Skip to comments.Bush and I in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from 1970 to 1971. (my title)
Posted on 08/24/2004 3:06:29 PM PDT by A Navy Vet
Letters to the Editor
'Bush and I were lieutenants'
George Bush and I were lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), Texas Air National Guard (ANG) from 1970 to 1971. We had the same flight and squadron commanders (Maj. William Harris and Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, both now deceased). While we were not part of the same social circle outside the base, we were in the same fraternity of fighter pilots, and proudly wore the same squadron patch.
It is quite frustrating to hear the daily cacophony from the left and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, et al., about Lt. Bush escaping his military responsibilities by hiding in the Texas ANG. In the Air Guard during the Vietnam War, you were always subject to call-up, as many Air National Guardsmen are finding out today. If the 111th FIS and Lt. Bush did not go to Vietnam, blame President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, not lowly Lt. Bush. They deliberately avoided use of the Guard and Reserves for domestic political calculations, knowing that a draftee only stirred up the concerns of one family, while a call-up got a whole community's attention.
The mission of the 147th Fighter Group and its subordinate 111th FIS, Texas ANG, and the airplane it possessed, the F-102, was air defense. It was focused on defending the continental United States from Soviet nuclear bombers. The F-102 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.
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.
The winding down of the Vietnam War in 1971 provided a flood of exiting active-duty pilots for these instructor jobs, making part-timers like Lt. Bush and me somewhat superfluous. There was a huge glut of pilots 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.
Sadly, few of today's partisan pundits know anything about the environment of service in the Reserves in the 1970s. The image of a reservist at that time is of one who joined, went off for six months' basic training, then came back and drilled weekly or monthly at home, with two weeks of "summer camp." With the knowledge that Mr. Johnson and Mr. McNamara were not going to call out the Reserves, it did become a place of refuge for many wanting to avoid Vietnam.
There was one big exception to this abusive use of the Guard to avoid the draft, and that was for those who wanted to fly, as pilots or crew members. Because of the training required, signing up for this duty meant up to 2½ years of active duty for training alone, plus a high probability of mobilization. A fighter-pilot candidate selected by the Guard (such as Lt. Bush and me) would be spending the next two years on active duty going through basic training (six weeks), flight training (one year), survival training (two weeks) and combat crew training for his aircraft (six to nine months), followed by local checkout (up to three more months) before he was even deemed combat-ready. Because the draft was just two years, you sure weren't getting out of duty being an Air Guard pilot. If the unit to which you were going back was an F-100, you were mobilized for Vietnam. Avoiding service? Yeah, tell that to those guys.
The Bush critics do not comprehend the dangers of fighter aviation at any time or place, in Vietnam or at home, when they say other such pilots were risking their lives or even dying while Lt. Bush was in Texas. Our Texas ANG unit lost several planes right there in Houston during Lt. Bush's tenure, with fatalities. Just strapping on one of those obsolescing F-102s was risking one's life.
Critics such as Mr. Kerry (who served in Vietnam, you know), Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore (neither of whom served anywhere) say Lt. Bush abandoned his assignment as a jet fighter pilot without explanation or authorization and was AWOL from the Alabama Air Guard.
Well, as for abandoning his assignment, this is untrue. 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 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.
As a commander, I would put such "visitors" in some minor administrative post until they went back home. There even were a few instances when I was unaware that they were on my roster because the paperwork often lagged. Today, I can't even recall their names. If a Lt. Bush came into my unit to "pull drills" for a couple of months, I wouldn't be too involved with him because I would have a lot more important things on my table keeping the unit combat ready.
Another frequent charge is that, as a member of the Texas ANG, Lt. Bush twice ignored or disobeyed lawful orders, first by refusing to report for a required physical in the year when drug testing first became part of the exam, and second by failing to report for duty at the disciplinary unit in Colorado to which he had been ordered. Well, here are the facts:
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
Didn't think an open letter from a citizen is against posting rules. I tried to include the link, but was only allowed to excerpt. I'll try again if this is a problem.
Wow! God bless you, Col. CAMPENNI! Thank you for speaking up.
BTTT / Bookmark
This sounds familiar; is it from a while back? Do you have a link?
Bump for later read
I would like the link, as I want to send it to others and I want them to know that this is authoritative. Thanks!
Gee, I didn't know that Bush flew with the New York Air National Guard.
Thanks for posting this great personal observation by: COL. WILLIAM CAMPENNI (retired)
U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard
Besides, in the cold war against the USSR, interception of Soviet bombers was a primary mission of our military. Viet Nam was not the only war going on in 1971: the cold war was also very very real.
Good God you have the eyes of a Hawk, I had to squint really hard to read that ... good catch though!
Anyone know which ribbons Bush is wearing in that photo?
So what you are saying Colonel, is that Lt. Bush was AWOL? </MSM mindmeld>
The first one is the Air Force Citation ribbon. I am uncertain about the second without a color picture.
Thanks for the link.
Several months ago I called this gentleman and spoke to him. He is 100% legit.
This is a repost of a letter that was on FR in the Feb time frame.
Oops, should have done a more thorough search. Still, because it is a open letter, and therefore I believe public domain, I posted the entire letter.
Luke Skywalker's FRIENDS strike back!
