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  • Service Members Disciplined for Kunduz Strike

    A Doctors Without Borders staff members walks through the grounds of Kunduz trauma center hours after the Oct. 3, 2015, airstrikes. Doctors Without Borders photo.

    Sixteen servicemembers, including a general officer, involved in the October 2015 airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, have been punished for their conduct. Forty-two civilians were killed in the attack. A US Central Command investigation released Friday found that “certain personnel” did not comply with the law of armed conflict and rules of engagement, but none of the failures constitutes a war crime. Five of the service members were sent home to the United States, including an officer who was removed from command, and US Special Operations Command boss Army Gen. Joseph Votel directed boards to evaluate the flight certification of three aircrew members, according to a press release. As a result of the incident, Army Gen. John Campbell, who was then the commander of US Forces Afghanistan, ordered additional training on rules of engagement and the commander’s tactical guidance, directed a review of the targeting process, and issued an updated tactical directive and targeting standard operating procedure, among other measures. Votel extended his condolences to the victims, and said the US is “fully committed to learning from this tragedy.” Meinie Nocolai, the president of Doctors Without Borders Belgium, said the organization was still studying the report, which it also received on Friday, but said an “independent and impartial investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission” was still necessary. "Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which US forces failed to follow the basic laws of war," said Nicolai. "It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the US, the attack was not called off." (Read the full investigation) (Doctors Without Bord​ers release.)

  • Leadership Failures at Many Levels

    ​The ground troops and the crew of the AC-130U that struck a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan on Oct. 3 “did not know they were striking a medical facility” at any point during the engagement, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters Friday at the Pentagon release of a US Central Command investigation into the incident. The aircrew fired 211 rounds over the course of 30 minutes, after misidentifying and observing the hospital for 68 minutes, according to the investigation, which called the incident “the result of leadership failures at many levels.” Forty-two people were killed in the strike, which also destroyed the hospital. According to the report, “it was unreasonable” for the ground force commander or the air force commander to think that either the intended target or the hospital “was a lawful military objective.” Votel, the head of US Central Command, said the thing that jumped out at him from the investigation was the lack of communication between the ground and the air. “There was not complete situational awareness on the ground with what the aircraft was seeing, there was not complete situational awareness from the aircraft with what was happening with the ground force,” he said, later adding that no Americans had eyes on the intended target. (Read the full report.) (Votel transcript.)

  • Before the Strike, a Dire Situation

    ​On the day a USAF AC-130U inadvertently struck a Doctors Without Borders trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the ground forces that called for the strike had already been engaged in four days of “pretty intense combat,” and the air crew had to avoid a surface-to-air missile, the head of US Central Command said Friday. Before the strike, ground forces were running low on batteries, food, water, and ammunition, according to CENTCOM’s 700-page report on the incident. One special operator said the situation “was so dire” that they were taking other team members’ radio batteries to power the JTAC radios. Green Berets had tried to print maps before going into the city, but the printer was broken and “only printed large magenta blobs,” one soldier told investigators. “Tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of rounds were fired against us during our effort to retake the city. I don’t know how to better describe the atmospherics of the situation: How no one was killed, or even wounded, is an absolute miracle,” the soldier said. The Green Beret, whose name and rank are redacted, went on to identify two enemies of the operation: “moral cowardice” and “profound lack of strategy.” He said that while “decisive strategy is costly,” it would prevent the recurrence of a similar situation in the future. In November, then-commander of US forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. John Campbell, said the accident was “caused primarily by human error.” (Read the full report.) (Votel transcript.)

  • It’s Official: Robinson to be First Female Combatant Commander

    Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander, addresses airmen during an all-call July 10, 2015, at Andersen AFB, Guam. Air Force photo by SrA. Katrina M. Brisbin.

