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Once at risk of extinction, iconic Warthog plane lives on

The Warthog is sitting pretty. Once on the brink of forced retirement, the A-10 attack plane with the ungainly shape and odd nickname has been given new life, spared by Air Force leaders who have reversed the Obama administration’s view of the plane as an unaffordable extra in what had been a time of tight budgets. In the 2018 Pentagon budget plan sent to Congress this week, the Air Force proposed to keep all 283 A-10s flying for the foreseeable future.

Three years ago, the Pentagon proposed scrapping the fleet for what it estimated would be $3.5 billion in savings over five years. Congress said no. The following year, the military tried again but said the retirement would not be final until 2019. Congress again said no. Last year, officials backed away a bit further, indicating retirement was still the best option but that it could be put off until 2022.

Now the retirement push is over, and the Warthog’s future appears secure.

“The world has changed,” said Maj. Gen. James F. Martin Jr., the Air Force budget deputy, in explaining decisions to keep aircraft once deemed expendable. The Air Force has similarly dropped plans to retire the iconic U-2 spy plane amid prospects for bigger budgets under President Donald Trump. It also reflects the relentless pace of operations for combat aircraft and surveillance and reconnaissance planes that feed intelligence data to war commanders. The service had complained for years that its inventory of aircraft was getting dangerously small and old. Gen. Mark Welsh, who retired as the top Air Force officer last year, was fond of describing the service as having 12 fleets of aircraft that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia.

The A-10 is a special case. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona who flew the A-10 in combat and commanded a squadron in Afghanistan, speaks of it with obvious affection.

“The A-10 is this badass airplane with a big gun on it,” she said she told Trump in a recent conversation, explaining why the Warthog is unlike any other attack aircraft. The “big gun” to which she refers is a seven-barrel Gatling gun that is nine feet long and fires 30mm armor-piercing shells at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. Also armed with Maverick missiles, the A-10 is effective not only in a conventional battle against tanks and other armored vehicles. It also provides close-air support for Iraqi and other U.S. partner forces taking on Islamic State fighters in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. A number of A-10s fly missions in Syria from Incirlik air base in Turkey.

McSally is among members of Congress for whom elimination of the Warthog carried political risks back home. Sen. John McCain, a fellow Arizona Republican, joined her in strenuously arguing against the plane’s early retirement. Arizona’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to an A-10 unit; retirement of the aircraft might have made Davis-Monthan more vulnerable to closure. A veteran of combat in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and beyond, the plane entered service in 1976. It is among Cold War-era icons like the venerable B-52 bomber that have exceeded expected lifespans and are likely to remain central to U.S. air campaigns for years to come.

Specially designed for the Cold War mission of attacking armor on the front lines of a potential European war with the Soviet Union, the A-10’s air crews considered it so ugly they called it the Warthog. Its official nickname is Thunderbolt II. The plane has been out of production since 1984 but has received many upgrades over the years, most recently with new electronics.

Still Haunted After a Case Goes Cold

The aftermath was different for each of her sons. Devin was so young, only 5 at the time of the killing, the shadow of his father s death just beginning to penetrate him.

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Shamel, the oldest son, 18 then, cradled memories of his superdad. He replayed his first recollection of his father, when he gave him candy. Shamel clamped up and took to bad habits. I was young and dumb, he said. I got high and I got drunk.

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Michael, who was 11, suffered recurring dreams. That night. Watching TV. Hearing gunshots. Rushing to the front porch. Seeing his father lying dead on the street.

He closed down and lost himself in basketball, which he had played with his father. When I played, my father was there, he said. I pretty much played sunup to sunset.

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For Ms. Gowins-Sowells, life became thin. She found herself getting testy. When her sons acted up, she wanted to hit them. Then she scolded herself, they re grieving, that s what it is.

She had to stop abiding the past, which had nothing left for her. New York, where the center of her life had gone missing, felt stifling. She needed to be someplace else.

