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Patrick Air Force Base gets Space Force designation, which could lead to name change

Patrick AFB


PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - A Central Florida Air Force Base will be a part of the newly created U.S. Space Force.

The Space Force was created Friday when President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. It’s the first new service since the U.S. Air Force came into being in 1947.

"The law states that Air Force Space Command will be re-designated the United States Space Force, that will happen immediately," Gen. John Raymond, the commander of US Space Command and Air Force Space Command, told reporters at the Pentagon Friday.

Raymond said that the 16,000 active duty airmen and civilians currently in the Air Force Space Command will be assigned to the new United States Space Force, though officials made clear those personnel will not actually become members of the Space Force and will remain in the Air Force for the time being.

During a question and answer session with reporters on Friday, Raymond was asked which existing bases will house space units.

He named Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Vandenberg Air Force Base and Patrick Air Force Base, which is located in Brevard County.

Reporter: Do you have any plans to maybe rename some of the Air Force bases that are currently space-focused?

Raymond: We do have a plan to rename the -- the principal Air Force bases that -- that house space units to be space bases. That will occur in -- in the months ahead and we'll plan that appropriately.

Reporter: So they'll be called, like, Patrick Space Base now?

Raymond: Could be. We'll work it out. Okay.

Leaders of the 45th Space Wing of Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, who are now part of this change, shared comments in a Facebook video.

"Effective immediately, consider yourselves airmen assigned to the United States Space Force. Now that might create some questions and trust me, we also have some questions, No matter what, we’re always Sharks,” Chief MSgt. Scott J. King, Command Chief of the 45thSpace Wing said.

"I can tell you, the 45th space wing will continue to do its mission of assured access to space," 45th Space Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Schiess said.

Dale Ketcham, a VP for Space Florida, says for what is at stake, the move for Patrick Airforce Base to be a part of the Space Force is an important and essential one.

"We rely as a country and our economy and our national security, more on space assets than any other country and our adversaries are aware of that, if they take out our satellites --- You've blinded the United States," Ketcham said.

What could this change look like for some of the personnel, like the 45th Space Wing?

"It will become Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, assuming they don't change those names. I don't think it would be a huge change because both Patrick and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the missions that they serve now won't change dramatically. I think the creation of space force is a recognition of the fact that what they do is that important and eventually we'll get new uniforms and some other cosmetic things," Ketcham said.

Ketcham says ultimately this will lay the foundation and preparation for what the future could hold when it comes to conflicts involving space.

“It’s not likely that we’re going to see soldiers and airmen and spacemen in space fighting, hostilities at least not for quite some time. This will be there first iteration I would imagine where it will be, if there are actual hostilities up there, it’ll be entirely robotic, autonomous satellites, throwing stuff at one another and shooting. Right now, it’s more conceptual, somebody may be able to pull of something up there, we don’t know yet, we may be able to do it and they’re not telling us…but the plan is to prepare for that,” Ketcham said.

So far, the plan for the new space force is to have about 16,000 Air Force active duty and civilian personnel.

The creation of the US Space force, the 6th branch of the military, was part of the signing of a $738 billion-dollar defense bill.


The first independent air force — 100 years before the Space Force

John Gurdons F.2b Fighter


A century before President Trump announced the creation of a U.S. Space Force, another new military force was leaving the Earth. The Royal Air Force came into existence 100 years ago, on what might seem an inauspicious date, April Fool's Day, 1918.

On that morning, my grandfather, John Everard Gurdon, flew on the RAF's first ever patrol, hunting Luftwaffe aircraft in the skies over northern France. When he returned to his base at Vert-Galant, his fellow men of the 22 Squadron gathered in front of Gurdon's Bristol F.2b fighter for a memorial photograph. The result (above) is in the Imperial War Museum now, and copies are all over the place.

Gurdon turned out to be good at this work. He went on to become one of the air aces of World War I, shooting down 28 German aircraft and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. (Fighter flying became a short family tradition, for my father, Philip Gurdon, flew Spitfires in World War II, a fact that used occasionally to make complete strangers go gaga with admiration.)

But back to 1918 and today. The RAF had previously been the Royal Flying Corps, part of the British Army. But as aircraft became more sophisticated, and control of the skies became more and more important over the battlefield, an independent force equal to the army and navy was a logical step. Details of America's Space Force can be debated at another time, but the events of 100 years ago in northern Europe are a persuasive example of how military forces must adjust to new technology to ensure national security.

