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DoD quietly tightens tuition assistance rules

Force-wide changes to the military's Tuition Assistance program may require troops to pay back their TA money if they perform poorly in class.

Service members taking undergraduate courses will have to achieve a grade of C or higher, and those taking graduate-level classes must obtain a grade of B or higher, or else they will be subject to "recoupment" and may have to pay out-of-pocket cash retroactively for the class's costs, according to an internal policy change that Defense Department officials approved July 7 but did not publicly announce.

Service members who receive a grade of "I" for incomplete will have to repay their TA money if they fail to complete the class and convert the "I" into a satisfactory grade.

Robins offering buyouts to workers

Robins offering buyouts to workers

Robins Air Force Base is accepting buyout applications from up to 100 civilian employees, part of a new round of Air Force budget-cutting.

In a news release Friday, the base said selected workers will be offered incentives of up to $25,000 for early retirement and separation.

The base recently said it may eliminate up to 258 jobs at its Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, about a quarter of the jobs there.

The reductions are a part of an Air Force program to eliminate 3,459 positions, the news release states. They say the cuts would save $1.6 billion over the next four years.

Robins says it will accept applications from up to 15 specialties, including human resources,budget analysts and material handlers.

The base says they will approve fewer than 100 buyouts, and those workers must leave by Sept. 30.

Robins AFB ranks 25th in "Best Bases for Airmen"

No matter the service, no matter the era, one of the favorite pastimes of troops has always been comparing duty stations — griping about the lousy ones and singing the praises of the good ones.

Air Force Times is weighing in on this argument with the best tool at our disposal: cold, hard stats. We've looked at 68 stateside Air Force bases and their surrounding communities, and pulled together data on a dozen factors — everything from school quality to the local economy, crime rates to traffic, and climate to on-base amenities, such as commissaries.

And when we tallied up the results, some surprising bases rose to the top of our list. Our top five bases may not get a lot of attention or be as glamorous a posting as, say, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. But they are diamonds in the rough and provide good places for airmen to raise families and entertain themselves, as they serve their country.

DoD still hasn't released final 2013 suicide numbers

In 2012, the U.S. military hit a record for the number of suicides among troops on active duty — 319 — since the Pentagon began closely tracking the numbers in 2001.

Preliminary Pentagon figures issued early this year indicated that figure dropped in 2013 to 261.

But no one outside the Defense Department knows for sure.

That's because as of July 17, DoD has not released any official suicide data for the fourth quarter of 2013. Neither has it published suicide data for the first two quarters of this year.

The data has been further obscured in the wake of a Pentagon decision last year to be the sole source of the information, instead of the individual services, as well as a move by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office to redefine the methodology for calculating rates and exclude previously counted suicides among mobilized National Guard and reserve troops.

Airman run over, killed during Fort Bragg training exercise

An airman was run over and killed during a training exercise Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The airman, whose name was not released pending notification of family, was run over by a government vehicle about 10:45 a.m., according to a news release from the base.

The incident is under investigation, the release said. No other information was immediately available.

Bergdahl's attorney also fought for Army captain in espionage case

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has retained a high-profile attorney — the same lawyer who defended Capt. James Yee, a Muslim Army chaplain cleared in an espionage probe a decade ago.

Bergdahl's lawyer is Eugene Fidell, a Yale Law School scholar, prominent military legal expert and a co-founder and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

The Army is investigating the circumstances that led to Bergdahl's disappearance and capture, probing allegations that Bergdahl walked off his remote post in Afghanistan without authorization before militants seized him. After five years in captivity, Bergdahl was freed May 31 as part of a controversial exchange with the Taliban for five militants who were in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Senate panel votes to keep A-10 flying

Senate panel votes to keep A-10 flying

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee has joined the House and the Senate Armed Services committees in protecting the A-10.

The subcommittee, in approving its version of the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill on Tuesday, included $338 million to maintain the A-10 fleet, which the Air Force has proposed cutting to save money.

The bill now goes to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for approval. Both the Senate and House Armed Services committees authorized funding for the A-10 in their versions of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

The House Appropriations Committee, however, voted June 10 to block an amendment protecting the A-10. The amendment, offered by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., would have transferred $339.3 million from other parts of the Air Force's operations and maintenance budget to keep the jet flying.