Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local Veterans Honor Tuskegee Airman with Color Guard, P-51 Mustang

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Walter Suggs, left, and Leonard Yates, right.

At 10 a.m. today, 88-year-old World War II veteran and one of few remaining original Tuskegee Airmen Leonard Yates, with 73-year-old Walter Suggs, president of the Tuskegee Airmen chapter in Sacramento, Calif., flew into Boise amid fanfare from local veterans.

As the first African-American service members to fly with the U.S. Air Force, the Tuskegee Airmen saw action in World War II as part of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. Their namesake "Red Tails" comes from the color they painted the tails of their planes.

The men traveled to Idaho to celebrate the birthday of Twin Falls 4-year-old Quinn Thorne. The boy's father, Glen, organized to bring the men to the child's party with contributions by Idaho Pizza Company, Winco Foods, Southwest Airlines and La Quinta hotels.

Quinn, right and his brother Brayden, left.
  • Glen Thorne
  • Quinn, right and his brother Brayden, left.

"I was up all last night," said an ecstatic Thorne. "I didn't get any sleep working on a replica of a Mustang for Quinn's party."

To celebrate the arrival of the two veterans, a P-51 Mustang was flown into the airport. Yates was wheeled across the tarmac, where he signed the fuselage of the Mustang, an aircraft from the World War II era.

The visit was also commemorated in Navy tradition with a jet of water sprayed over the Southwest Airlines plane.

As a group of more than 20 local veterans held American flags in color guard formation, the Boise Airport was abuzz with activity. A dozen young Navy servicemen in dress uniform showed up just as the plane landed, dispersing themselves throughout the lineup.

Local veterans assembled a lineup to commemorate the mens visit.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Local veterans assembled a lineup to commemorate the men's visit.

Yates and Suggs saluted the servicemen as they walked through the lineup. For the next two hours, Suggs and Yates shook hands and posed for pictures, standing just beside a replica of the original Wright brother's Kitty Hawk, N.C., plane located in the airport lobby.

Yates made reference to the article Boise Weekly ran May 19 previewing the men's visit. The story made the rounds at the Tuskegee chapter in Sacramento, Calif.

"Everybody who reads that story just cries," said Yates. "When I see little Quinn I know I'm going to cry."

The men head to Twin Falls with Glen to meet Quinn and his brother Brayden. Glen planned the visit as a surprise for the young boys, both obsessed with the Red Tails.

Leonard Yates signs autographs for local veterans.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Leonard Yates signs autographs for local veterans.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tuskegee Airman Makes Idaho Trip to Celebrate Child's Birthday

Posted By on Sat, May 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Four-year-old Quinn Thorne of Twin Falls created a Blue Angel for his box car derby.
  • Glen Thorne
  • Four-year-old Quinn Thorne of Twin Falls created a Blue Angel for his box car derby.

In their first trip to Idaho, 73-year-old Walter Suggs, president of the Tuskegee Airmen chapter in Sacramento, Calif., and 88-year-old Leonard Yates, one of less than a hundred few living Tuskegee airmen who saw action in World War II, will head to Twin Falls May 23 for a young boy’s fifth birthday party.

“I decided—we got 66 Tuskegee airmen chapters across the United States,” said Suggs. “We were the only chapter that volunteered.”

Forming the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators in the U.S. armed forces. The men were often nicknamed "Red Tails" for the color they painted their planes.

Glen Thorne, himself a Navy veteran, reached out to bring the two men to his son’s birthday, writing letters to Tuskegee chapters across the country, making phone calls for three months. Suggs said he and Yates were inspired by the small boy’s habit as an emotional tribute to American soldiers.

“Every time he saw a black man, he would go up and say, ‘Are you a Tuskegee airmen?’” said Suggs, a 24-year veteran. “And little Quinn would say, ‘Are you a veteran?’ and little Quinn would say, ‘Thanks for your service.’ I became emotional. I had tears in my eyes when I read that.”

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Special Ops Commander Wants Greater Authority

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 8:54 AM

While a team of Special Operations forces trains this week at Mountain Home Air Force Base, its commander is seeking greater authority to "move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels."

A report in this morning's New York Times said that Adm. William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, wants his "elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy" to have a larger role. Among other elite assignments, Special Ops and Navy Seals oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

According to the Times, military and Congressional officials have embarked on a quiet lobbying campaign to push through the initiative while Special Operations Command is expected to see certain growth in its budget and personnel when a new Defense Department spending plan is released today.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Special Ops Forces At Mountain Home

Posted By on Sat, Feb 11, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Special Operations Forces and other military units have descended on Mountain Home this weekend for a series of joint training exercises at the Air Force base.

The Mountain Home News reports that increased flying activity and aircraft noise from the exercises is scheduled to continue through Saturday, Feb. 18. U.S. Special Forces are described as "an elite group of men and women" trained to defend the nation against terrorist networks.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pentagon Plans to Ground 10,000 Air Force Personnel

Posted By on Sat, Feb 4, 2012 at 8:58 AM

The Pentagon announced late Friday that up to 10,000 Air Force jobs are scheduled to be grounded next year.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the eliminations would include 3,900 on active duty, 5,100 Air National Guardsmen and 900 from the Air Force Reserve.

