An Odenville man who video-recorded himself raping a 3-year-old girl was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Wednesday.
43-year-old Robert Armbrust, Jr. pled guilty last week to rape, sodomy, sex abuse of a child younger than 12, and child porn involving a child younger than 17. St. Clair County Judge Phil Seay sentenced Armbrust to life in prison without parole for the rape charge and life in prison on the remaining charges.
According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Lyle Harmon, Armbrust committed the horrific crimes from June through September 2016 while he and his girlfriend were babysitting a sick friend’s grandchild. Armbrust videotaped and photographed himself committing the child sex crimes.
It was a very good year for Alabama’s student archers at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Eastern National Championship. Placing in the top five of their shooting categories were two Alabama teams and four individual students. Additionally, an Alabama elementary school student was chosen as an Easton Academic Archer and five Alabama students made the NASP All-American Academic Team.
“We are extremely proud of the performance of Alabama’s student archers,” said Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “Their determination and dedication to both archery and academics is paying off and will serve them well in other aspects of life.”
More than 14,000 archers traveled from 35 states to the competition, which was held May 10-12, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. Alabama’s top five results are listed below.
East Elementary, First Place, Elementary School Division
Alma Bryant High, Fifth Place, High School Division
Kayden Henderson, Vinemont Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Male Division
Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Fourth Place, Elementary School Female Division
Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High, Third Place, in both the overall competition and the High School Male Division with a near perfect score of 297 (out of 300).
International Bowhunters Organization 3D Tournament
East Elementary, First Place
Ava Ray, East Elementary, Second Place, Elementary School Female Division
Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Female Division
The Easton Academic Archer program highlights students who excel in the classroom as well as on the archery range. Each of the newly chosen academic archers received a Genesis Bow and custom Easton Academic Archer arrows during the tournament.
Pierce Gudger of East Elementary School was chosen as one of 10 academic archers for 2018.
All-American Academic Team
The 2018 NASP All-American Academic Team was formed based on the results of both the NASP Eastern and Western National tournaments and a roster of Academic Archers from across North America. Five students from Alabama have made this year’s team.
Allie Stewart, East Elementary
Jonathan Hall, Breitling Elementary
Taylor Darby, Munford Middle
Justin Liveoak, Chilton County High
Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
3 kid-on-kid sex assault cases at Alabama Army base
Army officials are now acknowledging they’ve investigated reports of child-on-child sexual assaults at Fort Rucker.
The disclosure comes amid an Associated Press investigation that found many sexual assault reports among children at U.S. military bases where service member families live have languished in a dead zone of justice, in which victims and offenders go without help.
New documents released to AP show Army criminal investigators opened at least three cases at the southern Alabama base, concluding all were true.
At least 3 tornadoes confirmed from Alabama, Florida storms
The National Weather Service confirms at least three tornadoes in Alabama from Sunday storms, and is surveying other parts of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
A storm with estimated winds of 80 mph (130 kph) overturned five recreational vehicles at the Anchors Aweigh RV Resort near Foley after 3 p.m. The storm, with a 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) path, was rated EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The Weather Service says three people were injured.
There were dozens of reports about damage after a storm crossed Baldwin County Sunday afternoon. A tornado warning was issued shortly before 3:30 p.m. Foley police spokesman David Wilson tells the Pensacola News Journal that several trailers were overturned at an RV park and some people there received medical attention.
More damage was reported in Elberta as the storm moved east.
The Army says in a statement that severe weather caused damage at Fort Rucker, but no one was injured. It has been temporarily closed and extent of the damage is being assessed.
Rep. Roby: I’m always fighting for Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base
(Maxwell Air Force Base/FB)
The recent district work period provided me valuable time on the road in Alabama’s Second District to have in-person meetings with many of the people I represent in Congress. I firmly believe that hearing directly from you and having face-to-face conversations about the issues that impact our community daily enables me to be a better representative for your priorities in Washington.
As you know, our district has a very large military footprint and is home to two of the finest military installations in the country – Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. It is critically important that I stay up-to-date with the needs and priorities of our military bases, so during the last district work period I met with leadership at both installations. I recently spoke on the House floor to share an update about my visits.