    ​The Senate on April 28 approved Gen. Lori Robinson to be commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, making her the first female commander of a combatant command. Robinson, who has led Pacific Air Forces since October 2014, will replace Adm. Bill Gortney. Also on Thursday, the Senate confirmed Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti to replace Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove as commander of US European Command, and Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, who will replace Scaparotti as commander of US Forces Korea. Breedlove will retire July 1 after nearly 40 years in uniform. The Pentagon announced on Friday that Defense Secretary Ash Carter will travel to Europe May 2-4 to preside over the EUCOM change of command ceremony, which will be held May 3 in Stuttgart, Germany, alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. While in Europe, Carter also will host a meeting with defense ministers from countries involved in the anti-ISIS fight, states the release.

  • Walking the Third Offset Tightrope

    ​Some “Third Offset” technologies will be coming in only a couple of years, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said April 28, but for the longer-term projects, the trick will be deciding which ones to fast-track and which to do through the admittedly ponderous standard acquisition process. Talking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Pawlikowski couldn’t go into detail because the near-term Third Offset tech is secret, and “surprise is a part” of it, bu she said they’re things that will “give us strategic advantage over numbers or distance.” To get other technologies swiftly, she said, USAF may resort to its “Big Safari” program or Rapid Capabilities Office, but “the challenge is to balance” speed with “other things we value.” Often, “rapid” equates to sole-source, she noted. But, “We can’t blanketly say we’re not going to do competition because we can get to a solution more rapidly.” Competition could get the service “a better price, and it’s better for the industrial base.” She expects more rapid prototyping projects, “where we widen … the category of things we’re willing to do with these additional authorities and waivers” to cut corners. Finding that balance between speed and “the right checks and balances and controls on the larger activities is the hard part.” She also observed that Third Offset is “not synonymous” with asymmetric warfare. (See also: An Air Force for the Future from the April issue of Air Force Magazine.)

  • Highly Decorated Airman Dies in California

    Retired TSgt. Sean Harvell. Courtesy photo.

    Former TSgt. Sean Harvell, a combat controller who earned two Silver Stars, multiple Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart, died April 26 in Long Beach, Calif. Harvell, 33, was one of only three airmen to receive two Silver Stars. Retired CMSgt. John Thomas said Harvell “was easy to love because what he gave back to those he cared about.” Harvell overcame and persevered on the battlefield and in everyday life, Thomas said in an Air Force Special Operations Command release. Col. Michael Flatten, vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, said Harvell served admirably, “often in the face of insurmountable odds.” He was “a fierce warrior on the battlefield, and an incredible brother to those who served alongside him,” Flatten said. Harvell was found unresponsive in the ocean near his apartment, reported the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Police said there were no obvious signs of foul play. The Los Angeles County Coroner has completed an autopsy, but is waiting on further tests to determine the cause of death.

  • Claws Extending

    5/2/2016

    Air Frame: An F-22 Raptor performs an aerial maneuver during the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., April 24, 2016. The Raptor, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to rapidly project air dominance and defeat threats attempting to deny access to the nation's military services. (Air Force photo by SrA. Kayla Newman.) (Click on image above to reach wallpaper version)

  • Beale to Lead Energy Resiliency Initiative

    5/2/2016

    ​Beale AFB, Calif., has been selected to be the lead site for the Air Force’s Resilient Energy Demonstration Initiative, which looks to bolster USAF’s energy assurance and mitigate threats to critical infrastructure. Experts from the Air Force, Department of Energy, and others will conduct a site visit and assessment on May 3 and the REDI team will begin implementing a plan for cost effective, cleaner power by the end of 2016, according to an April 28 release. The goal is for the Beale-based team to develop “innovative energy resiliency technologies and business models” that can then be deployed throughout the Air Force, states the release. Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Beale was selected “because of its critical missions, the opportunity to collaborate with regional industry and government partners leading the way in resilient energy solutions, and the leadership and experience of Beale’s team.” Once a plan is in place, the REDI team will issue a request for information to industry to see what solutions are available, states the release. Beale is home to the U-2 Dragon Lady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and the Pave Paws early warning radar system. (See also: Building the FOB of the Future.)

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