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Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 5:00 AM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it has filed a complaint about a Wright-Patterson Christian chaplain who in a blog post wrote military service members are “grossly in error, and deceived” if they support service members of some different faiths for practicing their religion under the Constitution.
Capt. Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson, wrote in part on a Sept. 12 BarbWire.com blog post: “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 what 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.”
He added in the post: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other non-Christian worldviews to practice their religions — because the language in the Constitution permits — are grossly in error and deceived.”
An attorney representing the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office on Sept. 15, over the chaplain’s written remarks.
“You take an oath when you’re commissioned to support and defend the Constitution, period, with no reservations,” said Donald G. Rehkopf, a Rochester, N.Y., attorney representing MRFF and a former Air Force lawyer. “A lot of people are exposed to his thoughts and beliefs professionally and religiously, and for younger enlisted troops to be hearing stuff like that he’s in essence telling them to avoid their … duties to comply with the law.”
This newspaper sent messages to Hernandez seeking comment.
“He’s been trying to establish a religious faith and he’s creating a religious test,” said MRFF President and Founder Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, also a former Air Force lawyer who has demanded an investigation and punishment for the remarks. “This is absolutely a cancer to the very essence of what it takes to put a military together. It destroys good order, morale, discipline, unit cohesion, the health and safety of the troops, mission readiness and military accomplishment. It’s completely antithetical to that.”
The MRFF has had a doubling in complaints about issues related to religion in the military since President Donald Trump was elected to the White House, Weinstein said.
The latest complaint was one of multiple filed by the MRFF over Hernandez since April, Weinstein said.
The blog post has an addendum that Hernandez “wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.” The reservist is also listed as director of Reforming America Ministries.
Hernandez is a former Air Force Life Cycle Management Center individualized mobilization accession company grade officer of the year. In an Air Force article in April 2015 about the award, it noted while at the Air Force Academy, Hernandez was cited for “on-call chaplain support to the active-duty Rabbi chaplain, allowing the cadets Jewish religious rites.”
The 445th Airlift Wing selected the chaplain as the company grade officer of the first quarter of 2016, according to the wing’s website. He joined the wing in November 2014 and has served in the military since 1997, according to published sources.
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 6:34 AM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Snowy conditions have put Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on a three-hour delay this morning, according to the base’s website.
The weather also has delayed school and work activties across the region.
WHIO-TV meteorologists were projecting three to five inches of snow and gusty winds throuhg 8p.m. Wednesday.
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 2:00 AM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson will speak to the graduating class of the Air Force Institute of Technology on Thursday.
The trip will mark the Air Force secretary’s second trek to Wright-Patterson since last year when she was part of a gathering of key Air Force leaders at Corona Top.
She will speak to 241 graduates of AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management in a speech at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
AFIT marks its 99th year in 2018.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:33 PM
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Federal and local leaders said Monday they will work together on concerns tainted groundwater at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could reach a city of Dayton well field.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said existing or future congressional legislation might help both the city of Dayton and the base as they deal with groundwater tainted by a firefighting foam contaminant.
“There’s a number of things on the congressional level I think we might be able to do,” Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a press conference at Wright-Patterson with other area leaders Monday.
Dayton Mayer Nan Whaley, who also spoke at the press conference, said as the community compiles a “to-do” list of priorities, it could ask the federal government to pay for the work.
City leaders have asked neighboring communities to urge the Air Force and Wright-Patterson to act quickly to prevent contamination of the Huffman Dam well field along the Mad River.
Seven drinking water production wells were turned off last year at the well field as a precaution, officials have said. Monitoring wells detected polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) on site, but officials said it was below a U.S. EPA threshold of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure to drinking water.
Federal, state and local leaders say the water is safe to drink and the contaminant has not been found in treated water piped to consumers.
Wright-Patterson installation commander Col. Bradley McDonald, Montgomery County Commissioner Deborah Lieberman, and Dayton Development Coalition vice president Maurice McDonald joined Turner and Whaley at the press conference at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center.
“I think it’s clear that we’re all on the same page,” Whaley said. “I think that that’s a very big deal.”
“The key here is that we all want to make sure that our water is safe and it is safe,” Lieberman said. “The point of this is just to make sure that continues.”
The city has dealt with its own contamination concerns at a firefighting training center at 200 McFadden. In 2016, five drinking water wells were shut down at the Tait’s Hill well field as a precaution, officials said.
The city says monitoring wells at that Mad River location detected contamination of up to 1,260 parts per trillion of PFAS, which was found in an old formula of the firefighting foam.
Ohio EPA has ordered both Wright-Patterson and the city of Dayton to take action on groundwater contamination. None of the production wells that were shut down were tested for the contaminant, according to the city.
The Dayton Development Coalition and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission will work with federal, state and local leaders on groundwater issues, authorities said Monday.
“What we’re trying to do here is be proactive and make sure it never (is) an issue,” Whaley said. “That’s important to the future of the city and the future of the region so we can grow jobs, so we can continue to have a safe place to live, work and play.”
The city had sought nearly $1 million from the Air Force to track and test where the tainted groundwater was headed off Wright-Patterson, but the military branch said it was prohibited under federal environmental law to reimburse expenses already paid.