The refuge she chose was Florence, S.C. Relatives lived there, but no jobs presented themselves. One day, while visiting a friend in Kentucky, she found work selling cellphones and settled in the town of Radcliff. After a while, she switched to an administrative position at a medical clinic.

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Lonely years ground by. Shamel disliked the transition. He returned to New York, started working at Popeyes and stayed with his aunt. Eventually he found a girlfriend, and they moved to Pennsylvania.

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That the killer was free filled Ms. Gowins-Sowells s mind with illogical possibilities. She worried that a friend of hers or even her sons might somehow become friends with the killer, unaware of what he had done. These unwilled thoughts haunted her.

Though she accepted a couple of dates, there was no magic and she backed away from romance.

She lost herself in her imagination. She wrote two romance novels, titillating stories, that she self-published. She conceived movie scripts. It diverted her, kept bad thoughts from slinking back into her head.

She sensed she was nearing the point of editing the killing from her life. Then one day she walked into a Walmart and spotted a man with dreadlocks. She got chills. She walked out.

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She knew to keep busy. She decided to start an organization that would conduct workshops to help survivors of unsolved killings, especially parents raising children of victims, people with jumbled lives like hers having trouble accepting that no one would pay. She named it the Keyz Organization[7] (her shorthand for caring eyes ). Figuring a big city would have a need, she moved to Atlanta. But she couldn t get funding.

Her life kept folding itself into that long ago July night. Wherever she went, she looked for the Honda. For the killer. Who knows, maybe he came to Florence. To Radcliff. To Atlanta. Made no sense, but this was how her mind now operated, rebelling against sense.

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She dearly wanted facts, some sequence that would make a coherent narrative of a Brooklyn night and would explain why she no longer had a husband.

She could do her workshops wherever she lived. Early last year, she decided it was time to return home and look for answers.

Photo Still Haunted After A Case Goes Cold Mr. Sowells and Ms. Gowins-Sowells with their children, Shamel, standing; Devin, on lap; and Michael circa 1997.

The lead detective on the case worked out of the 75th Police Precinct in Brooklyn. She had not spoken to him in years: Mark Brooks. Unable to get him on the phone, she went to the precinct.

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Detective Brooks had worked a lot of homicides in 32 years on the police force. Unsolved homicide cases are never closed, no matter how cold they get. A year or so ago, he had gone to Puerto Rico and made an arrest in a Brooklyn killing from 1989.

The detective told Ms. Gowins-Sowells that he remembered the case like yesterday. Remembered the immovable heat of the night. Remembered her sons and their tears. He had a good memory for cases.

But all he could give her were just smattered details.

Later, in an interview, Detective Brooks said that he spoke to more than five witnesses, and that they said a dispute over a parking space led to the killing. Within the first week, he said, he decided the case was going nowhere. Several months later, he revisited it and nothing new was there. Then you go on to the next one, he said.

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Ms. Gowins-Sowells had heard other theories, something circulated on the street, that it might have been a hit, that money was owed or drugs were involved. And that her brother, Kennedy Gowins, known as Leroy, was somehow connected. And that her husband had introduced her brother to a next-door neighbor, that the neighbor had been killed in the Bronx a year after her husband was.

A hit? Her husband? This version puzzled her and left her deeply unsettled. Was this the truth she was seeking?

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For sure there was turbulence in her family. Leroy Gowins had been living in Utica, N.Y., but he would come around. He had done time for drug possession but said he had abandoned that and was selling T-shirts and hats. Two days before her husband was killed, he had been shot in the head while being robbed in Utica. He survived but lost his sight. The police there had asked him if he knew anything about the Sowells killing and he said he didn t. He now lives in Brooklyn.

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Ms. Gowins-Sowells asked to see the police file on her husband but got nowhere.

She made call after call to the police, sensing they were uninterested. Once, without meaning to be clever, she even asked: When does it get to the point where I m harassing the police? I don t want to get to that point.

