Aerospace World

Aug. 1, 1998

Many Units Depart Persian Gulf

The Air Force moved scores of aircraft, thousands of troops, and hundreds of tons of cargo out of Southwest Asia and back to the United States.

The forces had deployed to the region last fall and winter in response to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s denial of access for United Nations weapons inspectors. Renewed Iraqi compliance with UN requests moved US officials to order units back to home base in the early weeks of June.

“We sent them over because Saddam wasn’t complying with the inspection team,” said Maj. Ben Beeson, AMC contingencies deputy division chief. “The problem has been fixed, and the politicians have decided we can bring our forces home.”

The operation was planned as part of the effort to reduce the overall US troop levels in Southwest Asia from about 37,000 to between 17,000 and 20,000. More than 100 Air Combat Command aircraft are included in the force reduction.

AMC Swings Into Gulf Action

About 600 AMC personnel deployed overseas to help carry out the Gulf redeployment operation. They ranged from crew chiefs to loadmasters, personnel specialists, and chaplains.

Thirty tanker aircraft, including units from McConnell AFB, Kan., McGuire AFB, N.J., and Selfridge ANGB, Mich., supported the redeployment. Officials predicted the tankers would fly nearly 100 refueling missions before all the US bomber and fighter aircraft made their way home.

Tankers refueled six F-117 stealth fighters 27 times as they flew from the Kuwaiti region to the East Coast of the US, for instance. The tankers-both KC-135s and KC-10s-provided a continuous escort for the F-117s.

Among the dozens of airlifters involved in the redeployment were eight C-17s from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, S.C.

Lajes Field, Azores, was a crucial staging base for the C-17s. Efficient support staff at Lajes ensured that crews were quickly shuttled to beds for needed rest, while an experienced fuels distribution staff, almost all Portuguese nationals, cut layover times.

Fighter aircraft also moved through Lajes. In the period June 4­5, 36 F-15s and F-16s returned home through a base sometimes referred to as “The Crossroads of the Atlantic.”

NATO Aircraft Stage Determined Falcon

On June 15, 85 aircraft from 13 NATO nations took to the skies in the Balkans to carry out Operation Determined Falcon, a show of force meant to contain violence in Kosovo.

“This is a very vivid demonstration of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s ability to rapidly project power in the region,” said USAF Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, commander of Allied Air Forces Southern Europe.

The operation involved NATO jets patrolling Yugoslavia’s borders with Albania and Macedonia. Twenty-two fighters, including 12 US F-16s, two Portuguese F-16s, and eight Spanish EF-18s, kicked off the exercise by departing Aviano AB, Italy, at 8 a.m. local time and flying over the Adriatic Sea toward the southern Balkans.

This initial flight was joined by fighters from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Holland, Norway, Turkey, and the UK. Departure points were 15 bases in six European countries. The 5th Allied Tactical Air Force Combined Air Operations Center at Vicenza, Italy, was responsible for running the show.

“This is a new look at NATO,” said Short. “Now you have an organization that is postured to respond out of the region and out of area.”

According to NATO headquarters, the jets flew over the airspace of Macedonia and Albania, then edged to within 10 miles of the Yugoslav border.

Since late February, Yugoslavia’s strongman president, Slobodan Milosevic, has been running a military assault in an effort to crush ethnic Albanian fighters who are seeking independence for Kosovo, a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia’s dominant republic.

While NATO nations do not support Kosovo independence, they have been appalled by Milosevic’s brutality. At least 250 people had been killed in the fighting through early June.

The Albanian capital of Tirana shook with the roar of fighters during the middle of the exercise. Many residents of the poverty-stricken nation expressed support for the airplanes, which they felt demonstrated world support for their embattled ethnic brothers. Others simply marveled at the overflights, as they had never seen jets before.

House OKs FEHBP Pilot Program

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would establish a test program allowing military retirees to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The proposal, a longtime priority of military organizations, was included as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. It was sponsored by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

Under the bill, some 70,000 Medicare-eligible military retirees and their families would be able to enroll in an FEHBP pilot program at six to 10 sites around the country. The aim of the effort would be to gauge the feasibility of extending FEHBP coverage to retirees living in a number of different locations and situations. At least one of the test sites would be located near a Military Treatment Facility, under the amendment. Another would be near a facility currently engaged in the Medicare Subvention pilot project. A third would be located in an area far from any MTF.

