military

The Air Force must expand its operational squadrons by some 25 percent in the coming years, officials say, to deal with the growing military might of China and Russia and to protect the homeland and continue to fight violent extremists.

"What we know now from analysis, what everyone in this room knows by experience," said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson at a military conference outside Washington on Monday, is that "the Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us."

Your kid can grow up, even join the Army and go to war, and you'll still do dad things when he comes back. David Toombs would make his son lunch.

"I always made him extra, just in case he got hungry or he wanted a snack or he was running low on money. So I made his lunch like a typical dad," says Toombs.

Toombs worked right next to his son, John, at a steel die shop in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The U.S. Army has halted the process of discharging immigrants who enlisted under a program designed to recruit people with critically needed skills.

Reports emerged in July that the Pentagon had canceled the enlistment contracts of dozens of these recruits.

"Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions," says the memo from Marshall Williams, the acting assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

The program is known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest.

Vice President Pence described the White House's plans for a Space Force, a sixth branch of the U.S. military that would be responsible for operations in outer space, in a speech on Thursday.

The White House says that the Space Force will be created by 2020. The change, which would require approval from Congress, would be a dramatic change in the organization of the Defense Department.

"We must have American dominance in space, and so we will," Pence said in his speech at the Pentagon.

TOM KOERNER / USFWS / CREATIVE COMMONS

Hundreds of veterans are calling on Congress to scrap a seemingly unrelated attachment to this year’s defense spending bill.

Panshu Zhao moved to the U.S. from China about eight years ago to study. It was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

Since then, he has completed a graduate degree and is now pursuing a doctorate in geography at Texas A&M University. In describing his life to NPR's Steve Inskeep on Friday, he divided it into two parts: his life in China and his American life.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

President Trump Monday announced his intention to create a "space force" that would oversee the military's activities off-world.

"When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council, which oversees the nation's space policy. "We must have American dominance in space. So important."

courtesy U.S. Air Force

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson is a 1982 graduate of the Air Force Academy. Now she's responsible for the more than 670,000 active-duty Air Force personnel and their families. She also oversees the military branch's more than $132 billion budget. Wilson was in town recently for the Air Force Academy graduation and the change in command at NORAD and NORTHCOM. While here, she sat down with 91.5 KRCC's Andrea Chalfin to talk about space.

American troops have been stationed on the Korean Peninsula for nearly 70 years. More recently they've become something of a political football.

North Korea wants them out as part of any nuclear deal. South Korea wants them to stay to help with its defense. And President Trump is considering reducing their numbers to save money.

The suicide rate for female veterans has soared 85 percent in recent years, leading the military, VA and advocacy groups to try new ways to improve women's mental health care during and after service.

One key focus: how to tailor the sometimes tricky jump from the military to the civilian world.

Women's experiences in the military are different from men's, so their transition needs to be different, too, said retired Army Col. Ellen Haring, director of research for the advocacy group Service Women's Action Network (SWAN).

More than a dozen U.S. Air Force airmen were linked to a drug ring at a base that controls America's nuclear missiles and have faced disciplinary actions – including courts martial, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

Military investigators cracked the ring in 2016, after one of the service members made the mistake of posting drug-related material to social media.

For the first time, the U.S. military is speaking publicly about what it's doing to address potential health risks to troops who operate certain powerful shoulder-mounted weapons.

These bazooka-like weapons produce forceful explosions just inches from the operator's head.

Patrick Shanahan is sitting in his sparse Pentagon office. The only picture is a framed portrait of his father, a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star. Now it's up to his son — the No. 2 defense official — to juggle both current and future wars.

And that means he works six or seven days a week. Both Shanahan and his boss, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, come from Washington state and have a good-natured rivalry about who gets to work the earliest, often before the sun rises.

Military personnel may be endangering their own brains when they operate certain shoulder-fired weapons, according to an Army-commissioned report released Monday.

The report, from the Center for a New American Security, says these bazooka-like weapons pose a hazard because they are powered by an explosion just inches from the operator's head.

Killer robots have been a staple of TV and movies for decades, from Westworld to The Terminator series. But in the real world, killer robots are officially known as "autonomous weapons."

At the Pentagon, Paul Scharre helped create the U.S. policy for such weapons. In his new book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, Scharre discusses the state of these weapons today.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

President Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday for the deployment of National Guard troops along the Southern border with Mexico in a bid to cut down on illegal immigration.

Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said earlier in the day that Trump's order would direct her department and the Pentagon to work with governors of the states along the Southwestern border.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

President Trump says he wants to use military troops to help secure the U.S. border with Mexico. He made the suggestion Tuesday during a White House summit meeting with Baltic leaders.

Trump also renewed his call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. And he expressed support for embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Since the weekend, Trump has been tweeting about a caravan of Central Americans, most of them from Honduras, who are making their way north through Mexico.

In the late 1960s, the families of American aviators who had been shot down during the Vietnam War became alarmed at reports that U.S. prisoners of war were being mistreated. The way those families reacted changed the way Americans think about missing troops and the government's responsibility for them.

The POW/MIA movement isn't the cultural and political force that it once was, but it's still hard to ignore. The black and white POW/MIA flag with its slogan, "You are not forgotten," is seemingly everywhere.

After President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military would no longer “allow or accept” transgender people to serve, troops on the ground were left with uncertainty. Military leaders say the policy won’t change until top Pentagon officials figure out how to implement it.

Emma Shinn is a 41-year-old Coloradan and veteran. She served in the Marine Corps for 20 years before retiring in 2014. When she served there was a ban on transgender people. Last year, she transitioned.  

A new website and program from the state is geared toward streamlining the process of professional credentialing for active-duty military personnel and veterans looking to start licensed careers in Colorado.  It's called "Veterans Occupational Credentialing and Licensing," or VOCAL, and it's run by the state Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), which oversees more than 50 professions.

There's sort of a designated driver in Jason Stavely's circle of Iraq buddies, but he doesn't take away people's car keys. He takes the guns.

"Come toward September-October, if I get the feeling, I'm more than happy to give my guns back to my buddy again," said Stavely.

Stavely has bad memories from the war that get triggered every autumn. And last year, one of his Marine Corps friends died by suicide in October. So Stavely's therapist at the Veterans Affairs clinic suggested getting his guns out of the house.

Training Underway at Piñon Canyon

Apr 25, 2017
Holly Pretsky / 91.5 KRCC

Training is underway at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado with the Army's 1st Stryker Brigade.

Officials say this is the largest training exercise ever to take place at the site, with about 5,500 soldiers participating.

Brian Turner / Flickr / Creative Commons

Colorado’s 4th Judicial District is being recognized for the work of its Veterans Trauma Court. The court serves vets in El Paso and Teller Counties, and has been selected as one of four “mentor” courts around the country.

NEA Staff / NEA

Fort Carson has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to increase art therapy offerings at the base.   

The money will go toward hiring a full-time, licensed creative art therapist to develop visual art and music therapy programs for service members dealing with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

U.S. Air Force

The 21st Space Wing located at Peterson Air Force Base was recognized for excellence in space and cyberspace missions.

Holly Pretsky / 91.5 KRCC

Pearl Harbor survivor and Colorado Springs resident Lt. Jim Downing is visiting Hawaii to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the infamous attack. 

In a presentation at Lewis Palmer Middle School before departing for Hawaii, 103-year-old Lt. Jim Downing said the first emotion he experienced as Pearl Harbor was attacked was surprise. He went on, "the next thing that I experienced was fear."

An Army review concludes that commanders did nothing wrong when they kicked out more than 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq or Afghanistan – even though all of those troops had been diagnosed with mental health problems or brain injuries.

The Army's report, ordered by Secretary Eric Fanning, seeks to reassure members of Congress that it's treating wounded soldiers fairly. But senators and military specialists say the report troubles them.

USAFA Gets Energy Efficient, Reality TV Style

Nov 30, 2016
US Department of Energy / Screengrab: Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

The U.S. Air Force Academy is engaging in some friendly competition with the Naval Academy in Maryland to see who can become more energy efficient. It's all part of a Department of Energy reality show called Better Buildings Challenge SWAP.

Historic Tenth Mountain Division Returns to Colorado

Nov 24, 2016
Colorado Army National Guard / Flickr

A recent realignment means a regiment of the Colorado Army National Guard is now part of the historic 10th Mountain Division.

Survey Explores Community-Military Relationships

Sep 14, 2016
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Smith, 4th Inf. Div. PAO / Flickr/Creative Commons

A recently released survey shows community members in the Pikes Peak region have few concerns about living near military installations. 

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