Local News

Fayetteville military contractor killed

07Soldiers mock fight Two Marines and a Navy corpsman are under investigation in the death in northern Iraq of a Lockheed Martin contractor from Fayetteville. The New York Times reported that the military contractor was severely injured in a brawl on New Year’s Eve in Erbil, Iraq, and was airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany. The Daily Beast identified the Lockheed contractor as Rick Rodriguez, a former Green Beret with nearly 20 years of service in the Army.

Rodriguez’s wife and four children, who live in Fayetteville, were flown by the military to Germany and, according to an anonymous U.S. military source, decided to take him off life support Jan. 4. The Daily Beast reported that accounts of his death vary. One version, cited by the military source, stemmed from an altercation in an Erbil gym. Another involved a shooting competition.

In both scenarios, an atmosphere of bravado and trash-talking involving several people spilled over into a fight that left the contractor beaten and then stomped into unconsciousness. The military source said the incident had numerous witnesses.

“Lockheed Martin was saddened to learn of the loss of one of our employees, who was fatally injured while supporting Special Operations Forces within the ... area of operations in a noncombat related incident,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The New York Times reported that the Marines and sailor under investigation in Rodriguez’s death were assigned to a Marine special operations unit in Iraq. “MARSOC (Marine Forces Operations Command) is providing all requested support to investigators as they look into this incident,” Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler told ABC News.

The former Green Beret’s death is the latest in a series of serious episodes among special operations forces. The killing follows last year’s death of Green Beret Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in West Africa. He was assigned to special forces at Fort Bragg. Two Marine Raiders and two Navy SEALs have been charged with murder in that incident. Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher was arraigned early this month at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California, on numerous charges, including the killing of a wounded ISIS prisoner.

A Defense Department review of ethics and standards within the special operations community is underway. The commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces issued a call to action because of what he called a “damaged culture of discipline in the ranks. Left unchecked, an eroded values system threatens to erode the trust of our fellow comrades, our senior leaders and ultimately the American people,” Gen. Tony Thomas said in a message to the force.

The message called for “rapid and focused action to ... identify and address the underlying causes. Correcting this trend will take committed leadership at all levels of our command and personal moral courage by all,” Thomas wrote.

On Jan. 1, Special Operations Command launched a 90-day internal review requiring senior field grade officers to get more involved with their troops, according to Thomas’ message, first reported by Newsweek. The review also includes a look at instruction, culture, command climate surveys and research into behavioral health issues associated with operations.

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City officials criticize Fayetteville Regional Airport

06airplane taking off 2 The Fayetteville city administration spent more than an hour at a recent City Council work session defending its management of Fayetteville Regional Airport. Mayor Mitch Colvin criticized airport director Bradley Whited for failing to acknowledge that the airport is underperforming. “It’s hard to be open for change if you don’t think something is wrong,” Colvin said.

A panel of officials addressed City Council’s concerns. “If we’re not getting the results we want, we need to change what we’re doing,” said Councilman Jim Arp. He is a retired Army officer but did not mention specifically that Fort Bragg military personnel and their families represent the local airport’s most dependable customer base. Arp said that airport officials should better understand who flies out of Fayetteville.

City Manager Doug Hewett defended Whited’s 22 years of service, noting a North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Aviation study released Jan. 7 that pointed out that Fayetteville Regional Airport generates more than $784 million for the local economy and supports 4,410 jobs.

Over the last 15 years, enplaned passenger levels have increased 95 percent. Fayetteville and Jacksonville, North Carolina, airports, both of which serve military communities, have trended higher in passenger growth than other regional airports. City council members spoke of customer service inadequacies. Councilwoman Kathy Jensen said she enjoys flying out of Fayetteville, but she can’t even buy a cup of coffee in the early morning. Whited said that will change with a full-service restaurant now under construction. Others complained that smaller cities like Wilmington and Asheville airports provide more airline service. Those communities are tourist attractions, and Fayetteville is not.

Whited pointed out that a $40 million terminal modernization program now underway will reduce facility complaints. Fayetteville Regional Airport is spending $19 million in federal grants during the first year of the project. The airport is self-supporting and receives no local tax funds from city government.

“These numbers highlight the importance of Fayetteville Regional Airport and show why area residents should fly local,” Whited said in a statement. “Considering the … time you save to fly out of Fayetteville, customers can’t beat the convenience and customer service of Fayetteville Regional Airport.”

The NCDOT Division of Aviation report brought up by Hewett highlights the economic impact of the state’s public airports. NCDOT said it created the report to help guide future investment in aviation infrastructure and to act as a tool for recruiting future aviation and aerospace industry. The report contains data compiled and analyzed for NCDOT by North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

Fayetteville received word last month that United Airlines was discontinuing service from Fayetteville to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, citing a costly 64 percent average passenger load factor. Eighty percent is considered the norm.

