Local News

U.S. offers $5 million reward

07 Myeshia Johnson LaDavid Johnsons widowThe U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the militants who committed or aided in the deadly Oct. 4, 2017, attack on a joint U.S.-Nigerien military patrol that left four Fort Bragg soldiers dead. The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program is offering an additional $5 million reward for information on the whereabouts of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the ISIS offshoot known as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, according to a news release.

The ISIS affiliate in West Africa claimed responsibility for the deadly attack that overwhelmed an American special operations team and roughly 30 Nigerien soldiers who accompanied the patrol near the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger. The patrol was pursuing an ISIS commander named Doundoun Cheffou when it was ambushed, resulting in the deaths of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson. They were assigned to Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3212.

An investigation into the deadly firefight uncovered several things that went wrong with mission planning before the patrol. The team was not authorized to conduct capture or kill missions. Team leaders were not clear in its concept of operations paperwork that they were to pursue Cheffou. However, the investigation noted that the officers who filed the paperwork were not deceptive. A few people, mostly enlisted Green Berets, were reprimanded following the ambush, including Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks. He was the commanding officer of Special Operations forces in Africa.

Family members expressed their unhappiness in interviews with ABC News with the Pentagon’s decision not to punish other senior commanders for their role in the circumstances that led to the deadly attack. The decision that two officers in the Green Berets’ former chain of command — Col. Brad Moses and Lt. Col. David Painter — would not receive administrative punishments means that they will be eligible for future promotions and commands. Painter, according to multiple sources, received a reprimand, but it wasn’t a career-ending punishment, and he is reportedly up for a promotion.

Family members complained that Painter, as well as Moses, commander of Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group, should be accountable for placing the team near ISIS fighters. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who advocated for the families, called the decision to not punish higher-ranking officers “a shirking of responsibility to the memory and families of the deceased.”

The fallen soldiers in the ambush were posthumously awarded medals for valor. Wright’s family was presented with the Silver Star in August. Wright’s father said he was told his son had been nominated for the Medal of Honor, but that it “was downgraded twice” and that he would receive a posthumous Silver Star. Sgt. La David Johnson’s family was also presented with a Silver Star. He was a mechanic assigned to the special operations team. Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars.

Pictured: Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson’s widow, Myeshia

Fayetteville City Council 2019 election

06 Vote HereThe voter turnout in this month’s Fayetteville primary election was so small that absentee ballots had a substantial influence in the city council District 2 race. Fewer than 3% of the 31,000 registered voters in two primary districts went to the polls. Twenty-seven primary election day ballots initially separated Shakeyla M. Ingram, 28, and Janene M. Ackles, 49. A third challenger, Arnita Bristol, was a distant third in the District 2 voting and was eliminated. Next month, Ingram or Ackles will succeed Dan Culliton, who was appointed to the council to replace former councilman Tyrone Williams who resigned under pressure amid allegations of misconduct. District 2 includes East Fayetteville, portions of Haymount and much of downtown Fayetteville.

District 6 Councilman Bill Crisp, 79, decided to retire. He has served sections of West Fayetteville since the 2005 big bang annexation that brought him into office. Three candidates vied for his seat. When one more candidate than twice the number of seats available runs, all but two are eliminated in a primary election. Chris Davis and Carlos Swinger placed first and second, eliminating Mary Johnson Ferguson. Davis was endorsed by Crisp and won more than twice the number of votes Swinger received. 

Unlike the county board of commissioners and the local board of education, city council races are nonpartisan. The nine city council districts were established in 2000, following a citizen task force recommendation that resulted in a reorganization of the governing body. The only member of council elected citywide is the mayor. Mitch Colvin is unopposed and seeking his second term.

Three other incumbent council members are opposed in the November general election. District 1 member Kathy Jensen is being challenged by Valencia Handy, who has no elective office experience. Jensen is seeking a fourth term. Five-term Mayor Pro Tem Ted Mohn is opposed by Courtney Banks McLaughlin, who is also seeking elective office for the first time. District 9 Councilman Jim Arp is opposed by Yvonne Kinston, who has a leadership background in organized labor.

The city of Fayetteville is geographically the second largest city in North Carolina, encompassing 148 square miles requiring 36 polling places from fire station 17 on Bailey Lake Road on the westside to fire station 19 off Andrews Road on the northside. The North Carolina State Board of Elections provides an easy online website for a resident to locate his/her polling place.

