2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • NORAD plans Wednesday training flights east of Denver

    Mon, June 24, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    Cope Tiger 2011If you live east of Denver, you may get a free air show Wednesday as aircraft from the North American Aerospace Defense Command fly overhead during a training exercise.

    The training flights are planned to test NORAD’s ability to deal with aerial threats. NORAD is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base.

    The flights will involve F-15 interceptors and C-21 transport planes, NORAD said in a news release. The flights are planned to take place between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

    NORAD has been monitoring domestic air traffic since the 9/11 attacks.

    “Since Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD fighters have responded to more than 3,400 possible air threats in the United States, Canada and Alaska,” the command said in a news release.

  • Fort Carson GIs try new mountain boots

    Fri, June 21, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    warhorseSoldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat team of the 4th Infantry Division have been training at Fort Irwin, Calif., this month to prepare for possible deployment to Kuwait.  More than 200 of those soldiers are testing a new lightweight mountain boots produced by the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts.

    The Army in a news release said the experimental boots are up to a pound lighter per pair than boots now worn by soldiers. Sixteen ounces can be a big deal for already heavily-burdened troops. Soldiers in combat wear from 50-100 pounds of gear from body armor and rations to weapons and extra magazines.

    The Army said Fort Carson soldiers were issued three styles of the boots to test at Fort Irwin, where they’ll spend a month practicing desert warfare in one of the hottest places in America. Forecasters predicted an unseasonably cold day at Fort Irwin Friday, with the high temperature only hitting 99 degrees. Temperatures are expected to return to normal at the desert training site next week, with highs reaching past 115 degrees.

    The boots that Fort Carson soldiers prefer could wind up being issued to all soldiers heading to Afghanistan.


  • Air Force resumes moves to Colorado Springs

    Tue, June 18, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments


    UPDATE: The Air Force lifted its order that halted moves to Colorado Springs Tuesday afternoon.

    “All Airmen, including civilians, are now authorized to proceed on orders. Airmen assigned to or living in the area or whose dependent family members live in the affected area are reminded to log in to the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System at https://afpaas.af.mil to account for themselves, if they have not already done so,” the Air Force said in a news release.

    ORIGINAL STORY: The Air Force discovered the Black Forest fire Tuesday, a week after it swept across thousands of acres, gutting hundreds of homes.

    With the fire nearly out and most of the evacuees heading home, “Mother Blue”, as the Air Force is known, ordered a halt to all moves to Colorado and temporary assignments here, according to a Tuesday news release.  That’s a fairly standard military move to avoid having families roll in to a disaster area.

    Before you start making Air Force jokes, remember that while the Air Force fears the aftermath of the Black Forest fire, its airmen are a big part of why the fire is gradually coming under control. Airmen from Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases joined colleagues from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force station and the Academy to battle the flames on the ground.

    In the air, airmen from Peterson’s 302nd Airlift Wing dropped retardant ahead of the fire from C-130 transport planes.

    Halting moves to Colorado impacts active-duty airmen.

    “Stateside-based Airmen projected to move to Peterson, Schriever, Cheyenne Mountain or USAFA, and those who have out-processed but have not departed from their current duty station must not depart or proceed. Those scheduled for leave en route may continue, if leave is not taken in the affected area, but must consult with their current base personnel section,” the Air Force said in a Tuesday news release.

    One Air Force group gets no such reprieve.

    More than 1,000 Air Force Academy cadets are due to arrive in Colorado Springs on time next week to report for basic cadet training.







  • Russians to join the NORAD exercise in August

    Mon, June 17, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    NORAD photo

    NORAD photo

    Russian, Canadian and American aircraft will join in the North American Aerospace defense Command’s Vigilant Eagle training exercise in Alaska and eastern Russia.

    Leaders from the Peterson Air Force Base command and Russian officials are meeting in Ottawa this week to finalize details of the exercise. The plan is to have airmen from the three nations work together to defeat a simulated 9/11-style threat.

    “Working in partnership with the civilian Federal Aviation Agency and its Russian counterpart, this year’s exercise will focus on national procedures for monitoring the situation and the cooperative hand-off of a hijacked aircraft from one nation to the other while exchanging air tracking information,” NORAD said in a news release. ” All players will focus on coordinating their response to the incident. The basic scenario involves a simulated foreign flagged carrier on an international flight seized by terrorists.  In the exercise, the aircraft does not respond to communications but it does not deviate from the approved flight plan either.”

    While relations between the White House and the Kremlin remain frosty, military exercises can break the ice. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NORAD has worked to build its relations with Russia, the command’s primary Cold War foe.

    The change doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns between the former rivals. It remains fairly common for NORAD fighters to intercept and escort Russian bombers in Alaskan air space — something that’s been going on for more than 50 years.





