Wednesday, May 29, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Base workers hurt by cuts

The news this Memorial Day Weekend was grim for 650 civilian employees at Little Rock Air Force Base. There will be 11 days of unpaid leave—furloughs—between July 8 and Oct. 14 at the base and throughout the military affecting 800,000 civilian employees, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced recently.

That’s approximately a day off per week, or about a 20 percent reduction in the pay of nonessential civilian workers. That’s about 7,150 days of work not performed — and not paid for—at the base.

The news could have been worse. Originally, Defense Department civilian employees were to have been furloughed 22 days, beginning March 8, but Hagel asked for time to study the matter.

The furloughs were triggered by the inability of Congress to come to a budget agreement, which will cost the Defense Department an estimated $46 billion for the fiscal year. The Pentagon was $30 billion short for operations and maintenance, necessitating the furloughs and other cutbacks.

Since sequestration became law, Congress has allowed certain areas, such as the military, to shift funds around, and has restored funds for air-traffic controllers and food inspectors.
Sequestration cuts include reorganizing the four wings at the base to increase savings through efficiency in organizing, training and equipping airmen, according to Brig. Gen. (Select) Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander.

The base has curtailed non-readiness or non-essential flying and travel, curtailed or stopped minor purchases such as furniture and information technology updates, implemented a civilian hiring freeze and decreased aircrew temporary duty travel. Even so, the base has gotten dozens of iPads to help guide pilots, eliminating tons of paper and saving thousands of gallons of fuel using the new tablets.

In addition, the 19th Airlift Wing is cutting flying hours by 35 percent. The Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have collaborated to reduce active-duty C-130s by 28 and both of the 19th Airlift Wing’s C-130H squadrons were proposed for reduction in 2014.

The news is not all bad. Increases in the Air Guard and Reserve airframes at the base will add eight planes. The base will continue to receive new C-130Js as originally scheduled to beef up its aging fleet of cargo planes. But in the meantime, civilians on base are paying a heavy price for the gridlock in Washington.

TOP STORY >> Sheriff Staley's teamwork recognized by city department

Leader staff writer

Two of the most recent press releases from the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office give credit to city departments in Cabot for their assistance in solving four residential burglaries, a sign to anyone who has watched the interaction between the county and city that something has changed.

“I think everyone is working well together, especially since John took over,” Sgt. Keith Graham of the Cabot Police Department said about the subtle differences in the way the sheriff’s office announces its successes since John Staley took office in January.

“I think everyone is trying to do their best for the citizens of Lonoke County.”

To be clear, the sheriff’s office has always worked with the various city police departments. And the dive team from Cabot that recently recovered a stolen safe from a murky bayou is actually equipped by the county. So collaboration between the sheriff’s office and other agencies is not new.  It’s the improved relationship and the reporting that is different.

Lt. Jim Kulesa, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said he and the sheriff believe in giving credit where it is due.

Staley, who was on patrol when The Leader contacted him Tuesday morning, said he was working with the police departments from Ward and Austin on another case and expected it to be solved shortly.

“Our goal is to let everybody participate,” Staley said. “We’re all a team right now and we want to keep it that way.”

Kulesa reported in his most recent press release that the sheriff’s office has recovered more missing property from burglaries near the Confederate Cemetery including old coins  and jewelry. Six firearms, a laptop computer and more jewelry are still missing.

The first report said the Cabot dive team recovered a stolen safe taken during the burglaries.

Both reports gave credit to Cabot police detectives and the dive team for their assistance in the investigation.

Staley said Tuesday that at least two juveniles and one 18-year-old boy will likely be arrested for the burglaries but right now, the goal is to recover the stolen property.

TOP STORY >> Vets honored at ceremony

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s American Legion Post 71 held a day of remembrance Monday at the Veterans Park Community Center for those who died in service to the nation.

The Legion also remembered the prisoners of war and those missing in action. The post’s honor guard later placed a wreath at the Cabot Veterans Memorial.

“Take a look at the wall out there. See the names of veterans that passed, veterans that wanted their names honored. They go down in posterity so people like us could see the importance of why we are gathered here today,” post commander Ron Bissett said.

He said they gave us “the right to do. The right to compete and the right to be able to walk down the streets. To be able to use a church they may not belong to but have a right to go into that church.”

