Former Air Force One crew members hold special event at museum Monday

Published: Friday, February 17, 2017 @ 1:04 PM
Updated: Saturday, February 18, 2017 @ 3:46 PM

Crew members who flew aboard Air Force One presidential aircraft from the Nixon to Obama administrations will answer the public’s questions on Presidents Day at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The former crew members will be at the museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

The museum houses the largest collection of U.S. presidential planes, from the first that flew President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the propeller-powered VC-54C nicknamed the Sacred Cow, to SAM 26000, a Boeing 707 known as President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One.

The presidential collection was one of the centerpieces of a new $40.8 million hangar that opened in June 2016.

“This program allows people who are associate with these presidential aircraft to engage our visitors with personal stories and interesting facts about the history and heritage of this magnificent presidential collection,” Teresa Montgomery, chief of the museum’s special events division, said in a statement.

RELATED: Museum aims to add latest Air Force One to its presidential fleet

Other presidential aircraft include President Harry S. Truman’s plane nicknamed “The Independence,” a VC-118 that was a military version of the pioneering DC-6 commercial airliner; and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s air transport dubbed “Columbine III,” a Lockheed L.-1049 Super Constellation.

SAM 26000 is among the most famous aircraft in the world serving eight presidents, from Kennedy to Bill Clinton.


Air Force museum spreads its wings with $40 million expansion

85 motorcyclists join run for injured Dayton police officer

Published: Saturday, June 17, 2017 @ 3:38 PM

Eighty-five motorcyclists, including two from New Jersey, rode in a benefit run Saturday for Dayton police officer Byron Branch.

Organizers said it was the first “Call to Duty” ride held by the area chapter of the Uncle Sam’s Avengers Motorcycle Club for active-duty or retired veterans and public servants.

“I think it’s wonderful they are doing this for Officer Branch,” said Janie Long of Riverside, mother of Dayton Police Sgt. Gordon Cairns, one of the organizers. “I’m just proud of all of them.”

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Branch, a rookie cop and new father, is expected to be fitted with a prosthesis after losing part of his right leg on Dec. 16.

He was injured when a driver slid off the road into his cruiser, which hit him and the driver from an early accident he was investigating on a rainy, icy stretch of Interstate 75 near U.S. 35.

Branch was riding along in a police cruiser as part of the procession that left the VFW Post in Huber Heights about noon Saturday. He declined to comment.

After a stop at the Brixx Ice Co. bar and grill in Dayton, the run returned to the post on Nebraska Avenue for a fund-raising raffle and party. The ride was expected to take about three hours.

“It brings together people from all walks of life,” said Stephen Roschel, a club member from Kettering. “It brings everybody together in harmony.”

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Motorcycle units from Montgomery and Greene county sheriff’s offices and the Trotwood Police Department helped secure the procession.

In addition to members of the local club for retired or active police fire or first responders, members from the original Uncle Sam’s Avengers chapter in Parsippany, N.J. supported the cause.

Also riders from the Dayton Moose Lodge 73 in Beavercreek joined the procession as it pulled out of the lot onto Nebraska Avenue to raise funds for Branch and his family.

Jack Miniard, president for the local club chapter, said the event was a way for members to give back to the community and help an officer hurt in the line of duty.

“It hits home to us,” Miniard said.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 44 also established the Officer Byron Branch Donation Account at Key Bank.

Major gate at Wright-Patt reopens for thousands of commuters

Published: Friday, June 09, 2017 @ 11:31 AM

A major gateway closed for weeks to thousands of Wright-Patterson commuters during a $1.3 million security upgrade has reopened in Area B at Wright-Patterson, authorities say.

Base Gate 19B, off National Road, which typically averages about 11,000 vehicles a day, will return to 24-hour operations at midnight Monday, according to Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover.

“We’re finalizing the details on that and it’s our hope starting Monday morning that we’ll be back to normal operations,” Col. Bradley McDonald, installation commander, said in interview Friday. “… Part of our continuing ability to maintain a strong base is the ability to make sure that all of our installation entrance points are as secure as possible.”