A House-Senate conference will complete action on the defense bill later this summer.

USAF Outlines “Body Art” Policy

Want to wear a silver stud in the side of your nose or metal rings in the skin above your eyebrows? Then you had better not be a member of the US Air Force.

A new Air Force policy on personal decoration released in early June prohibits most body piercing-a popular practice among today’s young people in which rings, studs, straps, or other pieces of metal are inserted in holes punched through various body parts.

The only exceptions to the policy are that women may wear small, conservative earrings, and all Air Force personnel may wear piercing items that do not show while in uniform.

The policy is in force at all times while personnel are in uniform or when they are wearing civilian clothing on a base or any location under military control.

“We’ve recognized the increasing popularity of body art and have adjusted personal appearance policy to set appropriate guidelines for such practices,” said Lt. Col. Whit Taylor, chief of the Air Force Quality of Life Office.

At the same time, the Air Force issued its first formal rules on tattooing and “branding,” in which designs are literally burned into skin.

Tattoos and brands which express racist, sexist, or obscene sentiments are banned. No such mark can cover more than one-fourth of an exposed body limb or be visible over the collarbone in an open-neck uniform, according to the new policy.

USAF Pushes Gun for JSF

The US Air Force still wants a gun mounted on the Joint Strike Fighter, despite the demurs of other services that will also buy the aircraft.

“The Air Force position now is we support a gun in the aircraft,” said Harry C. Disbrow Jr., USAF’s deputy director of operational requirements, at an American Helicopter Society convention in Washington on May 21.

Air Force officials have yet to decide exactly what kind of gun they want. The F-15’s 20 mm weapon probably would not be powerful enough to meet all mission requirements, they said. The A-10’s 30 mm gun would likely be too heavy. A compromise caseless 25 mm version is possible.

The Navy, for its part, considers the gun an option. Rear Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, director of Navy air warfare, noted at the same forum that the cost of individual items on service wish lists, such as the gun, needs to be thoroughly explored before proceeding.

The Marine Corps believes a gun would be useful for some JSF missions but not others. Marine officials are particularly concerned about adding unnecessary weight to their short takeoff/vertical landing JSF variant, said Lt. Gen. Terrence R. Dake, head of Marine Corps aviation.

JSF Engine Completes First Test

On June 11, the first model of Pratt & Whitney’s F119-derived engine for Lockheed Martin’s version of the Joint Strike Fighter successfully completed an initial test run at Pratt & Whitney’s facilities in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The test marked a major step forward for the JSF Concept Demonstration Program, which began in November 1996.

“This engine run is another positive milestone in our program to demonstrate Joint Strike Fighter technologies with the X-35 demonstrator aircraft,” said Frank Cappuccio, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and program director for the JSF.

The JSF 119-PW-611 engine is a derivative of the F119 power plant for the F-22 Raptor. Among the modifications made to the basic model for Lockheed Martin JSF purposes are a larger fan and an axisymmetric exhaust nozzle.

Different JSF variants will, in turn, have their own engine model. The power plant will be coupled with a shaft-driven lift fan system to augment vertical thrust for the short takeoff/vertical landing JSF configuration that Lockheed Martin is developing for the Marine Corps and the UK’s Royal Navy, for instance.

Some 200 hours of risk reduction testing undertaken by Lockheed Martin in 1995 and 1996 have already successfully demonstrated the shaft-driven lift fan concept, said contractor officials.

USAF Pushes Airborne Laser

The Air Force moved quickly to try to convince senators that the Senate Armed Services Committee made a mistake when it cut $97 million from the budget of the Airborne Laser theater missile defense system.

In a May letter to Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, stated that the move would derail the Administration’s plans for a crucial mission: theater missile defense. The Air Force’s Space Based Laser program is not a replacement for ABL, said Ryan, as some lawmakers appear to believe. SBL will address strategic National Missile Defense needs and will not reach operational maturity until 15 years after possible ABL deployment.

