Pentagon: We're not hyping sequestration

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is slapping back at politicians and pundits who suggest that defense leaders and the Obama administration are guilty of using scare tactics in the debate over automatic budget cuts set to kick in Friday.

“There seems to be a belief in some quarters that when it comes to negative impact that sequester will have on our national defense and military readiness, the Department of Defense is crying wolf,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Lawmaker asks for review of Distinguished Warfare Medal

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., has joined the chorus of critics asking the Pentagon to reconsider the ranking of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, to be awarded to drone pilots and other offsite troops involved in combat operations.

In a letter to Pentagon officials Monday, Rooney requested that the Defense Department reconsider its decision to place the new medal above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star in order of precedence.

Guantanamo joke flies over the head of some readers

If “Guantanamo Prisoners to Receive GI Bill Benefits” sounds like a joke… that’s because it is. But the headline on the popular satirical military news site The Duffel Blog alarmed one Kentucky resident so much that he or she was prompted to write to Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office forwarded the note to the Defense Department, asking officials to review and respond to the constituent’s concerns, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Study could offer solutions to troops’ depression

WASHINGTON -- Military health officials admit they don’t fully know how anti-depression medications work on struggling troops’ brains, or why sometimes they don’t. A new study hopes to fix that.

Officials from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday announced plans for a large-scale new brain activity study to pinpoint what happens when troops suffer depression, with the hopes of identifying new medications or treatments that could solve the problem.

Troops use humor to disparage new medal

The Distinguished Warfare Medal was established to acknowledge the most modern technology, but servicemembers and veterans are responding to the award’s creation in a decidedly old-school way: Mocking it mercilessly.

Along with an avalanche of Whiskey Tango Foxtrots and a tsunami of outrage, troops are circulating a photo of a gold-plated X-Box controller and the skull-emblazoned “Call of Duty” medal as “prototypes” of the new award, which honors servicemembers like drone pilots and computer hackers who impact combat operations from afar. The medal is being called the Chairborne Medal, the Distant Warfare Medal and the Purple Buttocks, among other names.

Gay military spouse goes from shadows to State of the Union

WASHINGTON -- Two years ago, Tracey Hepner and her spouse couldn’t be seen together in public for fear of government reprisal. On Tuesday night, they were special guests of the White House during the State of the Union speech at the Capitol.

“To be so excluded, so invisible for so long, and now to have been sitting there, it’s almost surreal,” said Hepner, co-founded the Military Partners and Families Coalition, which advocates for same-sex military couples.

If not Gen. Allen at EUCOM, then who?

STUTTGART, Germany — After months in limbo, Gen. John Allen appears to be on the fence about whether he wants one of most coveted jobs in the military: NATO supreme allied commander-Europe and chief of U.S. European Command.

Allen, who recently relinquished command in Afghanistan, is apparently undecided about whether he wants NATO’s top military job, which is being vacated by Adm. James Stavridis, the first naval officer to be NATO supreme commander.

Vote on Hagel nomination set for Tuesday

WASHINGTON  — After last week’s delays,  former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense will come up for an open vote before the Senate Armed Service Committee at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Monday that he would be asking members to vote after they have had an opportunity for discussion.

Guardsman turned gay rights advocate loses battle with cancer

WASHINGTON – A New Hampshire National Guardsman who had become a key figure in the fight for benefits for same-sex military couples passed away this weekend, according to officials at OutServe-SLDN.

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, succumbed to the illness this weekend, according to group officials. She leaves behind her wife, Karen, and 5-year-old daughter, Casey.

Levin: GOP wants too much information in Hagel confirmation

WASHINGTON – After halting a vote this week on the nomination of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in response to 25 Republican senators’ requests for more financial information, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that the requests ”go far beyond” the committee’s standard – and the vote will be taken "as soon as possible."

The vote could come next week – although it has not been scheduled, a senior staffer in Levin's office said.

Two more Marines charged in urination incident

WASHINGTON – Two more Marines have been charged for their alleged roles in an incident that involved urinating on dead Taliban fighters in 2011, the Marine Corps announced Friday.

Captain James V. Clement, executive officer for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine regiment, has been charged with dereliction of duty, violation of a lawful general order and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen for failing to supervise junior Marines, failing to stop the misconduct of junior Marines and failing to report misconduct. He also was charged with making false statements to an investigator.

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