Amos: No slap on wrist for Marines urinating on corpses

WASHINGTON — Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos rejected the suggestion that three Marines involved in a video that showed troops urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents got off easy by not facing court-martial.

“It wasn’t a slap on the wrist,” Amos told a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington.

New law forces TSA to protect reservists’ jobs

WASHINGTON – For the first time ever, officials from the Transportation Security Administration aren’t allowed to fire or reassign reservists simply because they’ve been called up for military duty.

When the agency was established following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it was exempt from a number of hiring and employment fairness laws in an effort to speed up its launch. That means that even though TSA agents have been a fixture at airports for more than a decade, the agency has never been subject to the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which guarantees guardsmen and reservists their civilian jobs when they are activated for military service.

Hunter presses Panetta on Peralta, Swenson Medal of Honor nominations

At least two nominations for servicemembers deserving of the Medal of Honor are inexplicably bogged down in the bureaucratic pipeline, Rep. Duncan Hunter said in a letter this week to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Hunter, a California Republican and a combat veteran, reiterated his support for awarding the medal to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta and to express concern that a Medal of Honor for Army Capt. Will Swenson may have been scuttled because Swenson questioned the rules of engagement following the 2009 battle of Ganjgal.

Panetta seeks to remind Americans the war isn't over

Surge troops may be starting to return from Afghanistan, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wants to make sure Americans remember the war’s not over yet.

“I realize that there are a lot of other things going on in this country that can draw our attention,” Panetta said Tuesday in a Pentagon press briefing, “but I thought it was important to remind the American people that there is a war going on in Afghanistan, and that young men and women are dying in order to try to protect this country.”

Fanfare at one new VA hospital, delays at another

WASHINGTON – A week after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki christened a new $600 million veterans hospital in Las Vegas, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was in Florida holding a special hearing on why a new VA hospital in Orlando will open at least a year late.

The 90-bed hospital in North Las Vegas, which includes a 120-bed nursing home and an outpatient care center, is the first new VA hospital to open since 1995. The Orlando facility was supposed to follow on its heels and open in October, but it’s been plagued by contractor and design problems.

Schwartz retires, Welsh takes over as Air Force chief of staff

WASHINGTON – His retirement papers had been filed, and Gen. Norton Schwartz and his wife, Suzie, were toasting their 27th wedding anniversary when a phone call intruded. Would he stay on and accept the Air Force’s top job?

The couple didn’t hesitate.

Official: No progress ending insurgent safe havens in Pakistan

WASHINGTON — Even as the U.S. gradually warms up its relationship with Pakistan and sees success in Afghan security force development, insurgent safe havens in Pakistan are as intractable a problem as ever, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

“I can’t really say there’s been any progress,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters over lunch at a Washington hotel.

Hopes dead for a 2013 BRAC round, Panetta concedes

WASHINGTON – Base closures won’t be on the table in 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted Monday, but added the Pentagon’s worldwide infrastructure would eventually have to come down.

“It is now clear that there will not be a round of BRAC authorized in 2013,” he said. “Frankly, this was no surprise.”

Coming home blog post becomes heartbreaking memorial instead

WASHINGTON – Here’s heartbreaking news from the bloggers over at Mudville Gazette: Sgt. Eric Williams, a 27-year-old flight medic stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., was killed in Afghanistan last month just days before his expected return home, and just days after sharing his end-of-tour thoughts on his personal blog.

In his online posting, Williams voiced concerns about returning from the seriousness and somberness of combat to an America where citizens “want their Starbucks and celebrity gossip and their ‘16 and pregnant.’” He voiced pride in his service, but also worry about what would become of him and his fellow servicemembers.

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