Entries in U.S. Military (11)


Military Grounds Multi-Billion Dollar Fleet of Fighter Jets

DoD Photo by Cpl. Ken Kalemkarian, U. S. Marine Corps(WASHINGTON) -- The military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35 stealth fighters, the most expensive weapons program in history, after finding a crack in one of the multi-million-dollar plane’s engines.

The grounding comes just days after the Marine Corps gave its variation of the fighter the green light to fly again after its own month-long grounding for an unrelated problem.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office released a statement Friday saying a routine engine inspection on Feb. 19 “revealed a crack on a low-pressure turbine blade of an F-35 engine” and the office took the “precautionary measure” of suspending all F-35 flight operations.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with [engine maker] Pratt & Whitney and [primary plane manufacturer] Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible.”

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which has a baseline price tag of over a third of $1 trillion as of last March, represents America’s costly foray into fifth-generation stealth fighters along with the troubled $79 billion F-22 Raptor.

The plane comes in three variants: an Air Force version with standard takeoff and landing capabilities, a Navy version designed to take off and land from aircraft carriers and the Marine version, which is designed to land vertically like Britain’s famous Harrier jet. The military currently has 58 planes total, but plans to purchase more than 2,400 more in order to replace the aging F-16 and F-18 legacy fighters.

The F-35 program has suffered a long history of delays and cost overruns, which officials said is partially because it is one of the most complex weapons systems in history and because it was put into production far too early – before major issues could be found.

This time last year Frank Kendall, then the Pentagon’s Acting Undersecretary for Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said that the government’s plan to field the plane was so reckless it amounted to “acquisition malpractice.”

The engine itself has not been without controversy as well. For months General Electric teamed up with Rolls Royce to provide the military with an engine to compete with Pratt & Whitney, even though the military repeatedly said a second engine was not necessary. The alternate engine was partially funded by the U.S. government to the tune of $3 billion before it was called off in December 2011.

Despite its well-documented problems, the F-35 is seen by top military and government officials as the backbone of America’s future air power. The F-35 Program Office said it is currently investigating the cause of the engine crack.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Live Rocket-Propelled Grenade Removed from Marine’s Leg

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- It was a medevac mission like few others that required heroic choices from all involved.

On January 12, Marine Lance Corporal Winder Perez was wounded in a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. The live explosive and a foot-long remnant from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) remained lodged in his leg.

A crew of four New Mexico National Guardsmen agreed to take on the risky assignment of flying him by medevac helicopter to get medical care.

“Each of us on the aircraft had to agree to take the patient on,” Spc. Mark Edens told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“There was quite a bit of alarm among the crew at the time, as you can imagine,” Capt. Kevin Doo told KOAT.  “If the RPG exploded, you know Spc. Edens and Sgt. Hardesty are working on the patient directly over him, shrapnel alone would have been devastating. And about 18 inches behind where the patient is lying is over 300 gallons of jet aviation fuel, and it would have been catastrophic.”

When Perez arrived at the field hospital 65 miles away, he was not brought inside.  Instead Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari and Army Staff Sergeant Ben Summerfield, an explosives expert, stood by his gurney and undertook the risky move of removing the foot-long section of the RPG from his leg. Wearing full combat gear and a flak jacket, Summerfield literally yanked the RPG from his leg, so that medical teams could treat his injuries.

Perez continues to recover from his wounds at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan Thrill Kill: Third US Soldier Pleads Guilty

Thinkstock/Comstock(SEATTLE) -- A U.S. soldier charged with participating in a plot to murder Afghan civilians for sport pled guilty to murder in a military courtroom south of Seattle Thursday.

Pfc. Andrew Holmes, of Boise, Idaho, is among five soldiers from the Army's Joint Base Lewis-McChord charged with taking part in three thrill kills in Afghanistan in 2010. Holmes pled guilty to the unpremeditated murder of the first victim, as well as to drug use and to keeping a finger bone from the victim as a souvenir. Holmes had also posed for a photo, later leaked to the media, in which he held up the head of the dead victim.

Holmes, 21, admitted to the judge that he had fired his machine gun at the victim, that he knew the man was probably innocent, and that he believed he had caused the man's death. Holmes said he didn't know in advance of the plan to attack, but fired his weapon after another of the U.S. soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, threw a grenade at the victim.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," said Holmes, "but I had a terrible feeling that Cpl. Morlock was up to no good."

"I fired six to eight rounds at the man, and I've regretted it ever since," he said.

The judge has not yet imposed a sentence.

Two other soldiers from what was formerly known as the 5th Stryker Brigade have already pled guilty to their roles in the thrill killings. Prosecutors allege that the soldiers set up scenarios to kill unarmed Afghans, and then planted weapons to make the killings appear justified.

