Metro-East News

Roger That: Air Force to offer final round of buyouts, early retirements

News-Democrat

The Air Force on Monday announced it will start its third and final round of buyouts and early retirement offers to civilian employees on Monday, according to the Air Force Times.

The Air Force said the civilian cuts will help the service meet former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order to slash headquarters staffs by 20 percent.

The voluntary early retirement authority, or VERA, and voluntary separation incentive pay, or VSIP, will focus mainly on civilians assigned to Air Force headquarters. The early outs and buyouts are only for civilians and not for airmen.

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The White House has directed all federal agencies to take a series of swift measures to lock down government online systems, in the wake of a devastating hack that might have provided Chinese spies data that could compromise national security, according to Security Affairs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is requesting the deployment of state-of-the-art anti-hacker defenses and the adoption of security best practices, including the installation of security patches and the assignment of minimum execution privileges.

A summary of the steps released late Friday evening does not explicitly mention the data breach, which was discovered in April and made public last week. Records on more than 4 million current and former civilian agency and military employees were leaked during the incident, which struck the Office of Personnel Management.

It is believed a second, related attack may have victimized people holding security clearances and those who have been investigated to obtain such clearances.

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The U.S. Marine Corps prides itself on the quality of its snipers and the training they receive. However, for 14 years, Marine snipers have suffered setbacks in combat that, they say, have been caused by outdated equipment and the inability of the Marine Corps to provide a sniper rifle that can perform at the needed range, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Marines interviewed for the story trace the problem to the relatively small Marine sniper community that doesn’t advocate effectively for itself because it is made up of junior service members and has a high turnover rate. What’s more, snipers say that the Marine Corps’ weapons procurement process is part of an entrenched bureaucracy resistant to change.

The Marine Corps is known for fielding older equipment. In 2003, when they entered Iraq again, Marine snipers carried the M40A1 sniper rifles, many of which began their careers shortly after the end of the Vietnam War.Today the Marines' primary sniper rifle, a newer variant of the M40, still shoots about the same distance: 1,000 yards.

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British actor Christopher Lee’s death last week, at the age of 93, marked a noteworthy milestone. Lee, who was best-known for playing Dracula, a James Bond villain and other scary characters in more than 250 films, was the last famous movie actor who fought in World War II.

Lee belonged to a fraternity that included: Jimmy Stewart, a decorated Army Air Corps bomber pilot and squadron commander who flew dangerous missions over Berlin; Lee Marvin, a Marine who earned a Purple Heart during the bloody Battle of Saipan; and David Niven, who took part in the Invasion of Normandy, and served in a British “Phantom Signals Unit,” which located and reported enemy positions. The list of famous actors who fought in that war could go on and on.

Lee, however, was a cut above the rest. British war records show that Lee served as a Royal Air Force intelligence officer during postings in Africa and Europe. In reality, Lee fought with the Long Range Desert Patrol, which specialized in roaming hundreds of miles behind German lines in Africa to cause assorted mayhem, and the newly formed Special Air Service, which carved out the template for every elite special forces unit ever since. During the last months of the war Lee helped track down war criminals while working for the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects.

Lee spoke little of his career as a special operator. During a 2012 newspaper interview, he recalled: “I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read into what they like.”

Lee apparently knew about death at close quarters. Toward the end of his acting career, Lee played Saruman in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. In one scene Saruman was supposed to be stabbed in the back. The director, Peter Jackson, began coaching Lee on the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed to death. Lee, annoyed, stopped Jackson.

"Have you any idea what kind of noise happens when somebody’s stabbed in the back?” Lee said. “Because I do.”

Roger That is a regular feature by BND military beat reporter Mike Fitzgerald. Contact him at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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