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July 26, 2013 at 3:12 PM
Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter, an Army soldier who was born in Spokane and spent part of his youth there, will be presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry during combat in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009.
Carter will receive the nation’s highest military honor from President Obama in a White House ceremony on Aug. 26, according to the White House.
He will be the fifth living recipient to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan in 2009, Carter served at Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan Province, where he was part of a unit of 54 soldiers who came under fierce attack by more than 400 insurgents. The assault killed eight U.S. soldiers and injured 25.
Without regard for his own safety, Carter resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a buddy, killed enemy troops, and risk his own life to save another soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire, according to an Army narrative. His courageous actions took place while his unit was under heavy fire that lasted for more than six hours.
Carter, 33, is married and has three children, and he now lists Antioch, Calif., as his home. At the time of his actions, Carter was a scout with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
He is currently based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he serves with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Recipients of the Medal of Honor must display meritorious conduct that involves great personal bravery or self-sacrifice and the risk of one’s life.
July 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Some 2,200 men and women of the 446th Airlift Wing of Joint Base Lewis-McChord recently received the Air Force Outstanding Unit award for a two-year period of accomplishments ending in September 2012.
Their accomplishments included deploying more than 100 medical specialists to Southwest Asia and moving more than 1,200 sick and wounded patients.
In 2012, the 446th flew about 5,200 passengers and more than 6 million pounds of cargo in Operation Deep Freeze, which services National Science Foundation research activities in Antarctica.
June 25, 2013 at 8:21 AM
The Army will cut one of the three Stryker combat brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of an upcoming change in its force structure Army-wide, according to Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, who was informed of the action on Tuesday
The loss of the brigade will be accompanied by other cuts that would reduce the Army troop levels at JBLM from the current 31,000 to about 26,500 active-duty soldiers, Army officials told Heck.
“With the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close next year, the U.S. Army will begin the process of returning to reduced troop levels. This is a necessary, natural and appropriation action,” Heck said in a statement today.
Prior to the start of these wars, what was then Fort Lewis served as the major testing ground for the eight-wheeled Strykers, which were fielded as a new generation of Army vehicles with multiple variants. The brigades, which were built around these vehicles, were repeatedly deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division, which deployed to Iraq and now has some soldiers serving in Afghanistan, is the Stryker brigade slated for the cut, according to Heck . That brigade has about 4,000 soldiers.
Heck said the loss of the brigade is unrelated to this year’s sequestration, which has resulted in cutbacks including furloughs for many civilian Defense Department workers.
The reductions come after a period of major expansion at JBLM, which is a joint Air Force and Army installation. During the post-9/11 period, the base added 19, 528 Army soldiers to reach this year’s total of more than 47,000 Air Force and Army active-duty personnel, according to statistics released in April.
The cutbacks are part of a broader downsizing of the Army that will reduce active-duty personnel from the current strength of about 540,000 soldiers to 490,000 by 2017.
In a meeting with community leaders in April, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Army’s I Corps at JBLM, said the base could be spared any cuts — or could lose up to 8,000 soldiers as well as civilians who support these troops.
Responding to the news Tuesday, Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash., said JBLM will remain one of the premier military installations in America, and she was encouraged that the Army will add battalions to other brigade combat teams on the base.
June 12, 2013 at 8:41 PM
Several provisions of a bill to combat military sexual assault introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa and Sen. Kelly Ayotte R-NH, have been included in legislation under consideration by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
They include a measure to provide victims of sexual assault with a special victims counsel — a military lawyer who would assist sexual-assault victims throughout the legal process. Another provision would help improve the tracking of military sexual-assault statistics.
However two provisions included in Murray’s and Ayotte’s bill did not make it into the committee bill.
One would have referred cases to general court marital level when sexual assault is charged or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
Another would have barred sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or the equivalent.
I’m very pleased that a central focus of my bill, giving victims a dedicated advocate in their corner through this emotional and painful process, has been included in the first draft of the bill. But this effort is far from over,” Murray said Wednesday. “I will be closely reviewing the Committee’s bill language, continuing to debate this, and will be pushing for the aggressive solutions we need to address this crisis in any final bill once it’s open for consideration on the Senate floor.”
