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Air Force lags in protecting air base kids, mothers say
Pentagon was ordered last year to reform its handling of reports of sexual assaults among military children

ALLEGATIONS IN JAPAN

To the mothers, the 13-year-old boy appeared largely unsupervised as he roamed among the clusters of townhouses on the U.S. Air Force base in Japan.

It would have been unremarkable — the neighborhood was full of kids — except that young girls were starting to report that the boy had led them from play and molested them.

"We were like, 'How is this OK?' " the mother of one 5-year-old girl told the Associated Press, which granted her anonymity to protect her daughter's privacy. She locked her kids inside.

The first girl to report had to wait six days for officials on the largest Air Force installation in the Pacific to provide counseling. The mothers didn't feel much urgency from Air Force criminal investigators either. They told the families they had waited 13 days to meet the boy's father.

By then, mothers had identified five girls, ages 2 to 7, who said the boy had taken them to some trees or a playground or his house. Five other kids would allege abuse soon after.

"We come here, and it takes the worst cases that you can imagine to find out that you don't have the services to support your children," the 5-year-old's mother said. "There's a feeling of complete distrust."

This was not supposed to happen again. Last August, Congress ordered the Defense Department to overhaul how it handles allegations of sexual assault among the tens of thousands of military kids who live or attend school on U.S. bases worldwide.

Yet the case at Kadena Air Base began unfolding in February — six months after President Donald Trump signed those landmark reforms.

For decades, justice has been elusive on American bases when the children of service members sexually assaulted each other. Help for victims and accountability for offenders was rare in the nearly 700 reports over a decade that an AP investigation documented.

The new law required reforms across the Pentagon. The school system it runs for service members' kids had to create new student protections. The Family Advocacy Program, whose social service counselors would turn victims away, must review reports. The Office of the Secretary of Defense will track cases and create a policy for how to handle them.

The reforms are now rolling out, but the rollout has been uneven.

The Air Force has not drafted new guidelines. Instead, it is "reserving decision on adding or amending policy until publication of a Department of Defense policy," according to spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mercurio.

Like other armed services, Air Force representatives are helping form that policy. A Pentagon spokeswoman could not say when it would be published.

Mercurio called the case in Japan "an extremely difficult situation." He said the Air Force has scrambled to deliver "helping resources to the families involved while remaining focused on protecting the rights and privacies of all parties and preserving the integrity of the ongoing investigation."

Kadena Air Base spokeswoman Lt. Col. Christy Stravolo noted that the 13-year-old boy has returned to the U.S. with his family. That happened within several weeks of the first allegations. Attempts to reach his parents were unsuccessful.

The Army didn't wait to follow the Pentagon's lead. It wrote its own policy.

That March 21 directive mandates both a criminal investigation and victim assistance through Family Advocacy, which now must inform counterparts on other bases when an offender's family transfers.

Because military law doesn't apply to family members, justice must come under civilian law. So cases on Army bases will be referred to state or local district attorneys who, unlike federal prosecutors, have juvenile justice systems.

"There's a recognition that states are best able to adjudicate," said Charles Lozano, an Army attorney who helped draft the policy.

The policy does not explore the nuances of overseas bases, where host-nation civilian authorities may treat juvenile sex crime allegations very differently. Instead of handing over suspects to Japanese officials, for example, the military often flies them back to the U.S.

Rep. Jackie Speier, who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said she was encouraged that the Army's policy was "more comprehensive" than the law required.

"We're going to continue to track this," Speier said. "I'm not certain that this is enough. I'm very watchful in terms of observing what happens when these incidents occur. And they will occur."

The Navy and Marines fall between the Army and Air Force.

The Marine Corps is updating its guidelines to include "language and protocols that address problematic sexual behavior in children and youth," according to Maj. Craig Thomas. Publication is expected by year's end.

Naval leaders have directed base commanders to work with social services, according to spokesman Lt. Samuel Boyle. The Navy also has issued interim guidance, which it would not share. The most detailed changes came to the Pentagon-run school system that educates more than 70,000 students on bases in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

These students have not received protections U.S. public school students get under Title IX, a federal law that's been used to investigate sexual assault in schools and to help victims. Congress said students at Pentagon-run schools must get protections "at least comparable to" Title IX. The school system published new policies in February.