She found out nothing more. The case stood still.

On a recent weekday afternoon Ms. Gowins-Sowells lounged on a bench in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, a good place to clear her head. She basked in the unsparing sun, the sky bright as silver. Her heart unexpectedly had been giving her trouble and she had to be hospitalized, found herself in a partial coma, but now she was on the mend.

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She has a round, pleasant face and a mellifluous voice. Her light laugh comes easily on the right subjects. She cries readily when conversation switches to her dead husband.

In her reconfigured life, it had been hard getting her footing. Until she could afford her own place, she had been staying with relatives, and then with a good friend who lives alone in Far Rockaway, Queens, who said she should move in with her.

Michael, now 28, is working as a shift leader at a gas station in Chambersburg, Pa. He still has nightmares, especially on his father s birthday and the day of his death. He replays fond memories: The other day I was telling one of my brothers I remember he was always cleaning. We d wake up, it could be 7 a.m., and he would have breakfast cooking and he would have cleaned the house and he would even have a room or two painted.

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Shamel, now 35, works repairing iPhones in Carlisle, Pa. He thinks of his father all the time. He taught me the value of family, he said. He taught me how to handle money. You don t buy things you want. You buy things you need. I can t see myself buying $350 sneakers. I like paying bills. I check the mailbox to see if I ve got any bills. When I pay a bill, I feel happy.

He doesn t fixate on the killing and its lack of resolution. I ve moved on, he said. My mom needs closure. I don t. That s why I don t talk about it with her. When she brings it up, I try to change the subject.

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Devin, the youngest, is 21, a senior at the University of Kentucky.

For 16 years, Ms. Gowins-Sowells has lived without her husband. She was 32 when he was killed, and now she is 49. She has not remarried. She had gone on a grand total of three dates, love proving elusive. I don t mind dating, she said, but there are all these knuckleheads. I m not picky, but I want someone who I can hold an intelligent conversation with.

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HAMILTON Cast Members to Join Coast Guard in Honoring Founder Alexander Hamilton





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HAMILTON Cast Members To Join Coast Guard In Honoring Founder Alexander Hamilton

As part of Fleet Week New York, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton[1] will honor Coast Guard founder, Alexander Hamilton[2], and the namesake of their vessel, with a wreath laying ceremony at his grave, on the grounds of Trinity Church, Friday. Also in attendance will be cast members of the esteemed Broadway musical, Hamilton[3]. The wreath presentation will be by the U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team. The National Anthem will be preformed by Coast Guard Auxiliary Member, professional musician and bugler, Lou DiLeo. Invocation and benediction will be given by Mother Miles of Trinity Church. Alexander Hamilton[4]‘s humble beginnings began in New York City where he attended King’s College, now Columbia University. Hamilton[5] was General George Washington’s military aide de camp during the Revolutionary War and commanded the pivotal battalion charge at Yorktown forcing the British to surrender, effectively ending the war. In 1789, Hamilton[6] became Secretary of Treasury and crafted the effort to create the Revenue Cutter Service, which later became the modem day U.S. Coast Guard, much of which he accomplished while living in New York City.

Each of the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters are “Legend Class” cutters honoring a person who was pivotal in making the Coast Guard the service it is today. U.S. Coast Guard Cuter Hamilton[7] (WMSL 753) is the fourth Legend Class cutter and the sixth Coast Guard Cutter to bear Alexander Hamilton[8]‘s name.

The cutter Hamilton[9] is a 418-foot National Security cutter homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. This week CGC Hamilton[10] made her inaugural voyage to New York City, as a part of Fleet Week festivities. USCGC Hamilton[11] will be moored at Pier 92 in Manhattan for Fleet Week, Wednesday 24 May to Wednesday, 31 May and is open for tours daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

HAMILTON Cast Members To Join Coast Guard In Honoring Founder Alexander Hamilton

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