The proximate occasion of my writing this post today is not, however, Trump's decision to create a Space Force. It is, rather, the fact that John Gurdon's first and most successful book, Over and Above, is back in print 99 years after it was first published in 1919, and is now on sale in the U.S. (Grub Street, 182 pages, $16). It is a lightly fictionalized account of the author's four or five months of fighting. The style is typical of the boys' adventure genre of those days, with lots of boarding school slang and bravado.

But the scenes are also harrowing when you realize they were not really fiction at all. Gurdon's friends were shot down in flames, fell from their aircraft during dog fights, and suffered heavily from post-traumatic stress, as Gurdon did. On one occasion, a bullet shot through his windscreen at face height and smashed his arm; fortunately, he was at that moment leaning down to free a rudder pedal that had jammed. In August 1918, exploding anti-aircraft fire from the ground concussed Gurdon, and it ended his war. He was sent back to England, and he put down his experiences in Over and Above.

I remember vaguely that, as a boy, I heard an account of Gurdon shooting down an observation balloon. The anecdote had not greatly impressed me; a vast dirigible seemed both easy to hit and defenseless when in the machine gun sights of an incoming fighter. But in Over and Above, the drama of that incident, its danger, and its almost mad fighting fury come alive, and I look back now amazed at what men of action will do, and also at my own juvenile insouciance.

So, this is a shameless plug for the book, and to be clear, it won't earn me a penny.


101-Year-Old WWII Vet Commissions Grandson Into Air Force: 'One of the Best Days of My Life'

101 Year Old WWII Vet


Graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy is already an exciting milestone, but for one class of 2019 cadets, the ceremony served as a touching multi-generational event.

Walter Kloc, a 101-year-old WWII Veteran traveled some 1,500 miles from Amherst, New York, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to commission his grandson, Joseph Kloc, as an officer in the Air Force on Wednesday, May 29, according to CNN and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“This is what it’s all about … Walter received a standing ovation, and everyone in the room was gifted with a memory they’ll never forget,” Air Force officials wrote in a Facebook post alongside photos of the grandfather and grandson sharing the special moments.

Joseph shared the pictures in his own Facebook post, writing, “Probably one of the best days of my life.”

Walter was a bombardier and pilot for the Army Air Forces more than 70 years ago, CNN reported. He traveled to Colorado with his son and Joseph’s father, William Kloc, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ. Ahead of the event, Walter’s wife, Virginia, told WGRZ that he was “absolutely thrilled and excited” to be part of the graduation ceremony.

“I’m so excited for him,” William told the station of his son. “He’s fulfilling his dream, and he was so excited that his grandfather … World War II, Air Force, bombardier, pilot, could come and commission him.”

Walter was raised in Michigan and worked for General Motors after the war, WGRZ reported.


Guam EPA: Andersen Air Force Base violates Guam environmental law

Andersen AFB 001


The Guam Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to Andersen Air Force Base Northwest Field Facility after finding non-approved chemicals used for treating water.

According to the notice, Guam EPA charged with the responsibility of implementing the Guam Pesticides Act, found there was a possible misuse of a product to disinfect water for distribution.

On Dec. 28, 2018, a routine sanitary survey inspection was conducted on a water storage tank on Northwest Field and Guam EPA staff discovered a different form of chlorination from what was approved by Guam EPA was installed, the notice stated.

A review by Guam EPA's Pesticides Enforcement Program found the product is a pesticide and is used only for swimming pools, per the product labeling. Guam EPA imposed a $750 administrative penalty.

Andersen responds

Andersen in a release said it used Pool Time chlorination tabs to sanitize a half-million-gallon drinking water tank that serviced the facilities on Northwest Field; however, Guam EPA classifies the tablets as a pesticide and when this became known, the use of the tablets was immediately ceased.

The Northwest Field water tank provides water to Northwest Field only. It doesn't provide water to any other part of Andersen Air Force Base, the release stated.

Although Andersen received the notices of violation for the Northwest Field water tank, at no time was the water deemed unsafe to drink. Both Guam EPA and Andersen concluded that the use of the Pool Time chlorination tabs wouldn't result in any adverse health effects, the release stated.

A public notice explaining what had happened was sent to people who may have been exposed to the drinking water, the release stated

Andersen conducts routine analysis of its water supply and at no point was it deemed unsafe, the release stated, and the base fully cooperated with Guam EPA. Military representatives met with Guam EPA on Feb. 7 to discuss the actions required by the notice of violation and committed to paying the appropriate fines, the release stated.

The $750 fine is in the final process of being paid and the $1,700 fine is still being discussed with Guam EPA as there is no record/proof of exactly when the tabs were used, the release stated.