About 4,000 students attend seven schools on Kadena. Like schools on many U.S. bases, Kadena's have struggled with sex assault allegations — in 2014, several high school students reported attacks.

The full scope of the latest case remains under investigation.

Three weeks into the Kadena case, some families still felt unsupported by base officials. An investigator had earlier suggested jolting the process with a call to Capitol Hill. In early March, the mother of the 5-year-old girl reached a sympathetic staffer at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The next day, the commander of Kadena called and asked how he could help.

Air Force officials said they have mobilized investigators and other specialists from around the globe. The 5-year-old's mother acknowledged those efforts and that some of the families may have had a different experience.

"The difference from the beginning to now is that there is more communication," the mother said, "but I don't have confidence that if it happened tomorrow, the process would be successful. The policies haven't been changed."


Nebraska
100-year-old hospice patient and 'die-hard' Royals fan to watch her favorite team in Omaha

Doris Aylor has been a “die-hard” Kansas City Royals fan since the team’s 2014 World Series appearance.

The 100-year-old hospice patient will fulfill a dream Thursday when she gets to watch her beloved Royals, live and in person, for the first time.

In Omaha.

The game is a first for both Aylor and Omaha, with the matchup between the Royals and Detroit Tigers the first regular season major-league baseball game ever to be played in the city.

Doris’ fandom hasn’t been long-standing, but she’s about as passionate as anyone could be.

It began with her son Larry Aylor, who spent multiple weekends with her in the summer of 2014. The two watched several games together that summer.

“For some reason, she got really hooked on it,” said Susie Sochor of Doniphan, Nebraska, Doris’ daughter. “The next year, she watched them the entire season, and they won the World Series. She’s followed them ever since — win, lose, or lose some more.”

While Doris’ enthusiasm for the Royals began with her son, Thursday’s trip to Omaha originated with Libby Todd, a social worker at the Tabitha hospice in Grand Island.

“I noticed when I visited with Doris, she really perked up when we talked about the Kansas City Royals,” Todd said. “So I had a thought about her going to a game; just that thought got the ball rolling.”

Todd said Doris “lit up like a Christmas tree” when asked if she wanted to see the Royals play. “Yes, I do want to go,” Doris told Todd.

From there, things fell into place.

“It really was due to a force greater than myself,” Todd said. “The stars all aligned.”

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After running into problems finding tickets, Todd reached out to the Dreamweaver Foundation, an Omaha nonprofit that works to provide memorable experiences to terminally ill seniors. The foundation handles the costs and logistics of the experience, working with the nominator to make the dream a reality.

While Dreamweaver is handling most of the arrangements for Thursday’s trip, the four tickets came from a different source: Royals starting pitcher Homer Bailey.

Doris will be traveling from Grand Island, where she’s lived since October 2018, to Omaha with her nurse, Rose Dinan, and Pat Haag, a nurse’s assistant at Tabitha. Son Larry is driving to Omaha from his home in Louisburg, Kansas, to join them.

Doris and her care team will be coming to the game in a limo. Todd said Wednesday that the trio will be “arriving in style,” but she also said that taking a limo makes the trip simpler.

“Medical transportation is hard to come by, especially out west here, so being able to go by limo made it a lot easier,” she said.

Judy Aylor, Doris’ other daughter, who lives in Aurora, Colorado, said her mother has been having some memory problems, but never forgets to tune in and watch the Royals.

Doris’ favorite players are Salvador Perez and former Nebraska standout Alex Gordon. Sochor said her mother would “probably take a kiss from either one of them.”

Doris said in an interview Wednesday that it was “wonderful” to get the chance to attend the game.

Her daughters said they are “thrilled” for their mom.

“I’m getting choked up here, but I can’t believe how caring these people are,” Sochor said. “We just feel so blessed that they’ve worked so hard to make this dream come true for her.”

A roundup of inspirational stories from Midlanders with heart

Metro
Stothert: Deadline to settle Omaha trash contract 'imminent,' low bidder back in mix

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert signaled Wednesday that she’s prepared to send the City Council a trash contract that the majority of the council supports, even if she prefers a different approach.

But before she does, she asked council members to put in writing what level of trash service they want, at what cost, and who they want to provide it.

Stothert said the need to get a deal done means she’s willing, for the first time, to forward the council a bid from Minnesota-based West Central Sanitation, the city’s low bidder.

