- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

A purported altercation between Navy Tailhook fliers and a civilian couple was captured by a hotel security camera and apparently shows no "inappropriate touching," a hotel spokesman said yesterday.
The unidentified married couple have revived memories of the notorious 1991 Tailhook convention by charging that the wife was inappropriately touched by a group of fliers in the hallway earlier this month. The Navy began an investigation last week.
Mike Greenan, spokesman for the Nugget Casino Resort, near Reno, Nev., said hotel security officers reviewed soundless film of the couple passing through a group of fliers as the husband and wife headed to their third-floor room. It was about 12:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, as the Tailhook Association convention concluded its second day.
Mr. Greenan said the film "apparently" reveals no wrongful touching, but he added that the captured images are not high quality.
He said the couple had called security to complain of noise and profanity in the hallway.
When security arrived, the fliers some in the company of their wives complied with a request to return to their rooms.
Mr. Greenan said the couple never complained of any touching, just the noise.
"They dispersed the group and took a report from the couple," said Mr. Greenan. "The only complaint the couple made at the time was noise and profanity. From what I know, it wasn't even mentioned. It wasn't part of the complaint. There's no mention in the report of inappropriate touching."
The tape and security's report have been turned over to the Navy Inspector General's Office. The Navy ordered an investigation after the husband registered a complaint on a Navy sexual harassment advice line.
The fliers were mingling near rooms for VFA-122, an F-18 Super Hornet squadron based at the Naval Air Station, Lemoore, Calif., near Fresno.
Later, Vice Adm. Mike Bowman, then the outgoing commander of Navy Pacific air forces, spoke to the couple and expressed regrets for any inconvenience. The Nugget did not charge them for the night's stay.
Retired Navy Capt. Lonny McClung, president of the Tailhook Association of retired and active naval fliers, has sent an e-mail to his board of directors predicting his members will be exonerated. He disputes the couple's account.
"Hotel security has stated to me that it didn't happen that way and that the accuser was clearly the one who started the verbal altercation after he arrived," Capt. McClung's message states, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Times from fliers.
He said in an interview yesterday, "We're not afraid of the truth of this, and we're confident our guys are going to be cleared."
He said the hotel owner telephoned him this week. "He basically said he was looking forward to getting to the bottom of this… . He's looking forward to having us back next year."
Tailhook relocated the annual convention to the Nugget after the disastrous 1991 session at the Las Vegas Hilton, where naval fliers were accused of drunkenness and groping women.
The Aug. 17-20 convention was the first officially supported by the Navy since 1991. The service had cut ties, but resumed an affiliation after members agreed to a code of conduct.
Mr. Greenan said the 2,000 Tailhook conventioneers produced two noise complaints over the four days.
"It was fine," he said. "They had 850 rooms a night for three nights. That's over half our hotel. This is the sixth year in a row they've been here. For a group that size we actually had fewer complaints than we normally would on a full week of conventions on a busy weekend."
A Navy spokesman at the Pentagon said yesterday he did not know if the civilian couple, who reside in the San Francisco Bay area, have been interviewed by investigators.
"Until we find some substantive information on this, we will revert to the statement we released last week," he said.
The four-day meeting featured symposiums on air safety, naval aviation's future and the Kosovo campaign. Top Navy admirals spoke to those in attendance. Navy officials said afterward the sessions will help them retain more experienced pilots.
There also was socializing and what organizers said was moderate drinking.

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