RELATED: Wright-Patt gate to close as part of security upgrade

Closed since early April, crews worked to add an overhead canopy, six guard booths and an upgraded barrier system to prevent traffic intruding on base and to better protect sentries, a project official has said. Central NICC Joint Venture LLC, of Falls Church, Va., was the prime contractor.

The latest upgrade is among millions of dollars the Air Force has planned to increase security at the base as gate-related security incidents have occurred in recent years.

The biggest disruption happened in November 2015 when a Beavercreek man not authorized to be on the base was accused of driving through Gate 22B near Interstate 675 and entered at least one restricted access building on foot before he was stopped by employees. The incident shut down gate entrances and roads, caused hundreds of employees to evacuate in two buildings, and led to a shelter in place order at a nearby child care center.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson gate crasher sentenced

In 2015, Gate 12A had $1.3 million in security improvements. If congressional funding is found, a new $12.6 million entryway could be built by 2019, consolidating Gates 26A off Ohio 235 near the main airfield and Gate 16A, a commercial truck inspection weigh point off Ohio 444.

With 19B set to reopen Monday, Gate 16B, an entrance off Kaufman Avenue which acted as an alternative route for morning rush hour traffic during construction, will close, Vanover said. That entrance, near the Wright Brothers Monument, is normally shuttered.

Gate 22B, which had served as a 24-hour gate since April, will return to normal operating hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the base.

Report finds racial disparities in military justice system

Published: Thursday, June 08, 2017 @ 9:40 AM

            The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense. CONTRIBUTED

Black service members were “substantially more likely” to face judicial punishment or administrative discipline compared to their white counterparts while in uniform, according to an advocacy group’s study of racial disparity in the military justice system.

The Protect Our Defenders report released Wednesday found in the Air Force black airmen were 71 percent more likely than their white counterparts to face court martial or non-judicial punishment, among the highest of the four military branches reviewed.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Protect Our Defenders President Don Christensen called on Congress to review the findings and take action to resolve racial disparities.

“Protect Our Defenders is very concerned that the military not be allowed to once again use more simply a bumper sticker response to a crisis,” said Christensen, a former Air Force chief prosecutor and a retired colonel.

“The military has now said that the disparity is very important to them and this is something that they are concerned about,” he said. “… The time is now for Congress to demand an outside review, not one staffed by generals who will brush this under the rug but experts on racial disparity and figure out why this disparity exists and how do we eliminate it.”

Racial disparities in the ranks reviewed

Air Force spokesman Zachary L. Anderson said the findings indicating “any numbers suggesting bias in the military justice system were concerning.”

“The Air Force works hard to prevent unlawful discrimination in all of our processes, particularly military justice, and will continue to do so,” he said in email.

MILITARY NEWS: Senators tour Wright-Patterson as budget pressures mount

Depending on the service branch, black military service members were between nearly 1.3 to about 2.6 times as likely as white counterparts to face judicial or disciplinary matters, the report said.

Protect Our Defenders examined data between 2006 to 2015 for each service branch, except the Navy which provide two years of statistics, the group said.

The report urged military prosecutors, and not commanders of the accused service member, determine when to refer a case to court-martial proceedings to “reduce the potential for bias based on familiarity, friendship, race or ethnicity.”

It also recommended each service branch should publish data on racial and ethnic judicial involvement and outcomes; track crime victim data to determine if bias exists pertaining to victims of particular races and ethnicity; and find out the causes of racial disparity in the justice system and how to address the problem.

Anderson added the Air Force has targeted the issue of bias within the ranks.

In 2015, the service branch began both “unconscious bias training” for senior leaders to combat the issue, and the Judge Advocate General Corps started a senior legal officer orientation course for group and wing commanders that included recognizing “implicit and explicit biases,” Anderson said in an email.

A group of Air Force senior leaders, he added, have worked to break down “unintended barriers” that may hurt diversity within the workforce.

“Diversity and inclusion are a national security imperative, and we understand in order to recruit and retain a diverse population of Airmen, they must have confidence in a system free of unlawful discrimination,” Anderson wrote.

