AWOL, AWOL, AWOL! In a petulant and embarrassing (for the author) screed, filled with phallic metaphors—will some people get over their genitalia already?--Frank Rich concedes that the Republicans (registration required) have outfoxed the Democrats yet again. Right conclusion, wrong—albeit funny, and sometimes, not so funny--premises.
Many months ago, I posted my own screeds regarding President Bush’s ANG service and the misinformation surrounding it. I swore to myself that that would be the end of it here, since the subject has a tendency to give me a migraine (though I have put out several other small misinformation fires on the subject at other sites). But since partisans like Rich are again attempting to use the subject to fight back against the Bush bounce (and, of course, the Swift Vets) in the wake of the RNC, the subject requires a reexamination for a specific reason.
Rich and like-minded individuals, in their attempt to demean the president’s military service, are hitting a countless number of collateral targets--to use a perfectly apt metaphor: my service, my brother-in-law’s service (NMANG; activated, guarding the home front) and that of our many Guard/Reserve cohorts. But, most importantly, the AWOL-callers are demeaning the service of Guard/Reserve personnel that have given their lives in the old war—Vietnam—and the new one—Operation Iraqi Freedom. That, as the man said, will not stand.
My friend Marty—whose parents are battling Frances in Orlando, Florida (please pray for them)—sent me Colonel William J Campenni’s old missive to the Washington Times (February 11, 2004). The colonel served with George W. Bush in the interval 1971-1972. Obviously, the colonel can’t speak on the events of President Bush’s service after that. But he does demolish many of the charges that have been hurled at the president’s service and the letter deserves a new exposure and exploration.
The F-102 [the aircraft for which then Lt. Bush was trained to fly] could not drop bombs and would have been useless in Vietnam. A pilot program using ANG volunteer pilots in F-102s (called Palace Alert) was scrapped quickly after the airplane proved to be unsuitable to the war effort. Ironically, Lt. Bush did inquire about this program but was advised by an ANG supervisor (Maj. Maurice Udell, retired) that he did not have the desired experience (500 hours) at the time and that the program was winding down and not accepting more volunteers. [SNIP]
If you check the 111th FIS records of 1970-72 and any other ANG squadron, you will find other pilots excused for career obligations and conflicts.
The Bush excusal in 1972 was further facilitated by a change in the unit's mission, from an operational fighter squadron to a training squadron with a new airplane, the F-101, which required that more pilots be available for full-time instructor duty rather than part-time traditional reservists with outside employment.
There was a huge glut of pilots [due to “The winding down of the Vietnam War in 1971”] in the Air Force in 1972, and with no cockpits available to put them in, many were shoved into nonflying desk jobs. Any pilot could have left the Air Force or the Air Guard with ease after 1972 before his commitment was up because there just wasn't room for all of them anymore....[SNIP]
Lt. Bush was excused for a period to take employment in Florida for a congressman and later in Alabama for a Senate campaign.
Excusals for employment were common then and are now in the Air Guard, as Pilots [and others] frequently are in career transitions, and most commanders (as I later was) are flexible in letting their charges take care of career affairs until they return or transfer to another unit near their new employment. Sometimes they will transfer temporarily to another unit to keep them on the active list until they can return home. The receiving unit often has little use for a transitory member, especially in a high-skills category like a pilot, because those slots usually are filled and, if not filled, would require extensive conversion training of up to six months, an unlikely option for a temporary hire.Saw similar situations a gazillion times and not just for pilots or sons/daughters of wealthy families.
Additionally, in the Reserves of the 1990s and the new century, a reservist was allowed three unexcused absences. (The Guard/Reserves make allowances for feces to happen when one has to travel long distances on a weekend: the car won’t start--as happened several times with me--the kid gets sick, etc.) That means that a reservist could have as many excused absences as a commander would allow.
…there is no instance of Lt. Bush disobeying lawful orders in reporting for a physical,[--ed. Bold mine.] as none would be given. Pilots are scheduled for their annual flight physicals in their birth month during that month's weekend drill assembly - the only time the clinic is open [in my old unit, only on the Saturday of said weekend]. In the Reserves, it is not uncommon to miss this deadline by a month or so for a variety of reasons: The clinic is closed that month for special training; the individual is out of town on civilian business; etc. [SNIP]
If so, the pilot is grounded temporarily until he completes the physical.
Also, the formal drug testing program was not instituted by the Air Force until the 1980s [--ed. Bold mine.] and is done randomly by lot, not as a special part of a flight physical, when one easily could abstain from drug use because of its date certain. Blood work is done, but to ensure a healthy pilot, not confront a drug user....Having first read the bolded misinformation a while back, I nearly laughed my backend off in derision. The colonel probably did as well, before he calmed down and ably debunked it above.
In my reserve incarnation, I was an Aeromedical Services Technician (non-flying), whose primary peacetime purpose was to perform the paraprofessional portion of the physical exam to flying personnel. That entails, hearing exams, vision exams, vitals, blood work, immunizations, other stuff, and, most pertinent to this subject, scheduling the exams.
So I know the colonel’s part about the physicals to be true. We had pilots (and other flight crew) miss physicals all the time, due to a whole range of reasons (like not being on flying status for whatever reason, as was the case with Lt. Bush). The only thing that will happen to them is that they will be grounded, as Col. Campenni says. Not a big deal for a pilot with no aircraft to fly in.
Also, I remember when the random drug test was instituted. At the onset of the new drug-testing policy, they tested everyone in the Air Force. That was the only time in which the test wasn’t random. The implementation of the new policy occurred nine months after I joined the active duty Air Force, in 1981. (Side note: in a certain key unit at my first base, seventy-five percent of those first 1981 tests came up positive, causing the base to shut down for three days until replacements could be transferred to the base. Guess which type of unit it was.)
The colonel has other pertinent information about how Guard/Reserve commanders handle personnel on temporary assignment.
All of this information is available to the researcher willing to do the work. (Be advised: Guard/Reserve personnel who are on active duty, like those in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are subject to active duty rules regarding service, that is, 24/7.) Granted much of it is complicated, but not impossible to decipher, if one is willing. Short of that, all a researcher need do is *ask* a reserve commander--like Colonel Campenni himself—for a point in the right direction.
Please point me to a researcher that *completed* his/her homework, links and all. Otherwise, I concur with Col. Campenni:
In the fighter-pilot world, we have a phrase we use when things are starting to get out of hand and it's time to stop and reset before disaster strikes. We say, "Knock it off." So, Mr. Kerry and your friends who want to slander the Guard: Knock it off.That is unless part of the actual *purpose* is to denigrate Guard/Reserve service. Did I mention that John Kerry was in the Reserves the entire time of his military stint? Guess Guard/Reserve serve only means something if you pull the unlucky number. Or only if you’re a Democrat.
Knock it off, Mr. Rich. And go see a professional about that *fixation* you seem to have.
(Thanks to LaShawn)
UPDATE: More misinformation and incomplete research here. A military pilot whose aircraft was being deleted from the inventory and who knew that he would be getting an early out because of it would have no reason to worry about being grounded because of a missed physical. Such a pilot would be already grounded de facto! That his superiors didn't fill out whatever paperwork was required at the time for such an accurance was probably laziness on some admin type's part (no offense, admin types). However, it is just as likely that the commander didn't see the need to fill out the paperwork, because any idiot could see why a given pilot wouldn't need to take his physical under the given circumstances.
Well, almost any idiot.
UPDATE: The Yahoo story references a "DD Form 44" having some relationship to Goerge Bush's draft status. I can't find a DD Form 44 on this site.