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January 18, 2013

News Briefs – January 18, 2013

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,043

As of Jan. 16, 2013, at least 2,043 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 1,704 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

Outside of Afghanistan, the department reports at least 118 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, 11 were the result of hostile action.

The AP count of total OEF casualties outside of Afghanistan is five more than the department’s tally.

The Defense Department also counts three military civilian deaths.

Since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 18,201 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department. AP

Defense contractor announces Alabama layoffs

A defense contractor has notified 139 of its roughly 400 employees at its Anniston Army Depot site that they will be laid off in March and April.

The Anniston Star reports that General Dynamics Land Systems will employ fewer workers after April due to declining military orders for combat vehicles. The company builds and repairs combat vehicles.

Peter Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems, said the layoffs were necessary due to a lack of work at the facility.

The layoffs are the latest in a string of cutbacks in Anniston, Ala., since last year due to the drawdowns of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. General Dynamics announced 98 layoffs at the depot in November. BAE Systems in December closed its Anniston vehicle upgrade and overhaul facility, laying off 145 people. AP

Army dedicates largest solar array at White Sands

A missile range in southern New Mexico is now home to the U.S. Army’s largest solar energy-producing system.

Army officials gathered at White Sands Missile Range Jan. 16 to dedicate the $16.8 million array of more 15,000 solar panels spread across 42 acres.

The system is capable of producing 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That’s enough to meet about 10 percent of the military installation’s electricity needs.

Garrison Commander Col. Leo Pullar says New Mexico, with its sunny climate, is an ideal site. He says the project is part of the Army’s commitment to go green.

Federal directives call for at least 7.5 percent of an installation’s total electricity consumption to include renewable energy. The Defense Department has also set a voluntary goal of 25 percent by 2025. AP

Army seeks to bar mental health defense by Bales

The U.S. Army is seeking to bar Staff Sgt. Robert Bales from using any sort of mental health defense to charges that he slaughtered 16 Afghan villagers last year because he has refused to take part in a review of his sanity.

Bales was due to appear in a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle Jan. 17. His lawyers say he will plead not guilty. He’s accused of leaving a remote base in southern Afghanistan early on March 11 and raiding two villages.

Court documents provided to The Associated Press show that military prosecutors say Bales should not be allowed to have mental health experts testify about what effect his mental health might have had on his guilt or about whether he should face the death penalty. AP

EU OKs sending military training mission to Mali

EU foreign ministers have approved sending a military training mission to the troubled African country of Mali, to shore up the Malian army and enable the country’s government to regain control of all its territory.

Militant Islamists have taken control of the vast northern part of Mali, leading EU officials to worry that radicals there could develop plans for terrorist attacks unimpeded by any government policing.

France, Mali’s former colonial master, has recently launched a military operation to wrest control of northern Mali from the Islamists, who are said to have ties to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. But French officials acknowledge they have encountered fiercer resistance than they had expected. AP
No combat role is envisioned for the EU training mission.




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