Early voting for the general election is underway and will continue through Fri., Nov. 1. One-stop early voting is being held at the Cumberland County Board of Elections Office, located in the E. Newton Smith Center at 227 Fountainhead Lane, downtown Fayetteville. Dates and times are:

Oct. 19-20, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Oct. 23-27, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Oct. 30-Nov. 3,  8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Nov. 4,   9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. The polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Cumberland County awarded grant to combat opioid abuse

05 01opioid abuseThe U.S. Department of Justice has given $900,000 to Cumberland County’s health department for a comprehensive opioid abuse site-based program. It’s a three-year project. The award for fiscal year 2020 is $289,131. Interim Health Director Duane Holder said the grant provides for a full-time project coordinator position at the health department, implementation of a post-overdose response team, enhanced pre-arrest diversion programming, a community education campaign and establishment of an overdose fatality review team. Data collected for Cumberland County since 1999 indicated an average of eight to 14 deaths annually related to opioids. By 2014, opiate-related deaths spiked to 34 and continued to increase with 79 unintentional opioid overdose deaths verified in 2017. Cape Fear Valley Medical Center was ranked in the top five in the state for opioid-related overdose emergency department visits. A community meeting for interested residents will be held Oct. 24, at 2 p.m., at the Department of Social Services, 1225 Ramsey St. 

FTCC Foundation annual gala and tribute

The Fayetteville Technical Community College Foundation will hold its annual Foundation Chair’s Gala Thursday, Oct. 24, at Gates Four Golf and Country Club. The theme for this year’s event is Gatsby Casino Night. The Foundation will honor FTCC board of trustees member Charles Koonce and FTCC Foundation Board Member Dan Dederick at the event. Koonce’s 05 02 FTCC Foundation Logo copyhistory with FTCC dates back to 1964 when he first joined FTCC as a teacher. He served in several leadership positions at FTCC during his 34-year career and has been a member of the board of trustees since July 2006.

 Dederick is a retired Marine Corps officer with 29 years of service. He has served as a member of the FTCC Foundation Board of Directors since 1996, and until his recent retirement, he was general manager of the Hendrick Chrysler-Jeep dealership. The FTCC Foundation exists to raise money from private sources to build up the FTCC Foundation financial base and to provide meaningful programs and services to alumni and friends. Tickets for the Chair’s Gala are $100. Online registration is available at www.faytechcc.edu/giving/gatsby-casino-night.

Fort Bragg change of command

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera arrived home at Fort Bragg last month following a one-year combat deployment. He served as commanding general of 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg for 05 03 Change of Commandthe last two years. LaCamera and 400 Corps Headquarters troops returned to Fort Bragg Sept. 15. He was commander of the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, Syria and Kuwait. LaCamera is on the move again, having been reassigned to lead U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, which is a four-star command. His successor, Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, was promoted just before the change of command Oct. 7. As is often the case, Kurilla formerly served as commander of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division.

Veterans Affairs health information expansion

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notifying veterans that the agency is now sharing health information with doctors outside the VA without notifying vets first. Under the 2018 VA Mission Act, the department is working to ensure that VA physicians and non-VA medical personnel can access health care information to treat them without delay. “The Mission Act gives veterans greater access to care, whether at VA facilities or in the community,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a news release. The VA will give providers access to laboratory results, medications, health history and illnesses, allergies and occupational health information. Veterans are receiving notifications of the change in letters from the VA. The agency says it will not sell any veteran’s health information.

05 04 VA Health Care 2Military spouse employment data

Are military spouses being hired by federal agencies under a special hiring authority that’s been in effect for more than a decade? The Office of Personnel Management wants to know and has sent memos to human resources directors of all federal agencies. The agencies must submit detailed information by Dec. 31 about how many spouses have been hired in fiscal year 2019. The hiring authority gives agencies the ability to appoint military spouses to jobs without using traditional competitive examining procedures. Military spouses often face challenges finding meaningful employment because of frequent relocations to new duty stations.

“We’re very encouraged they’re following up to get this data,” said Jen Davis, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association. The law was enhanced in August 2018, to temporarily expand eligibility for the hiring authority to include all spouses of service members on active duty.

05 05 Resources For Military Spouse JobsFayetteville baseball team honored

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are Ballpark Digest’s 2019 Best New Logo/Branding minor league team. “To see us win the award is very humbling,” said Woodpeckers President Mark Zarthar. “It’s a testament to our staff here and in Houston to put together a fantastic product for our community.”

The name carries a strong connection to the local community and nearby Fort Bragg, where the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is now plentiful. Fort Bragg changes were extensive, as nesting habitats were marked to diminish impacts on the red-cockaded woodpecker. Since its rollout, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers brand has caught on. According to Zarthar, the Woodpeckers ended their initial Fayetteville season with more than $1.2 million in merchandise sales. 
05 06 fayetteville woodpeckers copy

The Shakir Family and Friends: Fighting cancer with generosity

04 shakirThe American Cancer Society challenges us to imagine a world free from cancer. In 2019, there will be an estimated 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,880 cancer deaths in the United States. More than 20,000 of those deaths will be in North Carolina. The Mayo Clinic defines cancer as any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening and cancer treatment.