Retired Lt. Col Steve Gray, an aide to Sen. John Boozman, said, “In an age where society seems to bury its memories and all of material pleasures its liberty bestows, we find both conflict and harmony with the world where information overload from computer technology overwhelms us. Reflection only occurs anymore when days like this bring us together.”

Gray said that, as he was preparing to speak during the Memorial Day ceremony, he found himself searching his mind and searching the Internet, reaching for history, emotion and images.

He spoke of seeing photos of families remembering loved ones by laying flowers on the graves who died in the battles of the Civil War.

Gray recalled looking at pictures of tombs and cemeteries where soldiers from the First World War and the Second World War were buried. He noted the sacrifices they made for America.

“For all that technology brings us, it cannot hurt, it cannot love, it cannot cherish and it cannot honor,” he said.

“God, given a choice between those two worlds, I choose this one,” Gray continued.

Bissett asked why people attending the ceremony should celebrate.

“Because we are meeting here as a free people,” he said.

Bissett thanked the servicemen who served in the military and to the families and wives who supported them with prayers and packages from home.

TOP STORY >> A walk among giants

Leader staff writer

Hundreds gathered Monday at the State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock to remember those who died serving our county and those who are still putting their lives at risk to preserve our freedoms.

Gov. Mike Beebe gave the Memorial Day address at the event. He said that while many would spend the day honoring former service members who returned home, “We’d be remiss to not acknowledge that our veterans stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. Traditions don’t just happen.”

Beebe told the crowd that all Americans owe a debt to servicemen that they couldn’t possibly pay. Those who come home often return to a broken family, with disabilities or with “inordinate stress” that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, he noted.

“The least we can do is provide love, honor, support and respect when they come home,” Beebe said. “Freedom is not free and someone has to pay for our rights and privileges. It only takes a minute, less than a minute, to shake their hands and thank them for their service.”

The governor stressed the importance of keeping military families in mind because they often make the ultimate sacrifice of losing a loved one. He said that we often pay the most attention to mothers and spouses.

“(But) we must never forget the children. Those who have to live the longest with the loss are the children,” Beebe said.

World War II veteran Harold Kindirck, 90, of North Little Rock said after the service that this was his first time to attend the annual event.

“This is beautiful here. It was all good,” he said.

Kindirck was a crew chief who enlisted at the age of 18. He served with the Army Air Corps and the 71st Infantry Division.

The veteran joked that he used to kick paratroopers out of planes. He still has shrapnel in one arm and one of his friends was buried just a few hundred feet from where the service was held.

Kindirck said he and his fellow servicemen helped the United States find 80 concentration camps. Many of them were in Austria, he said.

The veteran was proud to say he received one Silver Star and six Bronze Stars for his service.

Tuskegee Airman Milton Crenchaw, 94, also attended the Memorial Day event. Admirers who wanted to have their picture taken with him surrounded Crenchaw. He also visited with Brig. Gen. (Select) Brian Robinson, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, who thanked Crenchaw for his service.

Crenchaw said, “Every good ceremony starts out with God. What a day, what a day.”

He commented on how the sunny weather and slight breeze was perfect for the outdoor festivities.

Among the many veterans who attended the event were six who agreed to represent comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.

The audience was silent as the following veterans were escorted to their seats:

•  Yoeman 2nd Class Wayne Harris, who served in the Navy during World War II.

• Retired Lt. Col Robert Bird, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War.

•  Retired Master Sgt. Frank Alterman, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

• Retired Maj. Randy Massanelli, who served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm.

• Chief Master Sgt. Margarita Overton, an airman who was deployed to Iraq.

• First Sgt. Eric Cayson, a Marine who was deployed to Afghanistan.

All veterans and current servicemen were asked to stand up during the ceremony. They received a robust round of applause.

A table was set to honor those who could not stand — prisoners of war and servicemen who are missing in action.

The master of ceremonies, Command Sgt. Gregory Galloway, explained that the table is round to show our everlasting concern for the missing men and the tablecloth is white to symbolize the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

He said the single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of those Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.

Galloway said the vase is tied with a red ribbon to symbolize our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land and pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers, he said.

Galloway explained that the Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share in the event and the chairs are empty because they are missing, he said.

There were six places to represent each branch of the military. The Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard placed the caps that are part of each branch’s uniforms on the table to further emphasize that.

