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Federal Court Overturns Marine General’s Gitmo Contempt Conviction


A federal judge on Monday overturned the contempt conviction of the Marine general in charge of Guantanamo’s war court defense teams, ruling that the military judge overstepped his role.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued the decision Monday, clearing the chief defense counsel for military commissions, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, of his Nov. 1 conviction.

Air Force Col. Vance Spath, serving as judge in the USS Cole case, summarily convicted Baker and sentenced the Marine to 21 nights’ confinement in his trailer-park quarters for disobeying Spath’s order. Baker had released three civilian defense attorneys from serving on the terror case after they discovered a microphone hidden in their attorney-client meeting room last summer. Spath ordered Baker to reinstate the attorneys, and the general refused.

The clash over whether national security trumps the attorney-client privilege has for the most part brought to a standstill the death-penalty trial of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi captive at Guantanamo who is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors died in the attack, and dozens more were wounded.

Spath lacked the authority to convict and sentence the general, Lamberth wrote in his 27-page decision. That role belongs to the members of a military commission, the U.S. military officers who will ultimately sit as jurors in the USS Cole case. No jury has been empaneled.

The Cole case is still in pretrial proceedings. Commission cases do not “authorize unilateral findings of guilt and sentencing by the military judge without the input of members,” Lamberth wrote. “Such an interpretation would undermine the entire military commission system and essentially authorize bench trials for all the crimes” covered by military commission.

“Judge Spath acted unlawfully when he unilaterally convicted General Baker of criminal contempt and sentenced him for that contempt. He usurped a power that belongs solely to the members of the commission, voting as a body.”

In February, Spath froze the pretrial proceedings and walked off the bench over his inability to force Nashiri’s civilian defense team back on the case.

Attorneys Richard Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears quit in October, with Baker’s permission, declaring an ethical conflict over Spath’s refusal to let them investigate the microphone and other suspicions that the attorney-client privilege was breached at Guantanamo. Spath said he was awaiting rulings from superior courts on his authority to force the case to trial, including his contempt authority.

The Pentagon’s war court review panel, the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review, is handling other issues related to the judge’s authority at the war court.

This article is written by Carol Rosenberg from Miami Herald 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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Former Monk Trades Robes for Air Force Uniform


MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — For most people, spending a day without their cell phone is an impossible feat. To spend 30 days without a phone, writing, reading, talking or even eye contact would seem unfathomable, but for Thailand Buddhist monks, this is their world.

After spending 18 years in that world as a monk, Airman 1st Class Kornkawee Rue Art, a pharmacy technician with the 23rd Medical Support Squadron here, traded his robes for a uniform in his continual pursuit of a life bigger than himself; one of meaning and purpose.

“When I first became a monk, I didn’t think it would open any professional doors,” Rue Art said. “But the first time I heard I could join the military, I saw the opportunities. I would be able to meet more people, see the world and be a part of the world’s greatest military. Even when I was a kid, I saw ads for the Air Force in Thailand.

“And then,” he continued, “I saw my chance to join. I wanted to feel that experience of being a part something larger than myself, to be with the best Air Force.”

In Thailand, a monk is one who studies Buddhism and practices its ways, follows the rules and lives at the temple. Monks practice and teach meditation, along with being spiritual consultants and leaders of ceremonies. Monks also perform missionary work, traveling across the world.

During his first missionary journey to the U.S., Rue Art reacquainted with an old friend who was soon to enlist in the U.S. military. Inspired by this friend, who became the first Thai Buddhist monk serving in the Air Force, Rue Art blazed his own trail by becoming the second.

‘I Used to Dream About Joining the Military’

“Even when I was young I wanted to join the military,” Rue Art said. “Being a monk, though, it closed my dream. I just wanted a chance, because talking with my friend it reminded me of how I used to dream about joining the military.”

Having grown up on a farm in the countryside of Thailand, growing up dreaming of joining the Air Force, along with successfully following over 200 rules as a monk, Rue Art developed a foundation that would carry his dedication to the honor, respect and duty he would bring to the Air Force.

“This was something I felt I could do if I prepared myself,” he said. “I wanted to challenge myself and always keep growing.”