June 5, 2013 at 9:16 AM
UPDATE 5:45 p.m: During the hearing Thursday, Bales did not offer an apology to his victims.
In a meeting with reporters after the court session, defense attorneys said this hearing did not provide an opportunity for an apology, which they say would come during the sentencing phase of the courtmartial scheduled for August. “Today was his acceptance of responsibility,” said Maj. Greg Malson, a defense co-counsel.
Afghans have expressed anger at the prospect that Bales would not receive a death sentence for the murders of 16 people.
Defense attorneys said that Bales has expressed remorse for his crimes. Malson said that “what he wants more than anything” is for Afghans to understand that other soldiers now on the ground in the Afghanistan had nothing to do with what happened in those two villages.
Emma Scanlan, another defense co-counsel, indicated that events leading up the crime, including Bales’ illegal use of at least seven ounces of hard alcohol and his use of steroids provided by Special Forces soldiers, would be brought out during the sentencing phase.
“We know all these things to be true, as does the government,” Scanlan said. “You take that with somebody on his fourth deployment and the stresses of combat and you get in some parts of the situation that you are in today.“
UPDATE 3:45 p.m: In a final session of the plea hearing, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, questioned Bales’ attorneys about their preparations for the sentencing phase of the trial scheduled for August.
The defense attorneys are considering whether to call expert witnesses that can testify about Bales’ mental health. In the weeks before the sentencing, the defense attorneys will have these possible witnesses review the results of an Army sanity board review conducted earlier this year that found Bales fit to stand trial. Emma Scanlan, a defense co-counsel, says some evidence will be provided. But it is unclear whether any of the defense’s possible expert witnesses, including a neuropsychologist, will be called to testify.
John Henry Browne, another defense co-counsel, said that his client did receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from Madigan Army Medical Center.
UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, an Army judge accepted a plea deal that enables Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to avert the death penalty. As part of that agreement, during today’s hearing, Bales pled guilty to murdering 16 Afghans, and attempting to murder six others as well as b burning bodies, illegal use of steroids and drinking alcohol in violation of military regulations.
Under the terms of agreement, Bales will be sentenced to life imprisonment with – or without – the possibility of parole depending on the outcome of another phase of the courtmartial now scheduled to begin Aug. 19.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: The hearing resumed at 1:30 p.m. with the Army Judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, going over the agreement reached with prosecutors that calls for Bales to avert a death penalty as he pleads guilty to 16 murders and six attempted murders.
Bales affirmed that he did enter the agreement voluntarily. Nance, shortly before 2 p.m., said he would accept the agreement.
UPDATE 12:26 p.m.: Through the morning hearing, we have heard Bales, for the first time, speak the names of his 16 victims and acknowledge he killed them. There were nine female victims and seven male victims..
The nine female murder victims, as listed in an Army charging document, were Na’ikmarga, Gulalai, Shah Tarina, Zahrah, Naazyah, Masuma, Farida, Palwasha and Nabia.
The seven male murder victims were Khudai Dad, Nazir Mohammad, Mohammad Dawud, Ismattullah, Akhtar Mohammad, Faizullah and Issa Mohammad
The court is now recessed for a lunch break.
UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: Late in the morning, a prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, said he was concerned about a discrepancy between a stipulation of facts that was agreed upon prior to the hearing, and what Bales has said in court.
In court, Bales said he formed the intent to kill people in the first village of Alkozai as he raised his weapon and prepared to fire on each victim.
In the stipulation, Bales said he formed the intent after an initial struggle with a grandmother, which prompted him to try to kill everyone inside the compound
The judge asked Bales for clarification, and he confirmed the version in the stipulation.
“As I entered the compound- I had a brief struggle with a woman I know now to be Na’ikmarga,” Bales said. After completing that struggle (the woman died) Bales said he decided to try to murder anyone he encountered in the compound.
The hearing is now in a brief recess.
UPDATE 11:10 a.m.: Bales said he remembers a kerosene lantern in an Afghan compound where the remains of burned bodies were later found. But he told the judge he doesn’t remember picking up the lantern and setting the bodies on fire.
