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San Diego Marine Drill Instructor Dies in Motorcycle Crash

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A drill instructor from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego died Friday night in a freeway motorcycle crash, military officials said Saturday.

Officials identified him as Sgt. Gary G. Wilson, 33, of Fairfield, Conn.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010 and in 2016 was assigned to the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment at the depot.

Prior to being assigned to the recruit depot, Wilson served in the 1st Maintenance Battlian at Camp Pendleton and in the Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 and Group 17 in Okinawa, Japan.

The announcement of his death said he died in a motorcycle crash on northbound Interstate 15, but the exact location was not given.

The California Highway Patrol was investigating the crash. No details were available from the CHP on Saturday.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Wilson,” said Brig. Gen. Ryan Heritage, commanding general of MCRD San Diego. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult period. This is truly the loss of a fine Marine, and he will be missed greatly.”

This article is written by Pauline Repard from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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All Military Services Get Failing Grade in First-Ever Audit of Pentagon

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The first-ever audit of the of the $2.7 trillion enterprise that is the Defense Department identified widespread problems in cybersecurity, but found little in the way of savings that could offset potential budget cuts next year, according to Pentagon and Congressional officials.

Without going into detail, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement on the report, said the audit identified “multiple material weaknesses” across the department but also provided “invaluable information that will help us target and prioritize corrective actions.”

David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit, said no glaring instances of fraud were found but the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Operations and the Transportation Command all received failing grades.

“We didn’t pass. That’s the blunt and bottom line. We have issues and we’re going to fix them,” Norquist said.

That was to be expected in a first-time audit, Norquist told defense reporters in a Pentagon news conference shortly before the audit’s release Thursday night.

“If you’re not fixing it, the auditors will come back in exactly a year and find you didn’t fix it,” Norquist said before the report’s release. “And they’re going to come the next year, and the next year until you fix it, so each year I’ll be able to tell you how many findings we closed.”

Occasionally, the auditors turned up problems that turned out not to be problems, Norquist said, which is what happened when they went looking at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The Hill database listed $53 million-worth of missile motors as broken and in need of repair. When the auditors went to look at them, the motors were found to be in working order — it was a problem in labeling, the audit report said.

One of the “material weaknesses,” as Mattis put it, was in the area of cybersecurity throughout the department, Norquist said.

“Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our businesses,” Norquist said, and it “reflects the challenges that the department faces in IT security.”

One area of concern was in security clearances for personnel and “terminating user access when they depart,” Norquist said.

The department also had to do a better job of “monitoring sensitive users, people who have special authorities, making sure there is careful monitoring to that,” Norquist said. “Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our business systems. We thought this was likely.”

Mattis has been pushing DoD managers to find efficiencies and savings on contracts and operations to fund improvements in the lethality and readiness of the force, and also to guard against potential budget cuts in the new Congress.

President Donald Trump has already warned that he could ask for five percent budget cuts next year across all government departments.

In a statement on the audit, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urged against using the audit as an excuse to cut military funding.

The audit should be used to make the military “more efficient and agile,” Thornberry said, and “it should not be used as an excuse for arbitrary cuts that reverse the progress we have begun on rebuilding our strength and readiness.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who has called DoD a “$2.7 trillion enterprise” when all the ships, planes, tanks, missiles, salaries and buildings are counted on top of the budget, agreed with Norquist that failures uncovered by the audit were to be expected in the first attempt.

“We never thought we were going to pass an audit, right? Everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit,” Shanahan told defense reporters Thursday morning.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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Marines Hope to Prevent Mass Shootings by Stressing FBI Reporting

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The Marine Corps recently put out a service-wide message to ensure that commanders are reporting “criminal justice information” to the FBI on Marines prohibited from owning personal firearms in an attempt to prevent future violent crimes.

The Nov. 12 Marine administrative message cites the November 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church, saying it could have been prevented if Air Force officials had reported former airman Devin Patrick’s 2012 conviction for beating his wife and infant stepson to the FBI as required.

“[The] investigation following the tragic mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas on 5 November 2017 revealed that the suspect (a former service member) had a criminal history which prohibited his receipt and possession of firearms, but was not properly reported to the FBI,” the message states. “As a result, the suspect was able to pass a background check and purchase the weapons used in the crime. This tragedy underscores the vital public safety purpose behind Marine Corps efforts to fully and accurately report [criminal justice information] to the FBI via a servicing Law Enforcement Agency.”

Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms or ammunition by individuals who have been subject to command disciplinary proceedings such as certain categories of non-judicial punishment and some administrative separation proceedings and courts-martial, the message states.