The event began with a welcome by Galloway, the presentation of colors by the color guard of the National Guard Bureau’s Professional Education Center, the national anthem and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Veazey of the Army National Guard reminded the audience in his invocation, “Freedom comes at a price.”

Jason Smedley, military liaison with the governor’s office, read Beebe’s proclamation naming Monday as Memorial Day in Arkansas.

Cissy Rucker, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, told the crowd, “Let’s keep memorial in Memorial Day. Teach your children what it means.”

She said people should stop at 3 p.m. Monday and take a moment of silence to honor soldiers who didn’t come home.

Rucker and Beebe placed the last memorial wreath at the ceremony.

Forest Harrell, past president of the Fleet Reserve Association for the South Central Region, read the names of 11 members of the Fleet Reserve Branch 282 in Little Rock who died in 1999, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Another Fleet Reserve representative tolled the bell for each name to honor the fallen servicemen.

SPORTS STORY >> Hogs visit Manhattan, face Bryant in regional

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Last year some smirked that Stony Brook sounded more like a day camp than a college baseball team.

The smirks were erased by respect when the Seawolves of South Hampton, N.Y. advanced all the way to the College World Series.

Barrett Astin, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ junior right-hander from Forrest City, bears Stony Brook in mind knowing he starts Arkansas’ Manhattan, Kan. regional opener against Bryant on Friday.

Bryant, Ark. is the Bryant that comes to mind for most in Arkansas.

But Bryant University of Smithfield, R.I., fields the Northeast Conference champion Bulldogs that just went 44-14-1 this season under third-year coach Steve Owens.

“Every team in the postseason is good,” Astin said. “You look at last year at Stony Brook – no one knew anything about them and they were one of the hottest teams in the country. It’s the same thing with Bryant. They can hit. They can pitch. They can field. They can be just as good as anybody.”

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn also respects the Bryant Bulldogs. That’s why he’s keeping the same rotation he used on SEC weekends. He will start Astin, 4-4, 1.94, in the opener against Bryant, with junior right-hander Ryne Stanek, 9-2, 1.40 ERA, pitching Saturday against either Kansas State or Wichita State,  and senior lefty Randall Fant, 5-1, 1.92 pitching Sunday if the Hogs have won at least a game.

Some casual observers may think Van Horn glosses over Bryant by not starting Preseason All-American Stanek, but Van Horn has used the Astin-Stanek-Fant order most of the season.

“We’re not looking past Bryant by any means,” Van Horn said Monday.  “If that was the case, I’d pick one of those relievers and start them and I don’t feel good about doing that at all. This is a team that is there for a reason. They scored a lot of runs in their conference tournament.”

Although Stanek made last week’s SEC Tournament team in Hoover, Ala. and Astin did not, Astin pitched well. He was solid in Wednesday’s five-hit, eight-inning no-decision in the 10-inning game that Arkansas won, 2-1 over Ole Miss. Stanek threw Thursday’s six-hitter for eight innings in the 4-1 victory over LSU.

In his final regular season start, Astin was charged with a 3-0 defeat despite  yielding no earned runs.

“Astin’s last two outings have been outstanding,” Van Horn said Monday. “He had one little bad inning at Auburn and got through it and pitched us late in the game. He might have got a no-decision but that’s the way it goes. But his outing in the conference tournament has been as good as he’s been. He gave us eight innings, could have given us a ninth, but I pulled him after that. I think he had around 90 pitches or something. I feel good about him going out there. I know he’s going to throw strikes and he’s going to get us into the game.”

Astin was Arkansas’ best relief pitcher in 2011 and 2012, then moved to the SEC starting rotation since the second SEC series of the 2013 season.

“My second half of the season was a lot better than my first half.  We are just trying to build off of that,” Astin said. “The weather is warming up and I am getting settled in as a starter.  We are just rolling right now. I have had two good outings.”

Those two outings were not only good but great, though he had nothing but a loss and no-decision to show for them on his record.

“I don’t really worry about wins and losses for me,” Astin said. “As long as the team wins and puts us in a good position to win Friday night I am good with that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Colts second at tournament

Leader sports editor

Three wins in pool play and a semifinal victory over Jacksonville got the North Little Rock Colts American Legion team in the championship game of its own Memorial Day tournament, but Pine Bluff Tigers’ pitcher Brandon Wade thwarted the Colts’ momentum.

