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Training death 'preventable,' report finds
A soldier's failure to account for his possession of live ammunition and unit leaders' failure to conduct brass and ammo checks led to Spc. Kevin J. Rodriguez's death at Fort Campbell, Army documents show.

Rodriguez, a soldier with Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, "Rakkasans," was participating in a blank-fire training exercise at Range 17 on Oct. 6. Rodriguez was part of the Opposition Force (OPFOR) during the training when another soldier fired his weapon toward Rodriguez. The magazine contained at least three rounds of live ammunition, according to Army documents. Two rounds struck Rodriguez in his chest protector while a third struck his upper left arm and chest area and entered his heart.

The documents are part of the Army's AR 15-6 investigation into the training mishap. They were provided to The Leaf-Chronicle Monday as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in January. All names except for Rodriguez's were redacted in the more than 700 pages of documents provided in the request.
 
Turkey searches air base used by US army over failed coup
Turkish police investigators have entered and searched the Incirlik air base in the south of the country in connection with the recent failed coup.

According to Turkish media on Monday, seven soldiers were arrested after prosecutors and police searched the base, which is jointly used by Turkish and US-led forces to allegedly target Daesh terrorists.

The so-called multinational task force against Daesh started its controversial mission in Iraq in late 2014 after Daesh seized control over territories west and north of the country. The air campaign was later expanded to cover areas in northern Syria despite criticism from the Syrian government that the attacks violate the sovereignty of the Arab country.

Earlier in the week, the commander of the Incirlik base, General Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested along with over a dozen of his officers over accusations of complicity in the coup.

At least one of the F-16 jets commandeered by coup plotters was reportedly refueled by a plane which had taken off from the base.  

Turkey has also disconnected the base’s electricity, forcing it to revert to internal power sources.
 
USMA taps artificial intelligence to help cadets negotiate
A company that sells software that analyzes the human voice and touts the virtues of empathy, rapport and emotional intelligence is joining forces with West Point United States Military Academy in an effort to help cadets become better negotiators.

Cogito Corp. is a Boston-based company that makes software that can analyze a person’s voice in real-time. That information, the company says, can help customer service representatives show more empathy; the result is phone conversations that are more efficient and personalized, according to Cogito.

Col. James Ness of West Point said that this kind of tech will help their students become better negotiators, a key skill for people in the military.

“Cogito’s behavioral analytics technology will systematically analyze communication patterns within negotiating sessions and provide insight into the cadet’s psychological state,” Ness, who directs the engineering psychology program at West Point, said in a statement. “This technology will provide an unbiased assessment of how each cadet is being perceived by the other party. It will deliver insights into how they can modify their behavior to improve negotiation outcomes.”
 
Hanson and Taylor West Point Garrison Command Team
Col. Andrew S. Hanson assumed command and Command Sgt. Maj. Roderick C. Taylor assumed responsibility of the U.S. Army Garrison-West Point from Col. Landy D.
Dunham and Command Sgt. Maj. Joel D. Crawford July 7 at Eisenhower Hall. Hanson is a Special Forces officer who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1994 and Taylor is Quartermaster. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, said the garrison is a vital part to the culture of excellence that the U.S. Military Academy upholds. “West Point is truly a community because of their hard work,” Caslen said of the outgoing command team. “Landy Dunham and Command Sgt. Maj. Crawford have been an amazing team and their efforts have had a direct impact on the incredible reputation West Point enjoys throughout the Army.” Caslen went on to welcome the new command team of Hanson and Taylor. “We’re thrilled to have you both here and look forward to working with you as you lead this great installation to continued excellence and even greater success,” Caslen said
 
Academy graduates - pro sports

DOD clears the way for military academy graduates to jump straight to pro sports

High-caliber cadet-athletes at the three Department of Defense run service academies can thank former Navy Midshipman standout Keenan Reynolds for changing service academy protocol.

The quarterback was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with their sixth-round pick after lighting up college football. Reynolds broke records, including those for most rushing touchdowns in NCAA Division I history (85), most career total touchdowns (88) and yards rushing by a quarterback (4,559).

Reynolds’s success prompted the Department of Defense to take a second look at its policy regarding the mandatory 24-month active duty stint upon graduation. On Monday, the Air Force Academy provided an updated policy to The Colorado Springs Gazette, making it clear that a professional sports career is possible directly upon graduation. 