In March, Jeremy Morlock pled to three counts of premeditated murder and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Spc. Adam Winfield, who warned his parents that soldiers in his unit were executing innocent Afghan civilians, pled guilty in August to reduced charges and was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the third killing, which took place in May 2010. He had been charged with premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Both Morlock and Winfield are expected to testify against Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who is charged with planning the execution of the three Afghan civilians.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Certifies Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Friday certified a repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, a law which he said “undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.”

“Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian,” Obama said in a written statement.

The president announced that he has formally repealed the 17-year-old law after an Oval Office meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. The repeal will take effect 60 days from now.

“As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country,” said Obama, who initially signed legislation to repeal the law in December.

The president commended the nation’s civilian and military leadership for moving forward with the change and thanked the men and women in uniform for their “professionalism and patriotism” during this transition.

“As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness,” he said.

“Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans,” Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Moves Forward

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon will announce Friday that the secretary of defense and the heads of each military branch have certified that "don’t ask, don’t tell," the military’s controversial policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces, is ready to be repealed.

The leaders of each service branch have determined that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will not harm military readiness. The move paves the way for the policy to be overturned in 60 days.

The announcement will take place in an event at the Pentagon Friday afternoon, just shortly after new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is formally sworn in.

This is one of the final steps in overturning the longstanding policy whereby service members are not allowed to admit they are gay and the military is not allowed to ask if they are. President Obama pledged to reverse the policy, but only if military leaders agreed it is the right thing to do.

Congress repealed the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law last December, but the Pentagon still had to complete the certification.

As part of an effort to reassure the military leadership, individual service members and concerned members of Congress, last year the Pentagon circulated confidential surveys to members of the military and their families asking their views on gays serving openly and what effect they believed it would have on their ability to perform their duties in battle and at home.

The results ultimately contributed to the certification that will be announced Friday.

This year the policy has also been subject to a seesaw battle in the courts, that confused commanders, recruiters and service members about whether the policy was still in place and whether service members could still be discharged under it.

The Pentagon has already begun training programs to prepare service members and their families for the change in policy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Orders Start to US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has ordered the U.S. military to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and pull out another 23,000 by the summer of 2012, part of what he called "the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war."

"After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead," Obama said in a primetime address to the nation Wednesday night from the East Room of the White House. "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

The president said his announcement was a fulfillment of a commitment he made in December 2009 when he authorized a surge of 30,000 U.S. forces into Afghanistan. At the time, he also promised to begin a drawdown in July 2011.

The withdrawal of 33,000 troops by next summer effectively brings home all the "surge" troops he deployed leaving roughly 70,000 behind.

Obama argued that the U.S. has made progress on many goals: disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda and inflicting "serious losses" on the Taliban.

"We have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done," he said.

The president said the U.S. goal in Afghanistan was not to "try to make Afghanistan a perfect place," but to ensure it will never be a safe haven for terrorists -- a goal that he stopped short from declaring achieved.

Still, in a nod to the war-weary public and his congressional critics, Obama said it is now "time to focus on national building here at home."

"Over the last decade, we have spent $1 trillion on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times," he said. "Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource -- our people."

All told, the war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers more than an estimated $443 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service, and the lives of at least 1,523 U.S. military service members.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is set to retire at the end of the month, said earlier this week that he was concerned the gains in Afghanistan were "very fragile" and subject to reverse.

Wednesday night, however, Gates endorsed the president's strategy, saying it will work.

"Over the past 18 months, our troops have made tremendous progress degrading the capability of the Taliban while enhancing the Afghan security forces. It is critical that we continue to aggressively prosecute that strategy," he said. "I support the president's decision because it provides our commanders with enough resources, time and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility to bring the surge to a successful conclusion."

On the front lines, many U.S. service members contacted by ABC News said they remain determined towards the same goal.

"We're here to do one thing: We're here to win, and that's what we did, we won," said Sgt. Mendez of the No Slack Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, who did not want to give his first name. "It's going on a decade we've been fighting this war....I don't see us getting out of here anytime soon. But we are making a difference, we are taking it to the enemy now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Finalizes Decision on Afghan Troop Withdrawal

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The president has made a final decision on the pace and scope of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the White House announced Tuesday, while refusing to comment on any of the specifics.

In an address to the nation Wednesday night, Obama will announce his blueprint to begin withdrawing troops in July, a promise he made when he ordered the 30,000 troop “surge.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the president’s decision process was “all about the mission that was laid out in December of 2009.”

“The parameters of the decision involve the beginning of the drawdown of U.S. forces.  As you know, we ramped up in a surge the number of forces in Afghanistan and we are at that peak point.  And the president...made the commitment that forces would begin to draw down in July of 2011.  He is keeping that commitment.  And that's what he will announce tomorrow evening,” Carney said.

The president met with members of his national security team Tuesday and informed them of his decision, but it has not been widely disseminated throughout the administration.

