2 Wright-Patt executives, scientist honored by President Obama

Published: Sunday, December 27, 2016 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2016 @ 12:00 AM

Two high-level civilian senior executives and a senior scientist at Wright-Patterson were recognized by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Rank Award this year, the Air Force said.

The selectees were chosen for a “focus on leadership and results,” the Air Force said.

The honorees were:

Michael A. Gill, executive director of the Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, who was chosen as a distinguished executive.

Ricky L. Peters, who retired as executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory this year, was selected as a meritorious executive.

Steven K. Rogers, an AFRL Sensors Directorate scientist, was selected as meritorious senior professional. He pioneered work in machine intelligence and data to defeat terrorist networks and cyber attacks, the Air Force said. Rogers is a senior scientist for automatic target recognition and sensor fusion.

Three other AFRL employees at other bases were also selected for the recognition.

Trump to reinstate military ban on transgender people

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 6:14 PM

            President Donald Trump speaks to boys and girls with the American Legion’s youth programs, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017. Trump’s declaration that transgender individuals would be barred from military service was met with surprise at the Pentagon, outrage from advocacy groups and praise from social conservatives on Wednesday. (Justin Gilliland/The New York Times)
President Donald Trump speaks to boys and girls with the American Legion’s youth programs, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017. Trump’s declaration that transgender individuals would be barred from military service was met with surprise at the Pentagon, outrage from advocacy groups and praise from social conservatives on Wednesday. (Justin Gilliland/The New York Times)

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Trump’s announcement on Twitter would reverse the effort under President Barack Obama to open the armed services to transgender people. He did not say what would happen to transgender troops already in the military.

The president tweeted that he was making his announcement after consulting with “generals and military experts,” but he did not name any. He said the military “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

RELATED: Trump says bar transgender troops from military

Gage A. Gatlyn, 39, of Dayton, who served in the Army Reserve as a transgender male and celebrated Obama’s decision to lift the military transgender ban last year, said Wednesday that Trump’s announcement was “a huge step back.”

“It’s really appalling and it’s sad all at the same time because I know they’re worried about all these billions of dollars that they’re not going to spend on transgender surgeries, but they’re turning away perfectly healthy candidates that could serve our military and serve our country,” he said.

Gatlyn, who served in both the Navy and Army, said he joined the military as a female before transitioning to a male in his last stint with the Army Reserve. He left the military in 2005.

“I did the (physical fitness) tests by the male standards, I kept my hair cut to the male standards and I lived as a male and I had no problems whatsoever from anybody in my (Army) company,” said Gatlyn, who was concerned about future military service of transgender service members in uniform today.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered little clarity about the policy at a press briefing. Asked what will happen to transgender troops currently serving, she said the Department of Defense and the White House will work together “as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”

The latest: Gore slams Trump military transgender ban

She did not provide a timeline.

Sanders described the move as a “military decision.” She said Trump was concerned the current policy is “expensive and disruptive” and “erodes military readiness and military cohesion.” She said the secretary of defense was notified yesterday after Trump made the decision.

Randy S. Phillips, president of the Dayton LGBT Center, criticized Trump’s announcement.

“We’re extremely sadden and taken aback by this,” he said. “It’s a huge slap in the face to each of those people that have signed up to serve our country openly and honestly. It’s a very sad state of affairs.”

Some conservative organizations hailed the decision.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins applauded Trump for “keeping his promise to return to military priorities — and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.”

Phone and email messages seeking comment on Trump’s decision were left Wednesday with a spokeswoman in the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. The congressman, who has Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in his district, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The latest: House rejects transgender ban measure for troops

At the Pentagon, members of the staff of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared to have been caught unaware by Trump’s tweets. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred questions to the White House.

Davis said the Pentagon is working with the White House to “address” what he called “the new guidance” from the president. He said the Pentagon will provide revised guidance to Defense Department officials “in the near future.”

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base released a similar statement Wednesday that referred additional questions to the White House. Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover indicated she did not have information on how many transgender airmen at the base might be impacted by the decision.

Members of Congress seemed caught by surprise. Asked if he was notified in advance about the announcement, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said, “No. I read about it when you reported it.”

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban. Since last Oct. 1, they have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military. Mattis announced earlier this month that he was giving military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services would affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.

Already, there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon’s personnel system, according to several defense officials.

The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving. A Rand Corp. study last year estimated about 2,450 transgender people in active military, out of about 1.3 million troops.

On cost, the study said only a subset would seek gender transition related treatment, estimating that health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, or a 0.04 percent to 0.13 percent increase in spending on active military.