  • BRAC is back in fashion at Pentagon

    Tue, June 11, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    Chuck Hagel, Dick Durbin, Patrick LeahyDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Senate Committee Tuesday that the Pentagon needs to close bases to balance its books.

    Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and former Nebraska senator would hold the base-closure round in 2015.

    “BRAC is an imperfect process, and there are up-front costs, but in the long term, there are significant savings,” Hagel said.

     The Pentagon is looking at $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years and can’t afford the infrastructure it now owns. All services are also cutting troops — The Army is slimming its ranks by 80,000 in coming years.

    That means fewer bases.

    The silver lining in this could be the dysfunctional Congress. It would take agreement between the House and Senate to authorize a base-closure round and the White House would have to sign off, too.

    There’s no sign that Congressional leaders are ready to agree on anything anytime soon. That could push any BRAC decision to Congress after the 2014 election.


  • Ecuador’s first satellite falls victim to space junk

    Fri, June 7, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    daneNews agencies are reporting that Ecuador’s first satellite — a micro sat launched aboard a Chinese rocket — has fallen victim to Russian Space junk.
    Read a story here: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-05/24/ecuador-satellite-crash

    The satellite’s fate was ascertained by airmen working for Peterson Air Force Base’s Air Force Space Command.

    Air Force Space Command’s Joint Space Operations Center in California tracks more than 16,000 objects in orbit around Earth, 87 percent of which are pieces of space trash — from dead satellites and old boosters to debris created in China’s 2007 anti-satellite missile test.

    Collisions in space are most often spectacular — picture a head-on highway wreck at 18,000 mph.

    Concerns abound about America’s ability to keep track of all that junk in light of budget cuts.  Space Command is limiting use of some systems, including the ultra-powerful space-observing Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., to save on utility bills.

    Threatened cuts to the massive Cobra Dane radar in Alaska were turned back by North Korean threats.cobradanecoverage2

    Tracking all that space junk allows the Air Force to move military satellites and warn NASA and civilian space users of threats.

    The worry these days is that the Air Force will run out of cash needed to conduct the 500,000 observations a day that keep space relatively safe as the Pentagon slashes up to $100 billion per year for the next decade.


  • Colorado National Guard aviators honored for rescue work

    Thu, June 6, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    Hawaii National Guardsman Sean McKay lands a UH-60 Black Hawk at a high altitude landing zone July 19 while training with Colorado National Guard instructor Mike Felton at the High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site at the Eagle County Airport in Gypsum, Colo. The Guard trains rotor-wing military pilots from around the world to fly safely at high elevation and in mountainous terrain. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK/The Gazette

    Hawaii National Guardsman Sean McKay lands a UH-60 Black Hawk at a high altitude landing zone July 19 while training with Colorado National Guard instructor Mike Felton at the High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site at the Eagle County Airport in Gypsum, Colo. The Guard trains rotor-wing military pilots from around the world to fly safely at high elevation and in mountainous terrain. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK/The Gazette

    The Colorado National Guard picked up a prestigious honor recently when its helicopter crews were lauded for search and rescue flights in 2012 from the National Association of Search and Rescue.

    Colorado is home to some of the most-skilled helicopter pilots on the planet who teach high-altitude flying at a National Guard school near Eagle.

    I’ve had the chance to fly with that bunch, and I’ve never seen a helicopter do those things before or since.

    Here’s a news release on the award. http://co.ng.mil/News/Pages/130601-Aviation.aspx

    Here’s a story on flying with them: http://gazette.com/guard-trains-helicopter-pilots-to-cope-with-thin-mountain-air/article/121948


  • Furloughs coming to Pikes Peak region bases in July

    Thu, June 6, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    space commandI spent the morning at Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base. I learned plenty about what’s in orbit and about computer warfare. And furloughs.

    The Pentagon will start unpaid days off for civilian workers in July. In Colorado Springs, and especially at civilian-heavy Space Command, it will leave a mark. Most workers will have to take 11 unpaid days off between now and Sept. 30.

    Colorado is home to more than 12,000 civilian Defense Department workers, and those 11 days off for that bunch is the same as laying off more than 500 workers for the year. That means cash registers in town will take a sizable hit too, when furloughs hit.

    Most commands are working to stagger days off for employees, who will take their furloughs one day at a time rather than in weeklong blocks. That’s designed to make sure missions get accomplished — we’re still at war in Afghanistan and things in Springs like Space Command play a big role — and customers are served despite the belt tightening.

    Many civilian workers fear that with Congress in full gridlock, furloughs will be back in 2014 and beyond.

    The Pentagon is on track to cut $1 trillion from its budget over 10 years.


  • 50 years ago today, JFK told cadets of uncertain world ahead

    Wed, June 5, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    It was 50 years ago today when President John F. Kennedy addressed the Air Force Academy’s class of ’63 at graduation.

    Photo courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

    Photo courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

    He used the speech, which also made reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the brewing war in Vietnam, to tout a new federal program to build a supersonic transport plane.

