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Tom RoederNovember 18, 20176min1240

Reported sexual assaults have skyrocketed at Fort Carson since 2013, an increase commanders say is driven by soldiers becoming more willing to report attacks.

The number of reported assaults more than doubled from 43 in 2013 to 114 in 2016, a Pentagon report released Friday morning says.

Smaller increases were reported at Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, according to the first-of-its-kind report. Peterson had 15 reported sexual assaults in 2013 and 21 last year. Schriever went from 14 in 2013 to 15 last year.

At Fort Carson, Col. Miles Brown, the post’s chief of staff, said leaders meet on a regular basis to examine assaults and look for ways to stop them.

“We don’t want to admire the problem, we want to fix it,” Brown said.

The Department of Defense previously released base-by-base sexual assault counts for its military academies, but other installations were included in servicewide counts.

“The information released today shows, installation by installation, where service members are getting assistance with their sexual assault reports,” the Pentagon said in a news release.

“The release today lists the number of reports alleging sexual assault that are being handled by Sexual Assault Response Coordinators at military installations worldwide.”

Fort Carson’s large number of assaults leads local military bases, but that’s not a surprise. The post, with nearly 25,000 soldiers, is as large as the Pikes Peak region’s four other military bases combined.

Fort Carson’s sexual assault reports peaked in 2015 with 125 before falling to 114 last year. While Fort Carson’s numbers are the highest in the region, they are far from the highest in the nation, or even the Army.

Fort Hood in Texas had 262 reported sexual assaults in 2015 and 199 reports last year.

The Norfolk, Va., naval station had 270 reported sexual assaults last year and the submarine base at Kings Bay, Ga., also recorded 270 reported assaults.

The San Antonio military complex that includes Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston had 211 reports last year, including 117 involving airmen.

The Defense Department says that while the report ties assaults to bases, the actual incidents may have taken place elsewhere.

“One of the features of the department’s reporting program is that service members can report allegations of sexual assault at any time and at any place,” said Dr. Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “As a result, the number of reports listed for an installation doesn’t necessarily mean that the alleged incident occurred there.”

For stand-alone Air Force bases, the Air Force Academy reported the highest number of sexual assaults in 2016, with 44. The Naval Academy reported 24 sexual assaults and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., reported nine.

An Air Force Academy spokesman said the school is working to help victims and prevent rapes.

“First off, taking care of each other is part of who we are and we go to great lengths to provide a culture rooted in the core principles of human dignity and respect – our priority is caring for victims and preventing future assaults,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said.

At Fort Carson, Brown said the number of reported sexual assaults covers a wide variety of incidents, many of which have little connection to the post.

“We have cases we are tracking now that might have happened 15 or 20 years ago.”

Still, every Fort Carson case is treated the same, with victims getting counseling and medical support while police and prosecutors work to bring perpetrators to justice, he said.

The post is unhappy with the number of incidents on the report but glad they were reported, Brown said, noting that victims are confident they will be well-treated.

“I think the confidence comes from the fact it is a commander’s program,” he said. “We lead our way through this every day and every month.” Battalion and brigade commanders regularly analyze cases to determine how rapes could have been stopped.

When a rape is reported, the incident goes right to the top.

“Within hours, the commanding general is informed of the facts we know and the way ahead,” Brown said.

Maj. Gen. Randy George, who took command in August, takes a stern view of sexual assault, which he says tears at the Army’s fabric.

“It’s fratricide, plain and simple, and that’s why commanders have to minimize that risk,” Brown said.

Ultimately, he said, Fort Carson is determined to stop predatory behavior.

“Our goal is elimination of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Brown said.

 


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Tom RoederOctober 14, 20174min2430

The former head of the Air Force Academy is trading in her blue uniform for the black and gray garb worn by NBA referees.

The league announced on Thursday that retired Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson was hired as the NBA’s senior vice president and head of referee operations. Johnson, the first woman to lead the academy, is no stranger to the hardwood. The 1981 academy graduate scored 1,706 points for the Falcons’ women’s basketball squad, making her the second-leading scorer in the history of the team.

“Michelle has decades of experience successfully leading large, highly professionalized organizations and spurring growth through innovation,” NBA operations boss Byron Spruell said in a statement. “With a disciplined, analytical approach to problem solving and a proven track record of building consensus and acting with the utmost integrity, Michelle has the qualities to maximize the effectiveness of our officiating program.”

Johnson led the academy until August when Lt. Jay Silveria took command. During her four years in command at the school, Johnson battled to clean up an athletic program marred by scandal.

In December 2013, the academy was rocked by revelations that the Air Force Office of Special Investigations had used cadets as informants to spy on their classmates. Johnson called for an inspector general investigation into the allegations.

But the informant story would soon lead to more trouble – allegations that academy athletes had engaged in a pattern of misconduct that included drug abuse, sexual assault and cheating in class.

As the scandal made national headlines, Johnson ordered an investigation into the misconduct. She parted ways with longtime Athletic Director Hans Mueh and brought in current Athletic Director Jim Knowlton.

The Athletic Department kicked off new training programs and began more closely screening its recruits.

Last summer, Johnson said academy athletes went from sources of strife to role models.

“Now they are our shining stars,” Johnson told the school’s Board of Visitors.

Johnson issued a statement Monday saying her love of the game drew her back to basketball.

“My love for basketball and the opportunity to help shape the direction of a key operational group within the NBA made this position incredibly appealing to me,” she said.