The issue of transgender troops was debated recently in the GOP-led House, which narrowly rejected a measure that would have forbidden the Pentagon from paying for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapy. Supporters saw the measure as an opportunity to roll back what they called Obama’s social engineering of the armed forces. But Democrats criticized the proposal as bigoted and unconstitutional, and they won enough Republican support to block it.

Trump’s decision drew swift outrage from LGBT groups and from lawmakers from both parties.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, said that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the tweet was “another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

Stacy D. Sandberg, who has served as the Dayton PFLAG transgender committee chairperson, said in an email Trump’s action was “strictly political in an attempt to not (lose) more of the Republican base. Throwing brave and honorable service members under the campaign bus is reprehensible.

Memphis Belle gets its guns seven decades after WWII

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 12:42 PM

Tail gunner's position restored on historic Memphis Belle

Piece by piece, Air Force restorers are assembling the B-17F Memphis Belle decades since the plane dodged flak and Nazi fighter planes over the skies of Germany and France in World War II.

The bomber got a double-barrelled addition Wednesday when a tail gunner’s turret with two machine guns was bolted back onto the end of the iconic plane in a National Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration hangar at Wright-Patterson.

RELATED: Memphis Belle to go on display at Air Force museum in 2018

“This is a big milestone,” said aircraft restorer Roger Brigner, 56, of Kettering. ” … All these years seeing it laying around the hangar floor, now it’s all coming together. It’s an awesome sight.”

Based in Bassingbourn air base in England, Memphis Belle was the first Army Air Forces bomber to return to the United States after flying 25 combat missions over the war ravaged skies of Europe. The four-engine plane was memorialized in a nationwide war bonds tour and in two Hollywood films.

Work on the bomber has taken years to get to this stage. The B-17 with the famous mural of the Memphis Belle was trucked in to the museum in pieces in 2005.

“In the beginning, you do have your doubts sometimes (because) this is such a big project,” Brigner said. “And now the pile of parts is getting smaller and the airplane is getting bigger. It’s all coming together.”

RELATED: Memphis Belle gets wings restored

The plane is scheduled to make a public debut in a new exhibit at the museum on May 17, 2018, the 75th anniversary of its final mission that bombed a shipyard in Germany. In March, workers attached the wings with the nose, propellers, rudder, and ailerons, among other parts yet to be installed.

“One of the biggest challenges was the airplane came in pieces so we didn’t know how it would fit together,” Brigner said. “It’s like a puzzle and they haven’t been mated together for who knows how long … so this is a big deal.”

The paint, with the exception of the Memphis Belle nose art, has been scrubbed off, inside and out. When fully restored, it will be painted an olive drab green and gray to look like it did the day it ended combat in 1943, said Jeff Duford, lead curator on the Memphis Belle restoration.

Defensive armament

With two .50-caliber machine guns, nicknamed “Pete” and “Repeat,” the tail turret gunner could fire 1,000 rounds a minute, a key defense against swarming Nazi fighters that tried to avoid the bomber’s tail and strike the front of the plane or attack it in a dive, he said.

On deep strikes into Germany, American fighters guarded the bombers, prepared to tangle with German aircraft.

“Between our escort fighters and the heavy defensive armament on our bombers, we broke the back of the German fighter force,” he said. “When they came up to defend and so many of their pilots were killed either by the defensive armament on our bombers or by escorting fighters, they pretty much wiped the skies of German fighters by D-Day.”

The tail turret was “so deadly” the Germans developed tactics to avoid being in the line of fire, Duford said.

RELATED: Artifact from Memphis Belle back with famous airplane

Staff Sgt. John “JP” Quinlan, 23, of Yonkers, N.Y., was the Memphis Belle tail turret gunner when the crew made history. He died in 2000.

The Army airmen was the only crew member to receive the Purple Heart. He was wounded by anti-aircraft flak on the same combat mission he was credited with shooting down a German fighter plane, Duford said. Quinlan also was credited with one “probable” kill.

From his vantage point, the tail gunner could see sweeping aircraft formations headed to bomb targets.

“He had the heartbreaking view of seeing some of his friends go down,” Duford said. “Seeing the airplanes blow up.”

Damaged planes that lost an engine would often leave the airborne pack, he said.

“When an airplane left a formation it would be pounced upon and taken apart by German fighters,” Duford said. “From where he was sitting, he saw that happen over and over and over again.”

PHOTOS: Restoring the Memphis Belle

Three times, the plane was struck and damaged in combat, once by an enemy fighter, another time by flak, and by errant friendly fire, Duford said.

Quinlan, who carried a horseshoe for luck on every wartime flight, barely avoided death on one flight. The tail gunner had just leaned back in his seat to take a brief rest from firing the guns, Duford said.

“At that moment, a bullet went through a side window where his head had been,” he said. “Had he not been taken that moment to rest, he would have been killed.”