At Fort Rucker, I was thoroughly briefed by General Gayler, and I truly appreciate him for taking the time to talk with me. At Maxwell, I was given the opportunity to speak to the Squadron Officer School, and then I had a productive meeting with Lt. General Cotton, Commander of Air University. This vital operation serves as our Air Force’s center for professional military education.
As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, properly funding our military is one of my top priorities. As I told General Gayler and Lt. General Cotton, I remain committed to ensuring that our district’s large military footprint continues to have the resources necessary to carry out their important missions.
Earlier this month, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base celebrated 100 years of operation – what a remarkable milestone. Their weekend-long celebration included a military tribute at a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game and a 5k race. Additionally, students from local schools participated in an art and essay contest themed “100 Years of Leadership in Airpower.” I’m confident that I speak for the entire Second District by saying that we appreciate all that these men and women do for our country and our community. I know our region looks forward to many more years of continued partnership with Maxwell. The outstanding individuals who work there truly invest so much in our state.
I will always work to ensure that Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base remain strong components in our national defense infrastructure. Over the last year, I have greatly appreciated finally working alongside an Administration that has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to rebuilding our military after years of damaging cuts. I am proud to serve as the representative for these two fine military installations, and I will continue to fight to provide the brave men and women of our military with the best possible resources to ensure they are well prepared for whatever challenges they may face as they work to keep us safe.
It is truly a great honor and privilege to be an advocate for Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base in Congress. I will never stop fighting on behalf of our service members and their families.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.
Fort Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base and more recently discussed in House defense appropriations subcommittee hearings
Serving on the House Appropriations Committee gives me a valuable and unique opportunity to participate in the conversations surrounding funding for the various functions of our federal government.
It’s hard to believe it, but the debates on funding for the Fiscal Year 2019 have already begun. I’ve been glad to be part of these important discussions and advocate for programs that are critically important to the State of Alabama and our country as a whole.
Recently the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, on which I’m grateful to serve, held hearings to review the Fiscal Year 2019 budget requests from various services. So far during this budget request season, our subcommittee has heard from the Navy and the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Army.
I was glad to take part in all these discussions for several reasons. I have always been a strong advocate for properly supporting our military so that our men and women in uniform have everything they need when we send them into harm’s way. Secondly, our state and district have a very large military presence, and I consider fighting for our interests one of my greatest responsibilities in Congress.
When the Air Force testified before Defense Appropriations, I was glad to have the opportunity to have a conversation with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein. You may remember that Secretary Wilson was the key decision maker for the F-35 mission. We talked about the Air Force’s priorities for the next year, and I thanked her in person for making the decision to send the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery. As I told Secretary Wilson, the men and women of the 187th could not be more thrilled about this extraordinary opportunity, and our entire state and community share in this excitement.
When the Navy and Marine Corps came before the subcommittee to discuss their budget request, I asked Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson about the F-35 mission’s potential to enable the Navy fleet as a whole to be more capable. I was thrilled when he assured me that yes, this would definitely be the case. In my role on the Appropriations Committee, I will also continue to support the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program manufactured in Mobile as well as the other important priorities for our state.
During the Army’s testimony before Defense Appropriations, I reviewed the Army’s budget request with Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. The people of Southeast Alabama care greatly about the Army, and we are so proud that our very own Fort Rucker is the home of Army Aviation. Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 2019 budget request for Army Aviation aircraft is significantly reduced from this year, so I pressed Secretary Esper about this. I appreciated his response and his assurance that operations will proceed as usual at Fort Rucker. This news on top of the announcement we recently received that 17 Lakota helicopters will soon be added to the fleet at Fort Rucker are both great indications that this proud military installation in our backyard will continue to excel for years to come. Of course, in my role on the Appropriations Committee, I will continue push for strong Army Aviation funding.
I deeply appreciate these distinguished military leaders for taking the time to review their budgets and priorities with us. Each of these individuals have led lives of dedicated service to our country, and I am grateful to their families for the many sacrifices made on our behalf. I will continue to prioritize the national security of this great nation, and as always, I will never stop advocating for the important work being done in Alabama’s Second District at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.
Courtesy of BCA: Acting Secretary of Army Robert M. Speer, left, presents BCA Chairman Jeff Coleman with his flag of office as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama (South) (U.S. Army photo)
Jeff Coleman, a Dothan resident and CEO of Coleman Worldwide Moving, has been named Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama (South). Also a member of the Business Council of Alabama, Coleman received the award at the CASA investor ceremony on July 20.