Locally, the Shakir Family and Friends have had several members impacted by breast cancer, and as a result, they wanted to give back to an organization supporting people in that situation. “They were led to Cape Fear Valley Health System’s Friends of the Cancer Center because of the impact we have with local cancer patients in this community,” said Sabrina Brooks, executive director of Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. “The Shakir Family and Friends felt our work lined up with the impact they hoped to make through their events.”

These are people who want to raise money to help cancer patients.

“We brainstormed about what to do and how to get other people involved,” the Shakir Family and Friends said. “That way, we could donate more money to the foundation.”

The month of October is breast cancer awareness month and a time of year that the Shakir Family and Friends hold an annual fund-raising dinner. They hold a fish fry and raffle each spring. The Shakirs have donated more than $20,000 over the past five years, according to Brooks.

Marge Betley, with Cape Fear Valley Health, conducted interviews with the six men and women who identify as the Shakir Family and Friends. “We chose Friends of the Cancer Center because we wanted the money to directly help a family or individual in need during their battle with cancer,” they said.

“After all the hard work is done, handing Cape Fear Valley Friends of the Cancer Center the check of the money we raised … is our most favorite part of the work that we do,” family members said. Shakir family members and friends involved in the project include Charles Smith, Jeanetta Smith, Trena Shakir, Shaheed Shakir, Esther Ligon and Bernard Ligon. The Shakir Family and Friends have learned firsthand that “those that you are helping really need the help and appreciate everything that you do.”

The Shakir Family and Friends (left to right) Charles Smith, Jenetta  Smith, Trenna Shakir, Shaheed Shakir, Esther Ligon and Bernard Ligon have had several members impacted by breast cancer, and as a result, they wanted to give back to an organization supporting people in that situation.

FTCC promotes National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

15 CybersecurityIt’s October, so that means it is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The Department of Homeland Security uses this month to remind everyone of the importance of cybersecurity. This year’s campaign — "Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT." — is designed to encourage everyone to be proactive about their cybersecurity and to take responsibility for their online behavior. As part of that effort, there are several methods that can be used to create strong passwords to protect accounts.

Creating an online account starts with a username and a password. Most websites require users to use email addresses as usernames, which is easier to find online than most of us would like. All that is left for a hacker to figure out is your password — the same one many people use on many websites. In one survey, 83% of respondents used the same password for multiple sites. If you use your one good password on a website that gets hacked, you are at risk of losing something valuable from an account with that same password, such as your bank account information.

 Below are some steps to consider taking regarding passwords.

1. Use a password manager. With so many accounts requiring a unique password, it is hard to remember them all. Password managers can be used on a desktop and/or a mobile phone via an app.
2. Create unique, hard-to-guess passwords for every account.
a. Shorter passwords, no matter how complex, are easier to crack. Allow the password manager to create 20-character or longer passwords or use passphrases (i.e. Joe=Rides=2Yam$=Back2Back).
b. Do not use common words or easily determined passwords. Is your password one that many use, such as P@$$word1? Can a hacker guess your password by your online information, such as your child’s name, birthdays or hobbies? Many password-cracking tools can quickly crack passwords from a dictionary, a famous quote, or line in a book.
c. Do not use patterns. When you create or change your passwords, do not use a pattern that makes it easy to guess other or future passwords. For example, many users change the end of their passwords to the current year or go from a single "!" to two "!!" or add a "1,""2" or "3" for three passwords for three different sites, for instance. With the many breaches that have occurred, there is a good chance an old password or two of yours is online.

3. Add login protection to your accounts. Enable multifactor or two-factor authentication, also called an MFA or 2FA, if available. When logging in to an MFA-enabled account, you enter a username, password, and something that you can only get from your MFA device or that you can provide because it is unique to you, like a fingerprint. If you use your mobile phone as an MFA device, then you might have an app to open and get your code or receive a text message with a code you must also enter. If given a choice, the app is more secure than text.

4. Do not enter login credentials via an unsolicited email or website. No legitimate organization will send you an email that asks you to click on a link and enter your username and password, unless you just requested a password reset or just created an account and this is the account verification email.

Visit the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month website at https://niccs.us-cert.gov/national-cybersecurity-awareness-month-2019 for more information. To learn about FTCC’s Systems Security Analysis program of study visit www.faytechcc.edu or call 910-678-8400.


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