November 6, 2017

News Briefs – November 6, 2017

U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan–A U.S. soldier has died from wounds sustained during an operation in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province.

The NATO mission in the country issued a statement saying the soldier died during the military operation Nov. 4, without providing further details.

President Donald Trump in August approved a Pentagon plan to deploy as many as 3,800 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan, where there are already more than 11,000 serving. U.S. and allied forces are battling a resurgent Taliban as well as an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, which is still gripped by unrest 16 years after the U.S.-led invasion. AP

Navy sailor hit by plane being towed on aircraft carrier

Military officials say a sailor aboard the USS Carl Vinson was seriously injured when he was struck by a plane as it was being towed on the flight deck.

Navy spokesman Steve Fiebing says the accident occurred the evening of Nov. 3 aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier, which was off the coast for training exercises.

The Los Angeles Times reports the sailor was flown by helicopter to a hospital with a serious but non-life-threatening injury.

Fiebing did not immediately have additional details. He says the incident is under investigation.

Fiebing says all flight operations were suspended Nov. 3. Training exercises were scheduled to resume Saturday. AP

Iran’s Supreme Leader appoints new navy chief

Iran’s state TV is reporting that the country’s Supreme Leader has appointed a new navy chief.

The Nov. 5 report by the TV’s website said that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Adm. Gen. Hossein Khanzadi as Iran’s new navy commander. His predecessor, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, served in the post for 10 years.

Khanzadi was a deputy commander in the Iranian Navy Forces before the appointment.

Sayyari, 62, has been appointed as a deputy army coordinator by Khamenei. AP

69 Marines hospitalized in California E. Coli outbreak

The Marine Corps says 69 recruits in Southern California are being treated for apparent exposure to E. coli and nine have developed a serious complication.

Those being treated Nov. 3 include 14 new cases among some 5,500 recruits at Camp Pendleton and the San Diego recruiting depot. The military says nine developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a problem that can cause anemia and kidney damage.

Overall, about 300 Marines have been affected by a week-old outbreak of the diarrheal illness.

The source of the outbreak is under investigation.

Training continues and some 500 Marines graduated from training Nov. 3.

The Marine Corps says efforts will be made to allow recruits who had to miss training to make it up. AP

Inquiry blames speed, wet runway for Thunderbirds crash

A Thunderbirds pilot was going too fast in bad weather and without enough stopping distance when landing on a wet runway, causing a crash that destroyed a $29 million F-16D jet during practice for the Dayton air show, the U.S. Air Force concluded Nov. 3.

The pilot and crew member were treated June 23 after their two-seat plane ran off the runway and flipped over at Dayton International Airport. The Air Force accident investigation board report stated that the pilot suffered multiple injuries, while the crew member was uninjured. Details of the pilot’s injuries weren’t released Friday, although at the time of the accident, authorities said he had an injured leg and lacerations.

Capt. Erik Gonsalves was hospitalized after the Dayton accident. Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Lindy Singleton said Nov. 3 he has resumed traveling with the Thunderbirds and narrating shows, but hasn’t been cleared medically to fly.

She declined to say whether he faces possible disciplinary action as a result of the investigative board’s findings. A Thunderbirds spokesman said Gonsalves was traveling with the team Friday and wasn’t available for comment.

The report also cites failure to follow procedures and environmental conditions as contributing factors to the accident. The team was practicing on a rainy afternoon with crosswinds, and the report stated that there was standing water on the cockpit’s canopy that affected vision. The report also said proper braking procedure wasn’t followed.

The probe’s conclusions came after an interview with the pilot and with first responders, along with flight data and technical analysis, the investigative board stated.

The Thunderbirds air demonstration team canceled its scheduled appearances at the annual two-day air show after the accident, and organizers said attendance fell.

The Thunderbirds are assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. AP

McCain says no more defense industry execs for top DOD posts

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned the Trump administration Nov. 2 not to nominate any more executives from major defense contractors for senior Pentagon positions.

During a hearing, Sen. John McCain said he’s long had reservations about defense contractors filling out the Pentagon’s upper ranks and potentially undercutting rigorous oversight of the defense industry. McCain, however, signaled his support for the nomination of Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper, who was selected by President Donald Trump in July to be Army secretary.

He told Esper during the confirmation hearing his concerns “grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominations, including yours and a handful of others that were yet to be nominated.” McCain said “it was then that I decided I couldn’t support further nominees with that background, beyond those we had already discussed.”

The Arizona lawmaker did not elaborate on who the last nominee with heavy defense industry ties would be.

Esper has been Raytheon’s top lobbyist since 2010. He agreed, if confirmed, to recuse himself for two years from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him.

Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed and General Dynamics are among the Pentagon’s largest contractors.

The Senate in recent months has confirmed former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to be deputy defense secretary and Ellen Lord, the former chief executive officer of Textron Systems, to be undersecretary of defense for acquisition. Heather Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant, was approved in May as Trump’s Air Force secretary.

Although Esper was nominated in July, his confirmation was delayed over a clash between McCain and the Pentagon that had nothing to do with his qualifications. McCain said the Trump administration wasn’t keeping his committee in the loop on key military matters, such as the details underpinning Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan and the deadly ambush in the African nation of Niger.

Until the information started to flow, McCain blocked most Defense Department nominations from proceeding. He eased the grip last week after two senior Pentagon officials gave the committee a classified briefing on the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers. Members earlier this week received another closed-door update from Navy leaders on their investigation of two deadly ship collisions in the Pacific.

Esper is Trump’s third choice for Army secretary, a post the president has struggled to fill. Trump’s first pick for the Army’s top civilian job, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements. Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside in May amid criticism over his remarks about Muslims and LGBT Americans. AP

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