According to the Business Council of Alabama, “CASAs promote good relations between the Army and the communities he or she serves and they advise the civilian Army secretary on regional issues. Each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have an appointed CASA, who generally is a business or civic leader who possesses a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and his or her communities.”
As CEO of one of the 30 largest private companies in Alabama, Coleman is an active community leader. In addition to serving with the BCA, Coleman also holds leadership positions with the American Moving and Storage Association, the Alabama Trucking Association, the Dothan Industrial Development Board, and the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center.
Coleman also has served with the Friends of Fort Rucker for more than 10 years. Friends of Fort Rucker is a group of business leaders who advocate on behalf of the major aviation base. Coleman told the Dothan Eagle that he hopes to maintain funding for Fort Rucker and and promote veterans’ causes in the area.
CASAs serve two year terms and may serve for up to 10 years before being recognized as an Emeritus. Coleman succeeds AAA Cooper Transportation Chairman Mack Dove, who received the Emeritus title on January 1.
Coleman is excited about his position, and sees it as a way for him to “serve [his] country and pay it forward to the men and women in uniform.”
FBI Agent Posed as Lecturer at Alabama Military Base to Capture Alleged ISIS Supporter
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. — An undercover operation at Alabama’s Fort Rucker that began back in 2016 led to the Saturday arrest of a man believed to support ISIS. The 34-year-old soldier, Ikaika Erik Kang, was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawai but spent six weeks at Fort Rucker where authorities believe he engaged in radicalizing activity.
Kang has been formally charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The FBI obtained warrants to search Kang’s quarters and technology at Fort Rucker last year. They found more than 2,000 ISIS-related videos, documents, and graphics, most of which were violent in nature.
After the search, the FBI planted an undercover agent in the base to interact with Kang. The two discussed traveling to Turkey to go to the ISIS consulate.
“Kang discussed the possibility of joining ISIS and fighting for ISIS. He told [the undercover agent at Fort Rucker] ‘people still say it’s illegal to join them but the way I look at it they are just fighting the people who are committing genocide there. I’m just going to go there…and fight these guys who are committing genocide,'” the FBI documents state.
The undercover agent noted that Kang knew that authorities could be on his trail, so he tried to stay off the grid. “Kang further indicated he had not purchased an airline ticket because he believed he would be arrested,” FBI reports state. “Kang said that he didn’t want to do anything on the internet because he was afraid the FBI ‘will show up at my door.'”
According to FBI reports, Kang wanted to help provide combat training to members of ISIS. Prosecutors even assert that he took an oath of loyalty to ISIS because he wanted to “kill a bunch of people.”
Additional searches of his technology and property have revealed more ISIS material as well as classified U.S. military information. His preliminary hearing is set for July 24.
Looking toward Alabama’s military presence, Republicans praise passage of defense spending bill
A newly passed defense spending bill that would provide $577.9 billion to the military has Alabama’s representatives doing a happy dance. That’s because, for a state with a heavy military presence, the new bill will bolster armed services personnel and industries at home.
In Central Alabama, the defense spending bill provides $187 million for 28 new Lakota helicopters, which are heavily used at Fort Rucker’s Army Aviation Center of Excellence. It also directs $450 million toward cyber security efforts like the one located at Maxwell Air Force Base. Additionally, the legislation provides funding for 74 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which could go to Montgomery’s 187th Fighter Wing.
Prior to the bill’s passage, Congresswoman Martha Roby- a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee- urged her colleagues to advance the bill. Her district alone houses Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
“For the last six years we have been in almost constant tension with an administration whose sequestration policy threatened to hollow out our military,” Roby said. “Providing for the common defense of our nation is one of the most fundamental duties of Congress under the Constitution.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne pointed to the bill’s approval for three more Littoral Combat Ships, which are built by Mobile’s Austell USA.
“Ensuring our military men and women have the funding and resources to do their job is a fundamental responsibility of Congress,” Rep. Byrne said. “These ships are a key component of the Navy’s fleet, and the additional funding is vital to the future of the Austal shipyard in Mobile.”
