Metro-East News

Roger That: Prosecutors allege that former Air Force Honor Guard member schemed to join Islamic State

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

A U.S. war vet who once helped bury fallen colleagues in the Air Force Honor Guard later schemed to join ISIS, prosecutors said Monday at the start of his terror trial, according to the New York Post.

In one of the first U.S. trials of an American tied to ISIS, Tairod Pugh, 48, is charged with attempting to provide support to terrorists and obstruction of justice. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

“The defendant turned his back on the country he once pledged to serve,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bini said in front of a packed courtroom that included U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.

Formerly of Neptune, N.J., Pugh served for four years in the military in the early 1990s before taking a string of jobs as an aircraft mechanic, prosecutors said.

Distressed by the state of the Muslim world, the convert drifted toward extremism and eventually moved to the Middle East and married an Egyptian woman in 2014, prosecutors said.

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The U.S. Air Force will continue to fly daily missions over the South China Sea despite a buildup of Chinese surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets in the contested region, with both nations’ militaries in discussions to avoid any miscalculations, a top U.S. general said Tuesday, according to Military.com.

Gen. Lori Robinson, the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, also urged other nations to exercise their freedom to fly and sail in international airspace and waters claimed by China in the South China Sea “or risk losing it throughout the region.”

“We will continue to do as we’ve always done, and that is fly and sail in international airspace in accordance to international rules and norms,” Robinson told reporters in Australia’s capital, Canberra, where she will address the Royal Australian Air Force’s biennial Air Power Conference next week.

Robinson declined to say how the United States would retaliate if a U.S. plane was shot down by the Chinese.

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Defense Tech is reporting that Army leaders want to build a nano drone that weighs less than a pound with the entire unmanned system not weighing more than three pounds, according to a Request for Information released on FBO.gov on March 1.

The Army is calling its nano drone efforts, the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) program with Product Manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors (PM SMS) leading the work to outfit soldiers with these high tech unmanned systems. Army officials released the RFI ahead of a virtual Industry Day on April 12, 2016, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

Developing nano drones to fly through buildings to protect soldiers before having to clear rooms is a high priority for Army leaders. The technology is catching up to Army expectations.

The British Army deploy the Black Hornet nano drone to Afghanistan in 2013. Built by Prox Dynamics, the nano drone measures 4 inches long and weighs only 16 grams — half an ounce — to include batteries. It carries three cameras and can fly up to 11 mph.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed Monday that it failed to contact tens of thousands of the more than 800,000 veterans who have applications for health care pending, nearly 300,000 of whom died before getting a resolution, according to Stars and Stripes.

The VA is required by law to notify veterans of incomplete applications but could not verify that this had been done in the cases of 545,000 living veterans and 288,000 deceased veterans with pending claims. It was unclear Monday whether the veterans and their families will qualify for compensation.

The findings, which were released Monday, are the result of a monthslong VA analysis published six months after a report for the Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General, which came up with similar conclusions.

In the report, the department calls the pending applications incomplete, putting the onus on the veterans to add information to their formal requests for health care.

Scott Davis, the whistleblower who first reported the problem of pending applications, said most of them were erroneously marked as incomplete because they called for an income test or were missing a military service record called DD214, which the VA specifically told applicants not to include.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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