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March 22, 2013

News Briefs March 22, 2013

Congress spares military’s tuition aid program

Congress has spared the military’s tuition assistance program from the budget knife.

The House cleared a bill March 21 to keep the government running. It includes a provision reversing the decision by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps to suspend the program.

Faced with some $43 billion in automatic cuts that kicked in March 1, the military abandoned the program that pays up to $250 per semester hour for active duty personnel, or as much as $4,500 per year. The Pentagon said the move would save $250 million to $300 million.

But Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe and North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan fought to spare the program. By voice vote Wednesday, the Senate backed an amendment instructing the Pentagon to find the money for the program. AP

 

Military cancels deployments for three Guard units

More than 900 Indiana National Guard soldiers will not deploy as scheduled this summer because of federal budget issues.

The Journal Gazette reports units from Fort Wayne, New Albany and Scottsburg had their missions canceled because of automatic federal budget cuts and military downsizing.

Capt. Kathryn Elkins says more than 500 members of the 1st Battalion of the 293rd Infantry Division out of Fort Wayne had trained nearly two years for deployment to the Horn of Africa.

About 400 members of the 1st Squadron of the 152nd Cavalry in New Albany and Company D of the 113th Combat Support Battalion in Scottsburg had been scheduled to report to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger says he’s troubled by the lateness of the announcement. AP

 

Pentagon bans 60 mm mortar round after deaths

A mortar shell explosion killed seven Marines and injured a half-dozen more during mountain warfare training in Nevada’s high desert, prompting the Pentagon to immediately halt the use of the weapons until an investigation can determine their safety, officials said March 19.

The explosion occurred March 18 at the Hawthorne Army Depot, a sprawling facility used by troops heading overseas, during an exercise involving the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Several Marines from the unit were injured in the blast, authorities said.

The mortar round exploded in its firing tube during the exercise, Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman said at a news conference at Camp Lejeune. He said investigators were trying to determine the cause of the malfunction.

The Pentagon expanded a temporary ban to prohibit the military from firing any 60 mm mortar rounds until the results of the investigation. The Marine Corps said March 19 a “blanket suspension” of 60 mm mortars and associated firing tubes is in effect.

The Pentagon earlier had suspended use of all high-explosive and illumination mortar rounds that were in the same manufacturing lots as ones fired in Nevada.

It was not immediately clear whether more than a single round exploded, a Marine Corps official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation. AP

 

 




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