Wade threw a complete-game three hitter as the Tigers (5-0) took the tournament championship with a 2-1 victory.

First batters faced was the only problem for North Little Rock pitchers.

North Little Rock starter Preston Oberling was just as impressive as Wade. He gave up just three hits in five innings of work and left with the score tied 1-1. The only damage he allowed was by the first batter of the game. Tirrell Moore ripped a line drive over the head of Colt right fielder Zane Vanetta for a standup triple. He scored two batters later on a wild pitch as Oberling struggled to find the strike zone in the first inning.

After giving up the triple and two walks in the first, Oberling dominated the next four innings. The Tigers managed just two infield singles as Oberling struck out five and walked none the rest of his time on the mound. 

Jason Askins took the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning and faced three-hole hitter Jordan Stargell to start things off. It was also a disaster and proved to be the difference in the game. Stargell lived up to his famous baseball surname, ripping a line drive into the power alley in left-centerfield. Stargell made it an easy stand-up triple and actually stopped at third base, but after assessing how slowly the Colts were getting the ball back to the infield, headed for home and made it safely for an inside-the-park home run.

Wade, needing three outs to close the game with a win, struck out Jake Sandefur and Ty Houser, then got tournament MVP Lawson Dumon to pop up to shortstop.

Wade, who had thrown a one-hit shutout on Friday, was named the tournament’s outstanding pitcher after his seven-strikeout, three-walk performance against the Colts.

It wasn’t all bad news for North Little Rock (4-1) on Monday. The Colts came from behind to beat Jacksonville 5-4 in the semifinal game.

Most of the runs for both teams were unearned. North Little Rock stumbled out of the gate and gave up three runs in the top of the first inning. But tied it in the third.

Zach Rathbun singled to centerfield, but centerfielder Courtland McDonald mishandled the first hop, allowing Rathbun to sneak into second base. Ben Bailey moved Rathbun to third with a sacrifice grounder and Trey Kimbrell flew out to left field for the RBI.

Gwatney pitcher Jon Finley walked Jake Sandefur with two outs. Dumon then pinch hit for Dustin Blair. Finley put Dumon into an 0-2 hole, but the tournament MVP worked his way back to a full count. After fouling off a couple of curve balls, Finley served up a 3-2 fastball that Dumon was sitting on. He drilled it over the 375-foot sign in straightaway centerfield, despite a light breeze blowing straight inward from that direction.

The shot tied the score, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

Jacksonville regained the lead on a leadoff double by Blake Perry, followed by a two-out passed ball that allowed Perry to score.

That lead didn’t last long either. Dawson Burge took the mound for Gwatney in the fifth inning and got two groundouts to first base. Oberling then reached on an error by Derek St. Clair at shortstop. He stole second and scored on a single by Rathbun to tie the game for the second time.

North Little Rock won it with an unearned run with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Colts’ leadoff hitter Danny Mitchell singled to star the rally. He then made it to second when Burge’s seventh pick-off throw was in the dirt and got by Deaundrey Harris.

Jacksonville intentionally walked Chandler Thompson to try to set up a force and got just what it wanted. Oberling hit another grounder to shortstop, but St. Clair’s throw to second was off the mark and pulled Ryan Mallison off the bag and forced him to make an off-balance throw to first that wasn’t in time.

With the bases loaded, Burge walked Rathbun to score the game-winning run.
Rathbun was the only player in the game to record more than one hit. He went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot's Jr. Red picks up first win at Burns

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Centennial Bank Red junior American Legion team earned its first win of the season on Friday, edging the Little Rock Pythons 5-4 in the first game of the North Little Rock Memorial Day tournament at Burns Park. Cabot couldn’t find any offense in the second day of the tournament as it was shutout 7-0 on Saturday against the Pine Bluff Tigers.

Mike Havard earned the win on the hill against Little Rock. Jacob Wamack got the start for Cabot Red (1-2) against Pine Bluff (1-0), a team full of 17-year olds, and held his own through four innings of work.

Wamack struck out two batters and gave up just three hits in his time on the mound. One of those hits was a clear foul ball down the third baseline in the first inning that was ruled fair, and two runs scored on the play. It was the only runs allowed by Wamack.