Council members did not discuss the competitive edge Raleigh-Durham International Airport enjoys. American Airlines and Delta continue service here. Nine airlines operate out of RDU.

Local studies indicate about half of Fayetteville fliers choose RDU rather than the local airport. The Fayetteville Area Capture Rate by Airport found that 49.6 percent of Fayetteville passengers chose RDU, 44.4 percent chose FAY, and 5.7 percent selected Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to Airline Schedule data via Fayetteville Regional Airport Market Leakage Analysis (2016) provided by Hubpoint consultant Managing Director Doung Banez.

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City official has heart surgery

05Johnny Dawkins Fayetteville City Councilman Johnny Dawkins is on the mend at home following heart surgery. He is recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery that took place at Duke Heart Center in Durham Dec. 28. He returned home New Year’s Day. The surgery, he said, took five hours.

“They gave me four new coronary artery bypass grafts,” he said. Dawkins added that he has no intention of resigning from City Council.

He said Dr. Jacob Schroder, a thoracic surgeon who practices at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, performed the surgery. Doctors discovered arterial blockages after he had a cardiac catheterization — a procedure that took place after he continued to have jaw pain while exercising on an elliptical machine.

Dawkins is a member of the Duke Cancer Institute’s Brain Tumor Board of Advisors. He served on City Council from 2003 to 2005 and ran again successfully in 2016.

Local hospital official resigns

Arkansas Children’s Hospital has hired Brent Thompson to lead its legal services division as senior vice president and chief legal officer. Thompson currently serves as chief legal officer for Cape Fear Valley Health System in Fayetteville, a system with more than 900 licensed beds and 6,000 employees.

“Brent was drawn to our mission of championing children because one of his two sons spent several days in an NICU right after birth,” said Arkansas Children’s President and CEO Marcy Doderer.

Thompson earned a law degree at the University of Tulsa College of Law and is also an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He has extensive experience in litigation, hospital policies and procedures and hospital compliance with federal laws.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Fayetteville’s Child Advocacy Center, the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the Methodist University social work department are co-sponsoring three presentations on the subject. Russell G. Wilson, an expert in human trafficking, will make the presentations.

Wilson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed his first research project in Cambodia looking at the factors of resiliency for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

His first session will be Thursday, Jan. 24, from 2-4 p.m., at Lafayette Baptist Church, 501 Hope Mills Rd. The intended audience is law enforcement, social workers and mental health professionals. That evening, from 6:30-8 p.m., Wilson will give an address at the Kiwanis Recreation Center, 352 Devers St. The intended audience is the community at large.

Friday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m.-noon, the final session will be at Fayetteville State University’s Shaw Auditorium, 1200 Murchison St. Faculty and students are encouraged to attend.

The programs are offered free of charge, but registration is required at the Child Advocacy website. For more details or to register, visit CACFayNC.org.

Flick your BIC

BIC USA is observing its 60th anniversary and has allocated $60,000 of an original $100,000 donation in 2018 to DonorsChoose.org to fund in-school handwriting projects and classroom requests. The company said the money will reach nearly 800 elementary and middle school students in underserved areas, including a school in Fayetteville.

“At BIC, we are committed to education and serving our communities,” said Linda Palladino, senior brand manager of BIC Consumer Products.

DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit organization that considers teacher requests and allows individuals and companies to donate directly to classroom projects. Funding from BIC USA and DonorsChoose.org will help students in Cumberland and six other North Carolina counties to learn the art of handwriting and develop skills to become better readers through projects designed to spark their creativity.

Specific projects supported in North Carolina include “Essential Learning with Play-Dough” at Cumberland Road Elementary School in Fayetteville.

“According to Hanover Research, 15 minutes of daily writing promotes individuality, enhances motor skills and improves cognitive development,” said Linda Palladino, senior brand manager for BIC Consumer Products USA.

Fayetteville Minor League Baseball

Fayetteville’s downtown baseball stadium is one of three brand-new minor league ballparks opening this coming season. According to BallparkDigest.com, inaugural Minor League Baseball games have been announced for all three ballparks. They include home openers for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (High A; Carolina League), Amarillo Sod Poodles (Class AA; Texas League) and the Las Vegas Aviators (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). After beginning the season on the road, the Woodpeckers will open their ballpark with an April 18 matchup against the Carolina Mudcats.

The Woodpeckers spent the past two seasons at Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium.

The new stadium in Fayetteville will also host several events in addition to Woodpeckers’ games. It has already been announced as the home of the annual Big South Conference baseball tournament from 2019-2021. In both Amarillo, Texas, and Fayetteville, affiliated Minor League Baseball action returns after a considerable absence.

