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Army Takes a Steady, Cautious Approach to Women in Infantry

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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 legal@newscred.com.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Governors pull National Guard troops from border to protest Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy

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A group of governors are banding together to protest President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy as the uproar over the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border continues. Some are withdrawing National Guard troops from the south, while others are pledging to withhold resources.

In April, Trump requested National Guard troops — around 2,000 to 4,000 — be deployed to the southern border. His order invoked a federal law called Title 32, under which governors retain command and control of Guard members from their states.

Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and Missouri were among the first states to agree to the president’s request. At the time, governors from those surrounding states praised Trump for his commitment toward protecting the border.

WHAT TRUMP’S ‘ZERO-TOLERANCE’ IMMIGRATION POLICY MEANS FOR CHILDREN SEPARATED FROM FAMILIES AT BORDER

“Missourians are grateful to the President for recognizing the need to secure our borders,” former Gov. Eric Greitens, R-Mo., said at the time. “We are proud that Missouri troops will play a support role in guarding against terrorism, protecting Americans from cartel violence, and enforcing our immigration laws.”

“Anything we can do to further bolster these efforts is good news for Arizona and for our national security,” Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., agreed.

But some governors, both Republican and Democrat, have since changed their positions after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a “zero-tolerance” policy in April, which has resulted in the separation of nearly 2,000 children from their families within a 6-week period.

TRUMP’S NATIONAL GUARD REQUEST FOR US-MEXICO BORDER DRAWS RESPONSE FROM SURROUNDING STATES

Here’s a list of states that are refusing to send National Guard troops and other resources to the U.S.-Mexico border as of June 19.

Colorado

In a June 18 executive order, Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., forbid state agencies from providing any resources “for the purpose of separating children from their parents or legal guardians on the sole ground that their families are in violation of federal immigration laws.”

Hickenlooper called the separation of children from their parents at the border “cruel” and “un-American,” adding that it threatens kids’ mental and physical health.

The order says state agencies must adhere to federal law, providing services to anyone who is legally entitled despite their immigration status.

“We urge the administration to stop this cruel practice. If the White House won’t act, Congress should. No political end is worth destroying families and traumatizing children,” Hickenlooper said, urging lawmakers to support the Keep Families Together Act.

Maryland

“Immigration enforcement efforts should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families,” Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., said in a June 18 tweet. The next day, Hogan ordered four crew members and a helicopter to return to its station in New Mexico.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Mass., canceled plans to send a helicopter and military analysts to back up border patrol due to the “inhumane treatment of children,” his spokeswoman told The Washington Post on June 19.

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., said Trump’s immigration policies are resulting in “human tragedy” — and New York will have no part in it.

“In the face of the federal government’s inhumane treatment of immigrant families, New York will not deploy National Guard to the border,” Cuomo said in a June 18 statement.

The next day, Cuomo announced he was filing a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump administration for “violating the Constitutional rights of immigrant children and their families” who have been detained and separated at the border. The governor said there are at least 70 children currently being held in federal facilities in his state alone.

Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., ordered four National Guard soldiers and one helicopter to return from the southwest on June 19.

“Virginia benefits from the important work of securing our border and we have a responsibility to contribute to that mission. However, we also have a responsibility to stand up to policies or actions that run afoul of the values that define us as Americans,” he said in an online statement.

Northam said the state would be willing to return resources to the border once the Trump administration puts an end to its current “inhumane” immigration policy.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What was Dinesh D'Souza charged with? A look at the conservative filmmaker Trump plans to pardon

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President Trump announced plans to give conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution in 2014, a “full pardon” on Wednesday.

D’Souza, 57, pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud after donating $20,000 to New York politician Wendy Long, a Republican, during her Senate race in 2012. He was indicted two years later, in January 2014, for using a “straw donor,” a person who makes illegal contributions to a campaign in the names of others, to make the donation.

As a result, D’Souza was sentenced to five years probation, eight months in a “community confinement center,” weekly counseling sessions and given a $30,000 fine.

TRUMP TO GIVE ‘FULL PARDON’ TO DINESH D’SOUZA

“He was treated very unfairly by our government!” Trump said in a tweet Wednesday, which was then retweeted by D’Souza.

At the time, D’Souza’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told The Washington Post in a statement that D’Souza did not have any “criminal intent” — it was simply an “act of misguided friendship.”

“He and the candidate have been friends since their college days,” Brafman explained to the newspaper. “It is important to note that the indictment does not allege a corrupt relationship between Mr. D’Souza and the candidate.”

HOW DO PRESIDENTIAL PARDONS WORK?

D’Souza will become the fifth person Trump has pardoned since taking office, following behind former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s aide Scooter Libby and the late Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black heavyweight champion.

