- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Documents that should have been written to explain gaps in President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service are missing from the military records released about his service in 1972 and 1973, according to regulations and outside authorities.

For example, Air National Guard regulations at the time required commanders to write an investigative report for the Air Force when Mr. Bush missed his annual medical exam in 1972. The regulations also required commanders to confirm in writing that Mr. Bush received counseling after missing five months of drills.

No such records have been made public and the government told the Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it has released all the records it can find.

Outside experts suggest that National Guard commanders may not have produced documentation required by their own regulations.

“One of the downfalls back then in the National Guard was that not everyone wanted to be chief of staff of the Air Force. They just wanted to fly or maintain airplanes. So the record keeping could have been better,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., a former head of the Air National Guard.

He said the documents may not have been kept in the first place.

The AP identified five categories of records that should have been generated after Mr. Bush skipped his pilot’s physical and missed five months of training.

“Each of these actions by any member of the National Guard should have generated the creation of many documents that have yet to be produced,” AP lawyer David Schulz wrote the Justice Department on Aug. 26.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there were no other documents to explain discrepancies in Mr. Bush’s files.

Military service during the Vietnam War has become an issue in the presidential election. Democrats have accused Mr. Bush, who served stateside in the Air National Guard during Vietnam, of shirking his Guard service and getting favored treatment as the son of a prominent Washington figure.

The AP talked to experts unaffiliated with either campaign who have reviewed Mr. Bush’s files for missing documents. They said it was not unusual for guard commanders to ignore deficiencies by junior officers such as Mr. Bush. But they said missing a physical exam, which caused him to be grounded, was not common.

“It’s sort of like a code of honor that you didn’t go DNF (duty not including flying),” said retired Air Force Col. Leonard Walls, who flew 181 combat missions over Vietnam. “There was a lot of pride in keeping combat-ready status.”

Mr. Bush has said he fulfilled all his obligations. He was in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973 and was trained to fly F-102 fighters.

“I’m proud of my service,” Mr. Bush told a rally last weekend in Lima, Ohio.


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