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Archives: Nov. 2009

Nov.
30th

‘A cold, calculated crime’

Spc. Ivette Davila researched the effects of muriatic acid online. She asked her roommate to babysit the baby of the people she planned to kill. She went out the night of the killing to set up an alibi, and then planted a silenced pistol at the Parkland home of Staff Sgt. Timothy and Sgt. Randi Miller.

The Fort Lewis soldier then met the Millers at a downtown Tacoma bar, drank with them and returned to their house, where she killed both of them and kidnapped their 7-month-old daughter, Kassidy.

That’s the scenario that led to the deaths of the Millers on March 2, 2008, prosecutors said Monday on the first day of Davila’s Article 32 hearing.

“This wasn’t a crime of passion,” government attorney Capt. Dan Bentson said in his opening statement. “This was a cold, calculated crime.”

The defense, meanwhile, conceded many facts of the case but said the 23-year-old California native hasn’t been given the proper opportunity to mount a defense.

“The defense has never denied what happened that night,” attorney Maj. Carol Brewer said. “But because of many intervening causes, we’ve been unable to get to the real question, which is why.”
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Nov.
30th

Local links, Nov. 30

The Washington Times has an interesting story coming from last month’s embed with 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The soldiers seem to concur that they need more troops if the Afghanistan war can be won.

“What people at home don’t understand is that more guys would help out immensely,” Capt. Jeffery Givens told the newspaper. “More troops would assist with getting the security to where it needs to be out here. There are only so many of us. Send me your poor, your hungry and your bored, I say. We’ll take anyone we can take.”

Other local links:

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Nov.
28th

Legislation to help female veterans

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On duty in Afghanistan

The rule was clear: Other than the commander’s stenographer, women weren’t allowed on the top floor of the headquarters building.

For Margo Willis, a brand-new soldier in 1973 when the rule at Fort Meade, Md., was in place, the sexism was stinging.

“I will never forget that,” said Willis, who retired 20 from the service years later as a first sergeant and now lives in Tacoma. “Things have changed since then. They’ve changed tremendously.”

And with the United States fighting two wars with no defined front line and an enemy that uses indiscriminate bombing as its chief method of attack, the role of women in the military continues to evolve. But elected officials worry women face barriers to veterans benefits, especially health care.

“Once they get in, they see progress,” Sen. Patty Murray told The News Tribune in a phone interview last week. “But the barriers they face now mean they don’t always get the care they need.”

Murray, a Washington Democrat and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation aimed to improve access to care for female veterans. Her bill was rolled into the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health bill, which passed unanimously on Nov. 19.

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Nov.
27th

Local links, Nov. 27

Plenty of local links today:

448th Civil Affairs Battalion
Inside Our Schools: Dublin students’ school supply drive benefits students in Iraq [insidebayarea.com]

5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
Man fulfilled a childhood ambition by becoming a soldier [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
Hundreds gather in Terrell to honor fallen soldier [Dallas Morning News]
Saluting another fallen hero [Herald-Banner]
Heartfelt homecoming for fallen Terrell soldier [WFAA-TV]
Body Of Another Soldier Comes Home To Terrell [KTVT-TV]
City Patrol [DVIDS]
Thanksgiving in Afghanistan [DVIDS]
Monitor the Village [DVIDS]

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Nov.
26th

Coming together over turkey

Photo by Janet Jensen/The News Tribune
Photo by Janet Jensen/The News Tribune

The reservists are training to deploy to Iraq. The California National Guard soldiers are returning from a yearlong tour in Kosovo.

That meant another Thanksgiving away from family.

But, they said Thursday, they weren’t alone on the holiday.

Food servers – including guest appearances by members of the hospital’s command staff in dress uniform – dished up turkey, ham and roast beef for about 300 soldiers, patients, employees and family members at the Madigan Army Medical Center cafeteria.

The group of six soldiers sat around a table, cracking jokes, sharing stories and digging into turkey and mashed potatoes.

“I’ve missed three Thanksgivings with family in a row now,” said Spc. Jacob Miller, a Louisiana native set to deploy with a medical detachment. “So to be able to have friends in this unit and have the Army set this up, it means so much. It’s just beautiful.”

A comedian who has been performing at the hospital played smooth tunes on the keyboard. The dining area featured a large dessert spread and an ice swan sculpture.
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Nov.
25th

Report: New strategy for 5th Brigade

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On a foot patrol in Zabul province

The Fort Lewis Stryker brigade fighting in Afghanistan will be repositioned to secure the roads around the southern city of Kandahar, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Military commanders hope to create a security ring around the strategic city of 800,000 people; soldiers of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division would clear the roadways of bombs and illegal checkpoints.

The order could come as soon as this weekend, the newspaper reported.

It’s unclear if the new orders would affect the entire brigade, currently fanned out throughout Kandahar and Zabul provinces. A brigade spokesman did not reply to an e-mail from The News Tribune seeking more information.

The shift comes amid a larger strategy shift by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, to transition missions away from rural areas and focus on protecting larger cities and towns and days before President Barack Obama is expected to he will send an additional 20,000 to 40,000 troops to the country.
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Nov.
25th

Davila to face hearing Monday

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Spc. Ivette Davila, left

A Fort Lewis soldier accused of killing two other soldiers, pouring acid over their bodies and kidnapping their baby last year will appear at an Article 32 hearing Monday.

Spc. Ivette G. Davila is being tried in connection with the March 1, 2008, deaths of Staff Sgt. Timothy J. Miller and Sgt. Randi Miller, a married couple assigned to Fort Lewis medical units.

The 23-year-old California native faces premeditated murder, burglary, kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges. If convicted of all charges, she could be executed or face life in prison. She also could receive a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.

An Article 32 hearing is the military version of a grand-jury hearing. The prosecutors and defense present their evidence and question witnesses before an investigating officer, who will then make a recommendation on charges and level of court-martial. Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, the acting post commander, has the final say about what charges Davila will face and whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty.
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Nov.
25th

Local links, Nov. 25

Today’s front page of The News Tribune has a Fort Lewis flavor to it. There’s my story on the closure of the Fort Lewis Military Museum and the questions surrounding the death of Staff Sgt. Amy Tirador.

Other local links:

5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
Surge Targets Taliban Bastion [Wall Street Journal]
Body of another military hero to arrive at airport [Herald-Banner]