Letters to the Editor

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First, there is no instance of Lt. Bush disobeying lawful orders in reporting for a physical, 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 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.

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 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.

Second, there was no such thing as a “disciplinary unit in Colorado” to which Lt. Bush had been ordered. The Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver is a repository of the paperwork for those no longer assigned to a specific unit, such as retirees and transferees. Mine is there now, so I guess I’m “being disciplined.” These “disciplinary units” just don’t exist. Any discipline, if required, is handled within the local squadron, group or wing, administratively or judicially. Had there been such an infraction or court-martial action, there would be a record and a reflection in Lt. Bush’s performance review and personnel folder. None exists, as was confirmed in The Washington Post in 2000.

Finally, the Kerrys, Moores and McAuliffes are casting a terrible slander on those who served in the Guard, then and now. My Guard career parallels Lt. Bush’s, except that I stayed on for 33 years. As a guardsman, I even got to serve in two campaigns. In the Cold War, the air defense of the United States was borne primarily by the Air National Guard, by such people as Lt. Bush and me and a lot of others. Six of those with whom I served in those years never made their 30th birthdays because they died in crashes flying air-defense missions.

While most of America was sleeping and Mr. Kerry was playing antiwar games with Hanoi Jane Fonda, we were answering 3 a.m. scrambles for who knows what inbound threat over the Canadian subarctic, the cold North Atlantic and the shark-filled Gulf of Mexico. We were the pathfinders in showing that the Guard and Reserves could become reliable members of the first team in the total force, so proudly evidenced today in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It didn’t happen by accident. It happened because back at the nadir of Guard fortunes in the early ‘70s, a lot of volunteer guardsman showed they were ready and able to accept the responsibilities of soldier and citizen — then and now. Lt. Bush was a kid whose congressman father encouraged him to serve in the Air National Guard. We served proudly in the Guard. Would that Mr. Kerry encourage his children and the children of his colleague senators and congressmen to serve now in the Guard.

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.

COL. WILLIAM CAMPENNI (retired)

U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard

Herndon, Va.5

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