Personnel involved in operating and maintaining the water systems have been disciplined/counseled and additional training accomplished, the release stated, and new standard operating procedures have been put in place, requiring regular internal inspections of all systems with environmental permits and notifications to environmental experts when primary methods of chlorination are inoperable.


Exclusive: Air Force to push Congress for military housing tenant bill of rights

AF Push Congress


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aiming to grant military families far greater say to challenge hazardous housing, the U.S. Air Force told Reuters Monday it will push Congress to enact a tenant bill of rights allowing families the power to withhold rent or break leases to escape unsafe conditions.

The proposed measure, outlined in an interview at the Pentagon by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, follows complaints from military families who say they are often powerless to challenge private industry landlords when they encounter dangerous mold, lead paint and vermin infestations.

“Clearly there are areas where we have issues,” Goldfein said.

Added Secretary Wilson: “That could put a little more leverage into the hands of the renters.”

The Air Force push adds to a drumbeat of reforms to emerge in recent weeks following a Reuters series, Ambushed at Home, that documented shoddy housing conditions at bases nationwide and described how military families are often empowered with fewer rights than civilian tenants.

Read the series Ambushed at Home at

Wilson said the Air Force is actively working with the Army and Navy to push a tenant bill of rights that would give military families a stronger hand in housing disputes. She wants to strengthen the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that includes active duty housing protections. As one example, Wilson proposed expanding the act to allow base families to end their lease or withhold rent if their landlords fail to correct health and safety problems.

Beyond that effort, she said wing commanders of each U.S. Air Force base have been directed to inspect all 50,000 privatized family housing units in the force’s portfolio by March 1. She cited housing breakdowns at Air Force bases including Tinker in Oklahoma, Maxwell in Alabama, MacDill in Florida and Keesler in Mississippi.

In addition, she said, the inspector general’s office will launch a review of how Air Force bases respond to housing health and safety complaints.

Last week, the U.S. Army vowed to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting residents. And on Friday, the Army issued a letter directing senior commanders to conduct inspections of all housing within the next 30 days.

The military action plans follow a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month in which members of Congress sharply questioned private industry landlords and Defense Department leaders over conditions at U.S. bases.

Wilson said the Air Force is also considering working with Congress to renegotiate its contracts with housing companies to allow the service to withhold all incentive fees from low-performing landlords.


Army Veteran to become first living recipient of Medal of Honor for war in Iraq

David Bellavia 001


The White House announced on Monday that former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the war in Iraq for his heroism during the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004. The five previous Medals of Honor in the Iraq War were handed out posthumously and Bellavia's award is an upgrade from the Silver Star he had previously received .

President Trump will present the award to Bellavia at a White House ceremony on June 25.

A few years ago, the Pentagon began a blanket review of all valor awards to see if they should be upgraded.

Bellavia is being honored for his heroism on Nov. 10, 2004 when he was a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, an American offensive on the western Iraqi city of Fallujah an Iraqi insurgent stronghold.

The Army Veteran is credited with saving his entire squad that day after being pinned down by enemy fire coming from a block of houses.

"He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely," said a White House statement announcing his award.

When an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle could not fire directly into the house, Bellavia re-entered the house armed only with an M16, and attacked insurgents who had been firing rocket-propelled grenades.

"He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house," said a White House statement announcing his award. "Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well." Bellavia was able to return fire and killed both attackers.

"He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him," said the statement.

Bellavia then to the roof "where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building."

For his heroism, Bellavia was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest award for valor; the Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second highest. His award is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor as part of the Pentagon's three-year review of valor awards for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that was prompted by concerns that acts of heroism were not being appropriately honored.

David Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999 and after serving in Kosovo, he deployed to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division.

Since leaving the Army in August 2005 Bellavia has been active in Veterans advocacy groups and philanthropic organizations.

Bellavia is also the host of a radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo, New York.

On Monday morning, Bellavia told his listeners the news of his award was "not really registering."

"I'm going to see guys I haven't seen in 15 years. I'm going to think about them. I'm going to just think about the guys we lost the most," said Bellavia. "It just brings you right back.

"One guy gets attention, but none of that's possible without the work of, you know, 25 guys that nobody talks about," he said. "And in this fight, in this circumstance, it was just a group of guys that were out-gunned, and we -- we fought our way through it together."

"This award is our award, and they're, we all consider it something that we did together," he added.


Soldiers: Disgraceful housing conditions at Texas Army post

Fort Hood Housing


FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - Soldiers and their spouses have told Army leaders at Fort Hood of disgraceful housing at the Central Texas post that includes mold and lead paint along with other problems.