Earlier, Johnson had said she wanted to lead a civilian college after leaving the academy. She was a finalist for the chancellor job at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

In her new role, Johnson will hire, evaluate and police those who police the court.

“She will also oversee the NBA Replay Center and leverage the new Officiating Advisory Council as well as manage the league’s transparency initiatives and harness advanced technologies to enhance all facets of the officiating program,” the league said.

Johnson said Thursday that her time in uniform will pay off for the basketball league.

“In the military, I always embraced the challenge of using all available resources to design and implement an ambitious agenda,” Johnson said. “I look forward to applying that experience to further elevate the NBA’s officiating program.”


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Tom RoederAugust 25, 20174min1420

Filmmaker Ken Burns thinks his new 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War could spark a public discussion of the issues dividing Americans in 2017.

Burns, who gave Air Force Academy cadets a sneak-peek at the documentary Thursday night, pointed to how his 1990 documentary “The Civil War” drove a discussion ahead of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Vietnam series, he said, shows combat through the eyes of troops on both sides and also examines how 10 years of combat there drove a wedge into the U.S. populace, sparking widespread unrest.

“That era sewed some seeds of disunion,” Burns said.

Burns’ latest effort, co-directed with Lynn Novick, is set to debut on public television Sept. 17. He said it compiles a decade of work and dozens of interviews into 10 episodes that begin profiling Southeast Asia at the time of French colonialism in the 1850s.

The characters who help Burns illustrate the war include retired Air Force Gen. Tony McPeak, who flew 285 missions over Southeast Asia during the war. McPeak later served as the Air Force’s top general and said the lessons of Vietnam greatly influenced what the service has become.

“There are a lot of lessons we can learn from Vietnam,” McPeak said.

McPeak also served as a technical adviser on the Burns project, helping trim hundreds of hours of video into an 18-hour series.

“It was tough to cut down,” Burns said.

Burns said he has mixed feelings ahead of the documentary’s public release.

“It’s like a kid, you’re never done with it,” he said. And letting it out is like sending it off to college.”

McPeak, who served as a forward-air-controller in Vietnam, said the Burns work is something that Americans will use to assess the war for generations.

“This is going to become the standard history of Vietnam,” he said.

With 10 episodes, Vietnam is Burns’ most ambitious project in a 40-year career that includes Emmy-winning series including “Baseball” and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

It relies on similar methods of other Burns’ work, including sharp narrative from many characters and driving music that pulls viewers through the episodes.

The Vietnam episodes also include interviews with the troops who opposed the U.S. and political figures in the communist nation who are beginning to question how North Vietnamese leaders conducted the war.

“You have to look at all sides,” Burns said.

Burns’ decision to show off his work at the Air Force Academy is no surprise. The filmmaker also visited the Colorado Springs school in 2007 to show cadets excerpts from his documentary series “The War,” which examined America in World War II.

“It’s a way of honoring their commitment,” Burns said of visiting the cadets.

Burns also hopes his film helps American families talk about the wounds that America still suffers from the Vietnam War.

The history he’s put before television audiences often addresses the present as much as it does the past, he said, pointing to his most acclaimed work, “The Civil War.”

Just look at protests in Charlottesville, Va., this month, he said.

“As the events of last week showed, the Civil War isn’t over,” he said.


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Tom RoederAugust 18, 20174min1150

Gridlock in Congress could leave the Trump administration heading into its second year with his predecessor’s spending plan.

Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said with the federal fiscal year winding down, there’s little time left for Congress to act on President Donald Trump’s spending plan. And with increasing tension between the White House and leaders in the House and Senate, major budget bills seem likely to bog down.

“It looks more and more like we’re headed for a continuing resolution,” Bennet said during a visit to Colorado Springs on Friday.

It’s a fate that could scuttle the Trump administration’s biggest plans, from health care and tax reform to a big boost in Pentagon spending. Continuing resolutions, temporary measures that fix federal spending at last year’s level, have been common in recent years as a Republican-led Congress battled the Democratic administration of former president Barack Obama.

But now, even with the GOP in charge in the two chambers and the Oval Office, there seems to be little momentum to push budget deals along.

That’s not helped by the string of controversies that have soured relations between Trump and lawmakers. In the past week, Trump sparked criticism from Capitol Hill with statements that blamed “both sides” after a reported neo-Nazi ran over counter-protesters at a Virginia rally that drew white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The rancor between lawmakers and Trump triggers budget worries in the Senate, which has already been slow to take up spending measures. And filibuster rules give minority Democrats power to stall budget bills they don’t like.

To get budget bills through, the GOP has to woo Democrats like Bennet who has been known to work with moderate Republicans.

Losing budget battles would add to a string of legislative difficulties tallied by the Trump team. Senators last month turned back Trump’s signature effort from the 2016 campaign when it voted down a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And increasing bombast from Trump on Twitter could make it even harder to get the White House budget agenda to a Senate vote.

Bennet expressed alarm over Trump’s Thursday tweets that alluded to a debunked story of Gen. John Pershing summarily executing Muslim prisoners during the Philippine insurgency after the Spanish-American War with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood.

Those kinds of tweets, Bennet said, sully the reputation of the president and are more suited to the campaign trail.

“The campaign is over,” he said.

Bennet, though, noted that the military seems to be ignoring the president’s tweets on Charlottesville and terror tactics.

He noted that military leaders in recent days have issued statements against racism and are unlikely to take the pigs’ blood tale seriously.

“The Joint Chiefs won’t be distracted by anything,” Bennet said.