The Marine Corps hopes to minimize the potential for similar tragedies in the future by educating commanders and Marines about the “impact of military justice proceedings on receipt and possession of firearms and corresponding CJI reporting requirements” and by providing “oversight at the installation and headquarters level across the Marine Corps to facilitate complete and accurate reporting,” the message states.

“Commanders are ultimately responsible for the reporting of all CJI to the FBI,” the message states.

Marine Corps officials said in the message that the Gun Control Act prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person who meets any of the following conditions:

  • Has been convicted at a general court-martial of any offense punishable by more than one year of confinement, regardless of the amount of confinement actually awarded or imposed
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • Is found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility at trial by special or general court-martial
  • Has received either a dishonorable discharge or dismissal, for officers, at a general court-martial
  • Is subject to a civilian court-issued restraining order
  • Has been convicted at a special or general court-martial or in a civilian court of a crime of domestic violence.

The message directs commands to “develop and provide training at the Commander’s Course, Sergeants Major Symposium, Staff Judge Advocate Course, Legal Officer/Legal Chief Course, and other resident and/or distance education courses on the reporting requirements for [criminal justice information].”

The message also issues guidance to make updates to military police training at military occupational specialty schools to ensure entry-level training includes criminal justice information reporting requirements.

— Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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Trump Visits Marines, Talks at Veterans’ Event

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump visited with Marines and spoke at a White House veterans’ conference Thursday amid fallout over his decision not to visit an American cemetery during his weekend trip to Paris to commemorate the end of World War I.

The president and first lady Melania Trump spent about 40 minutes at the Washington, D.C. Marine Barracks compound, where about 150 Marines had gathered in an event space at tables set with mini pumpkin pies. Trump later spoke at a conference with state and local veterans’ leaders, where he applauded his administration’s efforts to improve veterans’ care.

“The fact is I’ve done a lot,” Trump said of himself, drawing applause from the room.

The events came after the president was criticized for canceling a trip to an American cemetery about 60 miles (99 kilometers) northwest of Paris on Saturday after his helicopter was grounded by bad weather. Trump was in Paris for ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on Sunday, and did not attend the annual commemoration for Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery. He also did not visit Arlington on Monday, the federal legal holiday, after his return from France.

A White House official said the Barracks visit had been in the works for several weeks, and Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for the first lady, whose office organized the visit, said the president had planned to join the event “weeks ago.”

The Trumps went around the room, greeting the Marines one by one, and later sat with some who had responded to a fire at a local public housing complex in September.

The fire tore through the Arthur Capper Public Housing complex for seniors. Neighbors, first responders and Marines at the barracks rushed to the scene. More than 150 people were displaced, but no one was killed.

This article was written by Jill Colvin from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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California Air National Guard Units Called In to Fight Wildfires

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The California Air National Guard is assisting in firefighting efforts across the state as citizens flee two devastating wildfires, one of which is now the deadliest in California’s history.

Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) C-130 Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing in Channel Islands are dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardent across the state as efforts to contain the Woolsey and Camp wildfires continue.

The MAFFS — retrofitted C-130s that carry refillable tanks within their belly — can drop 3,000 gallons in one location in just seconds, according to the Air Force. About 10 members from the 146th are also deployed with emergency crews for fire support.

Additionally, more than 100 guardsmen with the 163rd Attack Wing, March Joint Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California are working to gather intelligence, with operators flying an MQ-9 Reaper drone to surveil affected fire areas, Air National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Randy Saldivar said Friday.

The drone is helping to “provide full motion video to incident commanders along with fire mapping of the affected areas,” Saldivar said in an email.

Another 25 or so guardsmen with the 163rd are also working in a relief capacity, he said.

Also involved:

  • An RC-26 surveillance aircraft from the 141st Air Refueling Wing mapping perimeters and damage assessment from the Camp and Woolsey Fires.
  • 10 members from the 144th Fighter Wing working as a “medical strike team,” Saldivar said.
  • Guardsmen with 195th Wing out of Beale Air Force Base assististing citizens displaced by the Camp Fire, as well as managing intelligence feeds from the aerial surveillance and remain on standby for communications, Air Force Magazine said.
  • Roughly 25 California Air National Guard security forces members supporting security at the Chico airport fire operations center, according to Saldivar.

As of Friday, there were more than 600 people missing from areas affected by the Camp Fire in northern California. The death toll there has climbed to 66, CBS News reported.

Firefighters were still on the ground working to contain more than half the fire, which has so far burned 142,000 acres, according to statistics from the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or “Cal Fire” page.

While nearly 70 percent of the fire is contained in southern California’s Woolsey Fire, hundreds continued to evacuate this week.

Between both fires, nearly 12,500 buildings, including homes, have been destroyed.

In August, California was plagued with 15 simultaneous fires, including the Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire.

The 195th Wing at Beale and the 163rd Attack Wing out of March assisted in similar ways during those events, according to Air Force Times.

While Camp has been considered by officials to be more destructive, Mendocino was the result of two fires that merged, and ultimately became the largest fire in the state’s history, burning more than 450,000 acres.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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Air Force Academy Cadet Accused of Cocaine Use Faces Court-martial

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An Air Force Academy cadet will face court-martial next week on charges of cocaine use and lying to investigators.

Junior cadet Ethan Walton, who came to Colorado Springs as a football recruit, faces a maximum sentence of five years in a military lockup on the drug charge. A talented linebacker from Lilburn, Ga., Walton led his high school squad with 85 tackles as a senior.

Walton played for the academy’s Preparatory School after he arrived on campus in 2015, but hasn’t cracked the varsity squad.

Walton’s legal troubles began in May after a routine drug test. Court papers show Walton was confronted about the test by agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

According to a charge sheet, Walton told investigators he tested positive for cocaine because he had eaten drugged food at a Tejon Street watering hole in the days before the test.

The attempt to explain the result landed Walton with a charge of making a “false official statement,” a federal felony.

Air Force prosecutors say Walton’s falsehoods didn’t stop there. Two weeks after the failed drug test, the cadet was hauled in again and questioned about an alleged trip to Las Vegas with classmates, which Walton denied. Investigators say Walton was lying, landing him a second count of making a false statement.

The last charge against Walton is the most serious, alleged cocaine use. Using cocaine while serving in uniform carries a maximum penalty of five years along with dismissal from the school.

Walton is scheduled for trial beginning Tuesday.

___

This article is written by Tom Roeder from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Couple, Homeless Marine Vet Charged in Charitable Scam

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MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. — A feel-good tale of a homeless man using his last $20 to help a stranded New Jersey woman buy gas was actually a complete lie, manufactured to get strangers to donate more than $400,000 to help the down-and-out good Samaritan, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced criminal charges against the couple who told the story to newspapers and television stations along with the homeless man who conspired with them to tell the story.

He said the money, donated to the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, will be refunded to people who saw the story and contributed to him through a GoFundMe page set up by the couple, Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure.

“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Coffina said. “It was fictitious and illegal and there are consequences.”

Bobbitt was arrested Wednesday night by U.S. marshals in Philadelphia and remained in custody Thursday on probation detainers and a $50,000 bond. A message was left with a previous attorney of Bobbitt’s.

D’Amico and McClure surrendered to authorities Wednesday night and were released. Their attorney said they have no comment. All were charged with theft by deception.

Investigators searched the Florence, New Jersey, home of D’Amico and McClure in September after questions arose about what happened to the money they raised for Bobbitt. The couple claimed he helped McClure get gas after she became stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia last year.

McClure said that in an attempt to thank Bobbitt for his help, she set up the fundraising page, which brought in more than $400,000 and landed them in the national news.

Coffina said almost no part of the tale was true. McClure didn’t run out of gas. Bobbitt didn’t spot her in trouble and give her money.

Less than an hour after the couple set up the page to solicit donations, McClure sent a text message to a friend acknowledging the story was “completely made up.”

Prosecutors began investigating after Bobbitt claimed he wasn’t getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.

It’s not exactly clear what happened with the money, though Bobbitt’s attorney has said it’s all gone.

This article was written by Mike Catlalini from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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WWII Pilot’s Remains Will Join Those of his Son at Arlington

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PLATROBE, Pa. — The remains of an Air Force pilot from Pennsylvania whose plane crashed off Croatia during World War II are coming home and will be interred alongside those of his son, a Vietnam War veteran, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Eugene P. Ford will be buried Dec. 4, the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Wednesday.

Ford’s homecoming is courtesy of an international scientific expedition including the Department of Defense, the Croatian Navy, a team of the world’s top underwater archaeologists and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s forensic anthropology lab in Hawaii. His story and their efforts were highlighted in a PBS special earlier this month called “NOVA: Last B-24.”

Ford, 21, of Latrobe, was the pilot of a B-24J aircraft known as the Tulsamerican.

On Dec. 17, 1944, the Tulsamerican was the lead bomber in a group of six targeting oil refineries at Odertal, Germany. Coming out of a cloud bank, the aircraft were attacked by more than 40 German fighters, the Defense Department said.

The Tulsamerican was heavily damaged, forcing Ford to crash-land in the Adriatic Sea off what is now Croatia. Seven crew members survived and were rescued. Three, including Ford, were killed. A search for the wreckage in the late 1940s was unsuccessful, and the remains were declared non-recoverable.

