July 1, 2015

Charleston-based airlift squadron inactivated as part of budget cutbacks

A pair of C-17 Globemaster III's take from Joint Base Charleston during exercises last month (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Nicholas Byers)

A pair of C-17 Globemaster III’s take off from Joint Base Charleston during exercises last month (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Nicholas Byers)

An aircraft ferrying squadron dating back to World War II, but perhaps best known for flying C-17 cargo planes out of Joint Base Charleston the past two decades, has now been grounded.

Leaders of the 17th Airlift Squadron held an inactivation ceremony at the base on Thursday, as the unit’s flags were folded a final time. The squadron was the victim of Pentagon budget cuts under a spending plan approved last year. A second unit based at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington state was also inactivated as part of the realignment. The Air Force estimates the cost savings will be around $110 million each year.

“In this fiscally constrained environment, we have to balance readiness, capability and capacity,” Major Gen. Michael Stough, director of Air Mobility Command strategic plans, requirements and programs, said back in December.

This week actually marks the second time the squadron has been deactivated. It was reinstated and moved to Charleston in 1987 and became the first unit to fly the C-17A Globemaster III planes in the early 1990s. It made history again when it established the first fully-formed C-17 squadron as support during the War in Afghanistan, according to an announcement from military leaders.

The unit first started as the 17th Air Corps Ferrying Squadron in 1942. It went through several name and mission changes during its time in California until it was inactivated a first time in 1969. The modern unit was part of the 437th Airlift Wing based at Charleston.

The squadron’s eight C-17 cargo jets stationed at Joint Base Charleston will be placed on backup status as part of the inactivation.

Citadel board votes to remove Confederate naval jack from chapel

The flag is one of 57 that flies inside the school's chapel (Image: Russell Pace/ The Citadel)

The flag is one of 57 that flies inside the school’s chapel (Image: Russell Pace/ The Citadel)

In light of the controversy surrounding the display of Confederate battle flag, The board of visitors for The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston made a historic decision.

The news was first reported by WCSC-TV in Charleston.

The Citadel’s board voted 9-3 Tuesday night to remove the Confederate naval jack from its on-campus Summerall chapel. The vote is only the first step, as the state General Assembly must give final approval for the flag’s removal under the 2000 Heritage Act. The school’s trustees are mostly appointed by the legislature.

The vote came six days after a gunman killed nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church less than two miles southeast of campus. The gunman’s white supremacist views and witness testimony that he’d told the victims he killed them because they were black has sparked protests against Confederate flag usage across the South.

“The Emanuel AME Church is our neighbor and we consider it a part of our extended Citadel family,” Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a statement. “We will continue to support the church and its members in their time of need.” Rosa said now is the right time to move the flag from a place of worship to an appropriate location..

The Confederate naval jack is one of 57 flags that fly inside the school’s Summerall Chapel. The school says it was donated by The Citadel Yacht Club to the chapel’s namesake former President Gen. Pelot Summerall in 1939.

The flag’s presence has generated minor controversy in the past. Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby, a Citadel alum, unsuccessfully tried last year to withhold funding from the school until it removed the flag.

Jay Harper contributed to this report

New video shows arrest of Charleston church shooting suspect

Dashcam video released Tuesday shows Roof's arrest last week (Image: Shelby Police)

Dashcam video released Tuesday shows Roof’s arrest last week (Image: Shelby Police)

New dashboard camera footage and 911 audio released Tuesday provides more context around the arrest of 21-year-old Dylann Roof last week, although it does not appear to show any major new information that was not already known.

The video appears to corroborate Shelby, NC Police accounts that Roof did not resist arrest and was discovered to have a gun in his possession when he was caught on June 18.

AUDIO: 911 call that led Shelby Police to Roof’s car (0:48)

The 911 call released Wednesday shows a caller (believed to be the owner of a nearby florist) telling the dispatcher “a friend of a friend” had spotted a vehicle and driver “matching the description of the Charleston shooter.” Previous reports have identified that “friend” as Gastonia native Debbie Dillis and the caller as her boss Todd Frady.

“It’s a black Hyundai with a South Carolina tag, white male, bowl haircut, early 20s with a tag matching the description of the one on the front of the car,” the caller said.

Not long afterwards, Shelby Police pull the Hyundai over at an intersection just west of town. Two officers approach the car with guns drawn and order Roof to turn off the car while keeping his hands on the wheel. Eventually they order Roof out of the car and handcuff him. He is then searched and eventually led to the patrol car. An incident report states Roof had provided his license and immediately told them who he was when the officers walked up. However, a third officer moved in front of the camera at the point when the report said that would have occurred.

After Roof is taken away, at least one officer can be seen excitedly clapping his hands and high-fiving his colleagues.

Shelby Police had said they arrested Roof at the intersection of US Highway 74 and Plato Lee Road, roughly 240 miles northwest of Charleston. He was arrested the morning after Charleston Police say he killed nine people at an Emanuel AME Church Bible study in downtown Charleston. He waived extradition and was returned to Charleston County, where he remains in jail facing nine murder charges and another weapons count.

President to attend funeral service for Charleston shooting victim

President Obama speaks in Columbia back in February (File)

President Obama speaks in Columbia back in February (File)

President Obama will be in Charleston Friday to memorialize the victims of the Charleston church shooting, according to a statement from the White House on Monday.

The statement said the president will deliver the eulogy at the funeral services of State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Jasper, who was the pastor of the Emanuel AME church in addition to his duties as a state lawmaker. Pinckney was among the nine victims of the June 17 shootings.

Pinckney’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at TD Arena on the College of Charleston campus.

Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama will also make the trip to Charleston, the White House said.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama got to know the slain pastor during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Sen. Pinckney was an early Obama supporter in that close race.

It will be the president’s second trip to South Carolina during his term. Obama did not visit South Carolina for the first six years of his presidency until he appeared at Benedict College rally in Columbia back in February.

$1 million bond set for Charleston shooter on weapons charge

Chief Magistrate James Gosnell speaks to a videoconferencing Dylann Roof (Image: Pool video)

Chief Magistrate James Gosnell speaks to a videoconferencing Dylann Roof (Image: pool video)

Family members told the man accused of gunning down nine Charleston AME church members during a Bible study this week that they forgave him and hoped God would have mercy on his soul.

Charleston County Chief Magistrate James Gosnell set a $1 million bond for 21-year-old Dylann Roof on a weapons charge. The magistrate lacked the authority to act on the nine murder charges Roof faces, as only a circuit judge can set bond for such charges. So the Lexington resident will remain in jail for now. Federal investigators say they are considering further charges if they later determine Roof committed a hate crime.

He faces nine murder charges and one more for possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. He was represented Friday by Charleston County Public Defender Ashley Pennington, who told the magistrate that Roof is unemployed and has two previous criminal incidents on his record: a trespassing conviction from April and a drug possession charge in March.

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