COLORADO SPRINGS — A dozen years after he was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro was on the verge of completing a final, unbelievable stage of his comeback.
After miraculously surviving third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body, Del Toro has returned to his feet, his family and his job in uniform. Now, the first airman to return to duty after being deemed 100 percent disabled was looking to return to Earth — by parachute.
“It’s one of my personal goals,” said Del Toro, universally known as ‘DT.’
After enlisting in the Air Force in 1997, he signed up for one of the service’s hardest jobs — calling in airstrikes from the ground, The Gazette reported…
…On Dec. 4, 2005, Del Toro was in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb went off under his Humvee as it crossed a creek. The blast tore into his flesh, severed his fingers and removed his nose. He remembers hitting the creek to put out the flames and using a radio to call down close air support for his embattled unit…
In 2010, Del Toro became the first airman with a 100 percent disability rating to be allowed to re-enlist. This year, he’ll become the first fully-disabled airman allowed to stay in uniform past 20 years of service.
Before getting a chance to leap from a plane Feb. 18, Del Toro had to go through parachute training a second time, relearning alongside cadets at the Air Force Academy, one of two Defense Department jump schools.
“When I got back to active duty, I had three goals,” he said…
…The last of the original big three was to complete his 131st parachute jump. But the Air Force was reluctant to risk the life of a man who already had been so close to death.
SATELLITE BEACH — Two puppies, found near death in an Afghanistan cave, are now stateside, happy and healthy.
Patrick Dunne of Brevard County is a medic for a military contractor.
On his latest trip to Afghanistan in December, he came across something so unexpected in the desolate, dry, dangerous desert, it was hard to believe.
“I heard there was a group of puppies living on the other side of the mountain from our guard post,” Dunne said.
He and his colleagues went to check it out.
Inside a hole not even qualifying as a cave, a litter of newly-born puppies struggled to survive.
One of them stood out — a girl, the runt of the litter. And she only had three legs.
“If I had left her out there, there was no way she was going to survive,” said Dunne.
That’s because when he brought them food, the other dogs would attack or step over her.
Dunne scooped her up and brought her back to the base and nursed the tiny dog back to health.
The pup became the hit of the camp — so much so, he spoke to his wife.
“Instead of bringing just her home, we decided to bring one of her brothers home too,” he said.
— BK (@BKactual) February 25, 2017
The United States remains locked in its longest war to date, a 16-year venture in Afghanistan that shows no signs of relenting. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee in early February and drew much-needed attention to one of the greatest fiascos of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan – reconstituting a capable, effective, and sustainable Afghan Air Force (AAF). Nicholson bluntly noted that “close air support and aerial mobility are the most critical remaining gaps that need to be addressed.” He couldn’t be more right.
Although the Afghan National Security and Defense Force (ANDSF) has grown significantly since its post-Taliban rebirth, the ANDSF still suffers from attrition, corruption, logistics and maintenance deficiencies, and inadequate air power. The U.S. and NATO effort to reconstitute the AAF began slowly in 2007, and like most efforts in Afghanistan, it soon became mired in bad deals, mismanagement, and bureaucratic disasters.
In 2008, the U.S. drafted a plan to replace Afghanistan’s four aging Russian-made AN-32 military transport planes, all of which needed to be phased out of service by the end of 2010 due to air frame serviceability and lifespan issues.
Afghanistan has used AN-26 transport planes, the predecessor of the AN-32, since 1978. Instead of pursuing the acquisition of additional AN-32 transport planes, which were long familiar to the older Afghan pilots, a deal was cut with Alenia North America to acquire 20 Italian C-27 cargo planes for $486 million. An additional $200 million was earmarked to establish a spare parts inventory, ground support equipment, and for contractor support to keep the fleet maintained.
In the end, the program failed – Alenia struggled to meet its contractual obligations and the fleet of C-27s were grounded in 2012, the program was canceled outright in 2013, and the fleet of C-27s were sold for scrap to a local Afghan construction company for 6 cents a pound, amounting to a mere $32,000. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko stated in 2012 that it’s imperative that “the U.S. government does not repeat the mistakes made throughout this nearly half-billion dollar program.”
The father of the Navy SEAL killed in last month’s raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen wants an investigation into his son’s death.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens’s father told the Miami Herald, referencing President Trump’s response to those who have criticized the mission.
“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” Bill Owens said.
Ryan Owens was killed last month during a raid on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). U.S. Central Command said it killed 14 AQAP operatives during the mission.