Rue Art, wanting to experience the full range of life, and exemplifying the Buddhist principle of releasing expectations, joined the Air Force with an open mind of genuine service before self.

“I think being a monk made me more flexible,” Rue Art said. “I believed in myself. Whatever job I would get, it’s something people have done and are still doing, so it’s possible that I could do it, too. Whatever the Air Force needed me to do, I could do that.”

Rue Art said experiencing everyday life in the outside world has provided him with a stronger conviction in his beliefs.

“You learn how to deal with conflict as a monk, but you never experience it,” Rue Art said. “Being at the pharmacy, I saw the realness of it all. So, when something would make me feel mad or upset, I would wonder how I’m going refresh myself every day and be ready to go to work tomorrow. But with my Buddhist beliefs I was actually able to put it into practice and see how it really does work.”

Rue Art maintains his Buddhist ways daily through meditation and keeping a calm mind in his Air Force life, serving as a cornerstone in his spiritual pillar of resiliency.

Respecting Others

“You have to have a calm, cool, collected self to be able to get far not just in the Air Force, but in life,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Makatelyn Maynard, 23rd MDSS pharmacy technician.

Rue Art “knows how to treat other people and respect them, because he’s been respecting people the whole time he was a monk,” Maynard said.

“I know that for myself, I get worked up over a lot of things that’ll fluster me. But with Rue Art, if he does get aggravated he doesn’t let it show,” she continued. “He’ll just stop. He’ll take a breath and breathe, and then he reiterates what he’s doing and just goes right back into it. It always amazes me how he does it.”

From monk to airman, Rue Art’s world has changed, but his way of life is still able to bring honor, not just to himself, but his friends and family back in Thailand, the Land of Smiles.

“I’m happy to be here,” Rue Art said. “When my friends in Thailand hear about me being in the Air Force, to them that’s a big deal. And, it fills me with a sense of honor knowing I’m making them proud.”

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SecAf Reveals Details of B-1 Flameout as Bomber Stand-Down Ends


B-1B Lancer flight operations are set to resume this week after a stand-down of bomber missions that lasted nearly two weeks, Air Force Global Strike Command officials said Tuesday.

The stand-down of the fleet gave officials time to “thoroughly evaluate the egress components and determine potential risks before returning to flight,” AFGSC said in a release.

Earlier this month the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of the emergency landing a Dyess Air Force Base B-1 made May 1 at Midland Airport in Texas.

“We have high confidence that the fleet’s egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations,” said Maj. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force Commander, in a statement.

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Bussiere oversees the bomber force, AFGSC said.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Monday confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing last month after an ejection seat didn’t blow.

The B-1 crew “were out training,” Wilson said during a speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

Aboard the aircraft she said, we an instructor pilot and “a brand-new crew.”

“And the indicator light goes off that they have a fire,” she said. “They go through their checklist of everything they’re supposed to do. The next thing on the checklist is to eject….they start the ejection sequence.”

Only “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.'”

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.”

Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

The back ceiling hatch, which hovers over either the offensive or defensive weapons systems officer depending on mission set, was open, although all four crew members were shown sitting on the Midland flightline in photos.

Unidentified individuals told the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco that the offensive weapons system officer attempted a manual ejection, but the ACES II seat did not blow, leading the crew to make an emergency landing instead.

Officials on Tuesday said the investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

Wilson praised the aircrew for their attempts to land while the back-seat airman was sitting on a seat that could still blow with just one bit of turbulence from the aircraft.

“The courage it took and the values represented by that aircraft commander who decided we’re going to try for all of us to make it rather than sacrifice the one guy who can’t get out. Those are the men and women who choose to wear the uniform of the U.S. Air Force,” Wilson said.

Currently, B-1s are deployed to the Middle East for strike operations and to Europe for a series of summer exercises.

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

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‘Memphis Belle’ Actor Matthew Modine Visits the Air Force Museum


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Matthew Modine, an actor in the Hollywood film “Memphis Belle” who played a pilot, was at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force earlier today to see the real Memphis Belle.

He signed autographs, and spoke in the Air Force Museum Theater before a showing of the 1944 film “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.”