In the Huntsville area, Rep. Mo Brooks touted funding boosts that are included to the Redstone Arsenal.
“I’m very pleased key priorities for the Redstone Arsenal community have been increased – notably high energy laser research, cybersecurity research for a variety of Army platforms and integration of systems, and the Army’s important continued investment in Future Vertical Lift,” Brooks said.
“The number one responsibility of Congress is to give our warfighters the resources and support needed to carry out their missions,” he added.
Congressman Mike Rogers serves on the Armed Services Committee. His East Alabama District will also see benefits from the spending plan, but he added that the U.S. military will need continued support going forward.
“This is a great start but there is still more work to be done to rebuild of military and to ensure readiness in our Armed Forces after years of neglect by the Obama Administration,” Rep. Rogers said.
Alabama Power and U.S. Army begin solar energy project at Fort Rucker
Officials from Alabama Power, the Army and other federal agencies gather at Fort Rucker on Thursday, June 2, 2016, to break ground on the company’s second, large-scale solar energy project. (Mike Kittrell/Alabama NewsCenter)
Officials from Alabama Power, the Army and other federal agencies gathered at Fort Rucker today to break ground on the company’s second, large-scale solar energy project.
The 10-megawatt project, to be located on about 90 acres of land at the fort, is scheduled to be operational later this year. The photovoltaic solar generating plant is expected to generate enough energy to power about 1,600 homes annually.
Russel Hall, deputy to the commanding general at Fort Rucker, told the gathering he was pleased to be working with Alabama Power on the project, which is creating between 60 and 80 temporary construction jobs.
“Increasing our energy choices is important to Fort Rucker,” Hall said.
Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president for External Affairs, noted the long and strong relationship between the company and the Army facility. He also recognized Fort Rucker’s importance to the community and to the economy of Southeast Alabama.
The energy generated by the Fort Rucker project will flow back into the Alabama Power grid as part of the company’s generation portfolio. Alabama Power retains the rights to the energy and the renewable energy credits (RECs) from the project to serve its customers with renewable energy. Or the company can sell the energy and the RECs, together or separately, to third parties for the benefit of customers.
The projects at Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot provide benefits to all Alabama Power customers because of long-term power contracts between the company and the two military installations. Both Army facilities will continue to purchase electricity from Alabama Power under separate and existing electric service agreements.
Alabama Power’s latest solar-without-subsidies move could protect state’s military bases
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency tasked with regulating the state’s utilities, this week approved solar energy proposals by Alabama Power that could help protect Ft. Rucker and the Anniston Army Depot during the next round of military base closures.
Earlier this year, Alabama Power established a groundbreaking new renewable energy program, seeking to boost its power from renewables—including solar—to 500 megawatt hours over the next six years. 500 megawatts of solar power is enough renewable energy to serve about 100,000 homes during an hour of peak sun intensity on cloudless days. Alabama Power already has 1,600 megawatts of hydro resources across Alabama, and 404 megawatts of wind generation from projects in Kansas and Oklahoma.
“This proposal provides a common-sense path for expanding renewables in Alabama,” Nick Sellers, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory and corporate affairs, said at the time the proposal was rolled out. “The Public Service Commission has been clear that they do not want renewables to be subsidized by all of our customers. This filing achieves that policy directive while also allowing for solar and new renewable energy projects that are expected to provide economic benefit for all of our customers.”
The plan was mainly geared toward attracting large corporations to the state, many of which have instituted company-wide policies requiring a certain percentage of their power consumption to be fueled by renewable sources.
The PSC approved Alabama Power’s plan in September. This week, the Commission also approved the Power Company’s first two solar projects to be built under the plan — one each at Ft. Rucker and the Anniston Army Depot.
In 2007, Congress set a goal for the Department of Defense to fill at least 25 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.
The Anniston Army Depot, a state-of-the-art maintenance facility, employs 4,100 total soldiers and civilians. Ft. Rucker, the Army’s aviation training base, supports a daytime population of just under 14,000, including about 5,800 people in uniform, 7,600 civilian and contract employees and 3,300 military Family member residents. Both installations are boons for their respective region’s economy, attracting suppliers and other private sector businesses to the area.