I heard Kerry saying today that he enlisted in the Navy, that unlike Bush, he volunteered. Well, Kerry enlisted in the NAVAL RESERVES, which is just like the Army and Air Force NATIONAL GUARD. The only problem for Kerry was that he was activated after he completed OCS while Bush was not. So if Bush joined the National Guard to "get out of serving", so did Kerry.
The one on the left is the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. The one on the right appears to be the Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, but it's hard to tell for sure without seeing the colors.
I do suggest that everyone go back to the original post to read the commentary from our first go around on the subject though. I also recommend a visit to the aerospaceweb.org link in #17, repeated here for your convenience: Q and A- F-102, Vietnam & George W. Bush
The National Guard was a refuge from Viet Nam duty for many. That's the way it was. That doesn't mean everyone joining the National Guard sought an easy pass. Many did though. It was a way to dodge military service in Viet Nam during the Viet Nam War for the sons of the well connected and college graduates. Like marriage and having children, college was given a deferment only while attending and maintaining passing marks. They could be drafted, but it seldom occurred. Single men not attending college were much more likely to be drafted.
Only GW Bush knows what was on his mind during this period. I sure don't. Repeating again that I was one of four brothers that escaped the draft by the only means that was respectable. We enlisted directly into the armed forces. We have wartime issues with both John Kerry and GW Bush.
I'd prefer to see the Viet Nam era put behind us and get down to the issues of today. Time is short and there are too many major issues not being discussed.
Thanks for the ping Tonk.
The F-102 in question is a static display aircraft at Ellington Field, Houston Texas. It was placed on display in honor of then Gov Bush after he was elected Gov. Static display aircraft are provided by the Air Force out of storage areas, its the same intercepter that the President flew while assigned to the 111 FIS in the early 70's.
Quick, send this to Christine Matthews. He challenged anyone, ANYONE! to provide someone who could support Dubya's military record.
That's 2 Christine! No wonder your show is the bottom of the barrel of cable TV - all TV in fact.
He still looks like a wiseass pilot.
Time is short and there are too many major issues not being discussed.
The most important one for me is CHARACTER. Or don't you think that is an important item to be discussed?
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
This is exactly the reason people are questioning Kerry pushing his four months in Viet Nam. What about what's on the plate today, Mr. Kerry? He doesn't want to talk about his record or his plan after he is elected. That is the whole problem.
Thank you so much for linking that! I had missed it before. Off to mark it for future reference.
"Single seaters" are all like that.
Question: Did George Bush have a nick name? Pilots do that don't they? What was his?
"I'd prefer to see the Viet Nam era put behind us and get down to the issues of today."
NOT until Kerry answers for his actions AFTER he came back.
Kerry reached out to Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant Cdr., USN (RET) Sunday night 8/22/04,
just hours after former Sen. Bob Dole publicly challenged Kerry to apologize to veterans.
Brant was skipper of the #96 and # 36 boat and spent time with Kerry in Anm Thoi.
Kerry and Brant slept in the same quarters,
and Brant used to put Kerry back to be at night when Kerry was sleepwalking.
KERRY: "Why are all these swift boat guys opposed to me?"
BRANT: "You should know what you said when you came back,
the impact it had on the young sailors
and how it was disrespectful of our guys that were killed over there.
[Brant had two men killed in battle.]
KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92,
I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties,
I was talking about all the rest of the veterans."
ROT IN HELL HANOI KERRY!
The New Soldier by John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War
FREE Download of The New Soldier by John Kerry
and and Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Print and distibute the book that John Kerry "forgets" to mention!
The one book he refuses to bring up.
"honor" John Kerry
Help America know what a "hero" he was at the Winter Soldier
scam he and Jane Fonda pulled on the USA when he came home.
Make sure Kerry "fans" get their copy!
"Phony Vietnam veterans alleged in books
Guenter Lewy's 1978 book America in Vietnam (pages 316-317) and B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley's Stolen Valor (Verity Press, Inc., Dallas, Texas)(pages 113, 131-137) contain similar information about alleged flaws in Lane's book. Neither book, however, refutes any of the testimony given during the Winter Soldier Investigation.
Lawyer and leftist activist Mark Lane was one of the organizers of Winter Soldier. In 1970, Lane had published a book called Conversations With Americans purporting to be interviews with Vietnam veterans about war crimes, containing Vietnam tales of atrocities. Reporter Neil Sheehan showed some interviewed in Lane's book had never served in Vietnam and others had not been in the situations they described. Lane admitted he did not check military records, as confirmation of details was not relevant. Lane later confirmed these militarty records.
The following are often falsely listed as being participants in Winter Soldier, but were actually in Lane's book instead. This confusion is probably due to Stolen Valor having an explanation of Lane's history within the section on Winter Soldier.
Chuck Onan, stock room clerk in Beaufort, S.C.
Michael Schneider, deserted in Europe and deserted again in the USA.
Terry Whitmore, was in an unpopulated area of Vietnam.
Garry Gianninoto, medical corpsman at battalion headquarters.
VVAW leader and Winter Soldier co-organizer Al Hubbard lied about being an officer, and sustaining war injuries - but he never testified at Winter Soldier .
According to the investigative work of Burkett, Lewy and others, there were many imposters, liars, and plain nutjobs who infiltrated the ranks of the anti-war movement, and, in some cases, testified to war crimes and atrocities that never occurred in order to get attention, sympathy, and, in one documented case, medals and honors."
Haha, You caught that too!