USAF Tests Anti-Missile Laser

On June 3, a team of contractors working on a laser intended to shoot down ballistic missiles in flight successfully completed a “first light” test of an important laser module in USAF’s Airborne Laser program.

Team ABL-Boeing, TRW, and Lockheed Martin-conducted the test of the Flight-weighted Laser Module at TRW’s Capistrano Test Site near San Clemente, Calif. The experiment was conducted under the auspices of a $1.1 billion program definition and risk reduction contract awarded in November 1996 by USAF’s ABL System Program Office, Kirtland AFB, N.M.

The FLM, a chemical oxygen iodine laser with multihundred-kilowatt power, is a foundation technology for the ABL system. It was run successfully at increasing levels of power several times through the first week of June, said Air Force officials.

Based on this test and tests last year that showed the ABL system could track a missile in flight, USAF officials gave a “green light” June 26 to begin finalizing the system’s design.

If all goes as planned, the first test firing of the actual ABL, designated Attack Laser aircraft, will take place in 2002.

Last ICBM Leaves Grand Forks

The last of 150 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles assigned to the 321st Missile Group was removed from North Dakota soil June 3. With the departure of its last Minuteman III, the 321st moved one step closer to a July 2 inactivation ceremony after standing guard in the high northern plains of America for more than three decades.

“For 34 years, we have had ICBMs out here in the fields of eastern North Dakota,” said Col. Edward Rausch, group commander, during the June ceremony. “They stood as a deterrent to any adversary in the world that might consider challenging the peace and freedom that we enjoy. These missiles did their job.”

Some 120 of the 321st’s ICBMs have been transferred from Grand Forks AFB, N.D., to Malmstrom AFB, Mont. Thirty have been shipped to a depot in Utah for use in test launches.

The transfer was mandated as part of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Guard, Reserve Get Green Cards

On June 20, the Pentagon began honoring a pledge made by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen last year that ID cards for all active duty, Guard, and Reserve US military service members will be one color-green.

The move away from red cards for reservists is meant to eliminate barriers, both structural and cultural, between the components of the Total Force, according to defense officials.

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Charles L. Cragin handed out the first green cards at a joint reserve promotion and reenlistment ceremony at Ft. Dix, N.J., on June 20. The changeover is to be fully implemented over five years.

Though ID card color is changing, there will be no associated changes to current service benefits, privileges, or entitlements, unless a change in status occurs, noted officials. Some 1.5 million members of the Selected Reserve, the Individual Ready Reserve, and the active Standby Reserve will eventually receive new cards.

Air Guard Faces Aging Issues

The first of the Air National Guard’s older F-16s face grounding next year due to age, and ANG leaders have to decide what, if anything, they are going to do about it.

Choices range from a mini­Service Life Extension Program, through a mid-life update, to purchase of new aircraft. The SLEP, while the cheapest option, would simply keep the current force up and running, without adding capability, ANG officials note. The update would cost more money-and purchase of all new aircraft would cost the most money of all.

The last of ANG’s F-16As are now scheduled for removal from service by 2005.

Tricare Dental Fees Rise

The monthly premium for the Tricare Active Duty Family Member Dental Plan will go up slightly Aug. 1, 1998. The premium increase will be reflected in July 1998 leave and earnings statements.

Cost of a single enrollment, currently $7.64 a month, will increase to $8.09. Cost of a family enrollment, now $19.09, will reach $20. This amount, which is deducted from active duty members’ paychecks, represents 40 percent of the total cost of the dental plan. The other 60 percent is paid for directly by the government.

Dental program contractor United Concordia Companies, Inc., proposed the premium increases to cover expected increases in costs. Government contracting officials subsequently accepted the hikes.

Reapers Named Best Air Superiority Unit

The “Grim Reapers,” officially known as the 493d Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, UK, received the Hughes Trophy June 12 for winning the title of best air defense/air superiority fighter squadron in the US Air Force for 1997.