Solar plants at the two Alabama bases will produce approximately 10 megawatts each, enough combined power to service over 4,000 homes. The cost of the two projects will be just south of $50 million, but the benefits could be significant in the next couple of years when the Department of Defense could consider another round of base closures.
Alabama fared well overall in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, in spite of Ft. Rucker being slated for realignment. The base’s Aviation Technical Test Center moved to Redstone Arsenal in north Alabama and combined with the Redstone Technical Test Center to form Redstone Test Center, keeping the project in the state.
The BRAC Commission considers a wide range of variables when deciding which bases to close. Spokespersons for Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) both confirmed to Yellowhammer that Alabama Power’s renewable energy projects could be positive marks for the two Alabama bases if they are ever targeted for realignment.
The three Alabama Public Service Commissioners each questioned the Obama Administration’s energy policies, but voted to approve the projects to support the troops.
“I am concerned if we did not approve this measure that our vindictive, liberal president would probably try to punish Alabama and those members of the military who honorably serve in our great state at the Anniston Army Depot and at Fort Rucker by transferring them to other bases outside of the state,” said Commissioner Chip Beeker.
“I believe that the number one thing in this state we’ve got to look after are our veterans and jobs,” added Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh. “The slogan at this commission is jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“We want customers to understand that this project has broader benefits,” Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman told the Birmingham Business Journal. “We are working with the military to meet their goals, and they are important to the state, so it is important to us to help them. They have certain requirements they are trying to meet regarding renewable energy, and we have been having ongoing conversations with them and these are just the first projects out of the gate.”
Roby: Defense spending bill protects Alabama bases, but Obama’s veto could threaten ‘common defense’
Good news: the House of Representatives passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA is the annual bill that authorizes spending and policy for the entire military, including programs and efforts at installations in Alabama.
This one wasn’t easy, as ill-advised cuts in recent years have left Congress and military leaders with difficult choices. However, I’m pleased to report that this NDAA does right by our troops and authorizes necessary spending levels for the coming year.
Specific to Fort Rucker, this year’s NDAA authorizes:
– $187 million for the procurement of 28 new Lakota helicopters for the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker;
– $47 million for elementary school improvements on post at Fort Rucker.
Specific to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, the NDAA authorizes:
– Critical funding for C-130 aircraft improvements, including $75 million for Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) installation and $33.2 million for C-130 engine upgrades;
– A $10 million budget increase for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which has a facility at Gunter;
– $7.6 million to replace the squadron operations facility at Dannelly Field;
– $33 million for elementary and middle school renovations at Maxwell Air Force Base; and
– $75 million in cyber operations procurement for the Commander of United States Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). Maxwell’s Air University recently launched the Air Force Cyber College which is focused on instruction in this emerging front of global warfare.
The bill also contains important authorizations for military personnel, including a 1.3 percent pay raise for troops, $281 million in funding to ensure commissaries stay open; and empowering commanders to permit service members to carry firearms at installations, reserve centers, and recruiting centers.
Overall the 2016 NDAA authorizes $611.9 billion, which includes both the base Department of Defense budget and funds for Overseas Contingency Operations. This is a great deal of taxpayer money, no question. But, I strongly believe that Congress must fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to “provide for the common defense” of this nation by equipping our Armed Forces with everything they need to fight the enemy and deter threats. In fact, one of my top priorities as your Representative in Congress has been to fight against harmful cuts to our military that erode our readiness capabilities and compromise national security.
Unfortunately, President Obama had previously threatened to veto this legislation, and some in the Senate may still try to block it. That will not stop me from fighting to get it passed. Over the last year I have been actively building a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers to make the case for protecting national defense in the budget. Working together, we will fight to build pressure on the Senate and President Obama to enact this 2016 NDAA into law and then follow it with a defense appropriations bill that fills in this funding authority structure.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd District
CUTS HIT HOME: Military population in Alabama will dwindle as Defense budget is trimmed
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. — The United States Department of the Army announced Thursday its nationwide reduction of 40,000 troops by 2017 will include trimming its force at Fort Rucker by 186 soldiers.
The six percent reduction at the wiregrass-area base is actually much lower than the 40 percent cut many had feared, and significantly less than the reductions in force at other Army posts, such as 3,400 soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia and 3,350 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Fort Benning cuts could ultimately have an even greater impact on Alabama than those at Rucker. Although the base is located in Georgia, many of the military families stationed there live across the Chattahoochee River in Alabama towns like Phenix City.
