patio grill came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered flags flown at half-staff to honor the singer Whitney Houston, a Garden State native who was buried in her home state on Sunday.

Burri believes flags should only be lowered for those who died serving their country.

"My intention was not to hurt anyone, especially the residents of New Jersey," he said.  "My intention was to show Gov. Christie how offensive it was."

The governor has defended his decision, calling Houston a "cultural icon."

"Her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for the state as a whole, and so on that basis I think she's entitled to have that recognition," Christie told reporters last week.

After seeing Christie's comments on the local news, Burri said he set out on a mission to honor his son, Army Spc. Eric Burri, who died in 2005 when an explosive device detonated near the Humvee in which he was patrolling.

He bought a replica New Jersey flag, tied it to the back of his car and drove around two veteran memorials in Grand Rapids, Mich.  He then stopped at his son's burial site before going home and burning the flag.

"Best $12.95 I've ever spent," said Burri. "Sometimes, you have to do something drastic and extreme for people to listen. I just hope it made a point that maybe someone will pick this up and get a new law made for flag etiquette."

Federal law gives governors of American states power to have flags lowered for residents or state officials. There is no law requiring that person to have served in the armed forces.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Eases Restrictions on Women Serving in the Military

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- America’s fighting women are getting closer to the front lines.

The Pentagon announced rule changes Thursday regarding the roles of women in the military that must first be approved by Congress before taking effect as soon as this summer.

Basically, nearly 14,000 combat support positions will be available to female service members that will put them near the front lines although they still won’t be allowed to join infantry combat units.

Once only reserved for men because the jobs were at the combat brigade level, the new positions will now be available at the lower battalion level and include communications, intelligence and logistical jobs.

Most of the women affected by the changes are enlisted in the Army, which deploys the greatest number of ground combat units.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio