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Marine Combat Assault Battalion Deactivates After 76 Years

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The Marine Corps shut down its unique battalion-sized combat-assault unit last week after decades of service, from supporting Pacific campaigns during World War II to exercises with allies to wartime deployments to Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.

Combat Assault Battalion, based in Okinawa, Japan, cased its colors Friday. It marks the end of a 76-year history during which engineers, amphibious assault vehicle crews and light-armored reconnaissance units worked side-by-side to support 3rd Marine Division.

” ‘Sui Generis’ is the motto of the unit, which means unique or of its own kind,” Lt. Col. Jacob Robinson, CAB’s final commanding officer, told Military.com. “I think that really is the essence of the legacy. It’s always been a fairly diverse unit and has had significant capabilities dating back to 1942.”

The decision to deactivate the unit is the result of Marine Corps Force 2025, a years-long review that determines where the service needs to boost or shrink capabilities in an effort to remain relevant in the future fight. Deactivating Combat Assault Battalion, Robinson said, helps the service save manpower, realign existing capabilities and open up the opportunity to add new ones.

Almost all of the nearly 1,000 Marines who were assigned to the unit as of last summer have already been reassigned. It took about a year for the bulk of the personnel to transition out or be moved, as leaders tried not to disrupt the lives of Marines and their families who’d traveled all the way to Japan to serve with Combat Assault Battalion.

The AAV and LAV personnel and equipment made for the cleanest transition, Robinson said, since they moved in whole to 4th Marine Regiment, also on Okinawa. Some of the combat engineers also stayed in Japan, while others moved to Hawaii or were absorbed by I or II Marine Expeditionary Force units on the East and West coasts.

CAB’s deactivation is a bittersweet one for Robinson, who said it was an honor to serve as battalion commander for Marines carrying out such diverse missions. The Marines had a chance to operate in a forward-deployed environment alongside allies all over the world, he said.

And since the unit has long roots in armor — first with tank crews and later amphibious assault vehicles and light-armored vehicles — the battalion’s combat engineers, LAV teams and AAV crews have gotten a rare chance to work closely together.

“Nowhere else do you have all those same capabilities working in the same unit,” Robinson said. “… It’s been a real opportunity for those Marines to be able to experience the other [military occupational specialties] in a way they don’t generally get the opportunity to do so.”

CAB’s deactivation ceremony was held Friday afternoon at the Camp Courtney Theater. Brig. Gen. William Jurney, commanding general of 3rd Marine Division, was scheduled to preside over the deactivation.

The Marines who’ve served in Combat Assault Battalion — from World War II through the present — will carry those experiences forward, Robinson added.

“I think the legacy is, for a long time from now, I think you will be able to go to a unit and you’ll be able to find Marines who served in Combat Assault Battalion,” he said. “… That’s the case dating all the way back to World War II, under whatever name this unit was called. The legacy is their contribution to the betterment of the Marine Corps — not only while they were in this unit, but just as importantly as they served with other units.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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New Marine Correctional Unit ‘Like Boot Camp All Over Again’

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Pvt. Colton Cornelius and Lance Cpl. Wellington Daniels have made mistakes.

The two III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines drew the ire of their commanders recently for minor alcohol-related infractions while stationed on the tiny southern Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa. But leadership determined they were valuable to their units and should be given another chance rather than punished with separation from the Marines.

They were placed in the Correctional Custody Unit, a new rehabilitation program aimed at setting Marines on the straight and narrow and reintegrating them into their units. Dubbed CCU 2.0, the program began May 2 at Camp Hansen and could soon be launched at stateside Marine bases.

Cornelius and Daniels thought the program was going to be mostly manual labor and grueling punishment.

“I was watching old videos and all I saw was the hammering rocks, so I’m like, ‘We’re going to be busting rocks in jail?’ and I’m like, ‘man,'” said Daniels, 28, a motor vehicle operator from Miami. “But when I first came in, it was totally different.”

The program includes mindfulness training, goal-setting and classes on a variety of topics, such as financial literacy and learning the jobs of other Marines, such as machine-gun operation.

Cornelius said it didn’t take long for him to realize that CCU 2.0 was helping him.

“I had really bad problems with patience. I was always frustrated,” said the rifleman, 24, of Huntsville, Ala. “This program has actually allowed me to kind of like calm down, assess situations and just kind of go with the flow of things.”

Marine officials are optimistic about the program.

“The mission is to get that wayward Marine to serve their initial contract obligations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Loren Ortiz, staff noncommissioned officer in charge. “Anything after that is icing on the cake — re-enlistment, meritorious promotion … We’ve received support from the highest levels of leadership.”

Participants are called “awardees” and spend seven or 30 days under the constant watch and critique of a senior watch stander and assigned watch standers. Each awardee has an individual dorm room with a bed, sink, water fountain and toilet. The program can accommodate 32 service members at a time.

When it was launched in May at the Camp Hansen brig, planners decided to scrap a controversial part of the program that saw flak jacket-clad Marines pulverizing rocks with sledge hammers in the Okinawan heat.

Day 1

On Aug. 15, the seven-man Class 4-TAC-18 arrived in the rain outside the Hansen brig. Only the fourth class to go through the fledgling program, they stood outside with sea bags slung over their shoulders and were told to enter one at a time for in-processing.

The first Marine through the thick steel brig door didn’t make it one step before a watch stander was in his face shouting about neglecting to give the proper greeting.

“Get out,” he barked.

The Marine exited and re-entered.

“Good morning gentlemen,” he said sheepishly.

The awardee was instructed to dump his sea bag’s contents onto the deck and segregate it. His cellphone, wallet and other personal items were confiscated as contraband. He was given a foot locker and told which items should go inside. They were checked as each item was entered.

This process was repeated for each Marine while a commanding officer met with Ortiz to go over any health concerns the awardees might have, appointments and rules for visitation.

Next, awardees stood on footprints, just like in boot camp. But these were not the kind welcoming them to the Marine Corps; these welcomed them to the portion of the brig where incarcerated inmates are housed.

They toured the in-processing center and learned about body-cavity searches and prison uniforms, the cells and the cafeteria. Everything was cold and stark.

“It is vitally important that you give everything you have to this program,” Ortiz said. “There is hope, regardless of what it feels like right now. I am telling you; there is hope.”

Day 16

The CCU program is broken up into three weeklong periods called “conducts,” Ortiz said. Conduct 1, the first week, is the most strict. Rules are established, and battlefield communication — shouting, essentially — is used to enforce them. A board approves passage to the next phase.

“First thing I thought was everything was like boot camp all over again,” Daniels said. “Everything was stern, discipline, everything had to be done to the exact ‘T.'”

Reveille is typically at 4:30 a.m., the awardees said. They shave, brush their teeth and make their racks before physical training, which can be a hike or a run.

After, they shower and eat. Then they work on book reports and other tasks while waiting for classes to start. These run until evening, breaking only for lunch and dinner. Then they meet with senior watch standers who act as mentors.

They head for their racks for taps.

In Conduct 2, watch standers ease off and let appointed awardee squad leaders delegate and lead. Watch standers interject when necessary.

During Conduct 3 — the release phase — watch standers generally don’t need to step in.

On Aug. 31, the awardees completed a 3-mile run with cadence at 6 a.m. with the law enforcement battalion. They showered and got into their dress uniforms for inspection.

The process was rigorous.

The awardees changed out of their dress uniforms and filed into a classroom. They went over essays they had written and watched a video about goals, happiness, health and inner well-being by motivational philosopher Jay Shetty.

Some of the classes awardees take include “Thinking for Change” and “Prime for Life,” as well as a core-values refresher.

Correctional treatment specialist Michael Long asked the class about some of the things that bring short-term happiness as opposed to long-term or total happiness. They discussed goals.

They also participated in mindfulness training. Long said that’s one of the most beneficial aspects of the CCU program.

“We try to get them to be more reflective of what they’re doing; I think it’s getting them to slow down a little bit,” he said. “Making a good decision, making a bad decision, is just that brief moment; anger is a secondary emotion. So, if somebody is out drinking and they get mad, having the ability to just take a breath, think, can help you make the right decision.”

Day 28

By Sept. 12, the Conduct 3 awardees were ready to return to their units. They donned dress uniforms and made their way by van to the Camp Hansen theater. A tori gate had been set up on the stage along with the U.S. and Marine Corps flags.

Friends and members of their units sat in the audience as a show of support.

After several speeches extolling their accomplishments, the awardees were called to the stage one by one. They received a certificate and shook hands with Ortiz and CCU 2.0 commander Chief Warrant Officer Rachel Jacobs. They walked with pride and there were no signs of shame or dishonor.

“It feels great to graduate,” Cornelius said. “I still plan on improving.”

With the right attitude, Daniels said, one can easily become a better Marine through the CCU. He said he is nervous heading back to his unit, but he has seen the improvement in himself.

“It’s like being given a second chance,” he said.

Cornelius said he didn’t have any goals when he entered the program. He was leaving with a plan to use tuition assistance to take college courses until he separates from the service. Then he plans to use his G.I. Bill to go to welding school.

“I didn’t have that planned out until I came here, so I would definitely say it’s been beneficial for me in that aspect,” he said.

History of CCU

The first CCU program was started in 1979 to give commanders an alternative to discharging undeveloped or immature service members who get into trouble for minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It became widespread in the mid-1990s, around the time one was founded at Camp Hansen, Marine officials have said. Marine Corps hubs of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Camp Pendleton in California also had versions of the penal institution and program.

The units were known for strenuous physical training that resembled boot camp and were last operated in the United States and on Okinawa in 2004, when they were ended due to staffing shortages while the U.S. military was preoccupied in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In recent years, Marine leaders on Okinawa began looking to revive the program to cut down on administrative separations and help Marines finish their enlistments honorably. Headquarters Marine Corps approved the relaunch in February.

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Air Force Still Mum on How Many F-22s Damaged in Hurricane

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The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Monday that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Sunday. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.

“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

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Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to last week.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Monday. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Monday. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by next September — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Monday. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

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

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Air Force Pilot Involved in Su-27 Crash in Ukraine, Fate Unknown

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The status of a U.S. Air Force pilot who was aboard a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter that crashed in that country’s Khmelnytskyi region during Exercise Clear Sky still remains unclear hours after the disaster.

The crash occurred at approximately 5 p.m. local time, officials with U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa said in a statement.

“We understand there was an American in the backseat of the aircraft,” the statement said, adding that the Air Force is investigating the incident.

The Ukrainian General Staff had issued an earlier online statement indicating that both a Ukrainian pilot and an American pilot were on board and killed in the crash. The statement has since been taken down.

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The accident follows an emergency landing by an Air Force F-15 Eagle that occurred Friday.

An F-15D participating in the exercise “had a minor mechanical issue in flight on Friday that caused the sortie to be cut short,” Air Force Maj. Tristan Hinderliter told Military.com in an email. “The aircraft landed without incident back at Starokostiantyiv Air Base and is expected to resume participating in the exercise this week.”

Hundreds of U.S. and Ukrainian airmen are conducting flight operations at Starokostiantyiv between Lviv and Kiev in Ukraine’s western region in the two-week exercise, a first of its kind.

U.S. assets participating include six F-15C Eagles from the 144th Fighter Wing, based at Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif.; an F-15D from the 48th Fighter Wing, at RAF Lakenheath, England; and C-130Js from the Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, operating out of Vinnytsia Air Base.

Pararescue airmen from California’s 129th Rescue Wing are also in Vinnytsia for combat search-and-rescue training with their Ukrainian counterparts. Other airmen and aircraft, such as an MQ-9 Reaper drone, are operating out of Poland for the missions.

Officials told Military.com last week that Clear Sky is the first time F-15s from the California Air National Guard have touched down in Ukraine, and the first time the aircraft has been in Ukraine overall since 1998.

The exercise is meant to enhance regional security, offering training with the Ukrainians to increase interoperability with NATO allies and other partners in the region, officials have said.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Northern Command Air Operations Center Moves to Virginia in Wake of Hurricane

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Air security and defense for the continental United States is being handled out of an “alternate location” after Hurricane Michael virtually destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., last week.

The Air Force Northern Command Air Operations Center, which sustained only minor damage when the category-4 storm made landfall Wednesday, has been transformed into the “Tyndall Recovery and Command and Control Center,” First Air Force commander Lt. Gen. R. Scott Williams said in a statement issued Sunday. The compound is now hosting the 325th Fighter Wing and various recovery teams.

“As you know Team Tyndall has taken a devastating hit from Hurricane Michael, and all of our missions have been affected,” he said. “While our operations must go uninterrupted, our top priority is to take care of all personnel assigned to First Air Force and their families in these very challenging times.”

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Williams said he does not expect First Air Force operations to return to Tyndall before the end of the year, and will instead consolidate its Air Forces Northern and North American Aerospace Defense Command missions at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Friday that 100 percent of Tyndall housing was uninhabitable and that the region would require assistance for several weeks.

“It is currently unsafe for [families] to enter Tyndall AFB premises but we are moving as fast as possible to allow access,” he said in Sunday’s statement. “We are working with the 325 FW to allow families to return and take care their personal belongings and their homes.”

Cleanup efforts began Friday, when an engineering unit arrived at Tyndall from Hurlburt Field, some 80 miles west of Panama City. The squadron was outfitted with heavy construction equipment.

Air Force special operators, also from Hurlburt, were able to open Tyndall’s airfield late Thursday to allow aircraft to deliver needed supplies to the area, an Air Force spokeswoman said Friday.

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Trump Gets Bird’s-eye View of Tyndall, Devastated Florida Communities

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — President Donald Trump got a bird’s-eye view Monday of Florida communities left in ruins by Hurricane Michael, including houses without roofs, a toppled water tower and 18-wheel trucks scattered in a parking lot during a nearly hour-long helicopter tour of portions of the Panhandle.

Trump initially saw uprooted trees and houses with blue tarps covering damaged roofs after his helicopter lifted from Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso. But the severity of the damage worsened significantly as Trump approached Mexico Beach, a town of about 1,000 people that was nearly wiped off the map in a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155 mph (250 kph) winds last week.

Many of the houses in Mexico Beach had no roofs. In some cases, only the foundations were left standing. The water tower lay on its side and 18-wheelers were scattered in a parking lot like a child’s toys.

Trump also saw Tyndall Air Force Base, which was heavily damaged by the storm.

Reporters trailed the president in a separate helicopter.

Trump landed at an airport near Panama City, where power poles bowed toward the ground, pieces of metal roofing were scattered in brush land and pine trees had been uprooted or were snapped off halfway up their straight trunks. On the drive toward Panama City, he and first lady Melania Trump could see houses smashed by trees, bent billboards and a demolished trailer park. Power crews were working to restore power.

In the nearby city of Lynn Haven, where blue tarps topped many of the homes, Trump walked up to a house where a massive pine tree lay on the front yard next to a palm tree that stood tall. Repairs were being made to the home, owned by Michael Rollins, who told Trump he rode out the storm.

“I knew I had made my commitment to stay with my animals. I have two dogs and a parrot,” Rollins told Trump.

More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without electricity as of Sunday, along with about 120,000 in Georgia, where Trump also planned to survey hurricane damage. People were also grappling with widespread cellphone outages.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott greeted Trump upon his arrival at Eglin Air Force Base, and Trump immediately praised Scott for an “incredible” storm response.

“The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible,” Trump told reporters. With Scott at his side, Trump told him: “You’re a great governor.”

Scott said he’s gotten everything he’s asked for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has spoken with Trump “almost every day.”

“Every time I’ve called, he’s come through,” Scott said of Trump.

Trump tweeted before leaving the White House that he will meet with law enforcement and government officials involved in the massive recovery effort. He said “maximum effort is taking place, everyone is working very hard. Worst hit in 50 years!”

He tweeted after arriving in Florida that he’s “also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and South Carolina today. We are with you!” Trump also planned to survey hurricane damage in Georgia on Monday.

The death toll from Michael’s destructive march from Florida through to Virginia stood at 17, with just one confirmed death in Mexico Beach.

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Low-Rated Schools Scare Troops Away From Alabama Air Force Base

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The poor reputation of schools in Alabama’s capital city is creating friction with the city’s Air Force base.

Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of Air University and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, says the state of schools in Montgomery is putting a strain on his job, with airmen arriving on base alone and faculty members reluctant to accept positions at the base.

More than 56 percent of airmen in last year’s Air War College came to Montgomery without families, Cotton tells the Montgomery Advertiser, with schools being the top reason cited for separation.

“The reality is, ‘If my kids aren’t happy, I’m not happy,” Cotton said of airmen. “If I have to try to spend so much time trying to understand how to get them ready and prepared for secondary education, then I’m not doing my mission as far as taking care of you, and making sure that I protect our country.'”

Rachel Scott said she started a side business to raise tuition to send her oldest child to a private high school, but would rather save the money for college. She said her family is looking at buying a house outside Montgomery by summer to seek better schools.

Until now, they’ve relied on Maxwell’s on-base school, but it ends after eighth grade.

“We moved on base primarily for the school because my husband did research before we moved here and found out that the school systems were rated really low,” Scott said. “Their ratings are so low, I feel like my kids would fall behind.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, 34 percent of Montgomery County seniors were deemed to have graduated without being college or career ready. The district’s five regular high schools had a combined average ACT score of 16, failing to meet the minimum score of 21 for enrollment at the University of Alabama. On the state’s report card, 66 percent of the Montgomery public schools received grades of D or F.

Montgomery County Superintendent Ann Roy Moore wrote in an email that more than 600 students in the system are identified as military dependents. She said the system understands such students “unique needs.”

“We are meeting with Maxwell representatives and the Military Child Transition Coalition team to identify ways we can show military families we care about their needs, and that we are working daily to improve academic achievement in our school system,” Moore wrote.

The impact is a double-edged, with Montgomery failing to accommodate the men and women that serve this country, and failing to accommodate its biggest economic impact, with the base contributing $1.2 billion annually to the city.

Montgomery, Scott said, is losing money because people are forced to live outside the city.

Opening the base’s school to military families living off base, however, is not an option the Air Force has. Cotton declined to comment when asked to discuss potential solutions the Air Force is exploring to assist military members who are struggling because of the state of the school system.

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100 Percent of Tyndall Housing Unlivable After Hurricane Slams Base

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About 600 military families face long waits to return to housing destroyed by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, the commander of the National Guard said Friday.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told defense reporters that “100 percent of the housing on that base is uninhabitable” after the eye of Michael passed over Tyndall as a Category 4 storm.

The families were safely evacuated before the storm hit, and the service will have to find other accommodations for them until repairs can be made, he said, adding he had no idea on a timeline for restoration of base operations or repairs for the demolished housing.

He noted that Tyndall is the main base for training on the F-22 Raptor, the Air Force’s most advanced fighter, and also serves as a center for training on battle management.

“As far as figuring out a timeline” for repairs to housing and a return to operations, “I’m not informed at this point,” Lengyel said.

The base near Panama City, Florida, “took a beating” from the hurricane, but 50 F-22 Raptors stationed there had been flown out to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Texas Fort Worth Alliance airport before the storm hit, Col. Brian Laidlaw, commander of the 325th Fighter Wing, said in a Facebook post.

However, the Air Force said it anticipates that some F-22s that had been left hangared at the base were damaged in the storm. Officials have not publicly said how many of the aircraft might be damaged.

Laidlaw said the 3,600 airmen and family members stationed at the base won’t be allowed to return until their safety can be ensured.

“I know that you are eager to return. I ask you to be patient and try to focus on taking care of your families and each other. We can rebuild our base, but we can’t rebuild any of you,” Laidlaw wrote.

At a Defense Writers Group session at George Washington University, Lengyel said a total of 3,583 Guard soldiers and airmen had been activated in the response to the hurricane. Most of them — 2,932 — were from Florida, he said, and 625 were called up in Georgia.

He added that another 133 from the Guard were still activated in North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, but they are expected to be released soon.

A total of more than 10,000 Guard soldiers and airmen were on standby for possible call-up in the response to Hurricane Michael, Lengyel said, but he expected that they would not be needed.

Lengyel said that most of the Guard’s response is still in search-and rescue-mode and efforts at debris clearance. He also said that that Guard had set up 11 distribution points to supply food, water and other assistance to stranded residents.

The Army reported that “serious communications problems in the Panhandle” caused by storm damage are limiting operations.

In the effort to restore power, the Army’s Corps of Engineers is ready to install 55 generators when requested by state authorities and has another 30 generators en route to the area, officials said.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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Former Marine Reportedly Confesses to Brutal Drug-Related Homicide in Taiwan

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Local media reports say a former Marine arrested over the summer in connection with a grisly drug-related homicide on Taiwan has allegedly confessed to the crime.

Ewart Odane Bent, 30, was taken into custody Aug. 24 by Taiwanese police in the death of Ramgahan Sanjay Ryan, a 43-year-old Canadian man who was killed and then dismembered with machetes on the evening of Aug. 21, according to the English-language Taiwan News.

Both Bent and Ryan were English teachers reportedly involved with a local drug ring.

Bent allegedly confessed to premeditated homicide and took investigators to the scene of the crime earlier this month, according to Taiwan News, which cited the nation’s Criminal Investigation Bureau.

The reported confession came on the heels of the extradition of a second suspect. Israeli-American tattoo shop owner and former Israel Defense Forces soldier Oren Shlomo Mayer, 37, fled Taiwan for the Philippines after the killing. He was extradited back to Taiwan on Sept. 17.

Bent served in the Marines from Dec. 6, 2006, to Aug. 7, 2009, as a cryogenics equipment operator, Marine officials told Stars and Stripes. His last duty station was on Okinawa with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

Taiwanese media reports said Bent moved to the country at the behest of Mayer.

Bent, Mayer and Ryan allegedly began collaborating on selling marijuana, mostly to foreigners, Taiwan News said.

Taiwanese media said the victim, Ryan, became known to police after an investigation into marijuana sales led them back to him earlier this year. He was reportedly arrested with a large amount of marijuana but later released.

Bent and Mayer suspected he had become a police informant when some of their colleagues were arrested on drug-related charges, Taiwan News said.

Bent told authorities that he and Mayer “lured” Ryan to a riverside park in New Taipei City where he usually walked his dog and conducted business, Taiwan News said.

The pair struck up a casual conversation with Ryan and played with the animal, the report said. The trio then proceeded down an embankment to the river where they drank beer.

Bent allegedly told authorities that Mayer choked an inebriated Ryan to death with a wire chord, Taiwan News reported. The pair then chopped up his body, placed it in plastic trash bags and threw them into the river.

The dog ran home and reportedly led two of Ryan’s friends to his body the next day.

Police began to focus their homicide investigation on Bent because Ryan’s phone showed they had argued over drugs, Taiwan News reported. Bent’s phone also placed him in the area at the time of the killing.

Bent allegedly told authorities that he waited until Mayer was in custody to confess to his role in the crime because he feared retribution, Taiwan News reported. He shuddered and broke down when investigators brought him back to the crime scene.

“Please don’t make me think back to such a terrible thing,” the report said he told police.

Prosecutors are investigating whether a third man was involved in the killing, Taiwan News reported. Wu Hsuan, 21, a Taiwanese-Canadian man who worked as a nightclub promoter, was arrested after Ryan’s slaying.

Wu allegedly colluded with Bent and Mayer in selling drugs at the club, Taiwan News said. He told police that he purchased the machetes used to dismember Ryan’s body and stood lookout while they killed Ryan.

He was later released on about $10,000 bond, and his attorneys have since denied that he was present at the time of the killing.

Bent has reportedly told police that Wu monitored the Taipei side of the Sindian River and set off fireworks when Ryan neared the meeting point, Taiwan News reported. Police are considering administering a polygraph test.

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More Marines Could Be Headed to Schoolhouse to Train Foreign Troops

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The Marine Corps is going to double the size of a Virginia-based schoolhouse where leathernecks learn the cultural and language skills needed to train and advise foreign militaries.

The Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, based at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, will soon be expanded and renamed the Marine Adviser Group, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told reporters Wednesday.

Training and supporting the development of partner nations and allies is one of the Marine Corps’ key missions, he said, and that’s not going to change.

“Just because the pendulum has swung back more toward peer adversaries doesn’t mean we’re going to forget or forgo the requirement to be able to do counterinsurgency missions or stability operations,” Neller said.

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Marines deploying as small security-cooperation groups — who train foreign troops in places such as Central America, Africa and the Middle East — typically spend weeks training with the Security Cooperation Group. They learn how best to teach other troops, how to handle foreign weapons and what cultural barriers they might face on their missions, such as divisions between local enlisted troops and the officer corps.

They also receive medical and security training specific to the region in which they’ll be operating. Marine adviser teams deploying to the Middle East, for example, practice guardian-angel patrols to combat insider attacks.

The Security Cooperation Group also dispatches trainers to bases where larger units are preparing to deploy in the form of crisis-response forces or Marine expeditionary units. Those trainers share knowledge about local customs Marines should consider when deploying to new areas.

The decision to double the size of the schoolhouse and change its name is the result of an ongoing force-wide review called Marine Corps Force 2025, which looks at how the service should be organized to combat future threats. The review has resulted inrevamped rifle squads, the deactivation of some units and the creation of new information- and cyber-warfare groups.

Strengthening alliances and attracting new military partners was a key goal in the National Security Strategy released in December. While the Marine Corps will take steps to do that through the expansion of teams that train advisers, Neller said it’s still vital that the service move itself “training-wise toward the higher end of warfare.”

“Even though the likelihood is less, the consequences are greater,” he said.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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