The F-15C Eagle squadron picked up its award at a ceremony in Cambridge, UK. It marks the first time in 10 years that a US Air Forces in Europe unit has won the coveted title.

“This award reflects a lot of hard work and dedication from the entire 493d Fighter Squadron team,” said Lt. Col. Mark Barrett, 493d FS commander.

All Air Force air defense/air superiority squadrons, from the National Guard to Air Combat Command, compete for the Hughes Trophy annually. Units are graded on operational performance, organizational readiness inspection results, training exercise participation, unit achievements and awards, individual achievements and awards, and unit incentive programs.

Among the reasons for the 493d’s winning effort was its 288 combat sorties flown over northern Iraq in support of Operation Northern Watch. The squadron also completed eight deployments to contingencies and exercises around the world, from Canada’s Maple Flag to African Eagle in Morocco.

The Hughes Trophy is sponsored by Raytheon Systems Corp.

New Chocks Save Money, Maybe Engines

The 93d Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., is the first unit in the Air Force to receive a set of large aircraft composite wheel chocks for a six-month test.

The YF-22 Raptor at Edwards AFB, Calif., is testing a similar type of chock but in a smaller version, said Lee R. Sink, logistics program manager at Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Va.

The new chocks should last five to 10 times longer than their traditional wooden counterparts, according to Sink. Wooden chocks become sodden from rain and snow and deteriorate in only nine to 18 months. They have to be painted often to keep them from falling apart even faster.

The composite chocks, made from recycled plastic, are about 20 pounds lighter than wood. They are also unlikely to become a potential source of Foreign Object Damage.

Trading Eagles

Over the next six months, the 33d Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla., will swap 42 F-15Cs with the 3d Wing, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

The reason for the trade is to simplify logistics by standardizing the engine type at each base. The 33d FW will be giving up airplanes powered by F100-PW-220 engines and receiving aircraft outfitted with F100-PW-100 power plants in return.

“The -220 is the newer engine and has more sophisticated electrical components than the -100s we will receive,” said SMSgt. Randy Duty, the 33d FW propulsion flight production superintendent. “But having only one type of engine will greatly simplify the maintenance process.”

Deployment will also become easier and cheaper. The transfer is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 24.

Nerve Gas Story Backs Up on CNN and Time

“Valley of Death” started out to be a big scoop for CNN’s April Oliver and Peter Arnett, but their journalistic glory–such as it was–did not last long. In less than a month, their sensational story had been exposed as untrue.

The way producer Oliver and reporter Arnett told it, a US Special Forces commando unit pushed deep into Laos in 1970 on a mission to kill American GIs who had defected to the enemy. In the course of the mission, Operation Tailwind, CNN said, US Special Forces troopers not only killed 15 or 20 defectors but also wiped out everyone else in a village of 100 people, including the women and children. The “hatchet force” commandos were supported by Air Force A-1 Skyraider aircraft, which dropped deadly sarin nerve gas on the village and on North Vietnamese and Laotian forces.

These accusations were broadcast June 7 in a segment titled “Valley of Death” on the premiere of “NewsStand: CNN & Time,” a new TV magazine show brought forth jointly by the network and the magazine. The telecast featured Oliver and Arnett, who also shared a byline in the print version of the story, “Did the US Drop Nerve Gas?” in the June 15 issue of Time.

The wild story soon began to fall apart.

There really was an Operation Tailwind, but its purpose was to aid anti-communist guerrillas. The “village” was a North Vietnamese military base camp. Pressed by a large North Vietnamese force, the US troops were pulled out by helicopters. The withdrawal was supported by Air Force A-1s dropping tear gas, not nerve gas. Art Bishop, one of the A-1 pilots, had shown Oliver his journal written in 1970 at the end of the mission, recording that it was tear gas that had been used.

The officer who planned the mission said that if the US troops themselves had been as exposed to nerve gas as CNN and Time reported, “They would have been dead or in the hospital.” An Army medic who was on the mission–and who had experienced exposure to tear gas before–confirmed that the substance used was tear gas.

