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Army Takes a Steady, Cautious Approach to Women in Infantry



The Associated Press 27 Nov 2017 By Lolita C. Baldor

FORT BENNING, Ga. — The young Army infantry recruits lined up in full combat gear, guns at the ready. At the signal, a soldier in front kicked in the door and they burst into the room, swiveling to check around the walls for threats.

“You’re dead!” one would-be enemy yelled out from a dark corner, the voice slightly higher than the others echoing through the building.

It was 18-year-old Kirsten, training to become one of the Army’s first women serving as infantry soldiers.

“I want to be one of the females to prove to everybody else that just because you’re a female, doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things as a male,” she said, describing her brother — an infantry soldier — as motivation. “I also wanted to one-up him.”

Kirsten is among more than 80 women who have gone to recruit training at Fort Benning, Georgia, since a ban on them serving in combat jobs was lifted. Twenty-two have graduated. More than 30 were still in training late last month, working toward graduation. The recruits’ last names are being withheld by The Associated Press because some women have faced bullying on social media.

Somewhat smaller in stature than some of her male comrades, Kirsten gave up a Division I soccer scholarship to become an infantry soldier. In body armor, helmet and rucksack, she looks like just any other grunt.

A bunkmate, Gabriella, says the women push each other.

“Today during our ruck march we were, like, directly across from each other and I would constantly look over at her,” Gabriella said of Kirsten. “We kinda just kept looking at each other and we’re, like, all right, we’re both doing it, we’re passing these guys and stuff. We definitely have goals to be better than the guys.”

The Army’s introduction of women into the infantry has moved steadily but cautiously this year. As home to the previously all-male infantry and armor schools, Fort Benning had to make $35 million in renovations, including female dorm rooms, security cameras, and monitoring stations.

Laundry was an early challenge.

For years, the men washed clothes any time at night. Now, there are alarms and schedules. A “female” sign goes on the door when needed.

The women also balked at the early plan to put their living quarters on a separate floor from their squadmates. So base leaders now use one of four main sleeping bays to house the women. Cameras keep constant watch on the bay door and the stairs, and there’s always a woman at the monitoring station.

“There’s nothing they dislike more than to be separated,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the brigade commander. He said the women just want to “fit in and do the same as everybody else.”

This is the third class of recruits at Benning to include women. When they’re not sleeping or washing clothes, they’re completely integrated into their units.

As sun peeked over the horizon on an October morning, dozens of infantry recruits spread across the Fort Benning field going through their morning PT drills. In the dark mist, it was difficult to tell one from another as they powered through situps and pushups.

On that day, only two of five battalions training were integrated. There still aren’t enough women to spread across all the units.

The shortcoming has created challenges. In the last class, only four women graduated, so filling rotations for guard duty all night was a problem. There weren’t enough women to cover every hour, so others had to fill in.

As women drop out, those remaining are moved to new companies to maintain balance within units, said Lt. Col Sam Edwards, commander of 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry regiment. More than 36 percent of Benning’s women have left — about twice the rate of men. Injuries have sidelined other women who plan to restart the training.

Army leaders are closely watching the integration to track injury and performance trends and ensure there are no problems.

“It was a boys club for a long time,” Kendrick said. “You have to be professional.”

Recruits seem unfazed.

“They don’t know any different. They don’t notice they’re integrated,” Edwards said. Most just left high school, where boys and girls mingled all the time. “That’s the way it’s always been.”

Commanders are adjusting to new concentrations of injuries among the women. While male recruits often get ankle sprains and dislocated shoulders, women are prone to stress fractures in their hips. In the latest class, six of the seven injured women in Charlie Company had hip stress fractures.

Half of the women, Kendrick said, weigh less than 120 pounds (54 kilograms), but all the recruits carry the same 68 pounds (31 kilograms) of gear.

As a result, female recruits need different advice, tailored injury prevention training, and iron and calcium supplements.

Across the base, Charlie Company is in a mock village, training for combat in urban environments, just hours after finishing a 12-mile march (19 kilometers). They kick through doors, scout for enemies and listen as drill sergeants bark out criticism and corrections.

Those sergeants say all the recruits ask the same questions.

“They want to know how to run faster,” said Staff Sgt. Raven Barbieri. “They ask, ‘How do I pack my ruck better?'”

She said some women ask how to put their hair up properly. But more often, they seek tips for getting through long marches.

Sitting on the bleachers for a quick lunch, Kirsten said her brother showed her how to pack the ruck so it doesn’t overly stress her hips or shoulders. He told her: “Always bring extra socks and always bring baby wipes because you’re not going to be able to shower.”

