• Air Force Academy religion: Lamborn opponents react

    Wed, April 16, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    USAFAsealThe two men battling Doug Lamborn for his 5th Congressional seat reacted Wednesday to the Republican’s call for the Air Force to relax its regulations to permit more religious expression at the Air Force Academy and throughout the service.

    Lamborn’s letter, co-signed by 22 of his Republican colleagues, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to revise Air Force regulations to permit the faithful to express their beliefs in the workplace. It was the latest outfall of March’s “whiteboard-gate” at the academy — a storm that erupted after a cadet wrote a Bible passage on a message board outside his dorm room and erased it in response to criticism.

    The academy, which didn’t require the verse to be removed, says the Bible verse fell in a gray area. Existing regulations say commanders can’t proselytize in the workplace or favor one religion over other beliefs.

    Lamborn said he wants the regulation to allow more expression.

    “These restrictive regulations are a driving force behind many of the Air Force’s recent violations of religious freedom, such as the recent whiteboard incident at the Air Force Academy,” Lamborn said Tuesday.

    His Republican primary rival Bentley Rayburn says Lamborn isn’t doing enough to fight for religious rights and free speech.

    Bentley Rayburn, a retired two-star and Air Force Academy graduate said he would bring teh matter up for congressional debate.

    “We need more than a letter,” Rayburn said. “We need to have a forceful debate about these issues.”

    The lone Democrat in the race, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter intones that Lamborn is going too far.

    Halter couldn’t be reached for questions, but issued a brief statement saying an ongoing review of Air Force religious policies needs to be completed before Congress chimes in.

    “”Congressman Lamborn’s letter is a great example of why so many Coloradans dislike Washington,” Halter wrote.  “As someone who proudly served in the Air Force for 32 years, I can tell you that the last thing the Academy needs is a bunch of politicians in Washington like Congressman Lamborn issuing demands so they can score political points.

    “Of course, cadets must be able to freely express their faith, but the responsible course of action is to wait for the Academy’s review before stirring the pot.”

    The Air Force Academy may be home to the most famous whiteboard in history.

    Since the Military Religious Freedom Foundation called for removal of the Bible verse in March, the flap has dominated a congressional budget hearing and drawn criticism from groups including the Family research council.

    Lamborn’s letter on the topic is his second.

    Weighing in is good politics for the congressman, whose 5th District is home to five military bases and major religious organizations including Focus on the Family.

    Lamborn in past campaigns has worked to court religious voters and this year introduced a bill to block federal funding for abortion.


  • 50th Space Wing airmen honored

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    50th_Space_WingSchriever Air Force Base’s 50th Force Support Squadron Manpower and Organization Office was named the Air Force’s top manpower and organization program for 2013, the base announced.

    “This is a big deal for the management analysts on our team, Rebecca Richardson, Jeffrey Roob and Brandon Schirm, to be recognized,” Derek Hamby, the squadron’s manpower and organization chief, said in a statement.

    “In the 15 years I’ve been in this career field, no manpower and organization office has won this award two years consecutively and I doubt the same office has even won it twice in those 15 years.”

    The squadron went through several levels of competition before winning Air Force-wide honors, the base said.

  • Peterson names top airmen

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    21st space wingPeterson Air Force Base named its top airmen at a March awards breakfast.

    The top junior enlisted airman was Senior Airman Leslie Hall.

    The 21st Space Wing’s Staff Sgt. Angelo Tafoya won top honors for junior

    Master Sgt. Ronald Hill, 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, was named top senior sergeant.
    The top first sergeant was Master Sgt. Ryan Devine of the 21st Space Wing.

    The 21st Space Wing’s Capt. Joseph Pickenpaugh was lauded as the best junior officer, and the wing’s Kiesha Mills earned civilian worker honors.

    Other civilian awards went to Jamie Van Horn of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Walter Schmidt and Reggie Selby of the 21st Space Wing.