Eugene McCarley, who led the raid as an Army captain, and others who took part in Operation Tailwind said that when Oliver interviewed them, she demonstrated little interest in what had actually happened.

Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, USAF (Ret.), CNN’s military analyst, resigned in protest on June 14 when CNN refused to retract the story.

The star witness for “Valley of Death” was Lt. Robert Van Buskirk, a platoon leader who supposedly had killed two GI defectors himself and called in the nerve gas strike. However, Van Buskirk subsequently told Newsweek that he had “repressed” his memory of the operation during a vision he had on Easter morning in 1974. At the time, he was in a German jail on charges (later dropped) of gun-running. Twenty-four years later, he suddenly “recovered” that memory during a five-hour interview with Oliver.

Van Buskirk, now a prison minister in North Carolina, then drifted further from the story CNN said he had told. Interviewed by the Washington Times, he said he never confirmed CNN’s claims that US forces used sarin nerve gas and targeted a camp holding American defectors. Also, he said, “I didn’t see any civilians.”

Jay Graves, said by CNN and Time to be the “recon-team leader” who supposedly checked out the village before the strike and saw American “roundeyes” through a special field telescope, made a public statement declaring that he had no part in Operation Tailwind and that his comments had been “twisted” by CNN and Time.

With the story coming unstuck at all seams, CNN hired Floyd Abrams, a New York lawyer who specializes in news media matters, to investigate. He soon reported that “CNN’s conclusion that United States troops used nerve gas during the Vietnamese conflict on a mission in Laos designed to kill American defectors is insupportable,” and that those responsible for the program had “ignored or minimized” information that did not agree with conclusions they had already reached.

The Abrams report went to some length in acknowledging the misrepresentation of comment by Adm. Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CNN misconstrued his remarks to indicate he had validated the nerve gas story. A friend of Moorer’s told The Weekly Standard that “the admiral got mixed up. He’s 87 years old; he’s in a nursing home; they interrogated him for hours.”

On July 2, CNN news group chairman Tom Johnson retracted the story and apologized to viewers, to his colleagues at Time, and to the US military personnel involved in Operation Tailwind.

Concurrently, CNN fired Oliver and another producer but gave Arnett only a reprimand, explaining that “it was mainly a case of him being flown in to read a script.” Arnett professed shock to hear that his job might be in question, declaring that he had “contributed not one comma” to the story and that his byline had been tacked on to Oliver’s in Time for “marketing reasons.”

However, Oliver-who continued to claim the story was true and said CNN’s retraction of it was prompted by “an organized attack full of untruths and brutal slander”-said Arnett did more than read a script. She said Arnett had conducted a number of the interviews, including sessions with Van Buskirk and Graves, among others.

This was not the first time Arnett has been wrong in reports about the armed forces. In 1965, when he was working for the Associated Press, Arnett picked up and repeated a false allegation by Radio Hanoi that the US Army was using poison gas in Vietnam. Reporting from Baghdad for CNN in 1991, he broadcast and later defended Saddam Hussein’s claim that the United States had bombed a “baby milk plant,” which turned out to be a biological weapons factory.

Veterans groups and others have bombarded CNN, calling for Arnett’s dismissal, but the network decided on July 9 that the reprimand was punishment enough and that Arnett could stay.

Arnett lamented that he had been “trashed on a daily basis in the right wing media” and that his reputation had “taken a major hit around the world.”

He said he accepted CNN’s retraction of the story but that he was still not certain the allegations in “Valley of Death” were untrue.

CNN has created a watchdog position to track the accuracy of its reporting.

–John T. Correll

The Battle of Arlington Ridge

Arlington, Va., July 6--A federal judge has dismissed “with prejudice” a lawsuit brought by Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.) and the “Friends of Iwo Jima” in their attempt to stop construction of the Air Force Memorial on Arlington Ridge, overlooking the Potomac River.

Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr., who handed down the decision in eastern Virginia District Court in Alexandria, Va., June 15, rendered summary judgment in favor of the Air Force Memorial Foundation and three oversight groups-the National Park Service, the US Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission-declaring that “there is no genuine issue for trial.”