When asked how Modine felt about being a part of something so historic, “It’s incredible. It’s one of the great things about my job is that you get the opportunity to meet and work with people that come from all kinds of different walks of life and the experiences you have so greatly enrich your life.”

After 13 years of restoration, the iconic B-17 Memphis Belle rolled out in a new exhibit at the museum on May 17, which was the 75th anniversary of the completion of its 25th and final combat mission over Europe. The four-engine Boeing-built bomber was the first to finish 25 missions and return to the United States on a celebrated war bonds tour.

While in town, Modine had time to visit a Cincinnati Reds baseball game as well.

(c)2018 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

Visit the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) at www.daytondailynews.com

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It’s Official: Trump Announces Space Force as 6th Military Branch


President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to create a “space force” as a new, sixth military branch to oversee missions and operations in the space domain.

“We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said during a speech at the National Space Council meeting, held at the White House on Monday. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense to immediately begin the process to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the space force,” Trump said. “Separate, but equal. It is going to be something so important.”

Trump then directed Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to “carry that assignment out.”

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“Let’s go get it, General,” he added to Dunford, who was at the council meeting.

The Air Force did not immediately have a statement in response to the announcement, and directed all questions to the office of the secretary of defense.

In March, Trump first revealed he had an idea for a “space force,” or separate military service for space.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has been in a months-long debate over an additional branch.

Trump shared his vision for the force during a visit to troops at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

“Because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, maybe we need a new force,” he said. “We’ll call it the space force.”

Trump’s comments came a few months after discussions had wound down in the Pentagon about a separate military force for space.

Lawmakers have pushed the Air Force to stand up a branch for space within the service in hopes of taking adversarial threats in space more seriously.

Both Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have been trying to discourage talk of a separate military branch, maintaining that the Air Force has the means and the personnel to meet current requirements for space.

“This [Air Force] budget accelerates our efforts to deter, defend and protect our ability to operate and win in space,” Wilson told a House Appropriations Committee panel days after Trump’s first announcement. “There are a number of different elements of this with respect to the space — the space portfolio.”

Goldfein agreed with the secretary during the March hearing, and added there is no question space is a warfighting domain in need of better protection. The Air Force has overseen the domain since the mid-1950s.

“As a joint chief, I see that same responsibility as the lead joint chief for space operations is making sure that we have those capabilities that the joint team requires. And so, as the president stated openly, this is a warfighting domain,” Goldfein said. “That is where we’ve been focused. And so I’m really looking forward to the conversation.”

Last year, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, and Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, first created language in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which would have required the service to stand up a “U.S. Space Corps.”

Soon after, Goldfein, Wilson and even Defense Secretary Jim Mattis publicly downplayed the idea, citing costliness and organizational challenges.

And while lawmakers ultimately removed language requiring such an overhaul of the Air Force’s mission, they still required a study of a space force and also backed changes to the management of the space cadre.

Rogers and other key lawmakers believe it is still possible to stand up a “space corps” within three to five years, and have still chastised the Air Force for not creating something like it “yesterday.”

“The situation we are in as a nation, the vulnerabilities we have to China and Russia, I’d like for the American public to know more, [but] I can’t because I don’t want to go to jail for leaking classified info. But we’re in a really bad situation,” Rogers said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in March.

Rogers has looked to Trump for support on the new space mission.

“Looking forward to working with @realDonaldTrump on this initiative!” he tweeted March 14.

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

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New Marine Corps Leave Policy May Offer Tough Choice to Parents


A new Marine Corps family leave policy rolled out at the behest of Congress last week offers parents more flexibility in how they take leave after the birth or adoption of a child. It may also, however, leave some with difficult choices regarding which parent takes the bulk of allowed leave.

Under the new policy, rolled out in a Marine Corps administrative message June 12, leave is allotted to a designated “primary caregiver” and “secondary caregiver.”

Where previously the Marine Corps paternity leave policy allowed up to 10 days of leave, the new policy permits the designated secondary caregiver 14 days off, to be taken within one year of the birth or adoption.