Read more... 

 
West Point cemetery set to expand
The West Point Cemetery is down to 40 burial spaces, but help is on the way.
 
A $3.5 million expansion that will add 308 burial sites to the historic cemetery is scheduled to be completed by March.
 
And a larger, $18 million expansion, which would accommodate burials through 2066, is envisioned but still needs approval.
The cemetery was among present and future construction reported on by Col. Wayne Green, West Point’s chief of staff, to the military academy’s Board of Visitors on Monday.
 
The board, which includes members of Congress and presidential appointees, reports to the president and also provides advice to West Point officials on their operation.
Over almost 200 years, the cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 8,000 West Point graduates and cadets, soldiers assigned to West Point, and their immediate families.
 
Officer slain in ambush was Army veteran, 28-year officer
A Dallas police officer killed in the ambush at a protest was an Army veteran and father of two serving in his 28th year as an officer, according to reports.

Police said a gunman targeting white police officers from a sniper position at a Black Lives Matter event Thursday night fatally shot Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, and four other officers. Neighbors and loved ones who lived near Smith’s family in nearby Carrollton, Tex., told The Dallas Morning News the devoted church member could often be seen playing softball in his yard with his daughters.

“You couldn’t ask for a more salt of the earth kind of guy,” said family friend Vanessa Smith. “He loved his job and the guys on the force, and he loved his wife and kids. I can’t imagine what his wife and daughters are going through. You just don’t expect it. It’s devastating.”
 
8,400 troops to remain in Afghanistan
About 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan when President Obama's term in office ends in January, Obama said Wednesday, far more than the 5,500 he had previously promised.

The changing troop levels reflect a continuing readjustment of troop levels by Obama as he's struggled between competing goals of maintaining stability in the former terrorist safe haven while fulfilling promises to end the war by the end of his presidency.

By Obama's own admission, that's been more difficult than he expected. In 2011, he promised that all U.S. combat troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 2012 election. That deadline was delayed until 2014, and then 2016. Last year, Obama said that 5,500 troops would remain in Afghanistan at the end of his presidency.
 
Cadet earns Soldier's Medal for his dying act
On Independence Day, Tom Surdyke would have turned 19 years old. Instead, friends, family and classmates mourned and buried the cadet at West Point. Surdyke posthumously received the Soldier’s Medal, the highest non-combat valor award in the Army, for saving a life with actions that ultimately cost his own.

During a one-week break between air assault and cadet field training, Surdyke was vacationing at a beach on Long Island, New York, on June 24 when he and a civilian he'd only met that day got pulled out to sea in a riptide.

"Without regard for his own safety, Cadet Surdyke immediately grabbed the civilian and physically assisted in keeping the civilian's head above water until help could arrive," his Soldier's Medal citation reads. "Before becoming overcome by exhaustion, Cadet Surdyke managed to push the civilian up, enabling a bystander on a paddle board to pull him out of the water, thereby saving the civilian's life.

Within a couple minutes of being incapacitated, onlookers managed to pull the cadet out of the water. A couple minutes later, emergency workers arrived to take him to the hospital. Surdyke clung to life for days, but on June 28, he died.
 
Deploying Incomplete Units to Afghanistan Hurts Readiness
Members of Congress expressed concern Wednesday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan can only be maintained by deploying incomplete units -- a practice that is eroding readiness, according to an Army general.
 
Since 2015, U.S. Army combat aviation brigades have been deploying to the country without their aircraft maintainers, House Armed Service Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said at a subcommittee hearing to discuss aviation readiness.
 
"And so what do those maintainers do when they are left here in the states when their aircraft and their pilots are in Afghanistan?" Thornberry asked Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
 
"Sir, they are not doing a whole lot of aviation maintenance," Mangum said.
 
"And I think your point is, as I understand it, that does not help readiness when you have important maintainers without aircraft to work on," Thornberry said.
"No sir. We are building a deficit of experience and expertise in our formation as a result," Mangum said.
 
Instead of unit personnel, the U.S. military depends on civilian contractors to maintain the helicopters -- individuals that are not counted as part of the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
 
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