That prompted some questioning from the judge.
Bales said he is now convinced from reviewing investigative reports, and listening to witness testimony at a pretrial hearing, that he did in fact use the lantern to set the bodies on fire.
Bales affirmed that he tried to murder six people who survived in the first village he visited during the March 11 rampage.
“I did intend to kill them but they survived… Sir, I did not have any legal justification to shoot them,” he told the judge.
UPDATE 10:55 a.m.: Bales has confirmed to the Army judge that he understands all of the elements of all the crimes that he is charged with, including premeditated murder. He now is going through each murder and briefly recounting the actions of each of his crimes on the morning of March 11, 2012.
“I observed a female I now know to be Palwasha,” Bales told the judge. “I formed the intent to kill Palwasha, and then I did kill her by shooting her with a firearm and burning her. This act, again sir, was without legal justification.”
He recited similar narratives for each of the 16 victims.
The judge asked Bales why he killed them.
“As far as why, I have asked that question a million times since then, and there is not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things that I did,” Bales answered.
UPDATE 10 a.m.: Nance, the Army judge, is reviewing one by one each “specification” of crimes on the charge sheet. This exercise is intended to make sure that Bales fully understands the legal elements of these crimes. Each murder victim is named as part of this review, and Bales has so far responded that he understands the charges.
ORIGINAL POST: Joint Base Lewis-McChord Staff Sgt. Robert Bales today pleaded guilty to the murders of 16 unarmed civilians — mostly women and children — in a March 2012 rampage through two villages that constituted the most serious U.S. war crimes case from Afghanistan.
If the deal is approved, the 39-year-old soldier from this Western Washington base would receive a life sentence, either with or without the possibility of parole, and avoid a possible death penalty.
Bales appeared in the courtroom in his Class A blue uniform, flanked by attorneys, and answered several questions from the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, in a clear firm voice. The pleas were entered by his attorney, Emma Scanlan, and included guilty pleas to charges that he murdered 16 Afghans, assaulted six others, burned bodies and illegally used a steroid.
Scanlan entered a plea of not guilty to the charge that Bales attempted to impede an investigation into the case by damaging a laptop computer.
At the time off the crimes, Bales was on his fourth deployment to a combat zone.
In a sentencing phase of the trial scheduled later this year, defense attorney John Henry Browne said, his client will argue that there were numerous mitigating factors and that he should be sentenced with the option of parole.
The earliest that Bales would be eligible to be considered for parole would be after serving 10 years in prison.
The prospect of Bales avoiding a death penalty angers some of the survivors in Afghanistan, who did not want him tried in the United States.
“We ask that the governments of Afghanistan and USA that the criminal be brought here for justice. We want to see him hung,” said Mohammad Wazir, an Afghan who lost 11 members of his family to the killings, in an interview last year with Lela Ahmadzai, a journalist who produced a web documentary on the massacre for the Germany-based 2470 media.
May 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM
Civilian Defense Department employees will face 11 days of furloughs that would begin as early as July 8, according to a statement that Defense Department Secretary Chuck Hagel released Tuesday.
The furloughs are likely to affect more than 20,000 of these employees in Washington state, according to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa.
The furlough, which could be stretched through the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, are roughly half the number previously contemplated as the Defense Department has sought to deal with automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
“If our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so,” Hagel said in the statement. “That is a decision I will make later this year.
Hagel said that exemptions to the furloughs would be “driven by law and by the need to minimize harm to the execution of core missions.”
At Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma, a spokesman said that more than 10,000 civilians employees could be hit with the furloughs.
At JBLM, Madigan Army Medical Center has a workforce of some 5,100 workers, with nearly 70 percent of them civilians and thus likely to face furloughs.
April 26, 2013 at 5:28 PM
Capt. Aaron Blanchard, a 32-year old Army helicopter pilot who grew up in Selah, Yakima County, was killed Tuesday in Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan, according to the Army.
Blanchard was one of two pilots from the 2nd Aviation Division 10th Mountain Division who died Tuesday from what the Army called “wounds sustained from enemy indirect fire.”