For the designated primary caregiver, leave may now be broken up. Mothers will still receive six weeks of maternity convalescent leave immediately following the birth of a baby. But while the previous policy allowed a lump 12 weeks of maternity leave, the new rules give six weeks of leave to the primary caregiver, to be taken any time within one year of adding a child to the family.

In another departure from the old policy, unmarried parents now qualify for the same leave allowances as married couples.

“Because the family situation varies from Marine to Marine, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for every birth event or adoption scenario,” Maj. Garron Garn, a spokesman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com. “Marines, in coordination with their chain of command, can establish a family care plan that meets their individual needs, personally and professionally.”

Several Marine officials, however, acknowledged that the language in the new policy had spurred concerns that some military mothers may end up with less leave as a result of the change. While designation of the primary and secondary caregivers is left entirely up to the parents, and birth mothers will receive six weeks off no matter what, the policy may create incentives for mothers in uniform to designate themselves the secondary caregiver, and thus eligible for less leave.

In dual-military families, for example, designation of primary and secondary caregivers may be influenced by career requirements, upcoming orders, or the time demands of the parents’ jobs, among other factors.

Garn acknowledged that some birth mothers could designate themselves secondary caregiver, but he maintained the policy would allow each set of parents to do what was right for them.

“While each situation is unique, the Marine Corps’ caregiver policy is designed to give Marines the flexibility to determine the best family care plan scenario that meets their personal and professional needs,” he said.

The Marine Corps changes come as all of the services reissue parental leave protocols in keeping with language in the 2017 defense budget designed to make these policies more flexible.

While some elements of the new policies are similar from service to service, the guidelines do vary slightly. The new Air Force parental leave policy, also rolled out this month, offers secondary caregivers up to three weeks off — a change to which the Navy has also committed.

Garn said the Marine Corps settled on 14 days of leave for the secondary caregiver as the number that “balances the personal needs of the Marine and his/her family with the operation readiness requirements of the unit.”

According to the new guidance, the policy is effective immediately and rules are retroactive to December 23, 2016, meaning some recent parents may find themselves with new available leave as a result of the change.

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Former Marine Sentenced to 51 Years for Killing Army Reservist


A murder trial that already had some surprises ended with one last twist Friday when a former Camp Pendleton Marine attempted to withdraw his guilty plea before being sentenced to 51 years to life in prison for killing a Fallbrook man.

An hour into his trial in March, Kevin Coset, 28, pleaded guilty to murder and allegations he used a gun and a knife to kill Army reservist Alvin Bulaoro in 2012.

Coset had represented himself in the trial and was facing a sentence of life without parole.

In what was expected to be a routine sentencing Friday, Coset told Vista Superior Court Judge Harry Elias’ that he wanted to change his plea to not guilty and asked for a new judge to preside over the case.

Elias explained that it was too late, but Coset said he believed the law was on his side because he had served as his own lawyer and had made the earlier plea under duress.

Elias, who had previously accepted the guilty plea, disagreed.

“Can I still refuse you as judge?” Coset then asked.

After Elias said it was too late for that, Coset replied, “Nah, never mind.”

Coset, who’d had a sexual relationship with the victim, was accused of shooting Bulaoro twice in the head and stabbing him 44 times.

“When you killed our son, you killed us too,” the victim’s mother, Josephine Bulaoro, said in court Friday.

She described her son as smart, intelligent and caring, and she recalled the time he offered to pay for a cruise for his parents.

“You’re a monster, and I want you to be in prison for the rest of your life,” she said to Coset.

A letter was read in court by Bulaoro’s brother, John, who described his older brother as someone who was kind to others, smiled at simple things and dedicated his life to serving his country.

“He had many plans and a great future ahead of him,” he wrote.

In 2012, John Bulaoro wrote, his brother had opened an affordable facility in Fallbrook for seniors with dementia. It closed because of his death.

“I understand that nothing I do will bring my brother back,” the brother wrote. “Sometimes how I wish I could give my own life just to bring him back. This evil guy deserves what’s coming to him.”

Alvin Bulaoro, 24, was last seen Dec. 21, 2012. His family reported him missing two days later.

On Jan. 3, 2013, Bulaoro’s brother found the victim’s Toyota 4Runner in the parking lot of a Fallbrook grocery store. Bulaoro’s body was inside a sleeping bag in the backseat.