The Air Force Memorial project began in 1992 and has followed meticulously all of the rules prescribed by the Commemorative Works Act of 1986. Although the project had been reported prominently in the Washington Post and elsewhere, no objection was raised until April 1997 when a neighborhood group, the Friends of Iwo Jima, was formed. The stated complaint was that the Air Force Memorial would “encroach” on the Marine Corps Memorial, which occupies eight of the 25 acres on Arlington Ridge.

The protest was soon joined by Marine veterans, including Solomon. In addition to the lawsuit in which he joined the Friends group, Solomon introduced three pieces of legislation, one of them since withdrawn, seeking to block construction of the Air Force Memorial.

Judge Bryan noted the litany of complaints (including a claim that the National Capital Planning Commission had not properly followed Robert’s Rules of Order) and found all of them immaterial, with one possible exception. There could be some question, he said, about adequacy of public notice for a National Capital Planning Commission meeting in 1995 when the Arlington Ridge site was approved. Nevertheless, he added, the court could not take seriously any assertion that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were unaware of the site selection. He also pointed out that they then waited for more than two-and-a-half years before bringing their grievance to court.

The Air Force Memorial Foundation and the oversight groups had “substantially complied with all relevant statutes and internal procedures,” he said, and their actions “were reasonable under the circumstances.”

Vets Lose VA Disability for Smoking-Related Illness

Veterans are outraged that Congress has voted to deny VA disability benefits to veterans afflicted with smoking-related ailments.

They are especially livid that, in doing so, lawmakers declared that any veteran who smoked on active duty could be considered to have engaged in “willful misconduct,” just as if they had abused alcohol or drugs while in uniform.

Such a comparison is grossly unfair, vet spokesmen say, especially considering the fact that the US military long encouraged the use of tobacco, via such methods as inclusion of cigarettes in combat rations.

“Given the government’s complicity in tobacco use among veterans, VA’s self-righteous hypocrisy and the government’s ulterior motive for enacting this legislation [become] all the more reprehensible,” said David Gorman, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans.

The Air Force Association took a strong stand against the measure. AFA National President Doyle E. Larson sent letters to all senators on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to protest the “willful misconduct” label and ask for a correction.

The benefits change was contained in this year’s highway bill, which was passed by Congress in May and signed into law by President Clinton on June 9. The move would save the government an estimated $17 billion over five years-notional funds which lawmakers used to partially offset the budget-busting nature of the massive transportation legislation.

Any veteran who develops heart disease, lung cancer, or any other illness connected to tobacco consumed while on active duty will no longer be eligible for VA disability payments, under Sec. 8202 of the highway bill, H.R. 2400. Nor will the survivors of vets who die from service-incurred smoking be eligible for death benefits. The only exception to the prohibition: vets who applied for and won a VA disability claim for smoking-related problems before the bill was passed.

While majorities of both the House and Senate approved the change, it originated as a freestanding proposal by the Clinton Administration. Testifying before Congress earlier this year as acting VA secretary, Togo D. West Jr. said three considerations prompted the proposal.

First, said West, tobacco use is an individual’s choice, not a requirement of military service.

Second, providing benefits in such cases “exceeds Americans’ sense of the government’s obligations to veterans and, as a result, threatens to undermine public support for VA programs,” he said.

Third, the ban would save Uncle Sam lots of money and help prevent claims processing delays for all VA claimants. West estimated savings of $17 billion based on not processing 357,000 smoking-related disability payment claims over the next five years.

Veterans organizations dispute all of Secretary West’s claims. They are particularly angry about the attempt to distance the military from responsibility for smoking habits.

“Smoking was not only fully approved of by the armed services, it was encouraged and facilitated by the military on a level probably unparalleled anywhere else in our society,” said DAV’s Gorman.

Free cigarettes were long included in C-rations, for instance. Tobacco products were sold at deep discounts in military exchanges. Troops were often encouraged to smoke during breaks in training or combat situations.

A June 5 memo drafted by Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer, the VA’s undersecretary for health, concluded that considering the history of the US military and tobacco it will be difficult to label vets with a smoking history as guilty of “willful misconduct,” as the highway bill requires.