Once the study is completed, the mayor said she’s hopeful money to pay for expenses will follow from the federal government.
“I think that’s very doable with who is at the table,” she said.
Col. Bradley McDonald said the Air Force has replaced firefighting foam believed to have caused contamination – the last of which will be removed in hangars this June — and installed more sentinel wells to track where a tainted plume is headed, officials say.
“What we are showing on the boundary of the base is that it is safe,” he said.
Wright-Patterson officials say they have reacted with urgency to concerns over tainted groundwater despite the city of Dayton’s demands asking for faster action to prevent the potential threat of groundwater contamination reaching the Huffman Dam well field.
But if upcoming expanded testing this summer determines a tainted groundwater plume is migrating off site, the Air Force will take additional actions, Wright-Patterson officials say
For the first time, the city detected less than 10 parts per trillion of the contaminant last November at its Ottawa water treatment plant.
Among the demands Dayton has issued to Wright-Patterson: Install additional monitoring wells along the base boundary; relocate a Mad River storm water discharge point by about 200 feet so it won’t flow past a city intake; and sharing water data so the city can plan how to respond.
Wright-Patterson has addressed tainted groundwater concerns for more than two years, from tracking possible pathways for tainted groundwater to migrate on and off base; temporarily shutting down two drinking water wells in 2016 that exceeded EPA advisory thresholds; and building a $2.7 million water treatment facility to resume pumping from those closed wells last June.
The Air Force investigation and mitigation efforts “are in full compliance” with state and federal laws, the base said in a statement.
RELATED: Top 10 water users in Dayton
PFAS contamination, at certain levels, can cause major health concerns. According to the U.S. EPA, human epidemiology and animal testing studies indicate high-level exposure to the contaminant may lead to testicular and liver cancer; changes in cholesterol; low birth weight in newborns; liver tissue damage; and effects on the immune system and thyroid.
THE STORY SO FAR
PREVIOUSLY: Dayton has publicly demanded Wright-Patt act more quickly to the potential risk of groundwater contamination coming from the base and threatening a city well field.
WHAT’S NEW: At a press conference Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said existing or future legislation might help defray costs to deal with the issue.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Dayton Development Coalition and Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission will work with area leaders to deal with groundwater contamination issues, authorities said.
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 4:43 PM
Dayton isn’t included in an Air Force request to reimburse three communities for out of pocket costs caused by groundwater contamination that may have been caused by a firefighting foam contaminant, the service branch revealed on Friday.
The Air Force is asking congressional defense committees for money to reimburse communities near three Air National Guard bases. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is not part of the request.
Dayton had asked the Air Force last month for nearly $1 million in reimbursement costs for environmental studies prompted by concerns of tainted water migrating off the base.
In an interview this week, Undersecretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan told this news outlet the service branch had asked congressional committees for funds in a future defense authorization bill to reimburse communities for costs to deal with contaminants found in firefighting foam.
“We’ll take each base and each situation as a standalone,” he said in the interview. “We don’t think that there’s a one size (fits) all that’s going to be able to do this because different communities have different concerns and, of course, different situations.”
An Air Force spokeswoman clarified the statement Friday, saying the request would apply only to specific Air National Guard bases. The Air Force did not specify where those bases are.
Talks between the Air Force and the areas near the bases were halted when the Department of Defense launched a review to determine if those communities would qualify for reimbursement under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, according to Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews.
The Air Force has cited a federal law — known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — that the service branch says does not give it legal authority to retroactively reimburse communities paying to remedy contamination.
In cases where data shows the Air Force caused or added to contamination problems, state or local communities can seek reimbursement agreements under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, the Air Force says.
Dayton has sought reimbursement to study, track and test tainted groundwater it believes could migrate off Wright-Patterson and threaten the nearby Huffman Dam well field along the Mad River. The city shut down seven production drinking water wells at the site last April as a precaution. It says monitoring wells on the property have detected the contaminant, but at levels below the U.S. EPA health advisory threshold.
State, city and base officials say Dayton’s water remains safe to drink and the contaminant has not been detected in the final product sent to consumers.
Wright-Patterson officials have outlined a number of actions they’ve taken that they say show they’ve reacted quickly to concerns, from expanding a network of monitoring wells to constructing a $2.7 million water treatment plant to treat base drinking water.
The base plans to expand a network of groundwater monitoring wells this summer.
Dayton faces its own contamination issues at the city’s firefighting training site, and in April 2016 it shut down five drinking water production wells near the Mad River at the Tait’s Hill well field.
The U.S. EPA has set a health advisory threat level of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. The substances have commonly been found in everyday products from cookware to food wrappers, but also in the firefighting foam.
The contamination, at certain levels, can cause major health concerns. According to the U.S. EPA, human epidemiology and animal testing studies indicate high-level exposure to the contaminant may lead to testicular and liver cancer; changes in cholesterol; low birth weight in newborns; liver tissue damage; and effects on the immune system and thyroid.
Dayton has about 200 drinking water wells tapped into the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, a 1.5 trillion gallon reservoir that serves about three million people.