The second pilot who died was 1st. Lt. Robert Hess, 26, of Fairfax, Va.
Blanchard began military service with the Marine Corps, joining in January 2000, and deploying to Iraq in January 2003. After separating from the Marines, he completed Reserve Officer Training Corps school and was commissioned in the Army in June 2009.
His mother, Laura Schactler, told the Yakima Herald-Republic that the 1999 Selah High School graduate served two tours of Iraq before flying an Apache Longbow as an Army pilot.
“Being a pilot is a very competitive thing, and he excelled at it because he wanted it so bad,” Schactler told the newspaper this week. “He was living his dream, and not very many of us get to do that.”
Blanchard deployed with his unit to Afghanistan this month.
Blanchard’s awards include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
He was based out of Fort Drum, New York.
Blanchard is survived by his wife, two children, parents and two brothers who live in New York state.
February 15, 2013 at 1:33 PM
The U.S. Department of Energy announced Friday that a tank holding radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is leaking liquids at the rate of 150 to 300 gallons per year.
The single-shell tank holds about 447,000 gallons of sludge and is one of 149 single-shell tanks at the Hanford site near Richland.
“I am alarmed and deeply concerned by this news,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement released early Friday afternoon. “This was a problem we thought was under control, years ago, when liquids were pumped from the tanks and the sludge was stabilized.”
Inslee said there is no immediate public health risk. He said the leak may not hit groundwater for many years, and there is a groundwater-treatment system in place.
The Energy Department, in its statement, said the tank was classified as an assumed leaker in 1979, and in 1995 went through an “interim stabilization” that removed liquids that could be pumped.
Inslee said this is the first tank confirmed to be leaking radioactive wastes since an effort to stabilize the tanks was completed in 2005.
December 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM
The Coast Guard reports that a Royal Dutch Shell tugboat, the MV Aiviq experienced “multiple engine failures” today while towing a mobile oil drilling unit in the Gulf of Alaska south of Kodiak Island.
The tug crew was able to restart one of the engines. In a statement released this morning, the Coast Guard said the tug crew is awaiting assistance amid 20-foot seas from two response vessels that departed from the south central Alaska port of Seward which are expected to arrive on scene this afternoon.
“Our primary concern is ensuring the safety of the personnel aboard the Aiviq and Kulluk,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “We are working closely with industry representatives to provide assistance and to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
The Kulluk was refurbished in Seattle, and was used this year as part of Shell’s exploratory drilling effort off Alaska’s North Slope.
December 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM
UPDATE: 11:20 a.m. | Construction workers who likely caused the Taylor Bridge Fire in August were working with a power saw and welding equipment at a time when a state regulation prohibited such activity due to fire risk, according to a state Department of Natural Resources report released Monday.
The wildfire destroyed 61 homes and hundreds of other structures and burned more 23,000 acres.
The investigation found the fire was caused by humans, most likely by a worker using a power saw to cut rebar and a second worker welding under the bridge, according to a Washington Department of Natural Resource investigation report released Monday
The fire began on a hot summer day. Due to the fire risk, a Level 3 fire precaution took affect at 1 p.m. that day, according to the report. Under that rule, welding and the use of power saws were both prohibited at the site.
Yet the welding and power saw activity did continue after 1 p.m., according to Bryan Flint, director of communications for the state Department of Natural Resources. Flint said that activity was reported by witnesses at the construction site.
The fire was reported at 1:19 p.m. that day, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The fire appeared to have started somewhere between 1 p.m. and the time the report came in, according to Flint.
Workers tried to extinguish the fire, but it was wind driven and got ahead of them, according to Flint.
The bridge work was a state Department of Transportation project. At the time the fire began, employees for agency contractors and subcontractors were working on the bridge.
The State Department of Natural Resources is responsible for seeking the recovery of the estimated $11.1 million costs associated with putting out the fire. DNR is working with the state Attorney General’s office to determine which the agency will try to recover the funds. That process begins with a letter of demand seeking payment, and is likely to trigger litigation.
The $11.1 million costs do not include damage to or loss of private property or the impacts to public lands or facilities.
The construction company was warned it might be liable for the costs.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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