Corbin, 19, shrugged off questions about women in his company.

“They’re pulling the same weight that we’re pulling,” he said, sitting alongside Kirsten and Gabriella. “As long as they’re pulling the weight that we’re doing and we can have faith that out in the field they can have our backs while we have theirs, then let them be.”

In a way, said Corbin, whose last name also was being withheld, the women ensure there are no laggards among the men, because they’d be ridiculed for finishing behind others. “It just makes everyone have a mindset that you can’t be the last one,” he said. “You gotta keep striving to be better than that person in front of you. No one wants to be the last person.”

The recruits are preparing for their final training exercise and the road march to Honor Hill, where they’ll receive their infantry badges in a solemn soldiers-only ceremony. For the women, it will be an especially powerful moment.

“Once I do reach Honor Hill, I think that it’s like a huge sigh of relief, and like all this weight is taken off my shoulders and knowing that I did it and made it,” Kirsten said. “To make it through infantry training, it will feel really, really good.”

–This article was written by Lolita C. Baldor from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Doug Jones certified as winner of Alabama Senate race



Democrat Doug Jones was certified Thursday by Alabama’s Secretary of State as the winner of the state’s Senate race, less than an hour after a judge rejected Republican nominee Roy Moore’s last-ditch attempt to challenge the election.

Earlier Thursday, Moore’s campaign alleged potential election fraud and asked a circuit judge for a restraining order to stop Alabama’s canvassing board from certifying Jones’ victory.

A judge then denied the request, leading Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to certify Jones’ victory.

Jones, who will be sworn in Jan. 3, celebrated the certification and vowed to be “an independent voice” for Alabama.

“I am looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama in the new year,” Jones said in a statement. “As I said on election night, our victory marks a new chapter for our state and the nation.”


Jones won more than 20,000 votes than Moore in the Dec. 12 election, becoming the first Democrat to win election to the Senate from the deeply conservative state in 25 years.

A Democrat winning the special election for the seat to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions was seen as just a remote possibility several months ago.

But Jones, a Birmingham attorney famous for prosecuting the KKK, caught a break after Moore was overwhelmed in recent weeks with multiple allegations of past sexual misconduct. Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, faced accusations he pursued romantic relationships with teenage girls while he was in his thirties.

He has denied the claims.

Since the election, Moore has refused to concede.

Moore’s attorney wrote in the wide-ranging complaint that he believed there were irregularities during the election, including that voters may have been brought in from other states. He attached a statement from a poll worker that she had noticed licenses from Georgia and North Carolina as people signed in to vote.

The complaint also noted the higher-than-expected turnout in the race, particularly in Jefferson County, and said Moore’s numbers were suspiciously lower than straight-ticket Republican voting in about 20 Jefferson County precincts. The complaint asked for a fraud investigation and eventually a new election.

Merrill said he has so far not found any evidence of voter fraud, but he has said that his office will investigate any complaint Moore submits.

Fox News’ Griff Jenkins and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

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Bumped United passenger fires back at Rep. Jackson Lee's racism charge, airline



A United passenger whose first-class seat on a recent flight from Houston to D.C. was given to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is firing back at the Democratic congresswoman’s accusations of racism – while challenging the airline’s account of the incident.

Jean-Marie Simon, an attorney and private school teacher, became the latest face of airline passenger woes when she detailed on Facebook and later to the news media how she lost her seat to the Texas lawmaker. 

But despite a statement from United seeking to explain the switch-out, she’s not giving up the fight. And the congresswoman’s response – essentially claiming Simon made a scene because Jackson Lee, as an African-American woman, is an “easy target” – did not calm the waters. 

Simon, in an interview with Fox News, rejected the racism allegation.

“That could have been Donald Duck in my seat,” Simon, a Democrat, told Fox News on Thursday. “I could not see who had boarded the flight. I didn’t even know who she was.”


Jean-Marie Simon, left, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.  (Facebook)

Simon originally accused United of bumping her from her first-class seat on a Dec. 18 flight in order to accommodate the Texas congresswoman. 

At first, Simon didn’t know who was in her seat as she argued at the gate. United eventually gave her a $500 voucher and reseated her in the economy plus section. In her original Facebook post, Simon said another Texas congressman then informed her a fellow member of the delegation was in her seat, and “regularly does this” to passengers. 

‘I could not see who had boarded the flight. I didn’t even know who she was.’

– United passenger Jean-Marie Simon, responding to Rep. Jackson Lee’s racism claim

Simon proceeded to take a photo of Jackson Lee, have a tense encounter with a flight attendant who allegedly threatened to remove her — and has been battling with the airline ever since she got home. 