“A six percent reduction at Fort Rucker is not nearly as devastating as the 40 percent cut some had projected,” said U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who represents the congressional district in which Fort Rucker is located. “And, as of right now, this won’t affect the aviation student load. Those are both positives. However, we don’t need to be cutting our force at all. We need to be growing and making sure our military has what it needs to meet global threats.”
Other members of Alabama’s delegation have in recent years warned about the potential negative effects of cutting the Pentagon’s budget, including Sen. Jeff Sessions who in 2013 called the cuts “unwise.”
“We’ve got a difficult situation and we’re not having any leadership,” Sessions said in a budget hearing on sequestration. “I’m beginning to wonder if the president isn’t quite happy to see the Defense Department to take this much [in] cuts. If he was sincerely worried about it, why isn’t he providing more leadership to confront it? I know a lot of his supporters are quite happy to see the Defense Department to take these cuts.”
In spite of the cuts, many south Alabama business owners, elected officials and soldiers are sleeping better Thursday night after they had feared the worst.
In February of this year, roughly 1,600 wiregrass-area residents attended a forum with Department of Defense representatives to voice their concerns over impending budget cuts that could effect their base. Their efforts paid off.
The uncertainty is not completely over, though. Another round of cuts to the civilian workforce is expected soon, and those could impact additional military installations around the state as well.
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Pentagon won’t rename Alabama’s Ft. Rucker, named after Confederate officer
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
WASHINGTON — In a rare moment of pushback against political correctness, the Pentagon announced it will not rename any military installations named after Confederate generals, including Alabama’s Fort Rucker.
“Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history,” Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost said in a statement. “Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted that the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.”
Edmund Rucker was a colonel in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanding a cavalry brigade in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, during which he was wounded and captured. He was given the honorary rank of general after the Civil War and settled his family in Birmingham. He became a business leader in the late 1800s and one of the major players in the city’s rise to become an industrial powerhouse.
“Camp Rucker” was first opened in Alabama’s wiregrass region in 1942. The first troops to train at the camp were in the 81st Infantry Division, which saw action in the Pacific Theater during WWII. After shuttering for a few years during peacetime, the camp was reopened again during the Korean War. It was deactivated again briefly before reopening for good in 1955 as Fort Rucker. All of the Army’s aviation training has taken place at Fort Rucker since 1973.
The base is now home to the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) and the United States Army Aviation Museum.
Rucker was not the only base being pressured to change its name in recent weeks. As the Confederate Battle Flag became a hot-button political issue in the wake of a racially-motived shooting in South Carolina, activists pushed to eliminate remnants of Confederate history throughout the South.
Other major bases in the activists’ crosshairs included Fort Bragg, named after Gen. Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general and close friend of Confederate president Jefferson Davis; and Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military base in the country, named after Confederate general John Bell Hood, who was wounded during the Battle of Gettysburg.
“The services are ultimately responsible for naming their own military installations,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “As of now, there are no current plans to change policies regarding how installations are named.”
A map of the military installations named after Confederate officers can be found below.
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Roby signals plan that could send shockwaves through failing veterans healthcare facilities
(Above: Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) introduces an amendment to the VA funding committee report)
WASHINGTON — Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby is laying the groundwork for a plan that would give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to take over operations when a local VA is chronically underperforming.
The scandal-plagued Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) has made national headlines in recent months for having some of the longest wait times in the nation. CAVHCS employees were previously found to be engaged in scheduling manipulation to cover up their long wait times. Other disturbing instances of malfeasance and cover-up at the Central Alabama VA include the targeting of whistleblowers by the local VA leadership, and revelations that a patient in the facility’s drug rehab program was taken by a VA employee to buy drugs at a crack house and to solicit a prostitute.
“I have grown increasingly frustrated with the situation in Central Alabama because it seems like we are relying on a broken system to fix itself,” Roby told Yellowhammer Wednesday. “After all the staff shakeups and promises to improve, we haven’t seen progress.”
Roby compared the need to have oversight of the VA system to what happens at the state level when a local school fails to meet standards, compelling the state department of education to step in and take charge.