Fayetteville has not had a Minor League Baseball club since the Cape Fear Crocs (Low A; Sally League) moved to Lakewood, New Jersey, after the 2000 campaign. The Sod Poodles are the first Amarillo-based affiliated minor league team since the Texas League’s Gold Sox relocated to Beaumont, Texas, after the 1982 season.

Photo: Johnny Dawkins

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Cumberland County’s 2018 year in review and 2019 year in preview

01coverUAC011619001 Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Fayetteville Women’s View Magazine. F&B Publications is reprinting it here in order to widen the reach of this relevant and exciting information. For help compiling and/or writing portions of this overview, especially data-related information, special thanks to: Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation; Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau; Cool Spring Downtown District; and Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom.

Our community has so much to celebrate from 2018 and many things to look forward to in 2019. While not all-encompassing, here is an overview of reasons to celebrate the past year and reasons to get excited for the new one.

2018: Year in Review

An increasingly positive reputation

• In 2017, Governing magazine began an annual report, called “Equipt to Innovate,” in conjunction with the nonprofit Living Cities. The 2018 report named Fayetteville the most innovative city in the U.S. and the city with the best employee engagement. The study, which has a goal of helping cities improve their ability to innovate, judged cities based on seven factors: dynamically planned; broadly partnered; resident-involved; race-informed; smartly resourced; employee-engaged; and data-driven.

Learn more at www.governing.com/topics/urban/gov-fayetteville-best-man- aged-city-equiptinnovate-lc.html.

• The Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau launched three new videos in its “Find Your Pursuit” series this year, bringing the total in the series to eight. All three new videos — “Pursuit of Brotherhood,” “Pursuit of Harmony” and “Pursuit of Discovery” — feature beautiful, high-quality clips of this area’s events, businesses and landscape. View them on YouTube; you can’t help but feel hometown pride while watching. Search “Visit Cumberland County NC” on YouTube.

• Cool Spring Downtown District initiated a new city of Fayetteville recognition – the Hometown Hero Award. The award is presented annually during Fayetteville’s Veterans Day celebration to honor a resident who contributed to development of the relationship between the city and the military. Gen. James J. Lindsay received the first Hometown Hero award Nov. 10.

New initiatives supporting local makers and growers

Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market debuted in April 2018 with its inaugural Strawberry Festival, which featured 20 local vendors, and strawberries that sold out in the first two hours. DBA created the Hope Mills-based market in partnership with Sustainable Sandhills to help citizens engage with local producers of crafts and goods as well as local farmers. Every Sunday from April through November, 20 to 25 local vendors of everything from handblown glass to freerange meats to microgreens set up their wares on DBA’s idyllic outdoor grounds. The market reopens April 28, 2019.

Learn more at facebook.com/dirtbagfarmersmarket.

• Prima Elements Wellness Center and Sheridan’s Philosophy hosted Fayetteville’s First Annual Vegan Festival in June. Between 2,000-3,000 people came to browse more than 50 vendors and educators of all things vegan-related. Leading up to the festival, Prima Elements also started hosting monthly vegan potlucks from its location in downtown Fayetteville. Those potlucks will resume in February 2019.

Learn more at www.veganfestivalfaync.com.

Economic growth and new jobs

• Management and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton announced expansion of its Fayetteville operations Aug. 28 that will create 208 new jobs. Business services provider eClerx, which has one U.S. delivery center — in Fayetteville — announced expansion of our local center Oct. 18 that will create 150 new jobs.

Progress for healthcare and research

The Cumberland County Healthcare Next

Generation Partnership, an initiative led by the County Workforce Development Board, brings together more than 20 representatives from Cape Fear Valley Health, Womack Army Medical Center, private providers and other related businesses. Its June 14 session was the first of its kind in North Carolina. Next Gen Partnerships enable business leaders to champion their priorities and work with local, regional and state partners to achieve specified goals. The partners are forwarding actions to increase the coordination of care, strengthen the talent pipeline into the healthcare industry and prevent obesity.

Learn more at www.fayedc.com/2018/06/nc-nextgeneration- partnership.

• June 8, Womack Army Medical Center and the

Geneva Foundation launched the Fort Bragg Research Institute at Fayetteville State University. The institute aims to link the vast research infrastructure of our community with the growing requirements of operational readiness at Fort Bragg. Working with the Cape Fear Research Consortium, the FBRI’s mission is to optimize military performance and improve health disparities of southeastern North Carolina through scientific innovation.

Learn more at www.uncfsu.edu/fort-bragg-research.

