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November 18, 2013

News Briefs November 18, 2013

Ex-Fort Bragg pilot sentenced to 3 years in prison

A former Fort Bragg, N.C., helicopter pilot has been sentenced to three years in prison for stealing $1.3 million in military equipment during overseas deployments.

U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker says 41-year-old Kurt Allen Bennett was sentenced Nov. 15 in Raleigh, N.C.

Bennett pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to steal and convert government property and theft and conversion of government property.

Bennett was a chief warrant officer and an Apache helicopter pilot. Investigators said he stole equipment in Iraq in 2008 and 2009 and hid it in shipping containers to recover it back in the United States.

They said he did this again, along with another soldier, during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. The other soldier is serving an 18-month sentence for his role in the crimes. AP

Senate showdown over military sexual assault bill

A Democratic senator has secured public support from nearly half the Senate for a proposal to give victims of rape and sexual assault in the military an independent route outside the chain of command for prosecutions.

But New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is short of the necessary votes.

Her solution appears to have stalled in the face of opposition from the Pentagon’s top echelon and its congressional allies, including two female senators who are former prosecutors.

Opponents of her proposal insist that commanders, not an outside military lawyer, must be accountable for meting out justice.

Even so, major changes are coming for a decades-old military system just a few months after several high-profile cases infuriated Republicans and Democrats.

The Senate is expected to consider the defense bill this week. AP

Malfunctioning drone hits Navy ship while training

The Navy says an aerial target drone malfunctioned and struck a guided missile cruiser during training off Southern California, causing two minor injuries.

Lt. Lenaya Rotklein of the U.S. Third Fleet said the accident on the USS Chancellorsville happened Nov. 16 afternoon while the ship was testing its combat weapons system off Point Mugu.

She said two sailors were treated for minor burns after the ship was struck. She said the ship was heading back to Naval Base San Diego so that officials can assess the damage.

The Navy was investigating the cause of the drone malfunction.

Rotklein said the drone was being used to test the ship’s radar. She had no immediate information on whether the drone has malfunctioned before.

About 300 crew members were aboard the ship. AP

Union: Fewer layoffs expected at defense company

An effort to lobby Congress has reversed some of the layoffs expected at a company that provides aviation maintenance for the military at Fort Rucker, Ala., union officials said.

A letter from union officials posted on the website of the local branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said fewer than 100 layoff notices were expected Nov. 15, compared to 460 that were anticipated earlier in the year. The Dothan Eagle reports that the layoffs were expected to take effect the week before Christmas break.

Union official Steve Crumb thanked people who sent letters to Congress expressing their concerns about the layoffs.

Frank Larkin, a national spokesman for IAMAW, said the layoffs were prompted by defense budget spending cuts and the recent government shutdown.

AFS spokeswoman Lisa Gee declined to comment.

The company has announced several layoffs this year. AFS said in August it would lay off about 70 workers to align its staff levels with flight hours. In April, the company said it would terminate that about 50 workers.

The company first came to Fort Rucker in 2003 when it was awarded a 10-year, $2.7 billion contract. AP

Ohio veterans running out of time for bonuses

Eligible military veterans who served during the Persian Gulf War era only have a few more weeks to claim Ohio bonuses of up to $1,500.

Ohio voters in 2009 approved a $200 million bond issue to fund bonuses for veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq war eras. The Persian Gulf-era application deadline is Dec. 31.

Iraq War veterans have another year, until Dec. 31, 2014 to apply. No deadline has been announced for Afghanistan War and all veterans who served after Oct. 7, 2001.

Eligible next of kin of those who were killed in action or died of disease as a result of in-theater service also can apply for the Ohio Veterans Bonus.

Almost $59 million has been paid to over 70,000 veterans and family members to date. AP




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