    He also made some observations about the Air Force that sound like they could have been made today.

    “They claim that the future of the Air Force is mortgaged to an obsolete weapons system, the manned aircraft, or that Air Force officers of the future will be nothing more than “silent silo sitters,” but nothing could be further from the truth. It is this very onrush of technology which demands an expanding role for the Nation’s Air Force and Air Force officers, and which guarantees that an Air Force career in the next 40 years will be even more changing and more challenging than the careers of the last 40 years.”

    Presidents have often used Air Force Academy graduation speeches to float trail balloons on policy. president George W. Bush announced his support for Democracy movements in the Middle East during a graduation speech. That later was though tied to regime change in Libya and Egypt.

    President Bill Clinton in 1995 foreshadowed a growth in terrorism that would lead the U.S. top more than a decade of war just six years after the speech.

    “We understand now that the openness and freedom of society make us even more vulnerable to the organized forces of destruction, the forces of terror and organized crime and drug trafficking. The technological revolution that is bringing our world closer together can also bring more and more problems to our shores. The end of communism has opened the door to the spread of weapons of mass destruction and lifted the lid on age-old conflicts rooted in ethnic, racial and religious hatreds. These forces can be all the more destructive today because they have access to modern technology.”

    In 1969 President Richard Nixon foreshadowed the opening of in-roads to china in his speech.

    “The aggressors of this world are not going to give the United States a period of grace in which to put our domestic house in order-just as the crises within our society cannot be put on a back burner until we resolve the problem of Vietnam. The most successful solutions that we can possibly imagine for our domestic programs will be meaningless if we are not around to enjoy them. Nor can we conduct a successful peace policy abroad if our society is at war with itself at home. There is no advancement for Americans at home in a retreat from the problems of the world. I say that America has a vital national interest in world stability, and no other nation can uphold that interest for us.”

    At the height of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan signaled its end in his 1984 speech to cadets.

    “Now, what about your generation? Where do you go from here? The quickening pace shouldn’t generate the belief that the tide of events is beyond your control. No, you should be confident that with wisdom, responsibility, and care you can harness change to shape your future. We’ve only seen the beginning of what a free and courageous people can do. The bold, not the naysayers, will point the way, because history has shown that progress often takes its greatest strides where brave people transform an idea which is scoffed at by skeptics into a tangible and important part of everyday life.”

    President George H.W. Bush pushed the country toward an integrated missile defense in his 1991 graduation speech.

    “We learned that missile defense works and that it promotes peace and security. In the Gulf, we had the technologies of defense to pick up where theories of deterrence left off. You see, Saddam Hussein was not deterred, but the Patriot saved lives and helped keep the coalition together.”

    But in some ways, Kennedy speech may have been the most prescient.

    “We live in a world, in short, where the principal problems that we face are not susceptible to military solutions alone. The role of our military power, in essence, is, therefore, to free ourselves and our allies to pursue the goals of freedom without the danger of enemy attack, but we do not have a separate military policy, and a separate diplomatic policy, and a separate disarmament policy, and a separate foreign aid policy, all unrelated to each other. They are all bound up together in the policy of the United States. Our goal is a coherent, overall, national security policy, one that truly serves the best interests of this country and those who depend upon it. It is worth noting that all of the decisions which we now face today will come in increased numbers in the months and years ahead.”

  • Top brass call sexual assault “cancer” in the ranks

    Tue, June 4, 2013 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    The military’s top brass went before Congress Tuesday to discuss an alarming rise is sexual assaults in the armed services. The Pentagon estimates 26,000 assaults took place last year, a rise of 7,000 over the prior year.

    The group called before congress contains some familiar faces for those who have been following the military in the Pikes Peak region.

    Dana Chipman, Raymond Odierno, Martin Dempsey, Richard Gross, Frederick J. Kenney, Robert J. Papp, Vaughn A. Ary, James F. Amos, Jonathan W. Greenert, Nanette M. DeRenzi, Mark A. Welsh, Richard C. Harding

    Dana Chipman, Raymond Odierno, Martin Dempsey, Richard Gross, Frederick J. Kenney, Robert J. Papp, Vaughn A. Ary, James F. Amos, Jonathan W. Greenert, Nanette M. DeRenzi, Mark A. Welsh, Richard C. Harding

    The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson from 1996-98.

    The Army’s chief, Gen. Ray Ordierno, commanded the 4th Infantry Division from 2003-04.

    The Air Force chief, Gen. Mark Welsh, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976 and returned to command a cadet squadron in 1987 before coming back most recently to serve as the school’s commandant of cadets from 1999-2001.

    Army Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, the service’s top lawyer, started his Army career as a lieutenant at Fort Carson.

    Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, the Air Force’s top lawyer, was the judge advocate at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs from 2004-06.