Here’s what you need to know about the charges D’Souza faced.

What was he charged with?

D’Souza was charged with one count of illegally donating to a Senate campaign and one count of causing false statements to be made to authorities in connection with the contributions.

“D’Souza attempted to illegally contribute over $10,000 to a Senate campaign, wilfully undermining the integrity of the campaign finance process. Like many others before him, of all political stripes, he has had to answer for this crime – here with a felony conviction,” then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement in September 2014.

DINESH D’SOUZA GOT A FELONY CONVICTION FOR ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN DONATIONS; WILL ROSIE O’DONNELL GET THE SAME TREATMENT?

In 2012, the Federal Election Campaign Act limited campaign contributions to $5,000 from “any individual to any one candidate,” the indictment stated.

D’Souza gave Long $5,000 from himself and another $5,000 from his wife in March 2012. Months later, he asked others — an assistant and romantic interest — to donate to Long’s campaign on behalf of themselves and their spouses, promising to later reimburst them $20,000 in cash, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement online.

“When confronted by Ms. Long, D’Souza initially misled the candidate before admitting what he had done,” the statement adds.

D’Souza’s actions caused the campaign committee to submit “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to the Federal Election Commission regarding the sources of the campaign contributions.

In total, Long’s campaign raised less than $1 million for her losing fight against now Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., The Washington Post reported.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cuomo's 'open letter' to Trump after Texas school shooting slammed on Twitter: 'YOU do something'

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Hours after a gunman opened fire in a Texas high school classroom, killing at least 10 people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter demanding President Trump “DO SOMETHING.” After listing seven mass shootings in a tweet to Trump, Cuomo, a Democrat, then drafted a letter.

The May 18 “open letter” calls on Trump, the House of Representatives and the Senate to take action.

“When is enough enough?” Cuomo asks. “How many more innocent people have to die before you act?”

Cuomo, who boasted about his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), told the polticians to put their country first.

“You were elected to do something – do something. Your first responsibility is to the people of the United States, not the NRA – do something,” Cuomo repeated. “My heart breaks for the families who have to grieve from this needless violence – DO SOMETHING.”

AFTER TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING LEAVES SEVERAL DEAD, HUNT FOR EXPLOSIVES CONTINUES

The letter, signed by Cuomo — who dubbed himself the “father of Cara, Mariah and Michaela, taxpayer, Governor of New York, NRA ‘F’ Rated Elected Official” — garnered more than 665 retweets by Friday evening and received dozens of fiery replies.

Several Twitter users lectured Cuomo for allegedly not offering any solutions himself, while others told him he should instead focus on New York’s issues.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck.”

– Twitter user

“This isn’t about you, it’s like you can’t help yourself. You were elected to help NYS, so NYers should be your priority. Sincerely, an ACTUAL taxpayer of NYS, commuter (when the trains work) and NRA member,” one Twitter user replied.

“Why don’t YOU do something in the State of NY that is so terrific that the rest of the States in the USA will follow? IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO LEAD!” another added.

“You’re the elected official. What’s your plan? Don’t just pass the buck,” one user wrote.

“Oh, like NYC is a crimeless utopia. Governor, DO SOMETHING,” another demanded.

Some people suggested Cuomo was “politicizing” the tragedy in order to boost his own popularity among voters — with at least one user calling it his “2020 audition.”

TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING SPARKS REACTION FROM TRUMP, OTHER LAWMAKERS: ‘THIS HAS TO STOP’

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?” one person asked.

“Really? You’re using this horrible massacre for your campaign? NRA F rated could have been left out of this tweet,” another added.

“Andy, STOP making it so obvious that you are running for Prez in 2020 with your ‘new found voice’ on Twitter!” a Twitter user added.

“Nice to politicize a tragedy. So while we’re going there, who were the presidents during all of these shootings?”

– Twitter user

In particular, many users took issue with Cuomo labeling himself a “taxpayer.”

“You are a Taxpayer rated F official as well,” one user commented.

“Taxpayer? Tax Spender Extraordinaire is more like it,” another jabbed.

However, a handful of people did offer Cuomo some support, echoing his comments to Trump and other lawmakers.

SANTA FE, TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT RECOUNTS HORRIFIC SHOOTING

New York Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda wrote, “Couldn’t agree more Governor.”

“I agree, Congress is failing our children,” one man responded.

Trump spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Friday afternoon to “offer his condolences for those affected by the shooting at Santa Fe High School,” an official told Fox News. He later addressed the nation, asking government officials to work together to prevent similar tragedies.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said. “Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe.”

Trump announced in late March that the administration would ban bump stocks and “all devices” that turn otherwise legal weapons into “illegal machine guns,” keeping a promise made amid a bipartisan gun control debate just weeks after 17 students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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