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Latest deployments to Middle East a source of pride, worry for …

Latest Deployments To Middle East A Source Of Pride, Worry For ...

Gov. Chris Sununu talks with Master Sgt. T.J. Hackett, left, and his son, Senior Airman Travis Hackett, as the two prepare to deploy to the Middle East next month. (Courtesy of Staff Sgt. Curtis Lenz)

Latest Deployments To Middle East A Source Of Pride, Worry For ... An airman with the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Security Forces Squadron listens during a ceremony Sunday to honor him and 28 other airmen who will deploy to the Middle East next month. (Jason Schreiber)
NEWINGTON Master Sgt. T.J. Hackett of Durham hopes he has a chance to catch up with his son when both are deployed to the Middle East next month.

The 55-year-old Hackett is with the New Hampshire Air National Guard s 157th Security Forces Squadron; his son, Travis, 22, is deployed to the region as a senior airman with the 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The father and son were together Sunday for a ceremony recognizing the 29 airmen from the 157th Security Forces Squadron based at Pease Air National Guard Base as they prepare for the upcoming deployment, which will involve providing security at six air bases throughout the region. The younger Hackett said he learned that he would be heading out on a six-month deployment about two weeks after his dad found out that he would be deployed on the same day for the same length of time.

We ll probably see each other in transit when we re flying to whichever location he s going to or I m going to, Travis said.

The dual deployments won t be easy for Christine Hackett, a teacher at Oyster River Middle School who will be thinking of her husband and only child every day and hoping for their safe return.

I know that both of them have wanted to go. I know that it s something that they re very passionate about. I m very proud of them, but at the same time I think it s going to be a long six months, she said.

She s as much of a warrior as we are, said T. J. Hackett, a retired New Hampshire State Police trooper. The sacrifice made by the military families left at home was mentioned by several who spoke at Sunday s ceremony, including military leaders and Gov. Chris Sununu, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Congressman Annie Kuster. The ceremony also celebrated the 281 airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing who have deployed this year.

When you think about it, most families in America are waking up and figuring out, Are we going to go to the lake? Are we going to go to the ocean? Are we going to have a barbecue today? Not many of them are saying goodbye to a loved one to go to war, said Major Gen. William Reddel III, adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard.

Reddel said it was important to hold the ceremony to remind people that the nation is still at war.

Aug. 2, 1990. That s when this unit started to go to war and we haven t stopped yet, he said, referring to U.S. military operations during the Gulf War and in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now the war on ISIS. Next month s deployment will be the fourth for some members of the unit.

Our nation has made extraordinary demands on you and your families, Shaheen said. Sgt. Andrew Ducharme, 23, of Weare, is one of the 29 airmen deploying next month. It will be his first deployment.

He said he s excited about the opportunity, but admitted that it will be difficult to be away from his family.

It will be a good experience and a good building block, he said. Ducharme was joined by his family, including his grandmother, Annette Ducharme, 75, of Amherst.

I m feeling sad, but I m proud of him and I m thankful that there are young men and women who are willing to sacrifice for us because that s why we have our freedom, she said. Technical Sgt. Jared McGouldrick, 35, of Belgrade, Maine, will leave behind his wife, Caitlin, and 3-year-old son, Colin.

I ve got a lot going on right now. I m trying to get everything buttoned up for my civilian job before I head out the door, he said.

His wife said their son is really too young to understand what s happening, but they had a pillow made with his dad s picture on it to remind Colin of his father.

We re just trying to talk to him about how daddy s going to leave and daddy s at work. It s going to be tough, but you ve gotta do what you ve gotta do, she said.

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UA grad to probe collision for Navy

A Little Rock native and graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, will lead the U.S. Navy’s investigation into the June 17 collision of a Philippine-flagged container ship with the USS Fitzgerald, which resulted in the deaths of seven sailors. The Navy named Rear Adm. Brian Fort as the lead investigator Friday. Fort is commander of Navy Region Hawaii and commander of Naval Surface Group Middle Atlantic. Fort graduated from Little Rock Catholic High School in 1985 and the UA in 1989, receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

He earned a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College, according to a biography of him at Fort is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College. The collision occurred on a clear night about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, when the ACX Crystal crashed nose-first into the Fitzgerald’s right side, according to the Navy. The 29,060-ton ACX Crystal is about four times the size of the Fitzgerald, which is a guided-missile destroyer. The Fitzgerald suffered severe damage, including a large puncture below the ship’s waterline, opening the hull to the sea, according to a news release. The collision caused rapid flooding of three compartments that included two berthing areas for 116 of the 300 crew members on the ship.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan, held a news conference Sunday saying there may be several investigations of the collision. Fort is leading what is known as the Manual of the Judge Advocate General investigation.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation,” Aucoin said. “We recognize that there are other organizations who have equities in this incident, and we expect they will conduct their own separate investigations. … I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last.”