To do so would require a conclusion “that the individual was exposed to a consistent message about the impropriety and health hazard of tobacco use from both the government and society at large,” wrote Kizer.

Vet leaders hope to overturn the change by flooding Capitol Hill with protests from the nation’s 26 million former members of the military. When Senate leaders tried to pass a bill to correct technical flaws in the highway legislation in the first week in June, they were stymied by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who tried to insert an amendment restoring veterans’ tobacco-related benefit eligibility.

News Notes

  • Three Air National Guard para-rescuemen saved an Italian sailor from a 55-foot sailboat 1,000 miles east of Bermuda June 5. After parachuting 3,500 feet, the three Guardsmen-MSgt. Steven Arrigotti and SSgts. Kenneth Smith and Jeff Baker, all from the 106th Rescue Wing, Francis S. Gabreski IAP, N.Y.-found the sailor suffering from internal bleeding. They stabilized the patient and transferred him to a nearby supertanker.
  • Lt. Col. Scott Schroeder, an instructor pilot with the 560th Fighter Training Squadron from Randolph AFB, Texas, won the gold medal at the International Skeet World Cup Competition in Atlanta May 16-17. The US earned an Olympic skeet shooting slot at the 2000 Olympics in Australia by virtue of Schroeder’s performance.
  • A bomb threat temporarily
  • grounded an Air Force C-141 May 29. The plane, carrying 14 crew members and 79 Air Force Reservists, took off from NAS Fort Worth JRB at Carswell Field, Texas, en route to Harrisburg, Pa., but was forced to land at Scott AFB, Ill., after the Texas base received a phoned-in bomb threat. The threat turned out to be a false alarm.
  • The Jan. 7 midair collision of two F-16s at Hill AFB, Utah, was caused by pilot error, according to an Air Force accident investigation report. The two pilots-who both survived- “failed to use proper ‘see and avoid’ techniques to ensure a clear flight path while entering and leaving” a practice engagement, according to the report.
  • An assistant staff judge advocate from F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., is the sole Air Force winner of the American Bar Association’s 1998 Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Distinguished Service Award. Capt. Aaron E. Kornblum earned the award for significant contributions to the civil legal assistance of service members and their families.
  • On June 3, Maj. Lee J. Archambault, assistant operations officer for the 39th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., moved a big step closer to the fulfillment of a long-held dream when NASA informed him of his selection to the astronaut candidate class of 1998. Archambault, along with 24 other military and civilian selectees, will arrive at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, in mid-August to begin one year of training and evaluation.
  • On June 15, two Air Force Reserve aircrews from the 446th Airlift Wing, McChord AFB, Wash., guided rescuers to a private pilot downed in a remote Oregon forest. The crews first relayed distress calls from 68-year-old Patricia Burrell, of Bend, Ore., to air traffic controllers. After Burrell crash-landed her Cessna on a narrow road, the Air Force crews searched for her and circled the area in their C-141s until help arrived.
  • Robert L. Jones, a former Army veteran with assignments in infantry, airborne, ranger, and special forces units, is the new deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoners of war/missing personnel affairs. Jones, 54, was sworn into office May 10. He also served as a ground liaison officer with the Air Force’s 50th Tactical Fighter Wing and flew some 200 hours in F-4 aircraft.
  • A Defense Department-wide survey has found that 47.5 percent of all US military installations have only one fitness center and that 22 percent of all fitness facilities are rated in poor condition. The survey was conducted under the auspices of “Operation Be Fit,” a DoD initiative to place renewed emphasis on the physical fitness of the entire military community.
  • On May 29, Air Force Space Command turned over control of its weather satellites to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as directed by President Clinton in 1994. The merger creates the most technologically advanced weather sensing system in the world and promises major savings for the Air Force in the future, officials said.
  • The Army’s new AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter debuted in a demonstration conducted at Ft. Hood, Texas, on June 12. The craft’s sophisticated radar and electronics are intended to feed real-time target data to commanders and other attack units in its immediate area.
  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle helicopter that is intended to be able to stay aloft for more than 24 hours, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.