Report findings

Among the other military branches, the Protect Our Defenders report found:

In the Army, black soldiers were 61 percent more likely to face a special or general court martial than white service members; in the Navy, black sailors were 40 percent more likely to face similar initial proceedings than white sailors.

In the Marine Corps, the report found black Marines on average were 32 percent more likely to be found guilty at a court martial or administrative proceeding than their white counterparts, and that increased to more than twice as likely as the seriousness of the offense increased.

“The persistence of racial disparities within the military may indicate the existence of racial bias or discrimination among decision-makers in the military justice system,” the report said.

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Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael said the Defense Department has had a long-standing policy that “service members must be afforded the opportunity to serve in an environment free from unlawful discrimination,”

The department will review, he added, “any new information concerning implementation of and compliance with this policy once given the opportunity to review the report.”

Among the military’s officer corps, 77 percent were white and 8.75 percent black, Defense Department statistics show. Among enlisted personnel, 66.7 percent were white and 18.8 percent black.

Merle Wilberding, a Dayton attorney and former Army lawyer, noted the long-standing “major disparities” in the civilian criminal justice system between incarcerations for blacks and whites.

The disparities uncovered in the Protect Our Defenders findings “may be more of a systematic bias, sometimes overt and sometime subconscious,” he added in an email.

“Historically, the military has fixated on its military justice system being a part of its overall disciplinary system, and that is why the military has strongly opposed eliminating the commander role in referring cases to courts-martial and reviewing court-martial convictions,” he wrote in an email.

Under military law, commanders may have the authority to overturn a service member’s conviction.

Wilberding said he would support Congress taking away that authority, but unit commanders should retain the right to refer a case for criminal proceedings as long as a judge has control over the charges in the matter.

“I do not think the statistics quoted in the report by Protect Our Defenders would change significantly just by eliminating the commander’s role in the military justice system,” he wrote in an email. “In either event, these statistics justify a renewed analysis and a renewed commitment to training and education at all levels of the military to make the system transparent and more equitable.”

A message seeking comment on the report was left Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

By the Numbers

The advocacy group Protect Our Defenders reviewed military justice data and found a racial disparity between black and white service members.

Here are some of the report’s findings:

In the Air Force: Black airmen were on average 71 percent more likely to face judicial or administrative discipline than white airmen;

In the Army: Black soldiers were on average 61 percent more likely to face a special or general court martial than white soldiers;

In the Navy: Black sailors were on average 40 percent more likely to than white sailors to face a special or general court martial

In the Marine Corps: Black Marines on average were 32 percent more likely to receive a guilty verdict at a court martial proceeding or administrative discipline than their white counterparts.

SOURCE: Protect Our Defenders report, “Racial Disparities in Military Justice.”

Air Guard leader will become first female command chief in Springfield

Published: Saturday, June 03, 2017 @ 12:00 PM
Updated: Friday, June 02, 2017 @ 5:55 PM

            Chief Master Sgt. Heidi A. Bunker. Contributed

An Ohio Air National Guard chief master sergeant will become the first female command chief to lead hundreds of enlisted airmen at the 178th Wing in Springfield.

Chief Master Sgt. Heidi A. Bunker will take over the leadership role in a ceremony today at the Springfield Air National Guard Base, replacing Chief Master Sgt. Scott A. McKenzie, who has served in uniform at the Air Guard site since 1980, according to the wing.

RELATED: Springfield base commander steps down

Bunker will oversee about 900 National Guard airmen and act as the senior enlisted adviser to the wing commander.

Most recently, she was the group superintendent for the 179th Mission Support Group in Mansfield. She has served in different roles with Mansfield-based units for 25 years.

Among her awards, Bunker has received the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Ohio Commendation Medal. She was named the Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year among first sergeants in 2010, according to biographical information.

RELATED: Springfield Air National Guard Base plays active role in drone missions

The 178th Wing is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unit that supports the National Air and Space Intelligence Center based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Springfield unit also remotely operates the MQ-1B Predator drone on overseas missions, according to its website.

The Springfield base has about 1,200 personnel and an estimated $59 million payroll.