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Sig Christenson
Worked at San Antonio Express-News
Attended University of Houston
Lives in San Antonio
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Sig Christenson

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No sooner had Donald Trump taken the oath of office than an email from Eugene R. Fidell popped up in my in box, and I might have expected it. Gene has said for some time now that Trump's comments over the course of his campaign have made it impossible for his client to get a fair trial, and we ran a story right after the election about it. The lawyers we talked to Friday addressed the questions our military courts will face when they grapple with this motion. There's no doubt the comments are incendiary and that Trump has complicated the case, but our experts are not entirely unanimous about how the matter will play out. There will be more soon.
The lead attorney for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, facing a trial this spring for leaving his post in Afghanistan, filed a motion Friday seeking to dismiss the case, saying President Donald Trump had irreparably tainted it with his comments about his client. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly labeled Bergdahl a traitor and is now commander in chief of the officers who will try him, the defense pointed out in a motion released to news media mome...
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Sig Christenson

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A lot of people love Jim Mattis, but even those close to or familiar with him as one of America's great fighting generals aren't sure he should be the next defense secretary despite his reputation as a man of great character, a leader who will always choose the harder right. Here's what a number of retired general officers, one of them a mentor to Mattis, told me this week. Thanks to Guy Swan, Eugene Habiger and the other commanders not on FB for their help.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis made headlines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq when he fired an officer he felt wasn’t pushing fast enough toward Baghdad, a decision those familiar with the incident say was in character for a commander nicknamed “Mad Dog.” A thoughtful, complicated and occasionally profane man, Mattis was quoted by the San Diego Union-Tribune as saying there are “some (people) in the world that just need to be shot,” and was q...
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Sig Christenson

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Elections have consequences. Hours after Donald Trump was elected president and Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was given another term of office, Eugene R. Fidell was preparing to file a writ with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He doesn't think Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can receive a fair trial because of the things both men are on the record as having said about his client, and wants the case dismissed. Our story has the details and views of several lawyers.
The civilian attorney defending Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl against charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy moved Wednesday to get the charges dismissed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory, saying comments Trump and U.S. Sen. John McCain made jeopardized his client’s chances of a fair trial. The lawyer, Eugene Fidell, has hammered at the issue again and again over the course of Bergdahl’s case, citing the intense — and often...
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Ask Donald Stinson, and he'll tell you he is most proud of spearheading the federal free school lunch program in the San Antonio school district in 1967. He recalls a child who had a single tortilla in her lunch sack and an all-black school with no cafeteria. The food was cooked elsewhere and brought over to the school in the trunk of a car. But at 93, he's also proud of his time as a cargo plane pilot in World War II, and was tickled to finally get his medals 71 years after Japan's surrender.
A seagull that landed on top of Rickenbacker’s head soon became lunch, a spot of luck Stinson wasn’t sure would break his way after imagining his C-26 — drained of gas by a bad headwind en route to Hawaii — going down in the middle of nowhere. Stinson, 93, received an Army Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbo...
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Sig Christenson

