Military

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday rejected the Pentagon's plans to retire aging ships and planes.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Congress ordered big savings in defense spending. Now, Congress is moving to block those savings. What follows is a classic story of how federal budgeting works.

MONTAGNE: The Pentagon faces budget restraints. Lawmakers favor cuts in general, but objected when the cuts became specific. When the Defense Department said it doesn't need some old weapons, lawmakers disagreed.

Two airmen from the Northwest were killed in a helicopter crash in England this week. One grew up in north Idaho, the other hailed from Vancouver, Wash.

Idaho Town Remembers Fallen Airman

Jan 2, 2014

According to the Associated Press, 118 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

Ten of them were killed in December, including two Marines from Massachusetts, Sgt. Daniel Vasselian and Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez.

People in the town of Sandpoint, Idaho, are also mourning this week.

Air Force Captain David Lyon died when the vehicle in which he was riding struck an improvised explosive device last Friday in Kabul. He was 28.

The Defense Department says an Air Force captain assigned to Peterson Air Force Base has died from an explosion in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says 28-year-old David I. Lyon of Sandpoint, Idaho died Thursday.

His vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Kabul.

Lyon was assigned to the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron at Peterson. He was serving a yearlong deployment and was an advisor to Afghan National Army commandos.

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Idaho Senator Mike Crapo spoke to reporters at length Wednesday on the importance of reducing government spending, at the same time he spoke about keeping a program that Air Force leaders want to phase out in order to save $3.5 billion.

Crapo, a Republican, has joined Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and others to push legislation that would block the Air Force from retiring the A-10 fighter jet.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed the National Guard Bureau to resolve a dispute that is making it difficult for same-sex couples to receive military benefits.

The Pentagon started to recognize same-sex marriages soon after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act this summer. But some states are resisting.

  A military band that entertained Northwest troops heading off to the Korean War and played the dedication of Grand Coulee Dam will close their music books for good this weekend. The military is deactivating the 560th Air Force Band, known as the “Band of the Northwest,” based out of Spokane.

The 560th made its last public appearance at a wind-swept ferry christening ceremony on the Columbia River last month.

Military, Herrera, Afghanistan, Soldier killed
Courtesy Idaho National Guard

The Defense Department says a 26-year-old Caldwell, Idaho, man was one of three soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., killed in action in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Octavio Herrera and the other two soldiers died Sunday of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire.

Also killed were Sgt. Jamar Hicks of Little Rock, Ark., and Spc. Keith Grace Jr. of Baytown, Texas.

The military says Herrera and Grace died in Paktia Province, while Hicks was evacuated to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost, Afghanistan, and later died.

Military officials say the London-based firm Balfour Beatty Communities will take over housing management at the Mountain Home Air Force base.

The Idaho Statesman reports Balfour Beatty already operates more than 44,000 military homes in 23 states and Washington, D.C. The company will begin managing 844 single-family houses and duplexes and 680 dormitory rooms at the Idaho base on Thursday.

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News that the Taliban is open to a prisoner swap is bringing renewed hope to supporters of a captive soldier from the Northwest.

Idaho National Guard

The Afghan Taliban say they are ready to hand over a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their senior operatives being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

A Taliban spokesman, Shaheen Suhail, says U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, "is as far as I know in good condition."

Suhail spoke in an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press from the newly opened Taliban offices in Doha, Qatar.

Bergdahl disappeared in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

Field Of Honor: Remembering Idaho's Bravest

May 27, 2013
Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

Memorial Day marks a time to remember the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  This day happens every year on the last Monday of May.  This year, 600 flags fill a field in Eagle to honor those who have served. The “Field of Honor” opened May 18 and will stay open through Tuesday afternoon.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony took place at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery Monday morning. The Idaho National Guard 25th Army Band performed along with bagpipes from the Boise Police Pipes and Drums.

A case that featured harrowing testimony of combat-related mental illness ended Monday with a guilty verdict. Army Sergeant John Russell was convicted for murdering five fellow servicemen at a military mental health clinic in Baghdad in 2009.

A military judge found the 48-year-old Texas native guilty of premeditated murder. A public affairs spokesman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma says Sergeant Russell showed no visible reaction.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The Defense Department has suspended a workplace benefit cherished by many soldiers, airmen and Coast Guardsmen. The agency has put tuition assistance on indefinite hold because of the automatic federal budget cuts known as the "sequester."

The paychecks of active duty military are exempt from the across-the-board federal budget cuts. But some of their fringe benefits are not, as we're now finding out.

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I Corps Command Sergeant Major John Troxell says the suspension of tuition assistance stings. "This was a benefit, not an entitlement."

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