But reports following the raid also said up to 30 civilians may have been killed as a result of the mission.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” Owens asked.
“For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’
(CNN) Todd Vance was serving in the US Army when the September 11 attacks occurred.
“I decided to re-enlist for another three years,” he said. “And I asked to be part of the first deployed unit to Iraq.”
Vance served as a squad leader and ran more than 250 combat missions before returning to San Diego in 2005…
…Vance went to the Veterans Affairs center for counseling. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and sent home with a shopping bag of medications, including mood enhancers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety meds.
Along with drinking, he started abusing the prescriptions he had been given…
Vance, who had been a professional Muay Thai fighter in high school, started training at the local MMA gym.
“It gave me the structure, the discipline, the camaraderie, the routine that I needed to have in my life that I was missing so much from the military,” he said. “Before training, I had no reason not to drink until 3 in the morning. I was training six days a week, often two times a day, and eating clean.”
The program started off as a veteran competition team and became a nonprofit in 2012. Vance called it P.O.W., short for Pugilistic Offensive Warrior Tactics.
The program offers free mixed martial arts classes for veterans three times a week at the Undisputed Downtown gym in San Diego. But it’s also group therapy disguised as MMA.
“We offer peer-to-peer coaching, support and counseling,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of exposure and vulnerability sharing to where they can start to feel normal around a group of people.”
An Okinawa-based senior Navy officer was killed this week in what officials are calling an off-duty recreational accident.
Capt. Stephen “Cole” Hayes, chief of staff for Task Force 76, died Feb. 21, officials with Amphibious Force 7th Fleet announced Thursday.
Hayes was a 24-year sailor with a prior enlisted career who had served on three command tours and completed seven at-sea deployments. He had earned the Bronze Star, the Combat Action Ribbon, and five Navy Commendation Medals, among other awards.
Questions about the specific nature of the accident did not receive an immediate response.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of a shipmate and friend. Our sincere condolences are with Capt. Hayes’ wife, children, and entire family,” Task Force 76 commander Rear Adm. Marc Dalton said in a released statement. “Our staff and the Navy have lost an amazing officer and leader. His time here will leave an indelible imprint.”
A 74-year-old U.S. Army veteran is set to go on trial next month for the ‘crime’ of posting two American flags on the fence of a Los Angeles VA facility — and the Justice Department is facing calls to drop the case.
The criminal prosecution of Robert Rosebrock dates back to charges filed under the Obama administration, but conservative group Judicial Watch is hoping new Attorney General Jeff Sessions will take a second look.
“Frankly, President Trump should ask why the VA and his Justice Department are trying to jail this American patriot,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. His group is now representing Rosebrock.
“The federal government’s pursuit of these vindictive charges against Mr. Rosebrock is mind-blowing,” he added.
Rosebrock is facing one criminal charge for displaying an American flag without permission on the fence outside the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (GLAVA) facility during a protest of the VA’s treatment of homeless veterans.
Rosebrock is facing an two additional counts for allegedly taking unauthorized photos of a VA police officer on Memorial Day and during the second protest when conservative activist Ted Hayes was handcuffed and detained. Hayes is not being prosecuted.
A military judge has ruled against dismissing charges against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl despite his lawyers’ claim that President Donald Trump violated their client’s due-process rights.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said Bergdahl “should be shot” for walking off his post. Trump also said that “in the good old days, he would have been executed.”
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment Saturday on the judge’s ruling.
After Trump became president, Bergdahl’s lawyers argued the judge should dismiss the charges against their client because of Trump’s comments, contending that it would not be possible for Bergdahl to get a fair trial.
But Army Col. Jeffery Nance wrote Friday that while Trump’s comments were “troubling,” they did not constitute a sufficient due process violation.
“The comments by Mr. Trump that might be considered pretrial publicity are not so pervasive and unfair as to saturate the community and prevent any trier of fact from being impartial,” Nance wrote. He added: “Mr. Trump has said nothing about the accused or his case since August 2016. Under these facts, the court cannot find a due process violation sufficient to make amelioration measures futile.”
An armed robber was shot in the crotch while trying to rob a Texas man who was on a jog Wednesday.
“While it is still early in the investigation, detectives believe that the victim, a man in his 20s, was jogging to a local gym in the area,” the Arlington Police Department said in a release. “The victim noticed a pickup truck that appeared to be following him and circle in front of him in a business parking lot. The victim reported that a suspect, later determined to be a juvenile, exited from the passenger side of the pickup and pointed a firearm at him while demanding his property.”
