Metro-East News

Roger That: Airman who helped thwart French train massacre is up for medal

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone will be nominated for the Air Force’s highest non-combat award, the Airman’s Medal, for his actions to subdue a gunman aboard an Amsterdam-to-Paris train, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

“Last Friday, as you know, evil arrived in the form of a heavily armed gunman on a high speed passenger train in Europe,” James told reporters at the semiannual State of the Air Force briefing. “A gunman who brandished an AK-47, hundreds of bullets, a Luger pistol and a box cutter.

“What the gunman didn’t expect; however, was a confrontation with our very own ‘Captain America,’ and believe it or not, that is what Airman Stone’s friends nicknamed him during Air Force technical training,” James said.

The Airman’s Medal is the service’s highest non-combat award, and is ranked above the Purple Heart. The medal is awarded to service members who commit a heroic act, “usually at the voluntary risk of his or her life but not involving actual combat,” according to the Air Force description of the award.

Stone was one of at least six men who fought with the terrorist and thwarted a likely massacre of train passengers. Stone suffered a hand injury during the attack when the gunman stabbed him with a box cutter. Stone is expected to recover.

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Air Force civilians who become victims of sexual assault will now have the same resources available to them as uniformed airmen, according to Air Force Times.

Maj. Gen. Gina Grosso, head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts, has signed a policy memo that gives Air Force civilians the right to file both unrestricted and restricted reports and gives them access to sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates.

“We knew we could do more to help our civilian airmen, so we sought an exception to policy to allow the Air Force to extend the same care and support to civilian victims as we do to our military airmen and their families,” Grosso said Monday in a statement.

Previously under Defense Department policy, Air Force civilians who went to SARCs for help were referred to off-base authorities, such as local police and rape crisis centers, said Maritza Sayle-Walker, a senior policy analyst in the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office.

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North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and federal authorities ran a training exercise over the nation’s capital Sunday to test abilities to detect drones and gyrocopters in restricted air spaces following several troubling incidents, according to the website DefenseTech.

The exercise was aimed at gauging the effectiveness of air defense systems to “identify and track low altitude, slow speed aerial vehicles operating in and around Washington D.C.,” NORAD said in a statement. “These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure rapid response capability.”

Military aircraft stayed out of the restricted airspace over the Capitol region during the exercise called Falcon Virgo 15–13 and did not attempt to intercept the remotely piloted vehicles that were flown over the District of Columbia in the test Sunday morning, NORAD said.

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

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