military

With Attorney General Greg Abbott now advising the Texas National Guard about the legal side of their refusal to process federal same-sex couple benefits, a group of House Democrats are urging Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the head of the Texas National Guard, to rescind his decision and start processing the benefits.

But the issue is more complex than you might imagine.

flickr.com/texasmilitaryforces

Update: Sixteen Democratic state lawmakers have signed a letter asking the head of Texas Military Forces to process benefits claims for same-sex spouses.

“We call on you to respect Texas’ military families, to reconsider your position, and to follow the lead of virtually every other Adjutant General for the National Guard of the United States by, without further delay, enrolling all eligible spouses of National Guard service members at facilities operated by Texas Military Force,” the letter reads.

Killeen Chamber of Commerce

The court martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan continues this week at Fort Hood. He’s accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 people in a shooting rampage there in November 2009.

Just beyond the gates of the Army post is in the city of Killeen. Since the start of the military trial, community leaders there have invited media covering the trial to several community events. It’s a chance to highlight the city – even if it’s not under the best of circumstances.

Brigitte Woosley

Today wraps up the first week of testimony in the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at the Fort Hood Army Post on Nov. 5, 2009.  

Brigitte Woosley, sketch artist

Today marks Day Two in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. The trial is expected to take months – only twelve of the nearly 300 witnesses testified Tuesday. More of the prosecution’s witnesses will testify today as prosecutors continue to build a case against Hasan. 

flickr.com/texasmilitaryforces

Update: Furloughs start today for full-time employees of the Texas Army and Air National Guard.

The employees will have to take 11 non-consecutive unpaid days off between now and Sept. 30 as part of federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

The National Guard has announced that, along with the furloughs, most military commissaries will be closed on Mondays through the end of September.

U.S. Air Force

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday the death of a soldier from Austin.

30-year-old Staff Sergeant Job Reigoux was killed in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan on Saturday when his unit was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade.

His casket arrived Monday at Dover Air Force Base.

In the three years since his arrest, Bradley Manning, the slight Army private first class with close-cropped blond hair and thick military glasses, has become less of a character than a cause.

"Bradley Manning is a very polarizing figure. People either think that he is a hero or they think he's a traitor," says Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "I actually think that he's somewhere in between."

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Over a thousand Central Texans gathered on Monday to honor local men and women who lost their lives in service to the U.S. at the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial in the Sun City Community Center.

At the memorial, the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division Band played for residents and veterans, with Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III attending the ceremony as a special guest.

A male sergeant at West Point has been accused of secretly videotaping at least a dozen female cadets, sometimes when they were showering, The New York Times reports.

Gen. John F. Campbell, the army's vice chief of staff, tells the Times that "once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem."

All branches of the U.S. military have been ordered "to retrain, re-credential and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters," the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday morning.

A Pentagon survey estimating sexual assaults in the military finds that cases have spiked by a third since 2010.

USA Today obtained a summary of the report, which is due out later this week. The newspaper reports that in 2010, 19,300 service members were believed to be victims of sexual assault; that number went up to 26,000 in 2012.

The paper adds:

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Almost once every hour a U.S. military veteran takes his or her life. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 22 veterans commit suicide every day, on average.

Austin veteran Andrew O’Brien almost become one of them. He survived a suicide attempt in 2010, after returning from a 12-month deployment to Iraq. Now he’s telling his story to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and military suicides. 

When the Pentagon said earlier this year that it would open ground combat jobs to women, it was cast in terms of giving women equal opportunities in the workplace — the military workplace.

But the move has practical considerations, too. The military needs qualified people to fill its ranks, and it's increasingly harder to find them among men.

A Marine opened fire at a Virginia base Thursday night, killing two other Marines before turning the gun on himself.

Quoting Marine Base Quantico spokesman Lt. Agustin Solivan, the AP reports the shootings happened after 11 p.m. near the Officer Candidate School. The AP adds:

"Authorities entered the barracks early Friday and found the suspect dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound along with a second victim. Solivan could not say what prompted authorities to enter the barracks, which are at the base's officer candidate school.

Myla Haider took a roundabout route to becoming an agent in the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, or CID. Wars kept interrupting her training.

"My commander wanted to take me to Iraq as the intelligence analyst for the battalion, so I gave up my seat in CID school," Haider says.

She speaks in a steady, "just the facts ma'am" tone. Once a cop always a cop, the 37-year-old says.

Luke Quinton for KUT News

The funeral procession for ex-Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle drew hundreds to the Texas State Cemetery today. Crowds of spectators filled overpasses along the motorcade's procession route, from Midlothian, Texas to Austin, in order to offer their respects.

Howard Herring served in the Marine Corps in the sixties. Today was his first funeral service as a member of the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcycle riders who attend military funerals as guests of the family. Herring summed up the mood of many in attendance.

Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram / MCT /Landov

Update: The Navy sniper killed this month at a North Texas gun range will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin today.

While the funeral for Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle will be closed to the public, people are invited to observe the funeral procession.

See a map of the procession route, below.

The United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism launched an investigation Thursday into the United States' targeted killing program.

Ben Emmerson, from Britain, will lead the inquiry, which will focus on the civilian effect of the program as well, as the legal framework governing drone attacks.

Reuters explains:

Update at 1:40 p.m. ET: Saying that American men and women are "fighting and dying together and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Pentagon's rule banning women from combat positions is being rescinded.

Panetta said that as the Pentagon works through how to implement the change, the goal will be to "eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service."

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