In 2009, a diver came upon aircraft debris off the coast of the Isle of Vis. He contacted the Croatian Conservation Institute, which sent two dive expeditions to photograph the wreckage. However, they were unable to identify the aircraft. In 2010, divers discovered a data plate with numbers matching Ford’s aircraft.

In summer 2017, the Defense Department launched a joint recovery team from Lund University in Sweden and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. In cooperation with the Croatian Navy, the group recovered what appeared to be remains and personal items, the agency said.

In January, those remains were identified as Ford’s.

His daughter, Norma Ford Beard, 74, told the Tribune-Review that her father’s wedding band was among the items recovered.

Beard, who lives near Indianapolis, said her brother Richard, who retired from the Navy after 20 years with two tours of duty in Vietnam, developed a deep interest in his father’s fate. Richard Ford died in 2008 and will be buried alongside his father, she said.

“He asked me if they ever found our father that I would see that he be buried at Arlington. I promised him that,” Beard told the newspaper. “Their ashes will be in the same niche in Arlington.”

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Homeless Marine Vet in $400,000 GoFundMe Benefit Arrested

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MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. — A feel-good tale of a homeless man using his last $20 to help a stranded New Jersey woman buy gas was actually a complete lie, manufactured to get strangers to donate more than $400,000 to help the down-and-out good Samaritan, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced criminal charges against the couple who told the story to newspapers and television stations along with the homeless man who conspired with them to tell the story.

He said the money, donated to the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, will be refunded to people who saw the story and contributed to him through a GoFundMe page set up by the couple, Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure.

“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Coffina said. “It was fictitious and illegal and there are consequences.”

Bobbitt was arrested Wednesday night by U.S. marshals in Philadelphia and remained in custody Thursday on probation detainers and a $50,000 bond. A message was left with a previous attorney of Bobbitt’s.

D’Amico and McClure surrendered to authorities Wednesday night and were released. Their attorney said they have no comment. All were charged with theft by deception.

Investigators searched the Florence, New Jersey, home of D’Amico and McClure in September after questions arose about what happened to the money they raised for Bobbitt. The couple claimed he helped McClure get gas after she became stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia last year.

McClure said that in an attempt to thank Bobbitt for his help, she set up the fundraising page, which brought in more than $400,000 and landed them in the national news.

Coffina said almost no part of the tale was true. McClure didn’t run out of gas. Bobbitt didn’t spot her in trouble and give her money.

Less than an hour after the couple set up the page to solicit donations, McClure sent a text message to a friend acknowledging the story was “completely made up.”

Prosecutors began investigating after Bobbitt claimed he wasn’t getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.

It’s not exactly clear what happened with the money, though Bobbitt’s attorney has said it’s all gone.

This article was written by Mike Catlalini from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Air Force Identifies Pilots Killed, Injured in Latest T-38 Trainer Crash

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The Air Force has identified the pilots involved in Tuesday’s T-38 Talon crash at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

Capt. John F. Graziano, 28, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron, was killed in the crash, officials said. Graziano was from Elkridge, Maryland. The crash was the 5th involving a T-38 in just the last 12 months.

Capt. Mark S. Palyok, also an instructor pilot with the unit, was injured in the crash. Palyok was transported to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Texas, where he was treated for his injuries. He was released Wednesday, officials said in an announcement on the official Laughlin Facebook page.

“Knowing how everyone is affected by this tragedy, my immediate concern is making sure that every member of our Laughlin family is okay,” Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in the post. “Together, we are Laughlin and now is the time that we stand together to take care of one another.”

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The Air Force T-38 Talon went down at 7:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday at the base, officials said. Emergency crews responded to the scene.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

“Our investigators are doing everything possible to ensure they investigate this incident to the fullest,” Gentile said.

The 87th is responsible for training student pilots and, to include specialized undergraduate pilot training for the active-duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard as well as foreign allied air forces.

The latest crash comes as the Air Force is on the path to receive new trainer jets to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s.

There have been four previous crashes involving T-38s in the last 12 months, one of them deadly.

In September, the service awarded Boeing Co. a $9.2 billion contract to build the service’s next aircraft for training future pilots.

The new trainer cannot come too soon for the service as it struggles to maintain its aging Talons, as well as its T-6 Texan II aircraft.

The Texan has had its share of problems as well.

The Air Force cleared its fleet of T-6 trainers to resume training operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph after a “brief pause” following a crash near the base Sept. 18.

Both pilots safely ejected from the aircraft. The Texan was also grounded in February after ongoing reports of pilots suffering breathing problems.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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