  • Academy launches telescope network

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    PrintThe Air Force Academy cut the ribbon on its first telescope in the Southern Hemisphere on April 2, part of a project to ring the globe with a network of automated eyes to scan the skies.

    The Falcon Telescope Network, underwritten by the Defense Department, eventually will have 12 telescopes worldwide.

    The new site is at Chile’s Mamalluca Observatory and will be operated in concert with La Serena University in Vicuna, Chile.

    Colleges that join the telescope network will have access to images they can use to teach astronomy. The Air Force will gain a tool to observe satellites in orbit through the academy’s Center for Space Situational Awareness.
    Academy professor Francis Chun, director of the center, went to Chile to unveil the telescope and was flanked by American embassy and local officials.

    The telescopes work together to build composite images of satellites using reflected sunlight in various stages of orbit.

    “Satellites aren’t close enough to get a really good photo of them,” Chun said in a statement. “So you have to gather information about the sunlight reflected by them to try to figure out what they’re made of, what they’re doing in space. This network will allow us to gather the data and make those calculations more accurately.”
    The first telescope opened this year at Otero Junior College in La Junta.

  • Canadian Air Force shares birthday with Air Force Academy

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    noradApril 1 is a popular military birthday on both sides of the northern border.

    While most of Colorado Springs celebrated the Air Force Academy’s 60th birthday that day, a contingent at Peterson Air Force Base celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

    The gathering featured Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Alain Parent, North American Aerospace Defense Command deputy commander presiding over a ceremony.

    The Canadian celebration has big meaning at the bi-national NORAD, where the largest foreign deployment of Canadian troops works alongside their American counterparts to protect the continent from attack.

    “The unique partnership formed more than 50 years ago continues to play a vital role in ensuring the mutual security of Canada and the United States,” NORAD said in a news release.

  • Weather satellite to be controlled by Schriever

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    space commandAir Force Space Command had another successful launch earlier this month when the latest military weather satellite rocketed to orbit April 3.

    The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base sent the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program craft into a near-polar orbit synchronized to the sun’s position above Earth.

    “DMSP is the primary provider of terrestrial and space weather information for the U.S. military,” Space Command said in a news release. “DMSP satellites carry sensors vital to weather prediction and space weather forecasting.”

    After a series of on-orbit tests, control of the new satellite will be passed to airmen at6 Schriever Air Force Base, where the 6th Space Operations Squadron manages the Air Force’s constellation of weather satellites.

    Other units at Schriever control navigation and communication birds.

    Space Command has asked for cash to build a new generation of weather satellites that will feature more capabilities and a longer service life. Money for that program is in a budget bill before Congress.

  • Fort Carson reserve unit to spend year in Texas

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    carsonA Fort Carson Army Reserve unit is headed to Texas to support the war in Afghanistan.

    Sixteen soldiers from the 2215th Mobilization Support Battalion said farewell to Fort Carson in a March 21 ceremony before travelling to Fort Bliss, Texas, where they’ll help prepare soldiers to head to war and assist in demobilizing units that return from Afghanistan.

    “We are the last faces the unit will see before they go into harm’s way, and the first faces that they see when they return. It is our solemn duty to make sure that we take care of these warriors, both before they deploy and when they return,” Lt. Col. Kevin Ellson, the battalion’s commander, said in a news release.

    Guard units like the 2215th, which will remain in Texas for a year, are key in ensuring the ongoing flow of troops to and Afghanistan, where American commanders are winding down 13 years of fighting.

    The Pentagon plans to pull the last American combat troops from Afghanistan by Dec. 31.

  • Coast Guard gets deal on new transports: Free

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    coast guardA fleet of new, but unwanted Air Force transports has found a home with the Coast Guard.

    The Air Force ordered the twin-engined C-27J aircraft a decade ago to fill what was seen as a need for a transport plane smaller than the C-130 Hercules. But the Air Force soured on its purchase as combat in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, reducing the need for small transports to ferry passengers and supplies in the war zone.

