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Monday, Jul 28, 2014

Altman, Howard

Tribune Staff
Altman, Howard

POW recalls time in Stalag 7a and his run to freedom

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On Nov. 16, 1944, Albert Torchia, an Army private from Verona, Pennsylvania, was holed up with his squad from the 104th Division in a house in the German town of Stolberg.

Automated car takes test drive on Selmon Expressway

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Following behind a small phalanx of Audis traveling down an otherwise empty stretch of the Selmon Expressway’s elevated lanes, Kaushik Raghu takes his hands off the steering wheel of the gray 2012 Audi A7 with a v...

Pregnant woman, child die in shooting

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A pregnant Citrus County woman and the child she was carrying have died after the woman was shot in the head in what Hernando deputies are calling an accident at a friend’s home in Brooksville.

Woman escapes, dog dies in Riverview barn fire

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A Riverview woman escaped a fire in the pole barn where she was sleeping, but her small dog perished, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials say.

Socom change of command set for late August

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Army Gen. Joseph Votel will officially take the helm of U.S. Special Operations Command during a change of command ceremony Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center.

Senate approves Votel as Socom commander

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Joseph Votel, newly minted Army four-star general, will become the 10th commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Gen. Austin expresses concern about Iraq security

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After a 24-hour visit to Iraq where he met with senior U.S. officials and Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum, the commander of U.S. Central Command said he is “very concerned about the current security si...

St. Pete VA center camera riles union

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A week after a former employee and union official testified before congress about problems at the Veterans Benefits Administration St. Petersburg Regional Office, management installed a surveillance camera outside the of...

VA committee demands records from St. Pete

- Despite a demand from the House committee, the Veterans Benefits Administration in St. Petersburg failed to explain why it fired an employee days after he delivered a scathing report.

MacDill may get $32 million in upgrades for new jets

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MacDill Air Force Base will likely receive about $32 million in upgrades to accommodate eight new KC-135 refueling jets scheduled to arrive here over the next few years, according to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

MacDill among best bases in rankings by Air Force Times

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MacDill Air Force Base, the only military installation in the world home to two U.S. combatant commands, may be loved in the Tampa area, but it was tied for sixth best in

Rebels might have thought jet was military, Ukrainian colonel at MacDill says

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TAMPA — The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine might have happened because Russian-backed separatists thought the passenger plane was a military aircraft, a colonel in the Ukraine army s...

DigitalGlobe training satellites on Ukraine

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DigitalGlobe, a satellite imagery company with an office in Tampa, is training its eyes in the sky on Ukraine as the result of a passenger plane Ukrainian authorities say was shot down with nearly 300 passengers and crew...

Friends, family say farewell to St. Petersburg veteran

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As thunder boomed, lightning crackled and an honor guard fired volleys into the air, family and friends gathered around a kiosk at the Bay Pines National Cemetery to bid a final farewell to a beloved soldier.

Director tops salary list at VA St. Pete Regional Office

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The highest paid employee of the Veteran Benefits Administration’s St. Petersburg Regional Office — the nation’s busiest VA claims processing center — has a salary of $152,536, according to in...

Testimony: VA criticism led to St. Pete layoff

- Javier Soto, a former VA specialist in St. Pete who was among those to appear before a House committee, testified about his experience at the office and problems there.

VA salaries, bonuses plentiful in Tampa area

- When it comes to compensation, the Bay area has some of the best compensated Veterans Affairs employees. Many are physicians earning more than $350,000 a year.

New leader takes command of MacDill refueling wing Sunday

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Command of the 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base will be changing hands Sunday at 9 a.m.

Lawyers needed to help veterans cut red tape

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St. Petersburg-based lawyer Matt Weidner devotes a good deal of time helping veterans navigate the legal system.

Family, dogs barely escape early morning house fire in Tampa

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TAMPA — Mikesha Shaw was sleeping on the couch by the window of her home at 207 W. 26th Ave. when she felt heat.

Flags, fun and patriotism abound at Brandon parade

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BRANDON — Trent and Addison English sat on yellow plastic chairs, waved red, white and blue American flags and had no real idea of the significance of the events swirling around them.

Tampa area mourns death of popular wounded soldier

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Ever since returning from Afghanistan, where he was severely injured when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in 2010, Army Sgt. Thongpane Thongdeng touched a lot of lives in the area’s military communi...

Vet meets official from threat investigation

- Days after armed agents showed up investigating whether he made a threat against a top Veterans Administration official, St. Pete veteran Michael Henry met with that official to discuss his care.