Sheriff’s detectives learned in cellphone records that Bulaoro had planned to meet with someone the day he disappeared. They ran down the mystery person’s cell phone number, but it was a pre-paid cellphone purchased with cash.

Investigators obtained surveillance of a man buying the phone, but had little else, according to the brief. Then they checked into the sleeping bag, and learned that it was a style sold at Camp Pendleton.

It turned out that one had been sold on base in the hours before Bulaoro disappeared. Surveillance video showed the buyer — who looked like the same man who’d bought the pre-paid phone, according to a trial brief filed by prosecutor David Uyar.

This time, the mystery man had paid with a credit card. That same card had been used later that day to pay for a Fallbrook motel room.

The motel bill included an additional $100 charge for damage to the room, including a missing comforter and a large pool of blood — later identified as Bulaoro’s.

The room had been cleaned up by the time detectives arrived weeks later. But they found Bulaoro’s blood under the carpet and on the padding, as well as on the walls, ceiling and furniture.

According to Uyar, messages between Coset and Bulaoro indicated they already had a sexual relationship when they met up in the Fallbrook parking lot.

Authorities arrested Coset — then a 23-year-old Marine corporal — outside his barracks in February 2013.

In his car, they found the gun used in the attack on Bulaoro. In his barracks room, they found a journal in which Coset appeared to have confessed to the killing.

One section read: “My name is Kevin Coset. I am 23 years old and currently serving in Marine Corps. Over the past few years my life has been heading in a strange direction. Tonight I had to kill for the third time.

“It was a guy named Alvin Bulaoro out of Fallbrook.”

Coset wrote that he had to do it to “survive in my fight” against something he called “the Musgrove organization,” which he said had plotted against him for years, had entered his mind and stolen his intelligence, according to the trial brief.

Early on in the criminal proceedings, Coset served as his own attorney. He was later deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent to a state hospital.

When he was later found to be competent, Coset was sent back to San Diego County to face trial. Last year — following another psychiatric evaluation — he was again granted permission to represent himself.


This article is written by Gary Warth and Teri Figueroa 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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Marine at 8th and I in Hospital With Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound


Editor’s note: Due to changes in official statements, this story has been updated to remove characterization of the cause of the gunshot wound.

A Marine guard at the home of the commandant in Washington, D.C., has been transported to the hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Marine officials.

The incident took place at approximately 8 a.m. local time, according to a Marine Corps news release. A male Marine standing post by himself at Marine Barracks Washington, also known as 8th and I, sustained a gunshot wound, officials said.

While a Marine official originally told Military.com the wound appeared to be caused by a negligent discharge, officials later walked that back, saying only that it was self-inflicted.

“Marines, along with members of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington Navy Yard Fire and Emergency Services, and District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, immediately responded to the incident,” the release stated. “A Marine was transported to George Washington University Hospital.”

The identity of the guard has not been released, but a spokeswoman for the post, Capt. Colleen McFadden, said he was in stable condition.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the incident. 

Marine Barracks Washington is home to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and a number of ceremonial units, including the famous Silent Drill Platoon and the Commandant’s Own marching band. The base hosts public parades and ceremonies in the summer to highlight the history and tradition of the Marine Corps.

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Air Force Reserve Kicks Out Recruit After Racist Video Surfaces


The Air Force Reserve is kicking out a brand-new recruit after a video surfaced earlier this week of her allegedly displaying racist behavior.

“The person noted in a recent inappropriate video is in the process of being released from her enlistment in the Air Force,” officials said on the Reserve’s official Facebook page Friday. “The video, released days after her enlistment, is intolerable and does not reflect the values of the Air Force.”

Officials would not publicly name the recruit, but she has been identified as 20-year-old Tabitha Duncan of Missouri via social media and other media outlets.

On Sunday, a video surfaced showing Duncan and friends saying they were going “[expletive] hunting,” using an unprintable slur used to describe African-Americans.

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“So we going [expletive] hunting today or what?” someone says in the video. Duncan later responds, “You get them [expletive].”

The video quickly went viral and got the attention of Reserve officials.