“He's met with members of his national security team principals, as well as others in his national security team a number of times.  And those meetings continued up through today,” Carney said. “Again, this is not something that he was starting from scratch on, so he has been working through his decision over the course of the last several weeks and finalized that decision today.”

While speculation abounds as to the number of troops that will be withdrawn, Carney said that the reports are just that -- speculation. “I think it's testament to the fact that every story has a different answer on what he's going to announce that the stories you're reading are speculation, and that the president's decision will be known when he announces it,” he said. “In fact, a lot of the stories came out before he had even finalized his decision.”

There are currently over 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 30,000 of whom were part of the surge designed to stabilize the war-torn country while it boosts its own forces. When Obama announced the surge, he also vowed to “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

Obama will likely make the argument Wednesday night that the U.S. has made significant progress toward achieving his goals: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, break the momentum of the Taliban, and stabilize the situation so that Afghan security forces can begin the process of taking over security.

“This president made the decision that this was a strategy that was right for national security interests of this country.  It is a strategy that we believe has led to our successes in taking the fight to al Qaeda, including in the successful mission against Osama bin Laden.  It has led to our successes in stopping the momentum of the Taliban and to our successes in training up Afghan security forces and preparing them to take the security lead,” Carney said Tuesday.

Asked how much consideration the president gave to waning public support for the war, Carney said, “I think we're all aware of what the public generally thinks. I think the public is interested in the right policy and a policy that is succeeding in achieving its very clearly specified goals.

"That's why the president wants to speak to the nation tomorrow.  And he's not doing it during the day, and he wants to do it at night, so he can reach the American people and explain this decision, make clear that he is keeping the commitment that he made in December of 2009 to begin this drawdown, and explain again why this is important,” he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama: US Has Accomplished 'Big Chunk' of Afghanistan Mission

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Monday that the U.S. has accomplished a “big chunk” of its mission in Afghanistan and that he will be making an announcement about the size of the troop withdrawal from the war-torn country “soon.”

“What I've said is this summer is a summer of transition where we start handing over more responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to the Afghan government. I intend to follow through on that commitment that I made to the American people,” Obama said in an interview with Hearst TV.

Obama vowed in 2009 to begin transferring forces out of Afghanistan in July 2011. His administration is now working to determine the pace of the troop withdrawals.

“By us killing Osama bin Laden, getting al Qaeda back on its heels, stabilizing much of the country in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can't take it's now recognize that we've accomplished a big chunk of our mission and that it's time for Afghans to take more responsibility," the president said.

Obama met Monday with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan was not discussed and the president still has not received a recommendation from his commanders on the ground or the secretary of defense for a troop drawdown figure.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


At UN, US Pushing for Broader Military Authorization Versus Gadhafi 

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Though U.S. officials repeatedly have expressed ambivalence about how well a no-fly zone imposed over Libya might work, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would vote for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for one -- and more, officials tell ABC News.

During the eight-hours of the U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, the U.S. pushed for amendment after amendment that would broaden the military action authorized against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces well beyond just a no-fly zone, sources tell ABC News.

"The U.S. view is that we need to be prepared to contemplate steps that include, but perhaps go beyond, a no-fly zone at this point, as the situation on the ground has evolved and as a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told reporters Wednesday evening, saying consultations will continue Thursday, when she also hopes for a vote.

Since the U.S. is concerned that a no-fly zone would have limited impact because most of the attacks by Gadhafi's regime against the Libyan people are not by air, the U.S. also is pushing for the resolution to authorize international forces to stop attacks by Gadhafi's forces on its people conducted on land and by sea as well.

This could include, for example, allowing aircraft from the international coalition to bomb Libyan tanks. And the U.S. reportedly is insisting that Arab countries participate in any military action.

Other steps the U.S. wants to include in a resolution would include more sanctions against the Gadhafi regime, further mechanisms to enforce the arms embargo, and a push to allow the U.N. and member states into the country to provide humanitarian aid.

The Arab League endorsed the proposal for a no-fly zone over the weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Military Tries to Dispel Fears About Gulf Seafood

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It's been almost ten months since the BP oil spill and consumers remain skittish about eating seafood caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

In an effort to help Americans get over their fears, the Pentagon is promoting various Gulf products at 72 base commissaries along the East Coast.  Currently, the Defense Commissary Agency, or DeCa, sells to military personnel, reservists, retirees and their families.

The Gulf products now sold by DeCa include fish, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, jambalaya and shrimp etouffee.

Industries operating in the Gulf region are grateful for the government assistance, given the amount of trepidation felt by consumers after the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

While extensive testing has shown that Gulf seafood is safe to eat, many American still believe it's toxic due to the oil emitted from the deepwater well and the chemicals used to clean up the spill.

Sales have dropped off sharply since the April 20 explosion on an offshore rig that led to the spill, with a recent survey finding that 70 percent of people are still nervous about eating Gulf seafood.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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