- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A packet of Texas Air National Guard records released yesterday showed that the commanding officer of President Bush’s basic training unit wrote to his father to praise his son.

Mr. Bush’s father, then a congressman from Texas, said in reply to the commander, “That a major general in the Air Force would take interest in a brand new Air Force trainee made a big impression on me.”

Mr. Bush went on to say that his son “will be a gung ho member” of the Air Force and that Air Force instructors had “helped awaken the very best instincts in my son.”

The 1968 letter and other material were the latest in a stream of documents released about Mr. Bush’s service three decades ago during the Vietnam War, when Mr. Bush’s critics say he got preferential treatment as the son of a congressman and United Nations ambassador.

Democrats called the correspondence proof of special treatment, and said releasing the documents on a Friday evening indicated Mr. Bush had something to hide.

“If the president was truly proud of his service he wouldn’t be releasing these documents on a Friday night,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said. “These documents demonstrate yet again that George Bush was a fortunate son who received special consideration unavailable to the average American.”

White House communications director Dan Bartlett said the documents were more proof that Mr. Bush fulfilled his military obligations. “It also demonstrates we are fulfilling the president’s request to release all the documents regarding his military service,” he said.

The Pentagon uncovered the documents during a search in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press seeking all of Mr. Bush’s records from the Texas Air National Guard. A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Defense Department to hand over all newly discovered Bush records to the AP by next Friday.

The AP lawsuit also led to the release earlier this month of previously undisclosed flight logs for the years Mr. Bush spent as a trainee and pilot, mostly on the F-102A fighter.

The White House has said repeatedly that all of Mr. Bush’s Guard records have been disclosed, only to be embarrassed when new documents have turned up. The long-running story took an unusual turn when CBS uncovered documents purportedly showing that Mr. Bush refused orders to take a physical examination in 1972 — but then the authenticity of the documents came under doubt.

The new packet of documents also contained two single-page orders documenting Mr. Bush’s Guard training in May and June of 1973 after he returned from Alabama. Those documents note that Mr. Bush was not allowed to fly. Mr. Bush lost his flying status in August 1972 because he failed to take a required medical exam.

The Texas training came after Mr. Bush spent more than a year away from his unit. Mr. Bush has said he left Texas to work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend. Mr. Bush was authorized to train with an Alabama Air National Guard unit in September, October and November 1972. The one record directly showing Mr. Bush appeared at the Alabama unit is a record of a January 1973 dental exam. A history of the Alabama Guard unit does not mention Mr. Bush but does mention the unit received brand-new dental equipment in late 1972.

The letter written by Mr. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, was addressed to Maj. Gen. G.B. Greene Jr., commander of the training center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where Mr. Bush took his basic training. The file does not contain Gen. Greene’s letter to Mr. Bush’s father, but shows the letter his father wrote back.

“I was surprised and very, very pleased to receive your letter of August 27th,” Mr. Bush wrote, adding that he was impressed that a senior officer would take interest in a new trainee.

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