A clear majority of the council has expressed support to The World-Herald for picking West Central as the city’s next waste hauler.

But, Stothert said, any West Central contract would come without an endorsement from her or the Public Works Department. The implication of such a stance: The council would own any problems that arose from the choice.

Stothert and Public Works have argued that choosing West Central is risky. They say the company would have to take out loans and grow rapidly to serve Omaha.

Stothert’s letter repeated her argument that the council should question whether a smaller company is equipped to handle emergencies and other contingencies.

Waste Management, the city’s current trash hauler and also the nation’s largest, struggled to catch up on curbside pickup after a hailstorm in late May.

Omahans saw delays of a couple of days to several days. The city received nearly 2,600 verified complaints of missed collections the week of June 3.

“It took extreme measures to get back on schedule,” Stothert wrote, including relocating Waste Management employees from other cities.

West Central might not have enough trucks or staffing to respond to such situations, she said.

Stothert said Omaha needs the City Council to settle on a trash contract soon. She called the deadline to make a decision “imminent.”

“We are really under the gun now,” she said.

The mayor said the city’s next trash contractor needs 14 to 16 months to set up shop. The current contract runs through the end of 2020.

Stothert plans to meet with West Central leaders Thursday for the first time. She met with leaders of her preferred contractor, Spain-based FCC Environmental, last week.

The mayor continued to emphasize Wednesday that the council should reconsider a $22.7 million-a-year bid from FCC. The council rejected the FCC bid on a 6-1 vote June 4.

Her favored FCC bid would provide residents with a pair of 96-gallon carts, one for trash and yard waste combined and one for recycling.

The mayor, after receiving feedback from the public, has recommended adding unlimited seasonal yard waste pickup to the proposal.

Several council members have said they need more information about the cost of the yard waste proposal before voting to adopt the separate trash contract.

Others said they prefer West Central, because it offers more services for less money.

West Central’s bid would provide three carts to each Omaha household — one each for trash, recycling and yard waste. The $22.2 million-a-year bid also includes composting of yard waste.

Stothert has stressed that people would pay extra for any yard waste above what fills a 96-gallon cart under the three-cart West Central bid.

Council members have argued that West Central also offers a cheaper two-cart bid that’s more directly comparable with the rejected FCC bid for about $15 million a year.

That bid could be supplemented by the mayor’s yard waste plan and save taxpayers money, they said.

West Central owner Don Williamson has said his company has wanted to bid on the Omaha trash contract for decades and is ready to take it on. He said the company has access to the financing it needs to execute its plans.

Stothert, in a letter to the council Wednesday, said she has instructed Public Works to quickly bid out her plan for unlimited yard waste pickup for six weeks each spring and fall.

The city’s goal is to advertise for bids on July 17 and receive them back by Aug. 7.

Stothert also said Public Works has secured two-month extensions on the bids from FCC and West Central. Both bids were set to expire in July. They’ll now remain valid into September.

Council President Chris Jerram said Wednesday that he has shared his constituents’ trash priorities many times, both publicly and privately, with the mayor and Public Works.

Council members Brinker Harding, Aimee Melton and Rich Pahls said they appreciated Stothert’s decision to meet with West Central. Harding and Melton said they would write up their thoughts for Stothert.

Pahls said he’s made his position clear. He wants a West Central bid.

But council member Ben Gray bristled at the idea that the council should determine which contract the mayor sends to the council.

“It’s our job to ferret out if the contract she sends us is what the community wants,” Gray said.

PDF: Mayor's letter
Photos: Our best shots of 2019 (so far)

Creighton
Recently found relics from Creighton's final football team tell the story of halfback 'TNT Tommy'

Rita Nelsen finally dusted off the old trunks in her basement, years after her mother died.

She expected to have to sift through a pile of junk. Instead, inside the trunks, she rediscovered her father, 31 years after his death, preserved in photos, letters and newspaper clippings, along with the rest of Creighton University’s final football team.

Headlines referred to Tom Dineen as “TNT Tommy” and “Tiny Tommy in Capsule Form.” They showed him striking a Heisman pose and diagrammed him dashing past defenders.

“My mom told me millions of stories,” Nelsen said, “but I had never heard these.”