Donley said the Air Force also expected to save $8.7 billion over five years by retiring 123 fighters, 133 transport planes and 30 aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The National Guard Association expressed alarm that half the personnel cuts were scheduled to come from the Air National Guard. Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, president of the guard association, told the Associated Press that the plan "reduces the Air Force's ability to quickly respond to unforeseen contingencies in the future."

Full details of the cuts will be contained in the White House's fiscal 2013 budget proposals, which will be unveiled Monday, Feb. 13.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Risch Presents Belated Purple Heart

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Sen. Jim Risch congratulates Sergeant Jerry Weir
  • Sen. Jim Risch congratulates Sgt. Jerry Weir.

Wounded in Iraq in 2005, Sgt. Jerry Weir, now of the Canyon County Sheriff's Office, today received the Purple Heart six years after his injury.

After 18 years out of the National Guard, Weir enlisted in Idaho's 116th Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army. In 2005, while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Weir's convoy was struck by a roadside improvised explosive device.

"I was a part of Alpha team on a 24-hour mission in Kirkuk, [Iraq]. It was a large mission, and we were in the lead element of it," said Weir. "There were four of us that took the hit."

Upon returning home, Weir sought the Purple Heart for his injuries, but due to an error, he "fell through the cracks," according to Sen. Jim Risch.

"Over the years, Jerry has been attempting to get the Purple Heart, but has fell through the cracks because of the federal paperwork," said Risch. "'Jerry', I said, 'You're dealing with the federal government, these things happen.'"

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

War Crimes Trial Continues Monday

Posted By on Sun, Nov 6, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Testimony will resume Monday in the court martial hearing of an Army staff sergeant accused of masterminding a series of war crimes in Afghanistan. Boise Pfc. Andrew Holmes has already been sentenced to seven years behind bars for his role in the murder of a 15-year-old Afghan boy in January 2010. He was one of six soldiers charged with being part of a so-called "kill team," slaying Afghan civilians while deployed in Kandahar Province. Five of the six have pointed to a superior, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, as their ringleader.

On Friday, Gibbs contradicted the accounts of his fellow soldiers, saying that as far as he knew, each of the killings "was legitimate."

When his lawyer Phil Stackhouse asked Gibbs why he took fingers from the corpses, the soldier said he wasn't proud that he had done so.

"In my mind, it was like keeping the antlers off a deer you'd shoot," said Gibbs. "You have to come to terms with the things you're doing. Bodies in general didn't mean anything to me."

Gibbs, whose trial is being held at Joint Base Lewis McChord outside of Seattle, is fighting 16 charges, including premeditated murder and assault. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Obama Sends U.S. Military to Central Africa

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM

President Barack Obama said Friday he is committing military force to help fight a central African guerrilla group accused of terrorizing civilians in several countries.

In a letter to Congress, Obama announced an initial deployment of 100 combat-equipped personnel to act as "advisers to partner forces" that are targeting the Lord's Resistance Army, a guerrilla force originally from northern Uganda. The president informed Congress through the War Powers Act.

"For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa," said Obama. "The group continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful."

An initial U.S. military team deployed to Uganda on Wednesday and additional forces are to be sent during the next month.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fehrenbach: 'It is Truly a Proud Day!'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach writes about his new sense of pride in this morning's Huffington Post.

Fehrenbach, of Mountain Home Air Force Base, recounts his 20 years of service, during which he was deployed six times as a weapons system officer. He flew combat missions over Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. But in 2008, he was accused of violating the military's ban on homosexuality and placed on desk duty. His military career hung in the balance.

"But all the while, I had to keep a secret that could mean the end of a career that I loved," wrote Fehrenbach.

And now, the decorated aviator breathes easier as the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has formally been eliminated.

"Today, I find relief and closure as I take a step back to remember all of the gay and lesbian soldiers who currently serve, have served, or have tragically lost their lives fighting for the freedoms this country's established," wrote Fehrenbach. "Their service is legitimate and they will no longer serve in vain. Today, gay service members will do their duty with their honor, dignity, and integrity intact. It is truly a proud day!"

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Magazine Names Boise State "Military Friendly School"

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM

For the third year in a row, G.I. Jobs Magazine has named Boise State as a military friendly school.

To make the list, a school must rank in the top 20 percent nationwide. G.I. Jobs lists an 11 percent military enrollment, financial benefits like scholarships and the ability to deploy and return without losing financial aid, and veteran resources like counseling and social networking events, among the reasons Boise State made the cut.

A news release from Boise State lauded the ranking.

“With such a large population of active military and veterans, Boise State is consciously creating a campus culture that provides these service men and women, as well as their families, with the support and resources they need to be successful college students,” said Mara Affre, director of enrollment services at Boise State, who has responsibility for the university’s veteran outreach programs. “It is important to us as a university that their service to our country is recognized and rewarded in a way that demonstrates the Boise State community’s appreciation for their sacrifice.”

The complete list can be seen here.

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