The savage aerial battles cost the lives of 30,000 Army Air Forces crew members who fought against Nazi Germany.

Defense budget: Military personnel get biggest pay raise in 8 years

Published: Friday, July 14, 2017 @ 2:03 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 16, 2017 @ 6:41 PM

            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employs more than 27,000 employees and is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. The base has a $4.3 billion economic impact in Ohio. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employs more than 27,000 employees and is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. The base has a $4.3 billion economic impact in Ohio. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $696 billion defense authorization bill Friday, going beyond what the Trump administration asked for, targeting improved military readiness, buying more ships and planes, and failing to authorize a new round of future base closures.

The bill passed the House in a 344-81 vote.

The Trump administration requested $603 billion. The House version includes more than $613 billion in base funding for defense and energy programs and nearly $75 billion for overseas contingency funding for warfighting in current conflicts. The funding exceeds defense spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Military service members would receive a 2.4 percent pay hike, the largest in eight years.

The bill sets policy and authorizes programs while future legislation would appropriate money for defense. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

EXCLUSIVE: Top AF general says without a budget ‘all programs are at risk’

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could gain with money set aside for acquisition of weapon systems, research and development projects and opening the door to homeland security students to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs. Currently, AFIT accepts civilian students in the defense industry.

In the Senate version of the defense policy bill, which has yet to be approved, military construction projects at Wright-Patterson included $6.8 million for a new fire station near the main airfield’s flight line in 2019 and $9.1 million for an Army Reserve maintenance facility in 2021, according to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Under the House bill, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense would strengthen cooperation on drone research testing by the Air Force Research Laboratory in Springfield.

‘Want to be ready’

The defense bill authorizes money needed “to combat the most complex and unpredictable threats in our history” and to rebuild the military after sequestration induced cuts, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in a statement. “Lack of funding has left our troops with significant capability and capacity challenges.”

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said in an interview Friday afternoon the legislation takes steps to rebuild lagging military readiness, but budget cuts elsewhere will be necessary to fund the increases in defense.

“There’s a strong concern that with the wide range of commitments … the funding has been scaled back (and) you’re seeing some reduction in readiness and we don’t want to take long to be ready,” he said.

The White House and the Pentagon had sought a Base Realignment and Closure process in 2021, but it failed to win lawmakers support.

“This version puts the House on record opposing a new BRAC, and the Senate version has similar language,” Gessel said.

The BRAC provision “means the risk of any downsizing Wright-Patterson is lower now—and it was already low to begin with,” said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Turner, a House Armed Services Committee member, attempted to add an amendment that would study the concept of a Space Corps rather than create it as a separate military branch, but this week the House Rules Committee rejected his request. If approved, a Space Corps branch would be within the Department of the Air Force by 2019.

Spending caps

Despite lawmakers calls for more defense spending, the Budget Control Act of 2011 that imposed caps on defense will make getting there harder, one senior defense analyst said.

“The House Armed Services Committee is proposing a major increase in defense spending beyond what either Obama or Trump sought,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. “However, defense spending is capped by law through 2021, and the House proposal is far, far above what the law permits.

RELATED: Threats will drive BRAC strategy, AF leader says

“The only way the House committee’s proposed budget could be implemented is if spending caps are repealed or all of the added funding is pushed into supplemental war accounts not covered by the caps.”

Neither outcome seems likely, he added in an email.

The House bill would enact acquisition reforms to provide more oversight of service contracts and the use of online commercial sites to cut costs.

Turner, co-chairman of the Military Sexual Assault Caucus, introduced a provision that would require service members convicted of a sex-related offense to serve a minimum of two years confinement.

Military sexual assault legislation Turner included in the bill with co-sponsor Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., would expand training for military lawyers representing victims; allow sexual assault survivors to appeal decisions to the military’s highest court during a trial; and permit a military judge to appoint legal representation for minors who are sexual assault survivors prior to a suspect facing criminal charges, according to the congressman.

The congressman also included language that requires the Pentagon to keep the House Armed Services Committee updated on efforts to inform service members of states’ child custody laws, and to take measures to ensure the safety of windows in military housing to prevent young children from falling out of residences, his office said.

Turner also included language in the defense legislation backing Air Force Research Laboratory work on unmanned aerial systems, hypersonic air-breathing vehicles, using drones to detect chemical, biological and nuclear threats; ongoing research on hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation-related issues that have surfaced in military aviation; and ongoing funding for a technology transition program. The congressman also introduced language to expand AFIT’s enrollment.

Davidson introduced the amendment on greater cooperation between the FAA and Defense Department on drone research in Springfield.

Count on this newspaper to provide the latest in-depth coverage of military spending issues that impact Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield Air National Guard Base. For more military news, log onto mydaytondailynews.com/military.