2019: Year in Preview

Fayetteville’s new baseball team debuts

• Construction on downtown Fayetteville’s new $37.8 million ballpark dominated conversation last year. The stadium heralds this area’s first minor league baseball presence in 17 years, and this spring, the wait will finally come to an end. The Fayetteville Woodpeckers, a minor league affiliate of the World Series Champion Houston Astros, will play their first home game April 18, 2019, against the Carolina Mudcats. The Astros signed a 30-year lease, indicating their investment in the long-term success of the city. The stadium will also host the NCAA Big South Conference baseball tournament May 21-25. Learn more at www.milb.com/fayetteville.

The debut of the stadium and team will be complemented by Prince Charles Holdings’ $110 million plan, which includes the renovation of the Prince Charles Hotel, along with other downtown revitalization projects.

Development and new business

• Improvements to Concourse A, the first phase of Fayetteville Regional Airport’s $35 million renovation project, are expected to be completed in July. The first major renovation since the terminal was built, the updated concourse will be triple the size of its predecessor, seat 128 passengers and include a new restaurant serving salads, sandwiches and local craft beer. The second phase is expected to start in November, which will improve the facade of the building and include new escalators, elevators and stairwells.

• Launched a year ago and gaining steam, The CORE is an innovation corridor in downtown Fayetteville with a mission to connect the talent and resources of our community while providing a central location for tech companies, DoD Contractors and entrepreneurs to develop and deploy next-gen technologies. This hub plans to provide a coworking space for innovators in cybersecurity, digital healthcare, energy, Internet of Things, augmented reality and other related technologies.

Campbell Soup Supply Company, in partnership with DHL Supply Chain, will open a new, state-of-the-art distribution center in Cedar Creek Business Center by this summer. The project will result in a $40 million investment and the creation of 195 jobs.

Quality-of-life activities

• Though it technically started in 2018, Cool Spring Downtown District’s busker program will grow in strength this year, adding a delightful element of live music to downtown Fayetteville every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, along with Saturday and Sunday afternoons. CSDD has more exciting plans for the year: Jan. 25-27, there will be outdoor ice skating downtown; Feb. 22- 23, a gaming tournament; an every-Wednesday lunch in Cross Creek Park starting in March; and summer concerts every Thursday night this summer.

Learn more at www.visitdowntownfayetteville.com.

Welcoming new troops at Fort Bragg

• Fort Bragg’s leadership announced they anticipate adding 2,500 to 3,000 troops in the coming years, increasing the installation’s total population to around 57,000.

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I-295 sees design change at Fort Bragg

10nc 295 southern terminus The North Carolina Department of Transportation had hoped to open a new section of Fayetteville’s Outer Loop by Christmas. But DOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale said it will likely be summer or fall of this year before the segment from the All American Freeway to Cliffdale Road opens to traffic.

“Fort Bragg wanted a way to get from a unit’s motor pool straight to the training area and not have to go out and around (Interstate) 295,” Barksdale said. “A bridge was too costly, so we are building a large enough tunnel — at a cost of $2 million — for the military vehicles to use to travel under I-295.”

Barksdale noted Fort Bragg formally requested the enhancement of the project, and DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon approved it. Trogdon is from Hope Mills and retired in 2016 as the Deputy Adjutant General of the North Carolina National Guard.

A Fayetteville loop was first considered in 1977. But similar projects in Charlotte were given funding priority for several years.

In 2005, the DOT received the I-295 designation as a future route with signs erected along initial sections of the route soon after that. Changes made in 2014 downgraded the freeway to NC 295, a temporary designation pending completion of the loop. The Outer Loop, as it is alternately known, improves connectivity between Fort Bragg and Interstate 95, a commitment the Army sought for decades.

It also provides a new commuter route between the post and the city of Fayetteville. The final design takes the bypass 39 miles around the north, west and south sides of Fayetteville. Once the section to Cliffdale Road is completed, the next project awarded by DOT at a cost of $85.2 million will be a 3.1-mile stretch to Raeford Road.

The final three legs of the beltway are being built simultaneously. A design-build concept makes it possible for Barnhill Contracting Co., Sanford Construction, and HDR Engineering to work together and combine all aspects of the plan from design through construction under a single contract.

Work includes replacing the Lake Rim runoff bridge over Bones Creek on Old Raeford Road. That fragment should be finished by May 2022. Then comes Raeford Road to Camden Road. A contract is set to be awarded by DOT this month with construction to be completed by 2023.

The final leg of the future interstate is from Camden Road to I-95 South just below the Cumberland/ Robeson County line. That $129.7 million design-build contract has already been awarded to the Wilmington-based team of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc., Branch Civil Inc. and STV Engineers Inc. and has a scheduled completion of July 2021.

When finished, I-295 will connect I-95 North and U.S. Highway 13 at Eastover to Fort Bragg. It then curves around Fayetteville and Hope Mills and  reconnects to I-95 South above St. Pauls. Total cost will be $1 billion.

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