Families living at the post detailed their frustrations with housing during a meeting Thursday that the Austin American-Statesman reports came about a week after a congressional hearing that exposed longstanding problems at privatized housing complexes.

Thousands of homes at Fort Hood are owned by the Australian firm Lend Lease, and the U.S. government oversees 141 barracks that house 18,000 soldiers.

Lawmakers have set aside nearly $300 million to renovate 24 barracks but U.S. Rep. Roger Williams and others have expressed concern that the money could be siphoned away as part of President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a border wall.


Veteran benefits surviving spouses should know

Surviving Spouses 002


The surviving spouses of many deceased Veterans may be missing out on certain survivor benefits from the VA. In fact, millions of dollars go unclaimed every year because survivors and dependents are simply not aware of all the benefits available. Here are three the Veterans Assistance Commission wants you to know about:

1. Survivors Pension

Un-remarried spouses whose loved one served during a period of combat may be eligible for this. The VA Survivors Pension can provide much needed financial support for low income surviving spouses who are impoverished due to medical bills. The VA compares the survivor’s household income and assets less medical expenses to determine the need per program guidelines.

2. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

DIC awarded when it is determined by the VA that the Veteran passed as a result of a service-related illness or injury. For example, in 2010 the VA determined Agent Orange significantly contributed to the development of ischemic heart disease. Survivors of Vietnam Veterans who passed prior to 2010 may have no idea of the connection or the eligibility for a VA benefit. In 2008, the VA announced that survivors of Veterans who served at least 90 days of continuous active duty in the U.S. military and later developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may be eligible for benefits. More recently, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which took effect Jan. 1, 2020, expanded the potential range for Agent Orange exposure. Now, many whose claims were previously denied could now be eligible for benefits.

3. Partial reimbursement for burial.

Reimbursement for some funeral expenses may also be available if it can be shown that the Veteran passed due to a service-connected condition.

To see if you may be eligible for survivor benefits contact the Veterans Assistance Commission at (815) 334-4229.


VA’s judge employment peaks, as department continues record breaking appeals progress

DVA Logo 36


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) hired seven new Veterans Law Judges (VLJs) effective March 1, to help the Board continue its record-breaking progress adjudicating Veterans appeals.

These new hires bring the Board’s total number of VLJs to 102 – the largest since the Board’s inception in 1933.

“2019 was a historic year for the Board and we look forward to reaching new milestones in 2020, said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “In fiscal year 2019, the Board issued 95,089 decisions to Veterans and held more than 22,000 hearings – both are record numbers.”

Eight months after implementation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA), VA announced its plan to resolve legacy appeals by the end of 2022. The appointment of the seven VLJs will help VA towards meeting that goal.

Veterans Law Judges are both experienced attorneys and subject matter experts in Veterans law.

Following an initial screening, the chairman of the Board recommends a list of candidates to the VA secretary. The selected VLJs are then appointed by the secretary with the final approval coming from the president.


Vets group sounds the alarm after VA greenlights controversial Ashford University for GI Bill funds

College Funds


WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to preserve Ashford University’s eligibility to receive GI Bill benefits after years of whistleblowers, Veterans, and state officials sounding the alarm over the school’s alleged predatory habits aimed at Veterans.

Ashford, which is based in San Diego, is a primarily online university that has a long history of battling to hold on to its access to tens of millions of dollars in GI Bill funds — a key source of revenue for the school. Veterans Education Success, an advocacy group primarily for student Veterans, said the VA is violating the law for approving federal benefits to be used at a school that “engaged in deceptive advertising or recruiting.”

"It is outrageous that VA continues to violate federal law in order to help for-profit colleges while throwing Veterans under the bus," Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said in a prepared statement. "Veterans have legal rights to be protected from fraud and VA has a legal obligation to stop funding that fraud — but VA keeps refusing to follow the law."

Most states have an authority that approves a school’s qualifications for eligibility to receive GI Bill funds. However, in October, VA pulled California’s oversight of military education benefits after a long dispute over how to regulate for-profit schools. Since 2017, VA also has acted as the eligibility authority for schools in six other states, according to the department.

In 2017, California’s attorney general sued Ashford for defrauding and deceiving students.

“Ashford University preyed on Veterans and people of modest means,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This for-profit college illegally misled students about their educational prospects and unfairly saddled them with debt.”

VA approved all but 20 of Ashford’s programs, which were either in the process of being voluntarily discontinued by the university or failed to meet requirements for approval, according to the department. The school has 91 programs, and the 20 unapproved programs failed to satisfy at least one of two provisions, VA said.

