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October 31, 2013

News Briefs October 31, 2013

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,150

As of Oct. 29, 2013, at least 2,150 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 1,782 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 131 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 three 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, 19,436 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department. AP

Aeronautics Commission awards $57,500 for programs

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has awarded $57,500 to several organizations in the Oklahoma City metro area that teach youth about aerospace and aviation.

Aerospace America was awarded $25,000 to help support the Star Spangled Salute Air Show scheduled in June at Tinker Air Force Base and the Charles B. Hall Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen located in Oklahoma City was awarded $5,000 for their summer aerospace camp.

The KISS Institute for Practical Robotics in Norman was awarded $12,500 for its Botball Education Robotics Program; the Oklahoma Foundation of Excellence was awarded $5,000 for the Aerospace Education and Industry Partnership Day; and Rose State College in Midwest City will receive $10,000 for its Aerospace Flight Camp. AP

New Mexico, Kirtland begin fuel spill cleanup test

New Mexico State environment and Kirtland Air Force Base officials are beginning the first large-scale test of a system for pumping and cleaning up contamination from a huge underground jet fuel spill.

Officials are holding a news conference Oct. 30 to showcase the system, which will pump 70,000 gallons of contaminated water from the underground aquifer that feeds Albuquerque’s water supply . The water will be pumped to nearby mobile tanks for filtering and treatment.

The fuel came from what officials now believe was a 40-year leak from underground pipes at a Kirtland aircraft fuel loading facility.

The leak was discovered in 1999.

The size of the spill has been estimated as large as 24 million gallons – or twice the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. AP

Burlington, Vt., city douncil votes on F-35 resolutions

The Burlington, Vt., City Council has defeated two resolutions that would have opposed a proposal to base F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport.

The Vermont Air National Guard facility at Burlington International Airport is the Air Force’s preferred site for basing the new planes. A decision is expected this fall.

Supporters have said that blocking the new planes would harm the Guard and have a negative impact on the local and state economy. Opponents have expressed concerns about how the planes would impact health and overall quality of life.

The Burlington Free Press reports the first resolution sought to block the F-35s from the Vermont Air National Guard facility at the airport. The second would’ve created “health and safety standards” applying to all planes at the airport.

“A vote against this second resolution is a vote to value Burlington’s 67-year relationship with the Vermont Air National Guard,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger before the second vote. “A vote against this resolution is a vote for financial responsibility, a healthy airport and a strong economy.”

The Air Force is expected to decide sometime this fall whether to base 18 to 24 of the fighter planes at the Burlington International Airport with the Vermont Air National Guard.

The vote by the Burlington council was the latest in a succession of non-binding votes by communities around the airport on whether to support bringing the planes to Vermont.

In South Burlington, the airport’s host city, councilors earlier this year in favor of the F-35, reversing an earlier decision. In July, the Winooski City Council voted to oppose the basing plan. AP

Russian military helicopter crashes, crew survives

A Russian military helicopter on a test flight crashed near apartment buildings on the outskirts of Moscow Oct. 29, but both pilots survived and there was no damage on the ground, officials said.

The crashed Ka-52 helicopter gunship belongs to its developer, the Kamov company, and was undergoing tests as part of a program to develop a version for use on navy ships.

It crashed on Kamov’s helipad in southeastern Moscow just a few hundred meters (yards) from the apartment buildings.

Russian television showed burning debris of the helicopter behind a concrete fence.

The Interfax news agency quoted a Kamov representative as saying the helicopter was preparing to land when it developed an uncontrollable twist, hit the ground and caught fire. One of the crewmen got out of the cockpit himself and the other one was quickly pulled out by rescuers.

The Ka-52 is a two-seat attack helicopter that was commissioned by the military in 2008. About 20 have been built so far, and the Defense Ministry has signed a contract for 140 more Ka-52s. AP

New Zealand, U.S. resuming high-level military talks

A New Zealand military ship will visit a U.S. port next year for the first time in nearly three decades and the two countries will resume high-level military talks.

The announcement Oct. 28 in Washington by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman was the latest sign of increased military cooperation between the countries.

A rift occurred in 1984 when New Zealand banned nuclear ships from its shores, a move the U.S. opposed.

Relations have improved in recent years after New Zealand sent troops to Afghanistan and the U.S. attempted to focus more on the Pacific.

Hagel authorized the New Zealand navy to dock next year at Pearl Harbor. The two countries also said they’d expand peacekeeping efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. AP

Australian PM makes surprise Afghanistan visit

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Oct. 28 to mark the impending end of Australia’s military involvement in the conflict, his office said.

Abbott arrived at the Australian headquarters at Tarin Kowt under tight security for a ceremony to mark the end of Australia’s involvement in the war that has cost the lives of 40 Australian soldiers over more than a decade, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

The headquarters will be given to the Afghan army and most of Australia’s 1,500 troops will be withdrawn by Christmas.

“Australia’s longest war is ending not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here,” Abbott told a large crowd of Australian and international soldiers.

Abbott said it the withdrawal was a “bitter-sweet” occasion, and that “Afghanistan remains a dangerous place despite all that has been done.”

Australia is the largest provider of troops to the Afghanistan war outside NATO. AP




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