    The planes were mothballed as soon as the came off the assembly line.

    But the Coast Guard has claimed 14 of the 21 planes for patrol and transport work.

    “It saves us about a half a billion dollars in acquisition costs, and we’re off and running the program now,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp said in a news release.

    In trade for the C-27Js, the Coast Guard is giving up seven aging C-130 transports, which will be repaired and transferred to the U.S. Forest Service for duty as firefighting tankers.

  • Longmont firm’s images of Russian troops firm spur invasion worry

    Fri, April 11, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    flankersThe top American commander in Europe, Air Force Gen. Phil Breedlove has taken to Facebook with satellite images of an apparent Russian buildup that could foreshadow a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    And the imagery isn’t from some exotic spy satellite. It’s from the Longmont-based satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe.

    The commercial satellite images clearly show Russian tanks, artillery and bombers at bases near Ukraine.

    “Russian forces around Ukraine are not positioned to exercise, they are fully equipped and capable to invade,” Breedlove wrote on Facebook. “Public denials of this simple fact are undermining progress toward a political resolution and cast serious doubts about intentions. These satellite images tell the real story.”

    Breedlove described the Russian forces as an army capable of combined-arms attacks on command.

    NATO is sending surveillance planes for flights over nations neighboring Russia in a show of force.

    “NATO continues to monitor events closely and has prudently increased AWACS surveillance flights over Romania and Poland in order to maintain awareness of activity in Ukraine,” NATO said in a new release. “The Alliance has also significantly increased air policing activity and the number of aircraft dedicated to this task.”

    Fears of a full invasion of the Ukraine have been on a rise since Russian troops aided in partitioning the Crimea there last month.

    Russia has denied the accuracy of the images and NATO’s interpretation of them.


  • Navy unveils its mach 7 magnetic mangler

    Thu, April 10, 2014 by Tom Roeder with no comments

    electromagnetic-railgunThe Navy this week is showing off one of its most secret weapons — a railgun straight out of Star Trek that can take out targets at 100 miles with a projectile flying at nearly 7,000 feet per second.

    Long the topic of science fiction, the rail gun uses magnetic pulses to drive a metal projectile at eye-popping speeds and wrecks targets with pure kinetic energy rather than explosives. The military has talked about railgun research for years,  but a working model has been elusive.

    The biggest difficulty with railguns is the breathtaking amount of electricity required to make them work. The Navy said a single shot of its railgun uses 33 megajoules of electricity — enough power to run the average American household for three days.

    All that electricity leads to impressive results, the Pentagon said on its technology blog.

    railgun-damage“Weapons that can tear through walls like a pencil punctures a balloon,” the blog said. “If you thought lasers were going to change the game, rail guns are going to blast the doors wide open.”

    The military loves the idea of the railgun because it has few moving parts, uses no gunpowder and is comparatively cheap to use — costing just a penny for every dollar of some conventional arms. The downside to the weapon is the thirst for electricity.  But that’s of little concern in a fleet featuring gas turbines and nuclear power.

    And if it lives up to billing, it can be more effective than a laser in taking out enemy planes and missiles and wipe out targets on the ground with ease.

    The Navy released a video of the gun in action, slicing through armor plate like butter and vaporizing a truck.

    And the technology is coming to the fleet soon, with shipboard tests planned for 2016.

    “Over the last few years, the Navy and the Marine Corps have been developing hugely impressive – I call them Star Wars-like – weapons systems,”  Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, Chief of Naval Research said on the blog.  “Based on the hugely impressive performance we’ve been witnessing, we thought it was really about time to let the American public see them.”

    While the American public gets to see the weapon, so do America’s enemies. The military in recent years has timed the unveiling of new technology to global events.

    The last time North Korea got frisky, the Navy showed off an anti-missile laser.

    Now, with the crisis continuing in the Ukraine, the Navy is showing off something even scarier.“We’ve fired the railgun hundreds of times and gotten tremendous results,” Klunder said.