Schwartz: Personnel cuts necessary to meet budget demands

As the size of the nation’s military shrinks, it’s important to downsize all components of the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Wednesday morning.

The Air Force needs the right balance of bases and personnel to maintain its presence and capabilities, without overusing any one component, Schwartz said. And if the base realignment and closure happens again, he said, he would focus on “eliminating excess infrastructure” by closing bases.

DOD will attempt to find remainder of body of airman buried at Arlington

WASHINGTON – Maj. Troy Gilbert, a decorated Texas airman killed in Iraq when he went down in his fighter jet while providing close air support to ground troops, is considered “accounted for” by the Pentagon.

While some of his remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, the majority of Gilbert’s body was not recovered at site of the November 2006 crash, and later was shown in a terrorist video. Now the Pentagon has agreed to reopen his case and attempt to locate and return any additional remains after requests by Gilbert’s family for “special consideration,” said Maj. Carie Parker, spokeswoman for the Defense Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office.

Deployed guardsmen treated to home cooking

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — For Col. Eric Kerska, a visit from the boss last week didn’t mean some Army general but the mayor of Rochester, Minn.

Back home Kerska is a battalion fire chief in Rochester, and the mayor was in Kuwait as part of an event to support the Minnesota Guard soldiers. It’s the kind of thing that, despite all the talk of National Guard and active-duty soldiers being One Army when deployed, highlights a key distinction between the two: deep, lifelong roots in a community.

White House announces attendees at dinner honoring Iraq veterans

WASHINGTON – The White House has announced the 78 servicemembers invited to a dinner next Wednesday honoring veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Troops were selected by a committee of the Defense Department’s senior enlisted members, said Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Wilson, the Pentagon’s public affairs chief.

Reality show asking for troops’ combat videos

WASHINGTON – Producers of a new reality show are hoping to make some combat veterans into Hollywood stars, without any singing or uncomfortable blind dates.

The show, tentatively dubbed “Combat Clips,” is designed as a documentary series featuring “real videos shot by real members of our armed forces, in the fight.” Gregory Bishop, a consultant on the project, said the goal is to provide more context and depth to the numerous short battlefield clips littering social media sites, and expose more non-military viewers to the unfamiliar world of combat.

GOP candidates offer support for women in combat posts

WASHINGTON — Last night’s 20th debate of the Republican presidential hopefuls was the first since the Pentagon announced plans to open some combat jobs to female servicemembers. Rick Santorum, who caused a stir earlier this month by suggesting women might be too emotional for such roles, walked back those comments but said he still has some concerns over how the decision was made.

But the three other major candidates offered support for expanded battlefield roles for women, calling the separation of jobs moot in a war environment where everyone faces danger. Ron Paul did raise concerns over whether the move will change selective service rules, but Pentagon officials have already stated they don’t believe the new roles will force any such changes.

Odierno: Sequestration could cut 100,000 active and reserve soldiers

WASHINGTON – The Army’s active and reserve components could fall by 100,000 additional troops if Congress fails to stave off massive defense cuts set to kick in next year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said Tuesday.

The active-duty Army is already set to fall by nearly 80,000 troops to 490,000 by 2017, but would shrink significantly more if the process called sequestration strips more than $1 trillion out of the Defense Department budget over the next decade, Odierno told the press.

Army leaders talk future BCT cuts, sequestration effects

WASHINGTON – The Army is still “a few months away” from decisions about additional brigade combat teams that will be eliminated, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told Congress on Friday.

Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh appeared before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss Army budget decisions a day after the Pentagon named two Europe-based heavy brigades, the 170th and 172nd infantry brigades, that will be deactivated over the next 18 months or so.

Pentagon names units headed to Afghanistan as trainers

WASHINGTON – Nearly 1,500 officers and senior noncommissioned officers from six Army units will deploy to Afghanistan later this year to train Afghan National Security Forces, the Pentagon has announced.

The plan, first reported last year in Stars and Stripes, stems from an evolving strategy in Afghanistan that will attempt to quickly push Afghan troops into the lead in combat against insurgents, giving the local forces time to settle into the job prior to the end of the U.S.-led role at the end of 2014. The policy shift, which Army leaders have discussed in recent months, is expected to be announced formally in May at a NATO summit in Chicago.

Mortgage settlement includes cash, help for troops

WASHINGTON – The sweeping mortgage litigation settlement approved by federal regulators last week includes a host of assistance programs for servicemembers who may have been victims of shady lending practices, including hefty payouts for individuals who lost their homes.

The $26 billion settlement includes language stating that troops who were unfairly foreclosed on by Wells Fargo, Citigroup or Ally Financial will receive a minimum payout of $116,785 plus any home equity that would have accrued since the foreclosure. The deal echoes one previously struck with JPMorgan Chase, in which officials there agreed to pay back military foreclosure victims the value of their home, or return the property to those families.

New Army blood program will focus on specific blood demands

WASHINGTON - Sometimes, the injuries that result from a bad stretch of combat can deplete needed supplies of donated blood. Other times, unused blood products reach a certain age and have to be discarded.

An Army program starting this week will seek “targeted donors” in an attempt to ensure there’s always enough blood of each type for the treatment of wounded troops, while helping prevent oversupply.

White House dinner for Iraq War heroes set for Feb. 29

WASHINGTON – The White House announced Monday that it will host a formal dinner honoring troops who served in the Iraq War on Feb. 29, and that representatives from both the enlisted and officer ranks will be invited to the event.

Administration officials said the tribute will also feature Pentagon officials, but offered few other details. The event is designed to be “an expression of the nation's gratitude for the achievements and enormous sacrifices of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq War and of the families who supported them.”

Danger pay now calculated by the day

WASHINGTON - Starting this month, the Defense Department will calculate imminent danger pay by the day rather than the month, a cost-cutting move the department estimated last year could save $30 million annually.

Up to now, servicemembers received a full month’s imminent danger pay – $225 – for spending even a single day in designated hazardous areas, which range from war zones such as Afghanistan to out-of-the-way spots like Montenegro.

Lawmakers call for hearings into military hazing

WASHINGTON — Angered at what they view as light punishment for servicemembers involved in hazing incidents, some members of Congress are calling for hearings to address a system that “does not work.”

“This is a call for justice,” Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said at a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.

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