“One provision requires both accredited and non-accredited programs that are designed to prepare an individual for licensure or certification to meet state requirements in order to be approved for purposes of VA education benefits. The second provision requires programs offered by non-accredited and for-profit schools to be consistent in curriculum and content with similar programs offered by public and private, not-for-profit, schools in the state,” VA spokeswoman Susan Carter wrote in an email.

The Ashford programs not approved by the VA include a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education, a master’s degree in public health, and a Master of Arts in special education.

“The 20 programs that were not approved by the VA do not represent a significant number of students and will not result in a material impact to Ashford's total enrollment,” according to a news release from Zovio, the company that owns Ashford. Zovio did not respond to a request for additional comments.

In 1974, Congress banned the GI Bill from being used at schools that relied on misleading advertising and recruiting to enroll Veterans. In 2018, Ashford received more than $27 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill revenue, according to VA data, with nearly 7,000 student Veterans enrolled, making the university the sixth-largest recipient of GI Bill funds in the country.

Wofford said for-profit colleges target Veterans largely because of the so-called “90/10 loophole.” The 90/10 rule requires that for a for-profit school to be eligible to receive federal student assistance, it must find at least 10% of its revenue from sources other than federal aid. The idea being legitimate for-profit schools should be able to recruit students willing to pay out of their own pockets and taxpayers wouldn’t be propping up failing schools. However, the GI Bill does not count towards this federal aid limit, despite those dollars coming from federal funding.

“One thing that's terrible for Veterans and service members is that they are targeted for fraud and deception because of a loophole in federal law. We're working hard to close this loophole in Congress,” Wofford said. “Right now, the loophole incentivizes for-profit colleges to see Veterans as nothing more than dollar signs in uniform because the colleges count GI Bill funds and military funds as private revenue to offset the cap on federal funds the schools otherwise face."

Zovio said in its news release that Ashford’s revenue is below the 90/10 rate.

A 2018 audit from the VA inspector general found roughly 11,200 students using GI Bill benefits will enroll in programs that violate VA standards, costing the federal government about $585 million in improper payments per year. The bulk of that money goes to for-profit colleges. The inspector general estimates those figures could balloon to 17,000 students and $2.3 billion in five years, if nothing changes.

The aggressive recruiting practices at some for-profit colleges, including Ashford, has also prompted years of congressional investigations. A 2012 Senate investigation found Ashford University routinely told Veterans their GI Bill would fully cover the cost of tuition. At least one Veteran owed $11,000 that his federal benefits wouldn’t cover, the investigation found.

“The pressure we put on these students to get their VA documents completed was crucial to Ashford’s retainment strategy,” Eric Dean, a former Ashford recruiter and Navy Veteran, said last year at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing. “The money from the GI Bill is crucial to the survival of for-profit universities. The GI Bill money is key to the structure of places like Ashford. They need it to survive, which means they have to target Veterans to keep their shareholders happy. Again, this is all about putting profit above education.”

In 2011, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions heard testimony from Arlie Thoreson Willems, a retired administrator of the Iowa Department of Education. Willems testified she and her colleagues regularly received calls from across the country about Ashford graduates’ lack of eligibility to obtain a teaching credential in their state, many of them from students who were misled by Ashford’s recruiters regarding that eligibility, forcing students to start over their college education in their home state.

In 2016, Ashford lost its approval for GI Bill funds in Iowa, but later sued the state and lost in 2017. Due to Ashford losing its credentials in Iowa, a Veteran attending the school found out right before his graduation that he would not earn his teaching license. He was told he would have to attend a “cooperating school” in Arizona for one year, according to the 2012 Senate report.

When the school failed to secure approval in California, it relocated to Arizona in 2017. The school offered no courses in Arizona, but signed a lease for a 2,454 square foot space and called it a headquarters, according to The Chronical for Higher Education, which reports on the industry. The VA gave Ashford 60 days to obtain approval from California, back when the state was the approving authority. The state again declined to approve Ashford, citing the school's entanglement in legal issues alleging it used "erroneous, deceptive, or misleading advertising policies." In 2019, Washington state booted Ashford from operating in the state.

"Ashford University if not permitted to engage in any actions that constitute 'operating' in Washington state," Sam Loftin, director of consumer protection said in a statement. "[This includes] engaging in targeted advertising, promoting, publicizing, soliciting, or recruiting for the institution. Students enrolled in field placements for the current term may complete their field placement experience, but no future field placements may be offered."


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