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I find it hard to call up people who've lost loved ones, especially just after a tragedy. It is the worst part of my job and the thing I really don't want to do. But that is exactly what I did last week, starting with two mothers and one brother who lost people in the balloon crash near Lockhart. I then was asked to do this story. If anyone has the right to weigh in on what Donald Trump said about Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, it's the Gold Star families, but I'm well aware that every time I pick up the phone I am re-traumatizing these people. Their pain never goes away, and I tried to stress that in this story. I stress it because many folks don't know that, and I'm afraid that few also are connected with their profound sense of loss in a country where less than 1 percent have gone to war. They'll tell you as much, but they'll also say that perhaps one good thing will come of this.
[...] over the past several days, wounds that have never quite healed were torn open again when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq. The flap began after Khan, his wife standing silently at his side, raised a copy of the Constitution and lectured Trump, who avoided the war in Vietnam, saying, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” The controversy brought families belonging to...
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After suffering severe burns, the governor came to the right place for care.
[...] mostly it’s the experience and the specialist care that is available there, said Dr. Basil Pruitt, a retired colonel and longtime commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, or ISR, which oversees the burn center. The San Antonio burn center, the only one in the Department of Defense, owed its creation to the atomic bomb, which produced up to 60,000 victims with significant burn wounds and sparked the Army’s interest in the ...
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'Exodus' is one of my all-time favorite stories. I get to write about kids who are doing great things in the military getting to go home for downtime with their families at Christmas and, perhaps most importantly, a chance to sleep in. 
Hughes, 18, of Seattle, Washington, was ready for the holidays as he strolled into San Antonio International Airport at noon Wednesday, right down to dreaming of his favorite dish back home — fettuccine alfredo with grilled chicken. Hughes probably was one of the few counting as he joined thousands of other soldiers, sailors and airmen streaming through the airport for Exodus, the annual pilgrimage of troops on holiday “block leave.” Airman 1st...
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Veterans advocates howled when the Los Angeles Times reported that soldiers had been forced to take out loans to repay re-enlistment bonuses given as an incentive to keep the most experienced troops in uniform while the war in Iraq raged. Everyone wondered if troops in other states also received bonuses that were fraudulent or far higher than intended. We pursued the story for weeks and got some answers. Thanks to the Texas National Guard for arranging a briefing for me at Camp Mabry outlining their bonus program, and for fielding a lot of other questions we had in the reporting process. We have the numbers as well as the big-picture story.
Only three Texas National Guard soldiers who transferred from California have been caught up in a re-enlistment bonus controversy that made headlines across the country and triggered a Pentagon order to stop federal efforts to collect millions of dollars from troops, officials said. The government did, however, seek repayment from Texas Guard soldiers who failed to meet contract requirements, mostly for reasons that included failing two consecut...
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When I started this project, I came into it knowing that the fighter pilot shortage is a complex issue with major national-security ramifications. It's been going on for years and likely to ensue, and perhaps worsen, well into the next decade. Here's a look at the 'quiet crisis', as the Air Force's top commander calls it, that spans two administrations, meaning it is a bipartisan problem that will require some kind of consensus to solve. As you'll see, we've got a wealth of statistics, strong art and sources who include pilots and and three Air Force chiefs of staff who talked with us, and it took a village of talented people -- and patient and supportive folks in the Air Force -- to get this in the paper. The AF people include Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas, Col. Sean McKenna, Randy Martin and Erika Yepsen.
Lauer, 24, is near the end of an innovative 12-week course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph that has increased graduation rates in the Air Force, which is struggling to fill a huge fighter pilot shortage as aviators burned out by deployments, budget cuts and extraneous duties flee for jobs elsewhere. The shortage stands at 723 pilots this year and is expected to worsen, reaching 1,000 in 2017, with no immediate way to plug the gap because the ...
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When I began reading the motion yesterday, I was stunned to see that Gen. Robert Abrams, the head of the Army's Forces Command at Fort Bragg, had burned more than 100 letters mailed to him concerning Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. That was a strange thing to do, given it was potential evidence, and so I reached out to some of my experts. What I've learned is that the lead defense attorney, Eugene R. Fidell, has raised two issues that could mark a major turning point in the case, as you'll see in this story.
Lawyers for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner by the Taliban for nearly five years after abandoning a remote Army outpost in Afghanistan and faces criminal charges for leaving his unit, on Friday accused his top commander of burning more than 100 letters regarding the case. The defense, in a court motion, asked a judge to remove Gen. Robert Abrams from the case and to cancel a scheduled Feb. 6 trial because Abrams told Bergdahl’s defense...
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As Turkey has unraveled, no one's said much about the nuclear weapons there. If you're weren't aware of it, we have several dozen tactical nuclear bombs in storage at Incirlik Air Base, most of them more powerful than the atomic bombs used to end World War II. One general who knows a lot about nukes is worried about that, and others say he has a point. We explain why.
Given the attempted coup and increasing instability of Turkey, they worry one San Antonian, a former commander of all Air Force and Navy strategic nuclear weapons. Yet 200 of them are still in NATO’s European arsenal, along with 62,000 U.S. troops, because European policymakers have wanted to make sure the United States is part of any war with Russia from the first day of conflict, he said. The attempted coup in Turkey a week ago and the result...
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The look at his face explains why this story was so difficult. Retired Army Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles' son, Chris, called me weeks ago ready to share photos as well as witness statements from the day of battle. A day or so later, he balked, saying he needed permission to release those statements. Soon after, Chris told me a family member told him not to help at all. Frustrated, I told the Army I was done with the story but asked if they'd keep me in the loop on developments, and in time a public affairs officer invited me to join a round table press conference. The elder Kettles didn't talk about himself much last Sunday. When asked about his role in the battle where he's credited with saving 44 lives, Chuck Kettles talked in short paragraphs. It wasn't about him, but the Medal of Honor will transform everything. Asked in Sunday's interview if he'd thought about how life would change, Kettles noted that it already had and vowed to adjust to the changes that are bound to come. “It has to be done,” he said. “We’ll get it done.”
[...] retired Army Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles, 86, downplayed his role as a helicopter commander extracting troops caught in a fierce firefight in 1967, including eight soldiers he saved after other Americans had pulled out. [...] the team made multiple trips to pull troops back out after an ambush from a much larger enemy force along the Song Tra Cau riverbed near Duc Pho, Vietnam. The landing zone was under a “savage barrage,” according to t...
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