According to a news article from the U.S. Naval Institute, Fort’s job will be to guide investigators who are collecting data from the ship, interview the crew and evaluate other details. Fort’s past assignments include command of the Norfolk, Va.-based USS Gonzalez, command of Destroyer Squadron 26 — serving as the sea combat commander for the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group — and command of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit at Ballston Spa, N.Y. He also served as executive officer of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, S.C., as the Navy Federal Executive Fellow at the George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs.

Fort graduated in 1981 from Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic School in Little Rock, which has pupils from preschool through eighth grade. According to a post on the school’s Facebook page, Fort is married to the former Kelli Laine Simpson, who is a 1986 graduate of Mount Saint Mary Academy in Little Rock and a 1990 graduate of the UA, Fayetteville, with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. They have two daughters. Madison is a graduate of Texas A&M University, and Olivia is a student at Virginia Tech University, according to the post.

Metro on 06/24/2017

Islamic group, WV faith leaders call for vigilance after attacks

Islamic Group, WV Faith Leaders Call For Vigilance After Attacks

Courtesy Hassanen Family via AP

Nabra Hassanen

The Islamic Association of West Virginia and several religious leaders are asking West Virginians to be vigilant of all that is evil and promote love, two days after a Muslim teenager was beaten to death in Virginia and a day after an attack against Muslims leaving a mosque in London. Nabra Hassanen, 17, was beaten to death in Fairfax County early Sunday morning. She and a group of friends were returning to a mosque in Fairfax County, after leaving in the early morning hours to eat at a nearby McDonald s.

The Muslim community and the entire interfaith community of Charleston are devastated and heartbroken at the loss of this innocent life resulting from such a violent hate crime, the statement, sent by Ibtesam Sue Barazi of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, says. The Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] have seen an increased number of attacks against Muslims, specifically women who wear head covers, in recent months.

We in the greater Charleston interfaith community hold Hassanen, her family, and friends in our thoughts and prayers. Although we are facing difficult and challenging times, we continue to work together to build a community that is safe and just for all people, regardless of color, religious belief, life choice or ethnic heritage. Fairfax police say Hassanen s killer got into an argument with a teen on a bike, and then drove his car up over a curb and chased the teenagers. He allegedly attacked the 17-year-old with a baseball bat, abducted her and then dumped her body in a pond near his apartment complex.

Police have described the killing as likely a road rage incident and said that no one had accused the assailant of using racial or other slurs during the incident. Her family, noting that the girls were wearing head covers, have said they believe she was targeted because of her faith tradition. The statement also comes a day after a terrorist attack against Muslims in Finsbury Park, in North London. Nine people were taken to the hospital after a man drove a van into worshippers near a mosque Monday night. Makram Ali, 51, who had collapsed before the attack, died at the scene.

We in the greater Charleston interfaith community condemn all hate crimes, including this horrific hate crime, the Finsbury Park mosque attack on worshipers leaving after prayers, the statement says. We pledge to continue to work together to build a community that is safe and just to all people regardless of color, religious beliefs, life choices or ethnic heritage.

We ask everyone in the Kanawha Valley and West Virginia to be vigilant of all that is evil, promote love, and work toward the common good. Let us continue to work together to remove imaginary walls that divide and continue to build a diverse community that loves and respects the dignity of every human being. The Rev. Jeff Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, the Rev. Marquita Hutchens, of St. John s Episcopal Church; the Rev. Kay Albright, of Bridges of Grace United Church of Christ; Rabbi Victor Urecki, of B nai Jacob Synagogue; and the Rev. Sky Kershner, executive director of the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center, signed on to the statement.

CAIR, which plans to open a West Virginia office[1], has said it collected 1,409 bias incidents nationwide in 2015 and 2,213 incidents in 2016, a 57 percent increase. Bias incidents included harassment, employment issues, abuse by the federal government, hate crimes and denial of religious accommodations. CAIR collects the information through self-reports from the victims and media monitoring. Civil rights groups and news outlets also reported a spike in anti-Muslim incidents after the 2016 election. Ramadan, a Muslim holy month, ends Saturday. Barazi, who is vice president of the Islamic Association, said that the Muslim community has been on high alert during the month, which she described as a time of fasting, devotion, patience, mercy and prayers.

Basra Fakhir, security officer for the mosque in South Charleston, spends much of the rest of his time at the mosque, when he is not working at BridgeValley Community and Technical College as director of public safety.

It really puts people at ease, he said. Neither Barazi nor Fakhir were aware of any recent anti-Muslim incidents in West Virginia.

We re not just focusing on Islamaphobia, he said. That is nothing new to me. It s more the fact we want to have the safest environment, and we want everybody to feel safe. Reach Erin Beck at

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