Military men and women killed in military training exercises will be better honored through a measure sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton. House Bill 2932 passed the House and Senate unanimously; it awaits consideration by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“As a veteran, I know that the dangers faced by military men and women do not start and stop on the battlefield,” Costello said. “Training exercises help make our military the best in the world, but also can pose risks to our military personnel and even result in tragic accidents.”
Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs notifies the governor when an Illinois serviceman or woman is killed in combat. In turn, the governor orders the United States flag, State of Illinois flag, and appropriate military flag flown at half-staff for the day of the funeral and the two days preceding. Costello is sponsoring House Bill 2932 to include loss of life during military training exercises in circumstances for flying the flags at half-staff.
“Flying the flag at half-staff is the traditional way to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Costello said. “By expanding this honor to servicemen and women who have died during training exercises, Illinoisans will be able to pay respect to all of our fallen heroes.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, on Thursday honored Air Force fighter pilot Maj. Stephen J. Bonner, who earlier this week was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his distinguished service with the famed Flying Tigers in World War II. Bonner received the award at a ceremony honoring American fighter aces from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center earlier this week.
Bonner, who flew a Curtiss single-engine, single-seat P-40 Warhawk, is credited with shooting down five enemy planes, which is enough to earn the title of ace. After graduating from flight school in 1943, Bonner was assigned to the 76th Fighter Squadron in China. They flew ground attack missions, intercepted bombers and dueled with Japanese fighter planes as part of the American Volunteer Group, which earned the nickname Flying Tigers. Commanded by Claire Lee Chennault, the unit recruited pilots from the Army Air Corps, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.
Bonner, 96, lives in Carlinville, inside Davis’ 13th Congressional District.
The leadership of US Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, is on the hunt for more high-tech weapons. And Congress, in its latest defense budget, is giving the command that oversees covert and counter-terrorism operations involving Navy SEALs, Army’s Delta Force and other elite units the money to bankroll that hunt, according to a story in DefenseNews.com.
SOCOM’s research and development budget rose from $368 million in 2014 to $538 million in the 2016 budget request — a 46 percent increase. SOCOM, which oversees special-ops missions involving U.S. military units, received the big boost in R&D spending on the grounds it is facing a myriad of hotspots and threats. SOCOM acquisition executive Bill “Hondo” Geurts called the boost “a huge win for us” as the command looks past Mideast-specific technologies for gear for global operations.
SOCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel said his forces are “operating in possibly the most complex strategic environment in recent history.” Recent months have seen an “incredible eruption” in foreign-fighter flow into the Middle East from all over the world in support of the Islamic State group and its affiliates. Meanwhile, global challenges are intensifying because of increasing links between transnational criminal organizations and violent extremist groups, while a resurgent Russia is using special operations forces and information operations, Votel said.
Islamic terrorists are stoking alarm with threats of an all-out cyber crusade against the United States, a threat that experts say should be taken seriously, according to a report on The Hill.com
Hackers claiming affiliation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video Monday vowing an “electronic war” against the United States and Europe and claiming access to “American leadership” online.
“It’s only really a matter of time until we start seeing terrorist organizations using cyberattack techniques in a more expanded way,”said John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security counter-terrorism coordinator. “The concern is that, as an organization like ISIS acquires more resources financially, they will be able to hire the talent they need or outsource to criminal organizations.”
NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers this week called the pending shift “a great concern and something that we pay lots of attention to.”
Roger That is a regular feature by BND military beat reporter Mike Fitzgerald. He can be reached at email@example.com or 618-239-2533. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeFitz3000.