News Briefs – April 18, 2016

Congress considering U.S.-made footwear for military

A bill in Congress would require the Department of Defense to provide U.S.-made footwear to personnel.
The Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act is sponsored by Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas, of Massachusetts.
The proposal comes after one manufacturer, New Balance Athletic Shoe Co., criticized the Obama administration for encouraging it to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership in exchange for military purchases of sneakers that never came to pass.
The defense department agreed to close the footwear loophole in a 2014 amendment. But it hasn’t started buying U.S.-made shoes, saying available footwear doesn’t meet military standards.
Several companies — including Boston-based New Balance, with factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway, Maine — manufacture shoes in the United States. AP

Nellis base welcomes 57th Wing’s first woman commander

Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., welcomed the first woman leader of the 57th Wing when Brig. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt took command in a ceremony, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The move came more than two decades after Leavitt became the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot in 1993. She went on to pilot combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Prior to taking command of the 57th on Friday, she served as principal military assistant to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at the Pentagon.
“To be honest, I never thought … in terms of being the first female commander,” she said. “I am just truly humbled to be selected to be the commander of the 57th Wing.”
She replaces Brig. Gen. Christopher Short, who will become a senior defense official and attache to the United Kingdom for the Defense Intelligence Agency at the U.S. Embassy in London.
The 57th is the Air Force’s largest composite wing. It manages all flying operations at Nellis.
The wing also runs the graduate-level U.S. Air Force Weapons School, oversees the Thunderbirds air demonstration team, and supports the Air Force Warfare Center’s test-and-evaluation activities.
Leavitt said she knows the 57th is facing financial constraints, but she hopes to overcome those hurdles. She is set to meet with her commanders, chiefs and first sergeants next week. AP

Army: First women commissioned as infantry, armor officers

The Army says it has approved the first women to be commissioned as infantry and armor officers — leadership roles that until now were open only to men.
The Army said April 15 it approved requests from 22 women — 13 as armor officers and nine into the infantry branch. They will be graduating as second lieutenants from the U.S. Military Academy, as well as from Reserve Officer Training Corps programs and the Army’s Officer Candidate School.
After commissioning, the women will have to complete infantry or armor-specific training before reporting for duty qualified to be platoon leaders.
Last month, in announcing how it will implement the full integration of women into infantry and armor units, the Army said it would start with officers, followed by enlisted soldiers. AP

German air force to end training contract with Holloman AFB

The German air force is terminating its contract to train its pilots at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
Col. Heinz-Josef Ferkinghoff, commander of German forces in the U.S., said the move is due to tactical and logistical reasons more than finances.
It’s easier to take care of the Tornado aircraft fleet at two bases in Germany, he said.
“There’s a certain logistical challenge to operate a fast jet like the Tornado in a foreign country,” Ferkinghoff said. “Sometimes we wait weeks for spare parts, but in Germany they’re more or less immediately available.”
The Luftwaffe will end the training in New Mexico by 2019, The Alamogordo Daily News reported.
The German defense ministry said the decision will affect about 450 military staff and their families and 14 Tornado weapon systems stationed in New Mexico.
German pilots have been a presence at Holloman since 1992. The German air force closed down its North American Command at Fort Bliss in 2013 and moved it to Holloman as part of a plan to eventually leave the base.
The German air force still operates its Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss and will continue its presence there until at least 2020.
Ferkinghoff said the German Air Force Flying Training Center has appreciated Holloman’s hospitality and the departure is a sad one.
“I think the German flavor that Alamogordo has received over the last 25 years will go away,” he said. “A lot of Germans are sad that eventually they have to leave and have no chance to come back.” AP

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