On one front, United claims Simon lost her seat because she canceled her flight via the app (which she denies). And on another, Jackson Lee piled on this week by reissuing her statement chalking up Simon’s discontent to racial animus. 

“Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice,” she wrote. “This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people. But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry.” 

Simon is focusing her energy mostly on dealing with United, not Jackson Lee, but told Fox News, “The only way she is relevant is that she has a documented history of demanding first-class service.” 

Asked for comment, Jackson Lee spokesman Rucks Russell said in a statement: “The Congresswoman regrets any inconvenience that her travel may have caused to any passenger, however the issue in question involves the passenger and United Airlines.” 


The 63-year-old passenger says her beef mostly is with United and how they treated her. She also suggested the airline is trying to age-shame her.  

“I’m not some AARP grandmother who doesn’t know how to use a phone,” she said. “I know how to cancel a flight and I did not cancel this flight.”  

It’s still not entirely clear what happened that day. 

Simon used 140,000 frequent flyer miles on Dec. 3 to purchase her first-class ticket from Washington, D.C., to Guatemala and back. On her way home, she had a layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Simon said the attendant scanned her ticket but her reservation had been removed from the system. At that point, the member of Congress already was in first class, and Simon eventually got the economy plus seat. 

United later attributed the incident to an app cancellation by Simon. 

The official statement from the airline said they “thoroughly” examined their electronic records and “found that upon receiving a notification that Flight 788 was delayed due to weather, the customer canceled her flight from Houston to Washington, D.C. within the United mobile app.”

The statement continued, “As part of the normal pre-boarding process, gate agents began clearing standby and upgrade customers, including the first customer on the waitlist for an upgrade. We were able to provide this customer a seat on the same flight in economy plus.” 

Simon rejects the explanation. 

“Why would I ever cancel the second segment?” Simon said Thursday. “United furnished no proof that I canceled it. And why didn’t I reserve another fight?”

Though United credited her 140,000 miles, what Simon really wants is an apology from the company’s top brass.  

She tweeted that a “low level employee at a call center” said sorry over the phone but that he hadn’t even been briefed on the details of her complaint.

She also took to Facebook on Wednesday asking where’s the proof she canceled her flight. 

Asked Thursday about the discrepancies between United’s and Simon’s accounts, a United official told Fox News that their records clearly show the flight leg was canceled via the app – and not by a gate agent or other third party.

The official said their internal coding reflects the flight was canceled roughly a half-hour before the original take-off time, after it was clear the flight would be delayed over an hour. The congresswoman was then tapped for the seat because she was at the top of the upgrade list thanks to her global services status, the official said.

Though Simon adamantly denies she canceled her flight, the official said it’s possible this could have been done accidentally.

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Trump slams China over reported North Korea oil sales: 'Caught RED HANDED'



President Trump slammed China on Thursday over the country’s reported illegal oil sales to North Korea, saying they’ve been caught “RED HANDED” and warning such incidents could diminish the odds of a “friendly solution” for Pyongyang.

“Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” Trump tweeted, while on a holiday break in Florida.

U.S. spy satellites reportedly captured photos of Chinese ships illegally selling oil to North Korean boats some 30 times since October. 


Satellite images released by the U.S. Department of Treasury appeared to show vessels from both countries illegally trading oil in the West Sea, The Chosun Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing South Korean government sources.


U.S. spy satellites have captured images of what appears to be Chinese ships illegally selling oil to North Korean boats.  (U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control)

North Korea was barred in September by the United Nations Security Council from importing natural gas and had its crude oil imports capped in response to Kim Jong Un’s nuclear missile program.

The U.S. Treasury in November also sanctioned North Korea’s Maritime Administration and its transport ministry, in addition to six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their vessels, in an effort to block the rogue regime’s transportation networks.

The satellite images appear to identify the ships. One of them — Rye Song Gang 1, seen “connected to a Chinese vessel” — was included in the Nov. 21 sanctions as a vessel of Korea Kumbyol Trading Company possibly transferring oil to evade sanctions.

While Russia exports some oil to North Korea, China is the main source of oil for the rogue nation, according to Reuters. However, the country’s records reportedly showed it exported no oil products to the North during the month of November. It was reportedly the second consecutive month China didn’t export diesel or gasoline to North Korea.


A government source told the South Korean newspaper that, “We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information following Chosun’s report, but said “the Chinese government has been completely and strictly enforcing Security Council resolutions” aimed at discouraging North Korea from developing nuclear and missile technology.

Fox News’ Nicolle Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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