That’s when police say the jogger pulled a gun from his backpack and opened fire on the armed robber. He hit the robber at least once somewhere in the crotch. Officials wouldn’t say exactly where in the crotch the robber was hit.
“We are not going to get that specific on injuries,” Christopher Cook, Arlington Police Department spokesman, told the Washington Free Beacon.
CYPRESS, Texas (AP) — Mack Beggs had just won a state wrestling title Saturday in a category he didn’t want to be in.
But instead of wallowing in a debate about what should or should not have happened this weekend at the Texas state girls wrestling tournament, the 17-year-old transgender boy simply decided to be a good teammate.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my teammates,” he said. “That’s honestly what the spotlight should have been on is my teammates. The hard work that I put in in the practice room with them, beside me — we trained hard every, single day. Every, single day and that’s where the spotlight should have been on. Not me. All of these guys. Because I would not be here without them.”
Beggs completed an undefeated season by winning a controversial title in an event clouded by criticism from those who believe the testosterone he’s taking as he transitions from female to male created an unfair advantage…
Beggs, who reached the state tournament after two opponents forfeited, was dogged throughout the event by questions about whether his testosterone treatments made him too strong to wrestle fairly against girls.
The University Interscholastic League, which oversees athletics in Texas public schools, enacted the birth certificate policy Aug. 1. And while Beggs’ family has said he wanted to compete against boys, UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison, who refused to address Beggs directly, said they had not received a request to change divisions from any athlete at this competition…
..He and Clay shared a long hug before an official raised Beggs’ arm to signal victory, and the wrestler scurried off the mat. Clay’s coached shouted to reporters that she “did not have permission” to talk to them after her loss and both of her parents declined comment.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 24-year-old U.S. Navy sailor who had a baby in August was arrested and remains on a military hold after being accused of deserting her post, court records show.
Ana Lucia Gnecco was arrested Wednesday at her parents’ home in Hollywood, Florida, after failing to report on Jan. 14 to her base in Portsmouth, Virginia, where she is a seaman quartermaster and worked in the reception and medical support at the Naval Medical Center.
Her father, Armando Rodriguez, told the SunSentinel he didn’t know she left the Navy earlier than she should have.
“She basically went AWOL; that’s what the Navy is claiming,” he told the newspaper.
The arrest was the last resort, said Christina Johnson, a Navy public affairs officer for the medical center. “She was in contact with her command and with the Navy’s arm that would bring her back to duty. All efforts were made to get her back to work, but she chose to stay there.”
Actress and left-wing activist Ashley Judd says the “tragedy” of Donald Trump’s election victory is far worse than an experience from her childhood in which she was raped.
“It remains for me the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my lifetime,” Judd said of Trump’s successful election. “Raped as a child – bad. Re-raped by a political system that ordains a clown – really bad.”
The Divergent star made the claim in a Huffington Post video titled, “Ashley Judd describes being triggered by Trump.”
Sporting a so-called “Pussy Hat” popularized by feminist activists, Judd said the same male family member who failed to protect her from being sexually assaulted as a child betrayed her again by voting for Trump.
HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — An experienced magician died of an apparent suicide at the Magic Castle in Hollywood Friday night.
In a news release Saturday, the Academy of Magical Arts confirmed that an illusionist was found dead at the club, which is located at 7001 Franklin Ave. According to the Magic Castle, Los Angeles police ruled the death a suicide. The AMA identified the victim as Daryl Easton, 61. who was performing at the club this week.
Easton’s death prompted the closure of the club Friday night. However, it was reopen Saturday morning.
“In respect for the art, the show must go on,” Magic Castle wrote. “We will re-open on Saturday AM.”
CORBIN, Ky — Police had to use a Taser on a woman after they said she ran naked with a high school track team in Corbin, Kentucky Friday.
The bizarre turn of events happened around 9:40 a.m. at Corbin High School, reports WKYT.
One of the coaches saw her a couple hundred yards away by the softball field. She had clothes on. He said he noticed her over there taking her clothes off and then she just started running towards the track,” said Corbin Police Captain Coy Wilson.
It didn’t take long for the track team to take notice.
“She was chasing these girls and growling at them. She was mumbling some stuff I couldn’t even understand what she was saying. It was freaking everybody out,” said Eythan Sims, a member of the track team.