RITA NELSEN 

Rita Nelsen

In 1942, Creighton’s campus became somewhat of a training ground for troops in World War II. As those troops shipped off, football programs across the country shut down, some permanently. While the Nebraska Cornhuskers played on, Creighton never fielded a football team again.

What Nelsen found in the trunks had rarely been seen by the large Catholic Dineen family or by folks at Creighton University and a handful of other schools where Dineen either played or coached. Now the family is giving those pieces back to the schools where their father left a legacy.

For Creighton, this donation gives the university a game-day program it didn’t have, plus countless photos and correspondence that help paint the picture of what the university was like in the World War II era.

RITA NELSEN 

A photo of Tom Dineen posing in uniform.

“In the 140-year history of Creighton University, we’ve got huge gaps where people weren’t collecting or saving anything,” said David Crawford, Creighton University archivist. “The most exciting part of this (collection) is the small insights that it shows more broadly what it was like to be a student here.”

Among the findings were a pristine game-day program from the Creighton football team’s second-to-last game, a 13-6 win against Texas Tech at Creighton Stadium. The stadium, an oval with open end zones, once stood at the southeast corner of 27th and Burt Streets.

In one trunk was a written code of conduct for Creighton Prep players, an old Creighton University fight song for a 1940 game against the Colorado School of Mines and a letter from the president of Union Pacific Railroad congratulating Dineen on a strong performance in a 1941 football game.

RITA NELSEN 

A personal letter from Union Pacific Railroad President W. M. Jeffers to Tom Dineen.

At Creighton, the short and agile Dineen was a left halfback in a T-formation offense that still was struggling to learn the forward pass. His biggest highlight came in a 1941 game against powerhouse Tulsa when he returned a kick 98 yards, only to be tackled on the 1-yard line.

Dineen was billed as a star heading into the team’s 1942 season, but injuries limited his time on the field. The team would finish the season with a winning record, but what wound up being the final game of Creighton’s football program ended in defeat, as the Bluejays lost to sixth-ranked Tulsa 33-19 in Omaha.

In the war, Dineen was sent to Alaska, then to India, but he didn’t see much action. When he returned, Creighton opted to keep its program shuttered. Before the war, the Huskers down the road had been significantly outdrawing the Bluejays in attendance.

Dineen’s athletic career didn’t have to end, though. Nelsen discovered a letter in her mother’s records dated 1943 from Jack Mara, president of the New York Giants of the National Football League.

RITA NELSEN 

A letter sent from New York Giants president Jack Mara to Tom Dineen in 1943.

Mara wanted Dineen to play for his team. Another record, written by Dineen’s students later in life, said the St. Louis Cardinals wanted him to play pro baseball.

But her father chose the family life. He began a career as a high school teacher and coach. He taught a variety of subjects, including math, physical education and Spanish.

“He didn’t even speak Spanish!” Nelsen said.

Tom and his wife, Madeline “Peg” McCaslin, had seven girls and four boys. Peg ran the family at home and Tom coached, taught, painted houses and worked at Storz Brewery (he wasn’t a beer drinker).

He took the kids on camping trips to the Rocky Mountains, taught them how to fish and organized family baseball games. He trained hundreds of high school athletes over his career, but he never spoke much about his own athletic prowess.

“He was not a boastful man,” said Beth Engel, the third-oldest Dineen kid.

He seldom if ever yelled at his kids, but he loved yelling at umpires. Even so, one of those umpires was a pallbearer at his funeral in 1987.

Dineen was inducted into Creighton Prep’s Hall of Fame soon after he died.

Every step along the way, Peg kept newspaper clippings. And she clipped out his obituary when he died of cancer at age 64.

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All those books of memories went into a trio of chests. When Peg died in 2014, they stayed with her third-youngest, Nelsen, with whom she lived in her final years.

Now that Nelsen and her siblings have gone through everything, most of the items will return to the schools where their father made his legacy.

Nelsen has sent or plans to send items back to high schools in California and Nebraska. Dineen coached baseball or football at two schools in San Francisco and plenty in Nebraska, including Sidney St. Patrick High School, Ryan High School in Omaha, Omaha Central High School and Omaha University, now the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

But the family isn’t parting with everything. They will hang onto a handful of photos and letters, just to remember the side of Dad they never knew.

Photos: Relics from ''TNT Tommy' Dineen and Creighton's final football team