Deadly Marine crash: C-130 has ‘very reliable’ record, expert says

Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 @ 10:27 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 @ 1:33 PM

            Emergency officials respond to the site of a military plane crash near Itta Bena, Miss., Monday, July 10, 2017. Leflore County Emergency Management Agency Director Frank Randle told reporters at a late briefing that more than a dozen bodies had been recovered after the KC-130 spiraled into the ground about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Jackson in the Mississippi Delta. (Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
            Elijah Baylis
Emergency officials respond to the site of a military plane crash near Itta Bena, Miss., Monday, July 10, 2017. Leflore County Emergency Management Agency Director Frank Randle told reporters at a late briefing that more than a dozen bodies had been recovered after the KC-130 spiraled into the ground about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Jackson in the Mississippi Delta. (Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)(Elijah Baylis)

The Marine Corps KC-130 refueling plane that crashed Monday killing 16 service members in Mississippi is part of a long-flying cargo aircraft-type that has shown high reliability since the 1950s, a defense expert said.

LATEST UPDATES: At least 16 die in military plane crash in rural Mississippi

Fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman were on board the KC-130 tanker when it corkscrewed into the ground Monday afternoon about 85 miles north of Jackson, the state capital, military officials said. A witness said some bodies were found more than a mile away.

It was the deadliest Marine crash — in the U.S. or abroad — since 2005.

The Marines gave no immediate details on the cause of the crash. The FBI joined the investigation, but Marine Maj. Andrew Aranda told reporters no foul play was suspected.

The KC-130 is used to refuel aircraft in flight and transport cargo and troops.

Loren B. Thompson, a defense industry consultant with the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said the crash of the KC-130 was “an unusual development” because its been “very reliable” for decades.

MORE: 5 things to know about the deadly military plane crash

“The C-130 aircraft is the most widely used military aircraft in the world,” he said. “It is flown by dozens of countries and it has been applied to a wide range of missions including things like fighting forest fires, collecting hurricane information and in the case of the Marine Corps aerial refueling.”

Thousands of C-130s have been built since the 1950s.

“The reliability of the aircraft is considered its biggest selling point, so this is an unusual development and we’ll have to see what the cause is in order to see what steps are necessary,” he said.

RELATED: Thunderbirds plane crashes at Dayton Air Show

The Air Force has flown C-130s since the mid 1950s in a wide range of roles, from cargo hauling to troop and medical transport.

In a statement sent to this news outlet Tuesday, the Air Force said the service branch and the Army and Navy (which includes the Marine Corps), routinely share safety program and mishap investigation information on similar aircraft.

“Naturally, the Air Force has a safety concern and interest in the Marine KC-130 safety investigation, and will act expeditiously to mitigate the risk of any hazards that are identified,” spokeswoman Laura M. McAndrews said in an email.

In Ohio, the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base and the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Base both fly eight C-130H Hercules troop transport and cargo aircraft.

With the investigation under way, unit spokesmen said the wings did not plan to temporarily ground the planes, which are a different variant than the Marines fly.

“It’s been around for a long time so it’s got an incredible safety record,” said Col. David B. Johnson, a C-130 pilot and commander of the 179th Airlift Wing’s operations group “It’s the workhorse of the tactical air community.”

Eric M. White, a 910th Airlift Wing spokesman, said the Youngstown C-130 unit hasn’t had a major aircraft incident in more than three decades.

“We’ve got a pretty good record here of flying our aircraft,” he said.

Both units also expressed condolences about the Marines’ tragic aircraft crash.

“They’re going through a tough time right now,” Johnson said.

The Air Force has 145 C-130 planes in its active duty fleet; 181 in the Air National Guard; and 102 in the Air Force Reserve. The Youngstown Air Force Reserve unit is the only one in the U.S. military that flies spraying missions using pesticides and herbicides over land and oil dispersants over water, White said.

RELATED: Thunderbirds pilot recovering at home

Capt. Danielle K. Phillips, a Marine spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said Tuesday there was no indication the KC-130 fleet would be grounded.

The service branch has launched an investigation and was notifying next of kin, she said.

The air tanker assigned to a Marine reserve unit was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, but took off from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and was headed to Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., officials said.

The victims’ identities were not released pending notification of next of kin.

Andy Jones said he was working on his family’s catfish farm just before 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane spiraling downward with one engine smoking.

“You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,” he said. “It was spinning down.”

Jones said that by the time he and others reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.

“Beans are about waist-high, and there wasn’t much sticking out above the beans,” he said.

Jones said a man borrowed his cellphone to report to authorities that there were bodies across a highway, more than a mile from the crash site.

Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles.

Jones said firefighters tried to put out the fire but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fierce blaze produced black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours later.

In 2005, a Marine transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 30 Marines and a sailor.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.