“We need a similar mechanism at the VA when medical centers continually fail our veterans” she said. “I’m tired of the excuses from this giant bureaucracy. I want the onus for fixing the Central Alabama VA to be squarely on the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and it’s only fair to first make sure he has the proper tools to do it.”
Roby is currently using the legislative process to investigate whether or not the Secretary of the VA has those “tools,” but she suspects he does not. As a result, her office is also preparing to offer new legislation that would empower the secretary to “swiftly step in and take over some of these deeply failing systems.”
A report in the Appropriations Committee Wednesday also included $4.1 billion in increased funds for the VA, as well as $901 million in increased military construction spending.
Military installations in Alabama would see almost nearly $88 million in appropriations, including $33 million for new school construction to repair and replace aging schools at Maxwell Air Force Base, $47 million new school construction to replace aging schools Fort Rucker, and $7.6 million for a new Squadron Operations Facility at Dannelly Field.
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Roby: Republicans must commit to restoring military funding in new budget
WASHINGTON — Representative Martha Roby (R-AL2), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said Monday that any budget the House presents must meet the needs of the military.
“To earn my support, a budget plan must sufficiently address sequestration and restore critical funding for national defense,” Rep. Roby said in a release.
“One of the main reasons I voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011 was the way it drastically and disproportionately cut from military accounts. We’ve softened the blow in small ways since then, but the full, devastating effect of sequestration is staring us square in the face for Fiscal Year 2016.”
Rep. Roby said that allowing sequestration to continue would be irresponsible, and could impact military readiness.
“In the lead up to assuming this historic Congressional majority, Republicans talked about a return to responsible governing after years of crisis and gridlock,” said Rep. Roby. “During this budget process, conservatives must clearly demonstrate our commitment to national defense and support proper military spending levels.”
Last month, Congresswoman Roby warned her colleagues in the House that allowing the disparate cuts of sequestration to continue could not only reduce the Army to where it was before September 11th, 2011, it could cause bases in Alabama like Fort Rucker to close.
“Recently, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and I wrote a bi-partisan letter to every Representative and Senator about the dangers of continued military cuts,” Rep. Roby wrote in an op-ed published on Yellowhammer last month. “In it, we highlighted an important study by the U.S. Army demonstrating how sequestration would affect as many as 30 installations throughout the country, including Fort Rucker in Alabama.”
“No area of the federal budget is immune from ‘belt-tightening,’ and that certainly includes the military. However, any changes to our Armed Forces should reflect national priorities, not budgetary or political circumstances. The United States must first decide what is required to protect this country and its interests, and then budget accordingly.”
In February, a huge crowd attended a forum about Ft. Rucker held by the Department of Defense. Members of the military and community warned of a “economic tsunami” that would devastate the area. If sequestration cuts were to hit Ft. Rucker, estimates suggest it would impact 2,500 military jobs on the base and 15,000 support jobs in the surrounding area.
The House Budget Committee is expected to release a preliminary federal spending plan Tuesday morning.
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How Alabama’s 66k military personnel may end up fighting Obama’s climate change war
According to the American Forces News Service, Alabama has over 66,000 military personnel based in the state at installations like Fort McClellan, Anniston Army Depot, Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base.
Alabama’s fighting forces have been deployed all over the globe and have a reputation for valor that was earned over centuries of service.
But it now appears that Alabama’s military personnel, along with American service members stationed all over the world, will soon be deployed in a new war: the Obama Administration’s so called war on global warming.
Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled a comprehensive plan for how the Obama Administration plans to use the U.S. military to address global warming.
The Pentagon has for years considered global warming a “threat multiplier,” meaning they believe it could destabilize parts of the world where Obama administration officials forecast global warming will cause increased migration and skirmishes over limited resources, like water.
But the new plan, which the Pentagon has dubbed their “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” moves global warming off of the back burner and makes it an issue of first importance to the United States military, especially when it comes to how it prepares its troops.
“A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,” Secretary Hagel wrote in his introduction to the report. “We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defense planning scenarios.”
Sherri Goodman, who runs a group of former high-ranking military officers that now studies US national security, told The Guardian that American war games scenarios would likely now include factors that the administration believes are being caused by global warming.