Haley VA hospital opens new day room

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Army Spc. Jeffery Scott Jr., his wheelchair tucked under the new air hockey table, smiles as the little green plastic disk comes whizzing toward him, fired, no less, by a member of Congress.

Vet: Armed VA agents were ‘antagonistic’

- The VA says he threatened the Bay Pines hospital director on the phone. He denies that, saying agents pushed their way into his home and told him they would “slow-walk” his claims.

Socom commander McRaven to retire

- Adm. William McRaven, a Navy SEAL and the head of Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, has had his request for retirement approved after a 37-year career.

New Tampa group advocates for special operations

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— The images showing on CNN at the Tampa Club feature two very different developments: President Barack Obama explaining why he is sending commandos into Iraq while the text cra...

Funding has major impact at MacDill

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As always when something emanates out of the nation’s capital relating to defense or intelligence, I parse it for the effect on Tampa. With two military commands headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base that overse...

Kelley returns to MacDill for retirement ceremony

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TAMPA — U.S. Central Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, is a busy place these days, what with Iraq under siege, Syria’s revolution and a war set to wind down in Afghanistan.

Votel tapped to lead Socom at MacDill

- Army Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, has been nominated to be promoted to general and replace Adm. William McRaven.

An inside perspective on U.S. strategy in Iraq

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Is it a good idea to send Green Berets and other special operators into Iraq?

For Tampa satellite firm, business is looking down

- From the eighth floor of a Tampa office building with a stunning view of Derek Jeter’s sprawling manse jutting out onto Old Hillsborough Bay, a company that owns five satellites — and is about to launch a sixth ...

Oliver North discusses Mideast while on latest book tour

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Oliver North, one of the most controversial and colorful U.S. military officers of the past century, is coming to Tampa.

Defense spending in Florida down 20 percent since 2010

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With the war in Iraq over, the war in Afghanistan winding down, and downward spending pressures on the Pentagon, the Florida defense industry is feeling the squeeze.

Marcent gets new commander in MacDill ceremony

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On his first day at his new job as commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie has a lot on his plate.

Vandals deface Bergdahl sign at Tampa park

- A sign at the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum, calling for the safe return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was defaced when someone painted the word “desertion” on it, park officials say.

Military spouses pursuing politics in their soldier’s stead

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“All politics,” as Tip O’Neill once said, “is local.” And nobody knows that better than a group of people for whom the word local is very often a relative term.

Veterans heartbroken over Iraq chaos

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Mike Jernigan can't watch fighters from an al-Qaida splinter group push closer to Baghdad.

Q&A: Lissner on Centcom coalition’s future

- Danish Brig. Gen. Frank Lissner, new chief of Centcom’s international coalition, discusses what’s next in Afghanistan, the Snowden case, the Taliban’s resurgence and other topics.

U.S. considering evacuation of embassy in Baghdad

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With the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria advancing toward Baghdad, the State Department is drawing up contingency plans for a possible evacuation of the U.S. Embassy there, according to a spokesman for U.S....

Centcom funding a Pentagon challenge as war nears end

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As the command responsible of overseeing two wars, U.S. Central Command saw huge increases in personnel and budget at its MacDill Air Force Base headquarters after 9/11.

Audit flags Pinellas VA health center

- The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center is one of eight facilities in the region requiring further review as the result of a nationwide audit of VA medical centers.

Some areas of U.S. have amnesia regarding war in Afghanistan

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We talked about the incident and sources and how every crooked trail seems to lead to Tampa, often a very sunny place for very shady people.

Mattis: No evidence of Bergdahl collusion with Taliban

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During his time in Tampa as commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James Mattis said he saw no evidence to confirm that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released in a prisoner swap last week, collaborated with his captor...

Greatest Generation locals recall D-Day

- Three Tampa-area World War II veterans, who are part of a dwindling number, have never met. But they share a bond that fewer and fewer will ever know.

Veterans tell their VA woes at Bilirakis’s town hall meeting

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One by one, veterans or their relatives told about the problems they’ve experienced dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Painful memories stirred by Bergdahl release

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Penny Rauhuff was watching television last week in her Spring Hill home when she saw something that made her turn off the set.

Jolly: Black Hawks to MacDill a ‘win-win’

- St. Pete’s airport will get fixed-wing aircraft company when the helicopters move across the bay, a scenario arranged by Rep. David Jolly and the head of U.S. Army Reserve.

Haley VA hospital working to mend staff morale, speed care

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Hours after Eric Shinseki resigned as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the director of the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital sent a memo to staff.

Reaction: VA problems will remain despite Shinseki resignation

- Tampa-area residents who either work at or with the VA say the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday is only the first step on a long road to reform.