Lt. Col. Chad Gibson, a Reserve spokesman, told Air Force Times that Duncan enlisted around May 31.

“We are using command channels to address the issue,” officials said on Facebook. “The Air Force culture embraces diversity and fiercely safeguards character, respect, and leadership. We expect our Airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and to treat their fellow Airmen and citizens with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”

Duncan this week told The New York Daily News she was sorry and that she had been drinking underage. She clarified she had not been with friends, but with people she “barely knew.”

“I was underage drinking, and I said something stupid,” she told the newspaper.

The Social Bar & Grill in St. Louis where Duncan worked has also terminated her employment over the “vile, disgusting and offensive video,” officials told the Daily News in a statement.

Duncan said she needs to seek help for her lapse in judgment.

“I was intoxicated,” she said. “I have black friends, I have black people in my family. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know that I was being [recorded].”

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

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AFSOC Surgical Team Wants Blood Warmers to Save Lives Downrange


HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — An elite team of Air Force medical professionals who forward-deploy to austere environments is pushing the standard of care while in the field.

“Blood supply and resupply was the biggest challenge. It’s a challenge we were fighting everyday,” said Maj. Marc Northern, a surgeon with the 720th Operations Support Squadron here. Northern is part of a six-member Special Operations Surgical Team that deployed to the Middle East during Operation Inherent Resolve between April and September 2017.

Military.com caught up with the team last month on a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.

During the deployment, U.S. soldiers would come in and sit for hours donating blood. Blood donation banks worked round the clock. And members of the team found themselves donating, too.

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A blood warmer would help, the team members said. It’s a solution the AFSOC teams hope they can soon procure for their makeshift trauma rooms.

Without disclosing what kind of warmers they use now, members said it takes time to generate enough heat to get the frozen blood packs fluid — time most patients don’t have.

“Sometimes, we stick the blood packs in our armpits [and massage them] to get the blood going,” said Maj. Dan Farber, an anesthesiologist.

“Cold kills our patients,” said Maj. Kristopher Filak, an emergency room doctor and the team lead. “Keeping them warm and keeping them from hypothermia is key.”

Freeze-dried plasma may also help fill a gap, Northern said. The method, which dates back to World War II, is more stable and portable than frozen plasma. All units have to do is add sterile water and inject. But the technique has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Northern said. Some units have used it in testing scenarios. This particular team did not use freeze-dried plasma in the field.

The team said they need a device small enough to transport and efficient at warming blood packs quickly to transfuse into a patient, after taking the blood out of cold storage.

Air Force Special Operations Command has a medical modernization unit that help the teams search for the “latest and greatest, lightest, battery-operated equipment,” Northern said.

“It’s got to be battery-operated, durable, and [has to] be able to fuse it in the right amount of time, and those are all very strict requirements we’ve given to … medical modernization who then in turn work with civilian companies to develop a product,” Filak said.

For example, AFSOC recently replaced an ultrasound machine that looked like a portable, flip Gameboy player. Teams estimate technologies like this become outdated in five to six years, so they work with medical modernization to keep equipment as up-to-date as possible.

SOSTs deployed right now are using a new, updated ultrasound machine, but while Northern said updated tech is helpful, it’s the people who make the team work.

“We have to be intuitive or progressive with how you’re thinking,” Faber added, especially given the number of people the teams help save.

During their deployment, “our team had the largest surge” of patients, said Maj. Regan Lyon, an emergency medical physician with the 720th.

In February, a team of five received Bronze Stars for their work in Syria in 2016. That team treated more than 750 patients, in some cases under direct assault by Islamic State fighters.

While Lyon and Northern’s team didn’t experience enemy fire, in 120 days they treated 1,011 patients, some with blast or gunshot wounds. Their patients were mostly civilians, including children, as well as three military working dogs, AFSOC said.

The team achieved a 90 percent patient survival rate — if they came in alive, they likely left alive, Northern said.

“We’re always pushing for taking the best technologies from the U.S. standard and pushing that as far forward as we can,” he said.

This mission “varies,” said Filak. “We fill that gap between the first injury and a hospital room. We go wherever they need us.”

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

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