“You could make the game more complex with sea-level rise, and extreme weather events,” she said.
The Guardian also noted that the military is planning a massive reevaluation of troop locations at roughly 7,000 U.S. military facilities.
Wholesale base closures or relocations are not expected, but it is unclear how, if at all, the Pentagon’s renewed focus on global warming will impact Alabama’s military mission moving forward.
Roby: Shrinking military shows misplaced priorities
Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel previewed some significant changes coming for our nation’s military. Though the details won’t be public until President Obama releases his proposed budget, we know the size and scope of our Armed Forces will be greatly reduced. In fact, under the President’s proposal, the Army would shrink to its pre-World War II size.
Every American should be concerned about how budget cuts are affecting our Armed Forces and what that means for our national priorities. No area of the budget is immune from belt tightening and that certainly includes the military. And, with the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, certain changes to the military are expected and, in many ways, necessary.
However, any changes to our Armed Forces should reflect national priorities, not budgetary or political circumstances. The United States must first decide what is required to protect this country and its interests, and then budget accordingly. I fear we are doing the opposite, letting limited funding dictate strategic decisions.
One of the reasons I opposed the Budget Control Act of 2011 was because of the way the bill cut a disproportional amount from defense relative to other areas of the budget. The sequestration cuts imposed by that law took 50 percent from the military when defense spending represents only 20 percent of the federal budget.
Now, the drastic military cuts most thought would be a one-time occurrence have become the new normal, and the problem is getting worse. Why? Because out-of-control spending elsewhere in the federal government continues to consume a greater and greater portion of our resources, and there’s only so much to go around.
A lot of politicians in Washington don’t like to talk about it, but the fact is unrestrained growth of “auto-pilot” social programs is threatening our ability to properly fund the military. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office outlined how, without changes to current law, mandatory spending on social programs and subsidized health care will grow at an extraordinary rate over the next 25 years, while non-mandatory spending, where military funding comes from, will shrink to dangerous levels. Mandatory spending is automatic in nature and does not change unless the law does, which is the reason behind its “auto-pilot” growth.
The CBO prediction would fulfill a decades-long trend. Mandatory spending has increased dramatically over the decades, going from about 20 percent of the budget in the 1960s to about 45 percent in the 1980s to more than 60 percent today. And, as mandatory spending has consumed a greater share of the budget, the military’s portion has decreased just as dramatically.
To put this in perspective, in ten years the United States could spend as much or more on our annual debt payments than we do on national defense if we continue down this path. What kind of message does that send to our enemies or those who seek to undermine our global influence?
Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized how failure to reform mandatory spending would lead to military cuts, stating in 2010 that “national debt is our biggest national security threat.”
The problem isn’t limited to the military. Funding for other American priorities like transportation infrastructure, education, agriculture, or other legitimate interests is also threatened by unrestrained growth of social welfare programs.
Unfortunately, our Commander-in-Chief has failed to show leadership on this issue. President Obama’s soon-to-be-released budget proposal reportedly contains no reforms to rein in mandatory spending, despite widespread agreement that reforms are desperately needed. Too often, President Obama and his party choose to believe the falsehood that the government can somehow tax its way out of every problem.
Congress took a small step in the right direction late last year by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act, which restored some military funding cut by sequestration and made modest reforms to mandatory spending. I hope we can use that step to build momentum for more long-term reforms that help get our fiscal house in order.
The Constitution calls on the United States Government to “promote the general welfare” as well as to “provide for the common defense.” We cannot allow one responsibility to continue to undermine the other.
Impact on Ft. Rucker
Changes to the Armed Forces will likely affect every major military installation in the country, and our Alabama bases and posts are no exception. A smaller Army will certainly have an impact at Fort Rucker, one that we’ve expected now for some time. However, the proposed changes also offer some good news for the post.
The Army plans to realign its aviation assets to reflect our current footing and improve efficiency. Part of the plan would call for modernizing the training aircraft at Fort Rucker’s Army Aviation Center of Excellence, which would enhance the training mission there.
I have been personally engaged in discussions surrounding the Army’s planned changes. As it stands, the aircraft realignment plan would have a positive impact on Fort Rucker and would not negatively impact the Alabama National Guard.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. To contact her, visit her website or call her Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-2901.