“Our pitching was decent,” said Cabot Red coach David Smith. “Wamack did a really good job shutting them down for four innings. He held them to two runs and those came off, in my opinion, a foul ball. It was a foot foul. His pitch count got up and, you know, we’ve been struggling with pitching. We’ve got to keep our pitches down, so we had to make a change.”

The score remained 2-0 after four innings of play. Cabot Red failed to get a single base hit off of Tigers’ pitcher Cameron Banks. Banks struck out eight Cabot batters and walked just two in the complete game effort. Cabot totaled just four base runners in the six innings played, and none of them ever advanced past first base.

Cabot tried to steal second base twice on Tigers’ catcher Brandon Starks, but Starks threw out both runners with relative ease on two near-perfect throws to second base. Even though Cabot couldn’t get any offense going, it was still a tight game through four innings as Wamack kept the Tigers’ lineup at bay.

However, with his pitch count high, Wamack was relieved after the fourth inning by Ethan Holland, and Holland struggled early with his control. Holland walked the first two batters he faced and Banks, the Tigers’ cleanup hitter, made him pay for it the next at bat with a hard-hit single to deep left-centerfield that scored both runners, giving Pine Bluff a 4-0 lead.

The next batter, Percy Arnold, walked, and J-Mar Johnson followed with a two-RBI double to right field to put the Tigers up 6-0. Starks was the next batter up and he set the final score with a double of his own, this one to left field, which allowed Johnson to cross home plate.

“Their pitcher was a decent pitcher,” Smith said of Banks. “All of those kids are 17 and we’re young. He had a tough fastball and we couldn’t get a hold of it. We had a few chances with runners on, but not enough.”

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney wins three straight

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior American Legion team got the season off to a good start, winning its first three games in the North Little Rock Memorial Day tournament to win its pool and advance to Monday’s semifinals. Once there, the Jacksonville squad lost 5-4 to host North Little Rock and dropped to 3-1 on the young season.

“It was a pretty good tournament for us,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “We hadn’t had much time to prepare and get everything squared away, but we played about as well as can be expected. I’m pleased with it. It was a pretty good start anyway.”

The 17-under Chevy Boys opened the season with a 4-2 victory over the Little Rock Cobras Friday night on field two at Burns Park. Dawson Burge started on the mound and got the win. He gave up just three base hits while walking four and striking out six.

Leadoff hitter D.J. Scott put Jacksonville in the lead early. He singled to right field to start the game. Two batters later Blake Perry walked with one out. Catcher Greg Jones then grounded to shortstop, where the ball was mishandled, allowing Scott to score. Laderrious Perry then singled, but Ryan Mallison hit into a double play to end the rally.

Jacksonville took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the third after the Cobras tied the game.

All nine batters took a turn at the plate in the third for Gwatney, starting with shortstop Derek St. Clair. He led off with a single and stole second base. Blake Perry flew out to left field before Jones walked.

Laderrious Perry then ripped an RBI double to left field, putting runners at second and third for Mallison. The left-handed hitting second baseman came through with a two-RBI single down the right-field line to make it 4-1.

The Chevy Boys came back with a 7-0 win over Benton Sports Shop on Saturday morning. Blake Perry and Cord Simpson combined for a one-hitter, with Simpson giving up a base hit with no outs in the seventh inning to break up the no-no.

Perry threw four innings of perfect baseball, giving up no hits with no walks and no errors.
Courtland McDonald got a rally started in the second by taking a pitch to the hip with no outs. He moved to second on a groundout by Mallison. Deaundrey Harris walked and Trevor Ransom ripped a line drive to left field to score McDonald.

With two outs, Scott walked to load the bases and St. Clair singled to drive in a run. Another run scored when the ball was mishandled in the outfield.

Harris reached on an error at shortstop to start the fourth inning for Jacksonville. Ransom was hit by a pitch and Josh Cook walked to load the bases with no outs.

Scott hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to score one run. Blake Perry then singled to score another run and leave two in scoring position for Jones, who made the most of the opportunity with a two-RBI double to the wall in left-centerfield.

On Sunday James Tucker went the distance for a one-hitter in a 1-0 win over Benton-Everett GMC.

Tucker faced just 29 batters, giving up one bunt single and one walk while striking out eight batters.

The game’s lone run came in the bottom of the third inning. Harris was hit by a pitch to start the inning. He moved to third on a single by Mallison and scored on a wild pitch.